Tag Archives: exhibition

London Slant: Be among the first to step inside a Huguenot’s house

If I was asked to pick my most fascinating road in London, Fournier Street in Spitalfields would be near the top of my list. Ever since its houses were built in the early 18th century it has been home to artist-craft workers starting with Huguenot silk weavers and leading up to current residents Tracey Emin and Gilbert & George. I love to look up and see the garrets where looms once rattled and it’s rare that I visit and don’t encounter the Besuited Duo striding along. (On one particularly surreal day they came gliding along the pavement towards me: without breaking gait they parted to let me go between them, eyes fixed on the middle distance, then came back together and continued their unruffled trajectory once they’d passed by.)

31 Fournier Street

First floor of 31 Fournier Street, transformed into an atmospheric art gallery.

I grab any chance to go inside these houses. I’ve visited gardens on open days and attended a handbell concert in one as part of the Spitalfields Festival. So when I heard that No 31 was opening by appointment for an art exhibition, I didn’t hesitate to book.

31 Fournier Street

The garden at 31 Fournier Street.

This inaugural show by Trevor Newton was the perfect choice to kickstart what will be a series of exhibitions, book launches and performances over coming months. Many of his works capture idiosyncratic architecture and interiors—perfectly at home crammed onto the wood-panelled walls of a house that its owner, Rodney Archer, describes part salon, part cabinet of curiosities. Other works, from Newton’s travels in the Australian outback, went rather well with the tree ferns and other exuberant greenery in the garden outside.

31 Fournier Street

Part salon, part cabinet of curiosities.

Many of the house’s original features have been preserved, while incomers, like the fireplace that once belonged to Oscar Wilde, lend a theatrical touch and yet only add to the Miss Havisham atmosphere. It was a delight to amble around with a glass of wine, and imagine who had lived here before Archer arrived 35 years ago.

On 1 July a new exhibition of prints and drawings launches: portraits-cum-caricature by Edward Firth. Then, on 12,15 and 17 July the house will be buzzing once again as part of the Huguenot Thread Festival, when it will host a collection of original 1850s silk velour patterns. All the shows mentioned are selling exhibitions, at advantageous prices since there is no gallerist involved. The opening of the house is a win, win, win situation—for buyer, seller and owner, who gets to share his fascinating home with an eager public for the first time. See 31 Fournier Street  for full details.

31 Fournier Street

Front door…


31 Fournier Street

…back door


London Slant: A waterfall of wool meets Edmund de Waal ceramics

A waterfall of wool comes cascading down into London’s Southwark Cathedral. It’s as if the heavens have opened and streamed in.

Angela Wright. Southwark Cathedral

Forty Days: Angela Wright’s 152-kilo wool installation in London’s Southwark Cathedral.

This is Forty Days, an installation by Angela Wright, and one of two that make up the cathedral’s annual art programme for Lent. The curdling wool drops from above the Great Screen behind the altar to pool in foaming rivulets on the sanctuary floor. I was struck by its resemblance to the world’s tallest plunge of water—Venezuela’s Angel Falls—quite appropriate since Forty Days descends between gold cherubim.

Tomb in Southwark Cathedral

Candlelit tombs flank Angela’s Wright’s installation.

Its creamy texture echoes the wax of votive candles flickering by the ancient tombs on either side. Yet it is also light and fluffy, and calls to mind spring lambs or a baby’s christening shawl. Rebirth, the cycle of life, the seasons: there’s much to contemplate while admiring the exuberance of this piece.

Behind the sanctuary the atmosphere darkens. Shafts of light strain to illuminate low archways above flagstones with bodies buried beneath. This is where artist/writer Edmund de Waal, who shot to fame with his family biography The Hare with Amber Eyes, has positioned translucent vitrines with his signature white ceramics inside. An air of mystery surrounds these 12 freestanding pieces, their simple contents barely visible within.

Edmund de Waal Southwark Cathedral

Now we see through a mirror dimly: Edmund de Waal’s installation, Another Day.

Both artists live and work within the Diocese of Southwark. They’ve clearly spent time absorbing the cathedral’s special atmosphere, and reflect it in works that capture both its ebullience and calm.

Angela Wright Southwark Cathedral

Southwark Cathedral nave, with Forty Days visible behind.

Beyond these installations, there’s so much to admire elsewhere in the cathedral: the carved wooden effigy of a knight, a stained glass window of Chaucer’s pilgrims gathering for their journey and wonderfully rude ceiling bosses.

Southwark Catherdal

The ceiling bosses are a particular treat.

And as an added bonus, when you step back outside into the dazzling sunlight, the heaving crowds lead to Borough Market and a row of food stalls. It’s time to grab a falafel or masala dosa and take a seat beneath the Southwark spires for lunch.

Southwark Cathedral Borough Market

The spires of Southwark, the perfect spot for a Borough Market lunch.

Angela Wright and Edmund de Waal will give free Sunday talks on their work. Angela’s talk is on 16 March, and Edmund’s on 23 March. Both take place in the cathedral, after Choral Eucharist, at 12.45pm. While the art remains on display the cathedral cat,  Doorkins Magnificat, has gone on a Lenten retreat (she’ll be back at Easter). It may be just as well. What a soft playground all that wool would have been.


This summer two “blockbuster” London exhibitions go head to head. In the first corner we have Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum at the British Museum. Opposite, across town at the V&A, we have David Bowie is…


This season’s must-have coffee table ornaments: catalogues for David Bowie is… and Pompeii and Herculaneum

With 67,000 tickets pre-booked, Bowie has attracted more advance sales than any previous V&A show. Pompeii, which one reviewer even compared to the landmark 1972 Tutankhamun exhibition, has gone a step further with nearly 72,000 enthusiasts reserving slots before the opening day. What is it that’s got everyone scrambling to get in?

At first glance the two shows couldn’t be more different: the elegant, exquisitely presented British Museum exhibition versus Jean Genie and Rebel, Rebel pumping through headphones at the V&A.

But hang on a minute…

Going to the Pompeii show is like being invited to dinner at a Roman house minutes before Vesuvius starts to spew. Many of the exhibits are so intimate—a child’s wooden cradle charred by the heat, a table arrayed with trinkets to impress guests, a flask of the condiment du jour, fish sauce—you feel an instant bond with these people even though they lived in AD79. With the notable exception of a container to breed dormice for the cooking pot, the exhibits constantly remind you of how their lives resemble ours.

David Bowie

Origins of a legend: where Ziggy Stardust began.

The Bowie exhibition, too, is a walk-in scrapbook of minutiae that build into a living portrait of a time past. We have the pieces of paper that he scrawled his lyrics on and even a tissue with lipstick blotted from his lips. Of course there are the gorgeous costumes and enough high art (Die Brüke, Warhol and Gilbert and George) to elevate the show above the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. But I won’t forget the crowd of balding heads just inside the entrance completely spaced out by a video of Bowie playing Major Tom beneath a television shaped like a sputnik and an image of the moon. This is a snapshot of an era. And they were there.

Both shows still have months to run. You’ve seen the advance booking figures, but who will come out tops in the end? If the two venues want to really see visitor numbers skyrocket the British Museum could host evenings of drinks in the fabulous Roman garden they’ve created. (How about serving the favourite Pompeiian tipple of watered-down wine—perfect for these straitened times?) Meanwhile the V&A could deploy its Sennheiser headphones to run a silent disco among the vast screens pulsing with the Spiders from Mars.

Count me in.


“The artwork is designed to stimulate the senses. If at any stage you feel uncomfortable PLEASE LEAVE THE SPACE.” Having read this notice you can imagine that I couldn’t wait to pull back the black curtain and go inside. But as this was the last of the 25 works in the London Hayward Gallery’s stunning Light Show, let’s return to it later.

This new, incandescent exhibition has quite appropriately, spawned glowing reviews. So much so that on the Sunday I visited advance tickets had all sold out. The swell of visitors means you really need a game plan: get there at the 10am opening time and head straight to James Turrell’s Wedgework V. Here you can sit and ponder the angry crimson rectangle projected at an angle onto a wall, with blueish light suggestive of an unreachable exit on the far edge. After this, you should nip up the stairs and into the mirrored, light-studded “phonebox” that is Ivan Navarro’s Reality Show. Having got ahead of the queues at both of these installations, you can return to the beginning of the show and amble through the remaining works.

Light Show at Hayward Gallery

Chromosaturation by Carlos Cruz-Diez: three rooms lit blue, red and green trick the eyes and mind.

Full marks to the curators. Every single item on show is either scintillating or stimulating – and usually both. I can’t remember ever getting into so many conversations with strangers in an art gallery, but these works prompt you to interact and exclaim, as did one toddler who came flailing towards me: “Awesome!”

You and I Horizontal by Anthony McCall: step among rotating beams that seem solid enough to touch. Photo by Linda Nylind.

You and I, Horizontal by Anthony McCall: step among rotating beams that seem solid enough to touch.

Works I especially enjoyed were Anthony McCall’s You and I, Horizontal, a dark, disorientating, haze-filled room shot with rotating beams of white light. Despite being mere projections, they seemed sufficiently solid as to pierce and break. I also lingered in Carlos Cruz-Diez’s Chromosaturation: three white spaces with lights coloured blue, red and green that created extraordinary visual effects both individually and where they met. They couldn’t express more clearly how light can trick the brain to see what isn’t there.

David Batchelor's Magic Hour uses lightboxes to capture the look and atmosphere of a city at sunset.Photo by Linda Nylind.

David Batchelor’s Magic Hour uses lightboxes to capture the look and atmosphere of a city at sunset.

I could go on, but let’s skip to that last room: Model for a Timeless Garden by Olafur Eliasson, creator of the hugely successful Weather Project giant sun at Tate Modern some years back. Here at the Hayward, strobe lights and a soundtrack create a magical, sparkling garden scene, that I won’t describe in more detail because you’ve got to go – and be amazed.

Until 28 April. Adult tickets: £11.

Photographs by Linda Nyland:

Carlos Cruz-Diez, Chromosaturation (1965-2013) ©the artist/DACS,Cruz-Diez Foundation.

Iván Navarro, Reality Show (2010),©the artist, Courtesy the artist and Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris.

Anthony McCall,You and I, Horizontal (2005), ©the artist courtesy of the artist and Sprüth Magers Berlin London.



One of London’s many advantages is that it has five airports (six if you count upstart Southend). Plus it has the Eurostar train, which can whizz you to France in far less time (and possibly money) than it takes to get to most major UK cities. So, as it takes half as long to get to Lille than to Leeds, it’s the ideal target for a great day out.

A wild inferno: The Temptations of St Anthony by Jan Mandijn at Lille’s Palais des Beaux-Arts

The first Eurostar leaves a heaving St Pancras just before 7am and arrives at Lille in good time for a morning visit to the Palais des Beaux Arts, and its current exhibition: Flemish Landscape Fables. This ravishing display of magical scenes filled with bizarre creatures in extraordinary settings takes you into another world. There are wacky confections by Hieronymous Bosch: gruesome heads on legs, devils stirring hellish flames, snakes emerging from hollow eyes. And there are velvety-blue and gentle green panoramas of mountains, rivers and meadows by Joachim Patinier. Imagination runs riot whether it is scenes of paradise or achingly idyllic countryside that could only exist in the mind.

This wonderful show of 16th century paintings continues until January 14th, so there’s still plenty of time to catch it. If further inducement is needed, Lille has a lively Christmas market and there’s the chance to sample special festive season beers from just over the border in Belgium.