The artist returns to White Cube with a solo show at Mason’s Yard from 28th September – 12th November, bringing his trademark opulence to the sparse venue.
Shaw’s panels resemble citrine and indigo gems against the white gallery walls. Sorbet colours swirl in nebulous, jewel-encrusted scenes of the fall. Dreamlike memories fuse with myth, thematically anchored by the title of the series with its Romantic allusion to Milton and Blake. This is in fact the most personal of his work to date, fluently merging visual references to the East of his childhood with those of his adoptive Western home (raised in Kashmir, Shaw relocated to London as a student).
The panels mirror each other across the gallery space - octagonal and elliptical nocturnes are propelled onto the landscape of Paradise Lost (2011) that witnesses the thaw of winter, as a rose-tinted spring morning bleeds across the monumental panel and onto the opposing wall, yielding again to the octagonal format. Trees marking the changing of the seasons rise out of the clouds in a veritable Garden of Eden – there is a sense here of nostalgic yearning for a bucolic past: childhood perhaps, or an idyllic dream world that exists in the artist’s fantasy alone.
The portrayal of a lone, contemplative figure gathering winter moonbeams in the nocturnal series is echoed by the harvester of blossoms in the corresponding spring panels, albeit with a feverish mischief that belies a fall from grace.
The still melancholy of the alpine nocturnes is counteracted by the vivacity of spring, and to an even greater extent by the tangle of eroticised violence that is the stand-alone Mild-Eyed Melancholy of the Lotus Eaters (2009-10) – original sin embodied amidst a shimmering, kimono-like sea of lotus flowers. This finds its precursor in Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, and is a direct reference to Homer and Tennyson. Contemporary concerns about amoral society are also implicitly present.
The delineated, cloisonné effect of Shaw’s enamel technique conjures visions of stained glass windows and ornate jewel boxes. There is also something of the Persian miniature in the decadent complexity and narrative format of the panels. The synthetic quality of acrylic paint and rhinestones imbue the organic forms with a hyper-real aesthetic, whilst adding a lurid gloss to the brutality of certain scenes.
There is an articulation of measured excess in the panels; a controlled chaos which exploits the properties of nature, observed by Shaw in his attention to pattern and detail – blossoms are rendered with painstaking precision and birds spiral out in decorative formation. Whilst technically accomplished, the paintings work equally well when viewed from afar – this allows the viewer to appreciate the transient swathes of colour that flow from one gem-like panel to the next.
The intrinsic contradictions in Shaw’s work – at once ostentatious and delicate, destructive and ornamental – culminate in a thoroughly refreshing vision of innocence lost.
Posted by Julie
Prêt A Diner’s latest pop-up restaurant experiment, hosted by German caterers Kofler & Kompanie and Lazarides Gallery, London proved both novel and surprisingly informal. Located in the Old Vic Tunnels beneath Waterloo station and coinciding with Frieze Art Fair and the London Restaurant Festival, the event (entitled The Minotaur) thematically referenced the subterranean venue, as with its 2010 precedent which was inspired by Dante’s Inferno.
Upon arrival we were led through a labyrinthine maze to the dining hall. In spite of the predominant concrete and dank brick, the space had been transformed into a combination of Tudor feast, Prohibition-era speakeasy and debauched 19th century gentleman’s club – founder Olivia Steele’s Emin-esque neon word sculpture provided a contemporary foil to the decor. In essence, mirrors tilted at suggestive angles from the ceiling, candelabras dripping wax, orchids and skulls suspended in bell jars reminiscent of a ‘bird in the air-pump’ experiment, and taxidermied wall hangings. There was the impression that were we to exit through the velvet drapes, we would return to find the tunnel empty, testament to a lavish mirage.
A European tasting menu by Matthias Schmidt and the alternative Japanese by Oliver Lange (alias Ollysan) were on offer the night of 17th October, with dessert by London-based Viajante’s own Nuño Mendes. Neither menu was wildly experimental – Schmidt’s earthy presentation and focus on egg, truffle and lamb resembled a distinctly un-Michelin (but very on-trend) form of comfort food, whilst Ollysan’s simple sashimi followed by tender beef fillet with ginger complemented the thoroughly relaxed atmosphere.
Lazarides Group represent informally trained, though by no means amateur artists. Notable pieces exhibited in the tunnels (somewhat lost in a sea of forgettable sculpture, and punctuated by the Old Vic’s screening room) included a maze papered with propaganda flyers by Radiohead’s in-house artist Stanley Donwood, work by established street artist Mode 2 (currently exhibiting at MoCA, Los Angeles) and David Falconer’s ‘Vermin Death Star’ as championed by Charles Saatchi.
Most atmospheric perhaps was ‘Chimera’, a stereoscopic video installation by Doug Foster, with accompanying music by UNKLE (see above). Located in an arched alcove resembling an ante-chapel, a sinuous, pulsating projection (a digital approximation of ink in water or a Rorschach ink blot) was reflected in the pool below.
A final, seemingly unintentional masterstroke was the sound of ambient, bass-heavy music fusing with the rumbling of trains overhead, amplifying the sensory experience.
Whilst awaiting Prêt A Diner London’s 2012 return, catch it in one of its other European incarnations – Frankfurt, Munich or Berlin.
Posted by Julie
Following our latest V&A review, this post also concerns postmodernism. We still, to a degree, live in a postmodern world, and this age of eclecticism and technological simulations has expanded to include many other avenues and possibilities. With the leaps and bounds in technology and media over recent years, almost everything in the world is destined to appear as a reproduction on the digital screens and gadgets that we are surrounded by every day. The television, a strong symbol of modernity, was the result of incredible technological advances in the final stages of the 19th Century. This progress incited rather negative reactions in postmodern writers such as Baudrillard and Umberto Eco, as they debated the idea of ‘the loss of the real’.
Even art and fashion is digitised now, and the digital revolution has created a world without boundaries, allowing the viewer to be immersed in alternate realities and realms of interactivity.
Fashion designer Gareth Pugh’s collections feature video installations that simulate an alternate reality, where the viewer is acquainted with models who seem almost cyborg-like in their strangeness. The models seem almost mechanical and inhuman, which juxtaposed with organic shapes and gothic floating fabrics makes for an apocalyptic atmosphere. It's almost inevitable at this point to make comparisons to Blade Runner.
Clothing no longer single-handedly dictate the future of fashion and style, rather models have become like film actors, creating a mood and narrative which changes the role of the consumer to that of a participant.
Swedish model and blogger Wiiktor on Modellblogen produces similar fashion 'video experiences'. He incorporates a lot of movement and fragmented dance techniques, and the videos become almost like an extension of photography – showing the garments from various angles, as well as how they fall with movement, and in such a way giving the viewer a more informed understanding of the clothing. This 'extension of a photograph' is an idea already addressed by Marshall McLuhan in his book ‘Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man’, where he states that ‘the wheel is an extension of the foot, the book is an extension of the eye; clothing, an extension of the skin, electric circuitry, an extension of the central nervous system’. In a society obsessed with technology, it's only natural that all things will eventually extend into digital formats.
Reed + Rader, a company that specialises in interactive fashion photography, have an incredible portfolio. They are multimedia photographers, combining everything from illustration and collage to game design and installation. Their work is a fine exmaple of the alliance between print and online mediums, which when combined with such expertise, enhance each other beautifully. With the decline of print journalism and the ever-increasing popularity of web-based zines and blogs, it is not surprising that technology is oozing into the way we view and experience imagery. In search of new realities, R+R are amalgamating the gaps between real life and static imagery via various mediums and interactivity, as Pamela Reed explains: "Screens are taking over as the main place for product consumption". R+R foresee a future of the development of augmented reality induced with cyborg visions – to build a holographic avatar and not to be restricted by the fabric, but provide an ultimate experience for the viewer.
Posted by Kristina
The V&A’s latest is an exhibition of epic proportions – delivering an overview of a cultural movement of such magnitude and indeterminate boundaries is an enormous challenge. Assembled in semi-chronological format, the design of the galleries themselves echoes the brash irreverence of Postmodernism.
Avant-garde 1980s furniture and product design by groups such as Memphis takes precedence. With the aim of constructing something novel from the tenets of the movement, such pieces employ a playfully gaudy appropriation that is absent in earlier work, which is more intent on the literal destruction of Modernism – an example being Alessandro Mendini’s Monumento da Casa (1974) in which a Modernist chair is set alight.
Certain sections are intended to amuse – multiple monitors loop MTV videos featuring clips of Kraftwerk and Devo, conveying a pop culture ethos. Others are testament to the visionary; the opening scene of Blade Runner is projected beside a Vivienne Westwood concoction from the mid-1980s, featuring prints of stills from Ridley Scott’s cult dystopian masterpiece. Another apt inclusion is Godfrey Reggio’s anthropological documentary Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance (1982) (with score by Philip Glass) a contemporary of Blade Runner that captures a similar urban alienation in time-lapse.
The exhibition also works on a sensory level – one room replicates the drive into downtown Las Vegas, the theme derived from Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown’s influential book, ‘Learning from Las Vegas’ (1972). The cumbersome kitsch of certain Postmodernist forays into architecture (Hans Hollein’s neo-Grecian entry for the 1980 Venice Biennale) are showcased alongside Frank Gehry’s superior remodeling of his suburban Los Angeles home, and a large Rauschenberg, replete with the pastiche that defined the era.
Thatcherite politics are briefly alluded to via Derek Jarman’s nihilistic The Last of England (1987), whilst Reaganomic values manifest themselves in American architecture of the period, exemplified by Philip Johnson’s AT&T skyscraper in New York. The juxtaposition of old Neville Brody issues of The Face with Peter Saville’s record covers for Joy Division and New Order is a pitch perfect meeting of post-punk grit and New Wave gloss. New Order’s 1986 video for Bizarre Love Triangle observes the era’s own destruction through greedy compromise – ‘why can't we be ourselves like we were yesterday’, and provides an elegant close to the show.
Posted by Julie
On Monday 5th of September, the Camper yacht made her European debut in London, brightening up the river Thames with sails specially designed by design agency Farrow. The Camper boat will sail around the world, from Alicante to Galway, in the Volvo-Ocean Race (formerly known as the Whitbread Round the World Race).
“The project came about because we received an email out of the blue from Camper just over a year ago,” says Mark Farrow of the project. "It was obviously exciting, but they were asking three different design agencies to come up with ideas. We were instantly like, well, we don't pitch, it's just not something that we do. They then said – and I suppose it's an obvious line – 'don't think of it as a pitch but more like Camper trying to find a kindred spirit to work with - and we'll pay you for your ideas.”
Farrow’s early ideas were for simple, bold graphics, playing with patterns and even a Jolly Roger skull and crossbones. However, as Mark Farrow notes, many of their ideas would not have worked in reality, but "what we're saying is this is the way we think, this is how we could potentially have fun with this."
This experimental and playful approach, and seeking to evoke a nautical feel through their designs, resulted in Farrow finding a new slant on the Camper logo: "We did have a bit of Eureka moment when we realised that Camper's logo is actually shaped like a sail. And if you turn it upside down, make it blue and repeat it horizontally, you get waves. Air and water, everything we need, are built into the logo without even doing anything."
A lot of Farrow’s initial designs were predominantly blue in colour, but as Camper pointed out, the design would disappear while in the sea - and so they opted for a striking red. During their first presentation to Camper, Farrow’s Gary Stillwell remembers that “we were treating the project very much with our idea of yachting, which was a nice day out on the sea. We hadn't got to grips with the technicalities of it or got to grips with what this race actually involves. So it was only after this that we really understood that it was an extreme sport. So an initial design with coloured beach balls adorning the sails looks pretty funny in retrospect!”
What’s really brilliant about this project is that Farrow were given outright freedom with their designs and emerged with some genuinely interesting and unusual outcomes. Many designers often feel under pressure to deliver slick, commercial results, and often more creative and playful ideas are discarded before they are explored. As a designer, is it often worth asking whether the project you’re working on is inspiring you, and if not, a little experimentation with a different angle can change the direction of the whole project.
Take a look at Mark Farrow talking about the project himself:
We at FIELL know the guys at Farrow as they designed our identity right at the inception of our company. The spine and cover were used to create a 3 dimensional form, and the linear markings represent stacks of paper.
Posted by Kristina