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Monday 21 December 2009


Having open on 10th December at First Floor Project in London, Anne-Marie James’ first solo show, Danse Macabre embraces the idea of restriction, both conceptually and literally, James’ series of ten drawings, ‘Limited Means’, was completed using a single blue biro, taking as its subject matter the fragility of the human form.

In deliberately setting such constraints, James finds an unexpected vocabulary of marks and the fidelity of line in the most egalitarian and modest of mediums. Referring to anatomical illustrations, from such sources as Henry Gray’s seminal volume, each drawing combines detailed and precise renderings of bones and organs in elegant and unexpected forms, both organic and geometric. The consistency of the colour, the use of symmetry and the delicacy of line evoke both traditional engravings and the aesthetic of Spode china.

Finding beauty in darkness, these grave images are at once romantic and macabre.
In addition to ‘Limited Means’ James will also present a number of works in graphite and related small sculpture.

Ann-Marie James was born in 1981 and lives and works in London. She completed her BA (Hons) in Fine Art at Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design in 2004 and has since gone on to exhibit in France, Germany, Venezuela, Portugal and the United States. In 2006 she undertook a residency and solo exhibition with Lantana Projects in Memphis, Tennessee, and has most recently exhibited in the Westminster Open 2009 and at The Mews Project Space, London.

This is the second exhibition of First Floor Projects. From his London home, James Tregaskes heralds a return to the salon, presenting and dealing art in a residential space.

The show runs until 30 January 2010. www.firstfloorprojects.com

All images (c) Ann-Marie James

Tuesday 15 December 2009

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor - Life and Music

Guest Blog by Charles Kaufmann, specialist of the life and music of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (15 August 1875 – 1 September 1912) is the person who set ‘Kubla Kahn’ to music. Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote the poem.

I’m looking at five photos from the 1905 photo album of J. Rosamond ‘Rosie’ Johnson. One shows a woman and two children standing in front of a brick wall on a bright day; behind them, a row of brick houses like those found throughout the London conurbation. The girl, Gwendolen, is two. She has a tousled head of golden curls. Holding her is a white woman wearing a bonnet out of which four bird feathers jut as if a wayward pigeon has just flown into its cote. A veil extends from the bonnet over the woman’s face, obscuring her features. This is Jessie Walmisley Coleridge-Taylor. She smiles down at her daughter, who is upset. Apparently, Gwendolen wants someone else to hold her. Standing to the left is Hiawatha, furrowing his brows; he holds a hand up to his face, and is about to cry.

These children want to be with their father, who is standing just out of range. In the next snapshot, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor has positioned himself next to Gwendolen. His head is slightly down-turned. He squints up into the camera, brow as furrowed as his son’s, hands buried in the pockets of his coat. Still on her mother’s arm, Gwendolen is distracted by something in her father’s pocket, about to reach in for whatever it is. Through her veil, Jessie looks seductively into the camera.

The location is outside the Coleridge-Taylor home, 10 Upper Grove, South Norwood, London. One of three people is taking the photos: Bob Cole, J. Rosamond Johnson, or James Weldon Johnson, part of the New York Vaudeville team Cole and Johnson. On this day, they were paying homage to the man whose creative success in England, and increasingly in the USA, inspired hope.

The veil is what I find interesting—a gift from the trio of visitors? It seems to affirm Jessie Coleridge-Taylor’s solidarity with the early 20th-century plight of African-Americans in terms of what WEB Dubois called “the color line.” Two years previous, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor had been invited to conduct the all-black Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Choral Society of Washington, D. C., in a performance of ‘Hiawatha,’ baritone Henry T. Burleigh in title role.

Cole, the Johnsons, Burleigh—these noted African-American artists were four of many seeking contact with Coleridge-Taylor. The list is a Who’s-Who: Paul Laurence Dunbar, WEB Dubois, Booker T. Washington. In Coleridge-Taylor, they saw proof that achievement was not “for whites only.”

“England, thank God, is slightly more civilized than her colonies,” Dubois would later write in ‘Immortal Child,’ his tribute to Coleridge-Taylor, “but even there…the path was no way of roses.”

Jessie Coleridge-Taylor had been worried about the trip to Washington. “We are now talking…of the official invitation he has just received…to visit Washington!” she had written, June 15, 1903, to Mamie Hilyer, who with her husband, Andrew F. Hilyer, had helped found S. C. T. C. S. “Of course I would not hinder him from doing that which would give you all so much pleasure, and would be of so great benefit to the Race, but…I do beg of you…to take care of him and try and spare him the racial prejudice which I know is so bitter in the South. Some, if not all, our colored friends here wish to prevent him from taking this proposed visit. I can but wish for the best (the unexpected?)….”

Andrew Hilyer believed that S. C. T. C. S. would help with his goal of muting “the resistance which has been in our path all the time.” In 1908, after several successful seasons, he would write to Coleridge-Taylor, “When we are going to have a Hiawatha concert here for at least one month, we seem…lifted above the clouds of American color prejudice, and to live there wholly oblivious to its disadvantages.”

In ‘The Souls of Black Folk,’ (1903) Dubois had written of “two worlds within and without the Veil.” Hilyer had sent the book to Coleridge-Taylor, who read it and admired it. The preface to James Weldon Johnson’s 1912 novel, ‘The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man,’ states: “In these pages it is as though a veil had been drawn aside.”

I examine three other pictures. James Weldon Johnson has taken the first. It shows the small frame of Coleridge-Taylor, with his familiar sombrero and cane, between the taller figure of J. Rosamond Johnson and slim, towering Bob Cole, both dressed in long overcoats and bowler hats. In the other photos, taken by Cole, Coleridge-Taylor stands between J. Rosamond and James. All three appear self-possessed, cocksure. Six years later, Cole would commit suicide: “Negro Song Writer Drowns Himself in Creek in Friends’ Presence” would be the New York Times headline.

On August 29, 1912, 9-year-old Gwendolen would hear her father call her name, “Gwennie, Gwennie!” She would find him “lying on the bed, sobbing like a child.” Several days later, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor would be dead, apparently of double pneumonia, at the age of 37, on the threshold of breakthroughs in America and Europe—and within himself. Two weeks before, Maud Powell will have presented the American premiere of his violin concerto at Norfolk, Connecticut.

To read more about Coleridge-Taylor click here.

Photos copyright K. Melanie Edwards, the John Rosamond Johnson Papers,
Irving S. Gilmore Music Library, Yale University. Used with kind permission.

Thursday 10 December 2009

The Changing Attitude of Street Art

Since Banksy, Street Art has been all-the-rage with Shepherd Fairy and Space Invader also reaching mass audiences, and all-the-while the public's attitude towards street art and graffiti is changing, it's not seen so much anymore, as underground. I suppose it has now entered the mainstream art market, as a viable genre and profitable form, creating a hint of irony. But then, we all start from somewhere, and a rise up, doesn't always mean an altercation in principals. I hate the term "sell out" - what exactly does that mean anyway?

Intrigued, I decided to have a chat with James Towning from Art for Kunst about the project, future plans and that merger of art and business.

What’s the idea behind Art for Kunst?
To create high quality, collectible, functional and afford art products in conjunction with top street artists.

What inspired you to start the project?
I run a design agency a design agency called overthrow|uk and we have often spoken about creating a product that combines our design and marketing skill, love of art and contacts. We do a lot of work for, and have made friends with, artists, curators and galleries. As a result I have seen lots of art in my day to day, both going to exhibitions and from using their images in design work. I really enjoyed, and would love to have owned, a lot of the work I was seeing but often it was out of my budget. There did not seem to be much to cater for the £20 - £100 end of the market either at shows, on websites or in gallery shops. Most the bits I could find where mass-produced and lacked the enjoyable values of original or hand made art, or even worse were ripped of images created without the artists consent. I decided to put together a package that combined traditional collectible art that was hand produced with high quality limited edition T-shirts, badges and stickers. We had no clients, so as a design agency it was great to be able to do pretty much what we wanted and also to have such great imagery to work with. The price, presentation and quality were key factors and obviously the consent of some brilliant artists.

Who are the artists that are involved in Art for Kunst?
Aida, Dora, Dscreet, Faith 47, Juice 126, Mac 1, Plimsoul and Zoot. They are all excellent artists, lovely people and great to work with. We also had help from Laura McNamara, who manages some of the artists, and A Badge of Friendship.

The artists all have really different backgrounds and styles; was this an intentional decision on your behalf to demonstrate the huge variety of street art that exists?
Yes, we did choose designs that offered a wide range, both for the benefit of the product and to display the range of skill offered by street art. However, to be honest it was pretty easy as all the artists have such unique and iconic styles. Dscreet and his signature Owls are very bold, quite pop and despite his Melbourne routes has, to me, a very East London quality. Faith’s work is totally different, always very beautiful and often with intricate patterns or symbolic looking imagery. I remember seeing a business card done like a stencil by Faith that was so small and fiddly, she really is a master stencil cutter. Juice could be called a spray can alchemist, I am not sure some people even realise some of his metallic board or mirror paintings are even done with spray paint. I think the same could be said for Mac 1 who paints photo-realistic work from a Belton spray can. I have one of his originals on my wall people still argue with me when I tell them how it was produced and proclaim it would be impossible to do it from a can and that I am wrong. All the artists brought something different and fresh to the range, we knew that we would have a great product when the designs started coming in.

How does Art for Kunst aim to be different from the other art stalls and shops out there?
I think we have a unique product already in the gift set. I set out to create something I could not find, but wanted and I know there are lots of other people like me out there just from speaking to people and looking at the numbers that turn up to shows and exhibition and walk out empty handed. As a gift for yourself or someone else the pack offers something that is collectible and can have sentimental value and also something more everyday yet still collectible, exclusive and useful. Other things that set us apart are the level of artist we are working with, the fact the product is hand produced and the low number editions produced. This is not your everyday gallery gift shop item. Obviously we want to keep pushing this and making each new set even better, I would also like to work with fashion and product designers to create more unique things to go into future packs and collections. Also, we do not think of Art for Kunst as a shop or stall. Although we will do the stalls and pop up markets still we would also like to work with other independent retailers to stock the packs. That will allow us to also focus on exhibitions, events, collaborations, books and the site. We see Art for Kunst as a brand that will represent high quality, exciting, affordable and original street art based products and promoting good artists.

Friday 4 December 2009


art for kunst is an exciting new project, offering highly collectible and functional art pieces from established UK street and graffiti artists and the freshest new talent - Aida, Dora, Mac1, Juice 126, Dscreet, Faith47, Plimsoul and Zoot - all at affordable prices!

They will be bringing you a range of fabulous art throughout the year from both our website and at various pop- up market stalls across London. Having launched on 26th of November at The Old Truman Brewery’s ‘All I Want for Christmas’ market.

They will be selling 10 designs in special edition, limited run (50 per design) gift packs comprising an artist T-shirt (S, M, L or XL) and an A6 framed print. Each gift pack retails at £60.

The stall will be open from Thursday to Sunday for four weeks in the run up to Christmas:
· Thurs 5pm - 9pm
· Fri 12pm - 6pm
· Sat 10am - 6pm
· Sun 10am - 6pm (Final day de-rig 6pm - 7pm)

For more information - www.artforkunst.com

Aesthetica has teamed up with Art for Kunst to offer you an early Christmas Treat!

To win a Gift Pack (worth £60) – answer the following question: “What is the name of the artist whose work features on the current cover of Aesthetica Magazine?” Answers will be accepted for 24 hours. Please email Alexis at office@aestheticamagazine.com with “Gift Pack” in the subject line and your answer.

Image (c)Aida

Tuesday 1 December 2009

Club Brenda at Urbis

This evening, to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the award-winning Manchester club night, Club Brenda, Urbis is hosting a book launch of limited edition book, Strange Trees. Strange Trees is a unique concept and has been produced by Jayne Compton, the founder of Club Brenda, in collaboration with Northern Art Prize finalist, Rachel Goodyear, among other artists. The book takes the reader through the history of Club Brenda, using a series of classic narratives to form a dark urban fairytale, alongside a series of commissioned photography and artwork.

The launch will take place at Urbis, Manchester’s exhibition centre for contemporary culture in Cathedral Gardens, on Tuesday 1st December 2009 from 7:00pm – 10:00pm. The free event will include live bands from Jayne’s Switchflicker Records label, as well as a selection of DJs. There will also be the opportunity to purchase exclusive, limited edition artworks by Strange Trees contributing artists plus a free cocktail for the first guests through the doors so get yourselves to Manchester!

I caught up with Jayne Compton to chat about Club Brenda, Switchflicker Records and Strange Trees:

What inspired you to start Club Brenda?
Club Brenda began back in the 20th century – 1999 to be precise, after a drunken conversation between myself and the performance poet, Chloe Poems. We were on the night train back from Cream in Liverpool. We wanted to start a club that combined bands, poetry, performance art and a deliberately eclectic music policy. A place where Divine David and Chloe Poems could perform alongside lo fi bands and other performers.

How do you think Club Brenda has evolved over the past decade?
Its reputation has grown, it has launched some big Manchester bands like The Ting Tings yet it still feels underground. It’s minimally promoted and succeeds due to word-of-mouth from its misfit crowd. It is a genuinely uncompromising underground art-punk happening in the mould of Exploding Plastic Inevitable, Rabid at the Squat or Don Letts at The Roxy. The punters are as important as the acts. So is the feeling that everyone knows each other.

What is the concept behind Strange Trees and how did it come about?
Strange Trees is the visualization of Brenda – we had lots of artists and bands involved in Brenda who lurked in the shadows of the city, a book would be an additional format to showcase their work.

How did you decide what elements of Club Brenda’s history to include in Strange Trees?
We split the book into two parts, it opens with a series of classic narratives to form a dark urban fairytale, Instead of Jack and the Giant, we have Dirty Honky, turning vaudeville tricks for magic beans. Savage Wolf prowls through the ever-changing forest but isn’t quite the predator we expect, and the same goes for Holly Gore, who some like to call the witch… in the strange forest of Club Brenda, no one remains what they were…The second part is a series of commissioned photography, posters and artwork.

How did Club Brenda lead to the creation of Switchflicker Records?
When we started at the Star & Garter, People would just grab the mike and recite poetry. Anything could happen. Performers like Chloe Poems, Tracy Elizabeth, Fiona Bowker and Veba all contributed. This inspired myself and electronic artist, Mildmanjan to start Switchflicker records, we wanted to capture the best of these moments on limited seven inches. The first was Mildmanjan featuring Mark E Smith with Tracey Elizabeth and Veba on the flip.

Manchester has a great history of music and club nights; how much influence has the city and its history had on you and your projects?
Brenda was inspired by Hulme’s after-hours shebeen ‘party’ scene. When all the various clubs closed, the after party would continue in Hulme until the early hours of the morning. Brenda came from this same spirit - just people coming together to party in spite of their musical or cultural differences. The vibe was ‘lay down your weapons; have a good time’.

Club Brenda blends music, art, poetry and performance. How do you feel that these inform one another and how has this diversity added to the atmosphere of the club night?
It all adds to the atmosphere because no one is ever sure what to expect.

What do you hope for Club Brenda in the future?
To find more new spaces in Manchester to host it, to work with performers from further a field as well as local artists and to take Brenda’s club format to the theatre.

Stellar Network Re-launches

Have you ever wondered why people in the creative industries sometimes behave like teenagers at a school disco? We usually stick with what we know, as a rule of thumb that sort of defines the human being. Well, well, along comes Stellar Network, who work across the theatre, film, television and digital media industries. The Network is designed for directors, writers, actors and producers to meet and collaborate. That’s very much in the vein of Aesthetica, we too believe that the arts are interdisciplinary, and when we start to collaborate, that’s when moments of serendipity and innovation occur.

On 5th November, Stellar Network, led by Sam Howey Nunn, re-launched with its new aims and objectives. These include: bridging the gap between the many talented mid level individuals in the industry and the decision makers at the top. And with Patrons including Sir David Hare and Alan Rickman and an advisory Board that includes Marc Boothe, Peter Kosminsky, Jane Wright and Hannah Minghella, Stellar Network certainly has the support of established professionals to ensure those in the Stellar community achieve their ambitions. The next 4 weeks will see a variety of new activities, including last night's ‘Off The Record’, a talk and Q&A with David Lan, Artistic Director of the Young Vic, which attracted over 60 delegates. Next up is Pitch Up! co-produced with Channel 4 and a panel of industry execs (including ITV Drama commissioner Benjamin McGrath) to provide a platform for people to pitch their great TV ideas.

Jane Wright, Managing Director, BBC Films and a Stellar Network Board Member said: “A growing number of multimedia projects, greater movement of creative people between the industries, and the opportunities afforded by digital media represent the increasing integration that is driving the need for a network like this. The Stellar community members will be supporting each other to sustain their creative careers in this fast changing arts and media landscape. I am delighted to be involved with such a forward-thinking organisation.”

For more details on membership and to attend a Stellar event visit:

Gregory Nash at The Point 9.09 photo by Janice Bruce

Monday 30 November 2009

Aesthetica's December - January Issue Out Now

Exploring the creative zeitgeist, Aesthetica editorial is engaging and offers new perspectives on contemporary arts, looking at the art in relation to the social, political and economic.

Issue 32 of Aesthetica explores many of these topics; from the V&A’s major exhibition Decode: Digital Design Sensations looking at how raw code can be used to create art. Also a follow-up on the Lyon Biennale looking at Hou Hanru’s has curated The Spectacle of the Everyday. Barbara Kruger’s retrospective, Paste Up opens in London, which provides a timely reappraisal of her early works and wry social commentary of vast consumerism and the making of identities. Finally, a look the imagination of Tim Burton, a show at MoMA showing over 700 images of the filmmaker’s work, exploring the cross-pollination of art forms.

In film a chat with, Yojiro Takita on his Oscar-winning film Departures, a tender look at the universality of the human condition. The Brothers McLeod share their hints and tips in a practical two-part series providing a step-by-step guide to becoming an animator. As well as a Q&A session with film programmer, Philip Ilson about this year’s London Short Film Festival. In theatre an exclusive preview of I am Yusuf and This Is My Brother, opening at the Young Vic this winter, looks at the personal vs. the political.

While in music, an examination into the creative strategies that bands employ to get ahead today, and a catch up with A.A. Bondy on his new album. And to conclude, a chat with Simon Robson and an extract from the fantastic new book Diamond Star Halo by Tiffany Murray. With all the best exhibitions, productions, music and new releases of the coming months, Aesthetica considers the creative exploration of today’s most exciting artists.

Christmas Gift Subscriptions Are Now Available

Also available, the Aesthetica Creative Works Annual

Championing new talent in the genres of visual arts, photography, poetry and fiction, the Aesthetica Annual is a publication, which will stir your imagination.

Whether you're a budding poet, superb sculptor, storyteller or an arts enthusiast, the Aesthetica Annual provides a platform to gather inspiration and to get those creative juices flowing.

The Aesthetica Annual reflects art's greatest power: to comment, debate and analyse the times in which we live. Inside this collection there are 96 artists and writers that span nationality and age, offering a true insight into the creative zeitgeist of our times.

Friday 27 November 2009

First permanent artwork for London Underground since 1984

Full Circle by Knut Henrik Henriksen (b 1970, Oslo) was unveiled today in King’s Cross St. Pancras Underground Station. This is the first permanent artwork to be installed on the network since Paolozzi’s mosaics at Tottenham Court Road in 1984. Let's face it with the amount of time that we spend underground, these type of aesthetic pleasures do more than enhance the surroundings, but transform spaces.

Full Circle has been created as an integral part of the King’s Cross station upgrade. It references the impressive contemporary architectural setting of the modernised Tube. The size and form of Henriksen’s sculpture is frequently defined by such architectural specificities as the height, depth and materials of a given location. These become starting points for his work and in this case the circular end wall of the concourse tunnel is the origin of his concept. The circle is truncated where it meets the floor, implying a ‘lost’ segment of circle beneath. This segment has been ‘reinstated’, conceptually exhumed by Henriksen, and mounted as an integral architectural feature of the end wall. It is fabricated by the station upgrade contractor from the same material (shot-peened stainless steel) as the wall itself. The effect is of a minimalist relief: a subtle, elegant work in metallic grey.

Henriksen’s practise is underpinned by a preoccupation with and critique of key Modernist principles - form fitting purpose and truth to materials; minimal embellishment.

In the 1930s, London Underground’s Managing Director Frank Pick, fired up by European Modernist ideals, championed a unifying principle of the Tube network, which became known as Total Design. Through this concept such elements as the Roundel, the Tube map, the Johnston typeface, artists’ designs for posters and station designs, exemplified by the work of architect Charles Holden, have combined to become central to London Underground’s world renowned identity. Henriksen’s Full Circle brings this vision up to date, seamlessly becoming part of the Underground’s tunnels and passageways.

The installation at King’s Cross St. Pancras is just one of a number of significant permanent artworks commissioned by Art on the Underground for key stations on the network over the coming years. For example, Daniel Buren will create a dramatic new work for the Tottenham Court Road Tube station, which is undergoing a major upgrade.

Incidentally, I am interested to know what you think about these types of public art projects? Do you think it's worth it? How do we define the value this creates?

For more information about Art on the Underground, please visit www.tfl.gov.uk/art

Image credits
Knut Henrik Henriksen, Full Circle, 2009
King’s Cross St Pancras Underground station
Courtesy the artist and Art on the Underground
Photo: Daisy Hutchison

Thursday 26 November 2009

Mohsen Makhmalbaf Wins the Freedom to Create Prize 2009

Mohsen Makhmalbaf, the celebrated Iranian filmmaker and official overseas spokesman for 2009 Iranian presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi, has won the 2009 Freedom to Create Prize. The only prize of its kind, the Freedom to Create Prize celebrates the use of the arts to drive change and build the foundations of creativity in broken societies. Mr Makhmalbaf was awarded the prize by Bianca Jagger, Founder and Chair of the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation, at a high profile London ceremony at the Victoria & Albert Museum on 25 November 2009.

Commenting on his award, Makhmalbaf said, “People of my country (Iran) are killed, imprisoned, tortured and raped just for their votes. Every award I receive means an opportunity for me to echo their voices to the world, asking for democracy for Iran and peace for the world.”Makhmalbaf has written and directed 18 feature films and six short films that have been widely presented in international film festivals over the past 10 years. Time magazine selected his 2001 film, Kandahar, as one of top 100 films of all time. In 2006, he was a juror at the Venice Film Festival.

Following this year’s disputed Iranian elections, Makhmalbaf diverted his attentions from filmmaking to be the voice of defeated presidential candidate Mir-Houssein Moussavi. As police and paramilitaries suppressed peaceful protestors with firearms, batons and pepper spray, and authorities closed universities, banned rallies and blocked websites, Mir-Houssein Moussavi turned to Makhmalbaf for support.

Makhmalbaf’s rise to become leader of the new wave of Iranian cinema came from unlikely beginnings. When he was 15 he formed an underground Islamic militia group and was shot and jailed by the time he was 17. While imprisoned, Makhmalbaf educated himself and underwent an intellectual renaissance afterwhich he distanced himself from violence, believing Iranian society suffers more from cultural poverty than anything else.

His nominating party, ZirZamin, an alternative Iranian media magazine said: “His works were nominated because they promote freedom, understanding, open societies, secular humanism and respect to others. His analysis and depiction tasks people to questions real in everybody’s life and social realism. He is not only a film director but an educationalist, author and analyst.”

Panellist Daniel Barenboim, acclaimed conductor and founder of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, said of Makhmalbaf: “His voice has been one of the most important artistic contributions from Iran to world culture over the last decades. His films have given international audiences a window into contemporary Iran. His work in Afghanistan, both artistic and humanitarian, has added valuable facets to the understanding of this troubled country.

He has also fostered a new generation of Iranian filmmakers. Last not least, his support for the recent peaceful protests against the stolen Iranian elections made it more difficult for the regime in Tehran to silence the opposition. Especially in view of the deeply unsettling remarks and intentions of President Ahmadi-Nejad, his efforts to publicize dissenting views deserve support.”

The second place prizewinner is Burmese refugee women’s group, The Kumjing Storytellers, who use giant paper maché dolls to represent their stories of ethnic persecution in Burma and the plight of migrants and refugees from around the world. Kumjing, a Tai women's name meaning ‘precious jewel’, is used to represent the women who have migrated to live and work in the Thai-Burmese border areas. Since July this year, the military regime has renewed a scorched earth campaign in central Shan state that has driven more than 10,000 villagers from their homes.

Troops have burned down over 500 houses, scores of granaries and forcibly relocated almost 40 villages.The women in The Kumjing Storytellers are among those who have fled to the Burma-Thai border region, often leaving their families behind. Not simply an artwork, but a living art action, The Journey of Kumjing is a performance in which these persecuted women can tell their stories, challenge discrimination and assert their human rights. Some 250 paper maché-dolls travel across Thailand and the world to raise awareness of their plight. “The message of the piece is one of courage, hope and inspiration. We want to humanize migrants in the eyes of society,” say the women. The Storytellers also want to inspire society to change the way it thinks and behaves towards ‘outsiders’.

The third place prizewinner is Afghan female artist Sheenkai Alam Stanikzai, who uses video performance, installation and photography to tackle the subjugation and violent persecution of women in Afghanistan and neighbouring countries. Stanikzai is one of a generation of Afghans who grew up during the Taliban which censored culture and banned music, and her art explores the re-emergence of Afghan spirit after years of oppression. Her installation piece features the myth Chel Dokhtaraan, a historical event when 40 Afghan women committed suicide by jumping into wells during an invasion. Stanikzai believes these ‘honourable’ deaths are “in the past.” She explains: “What is happening today is that women, more than 40, are dying every day in different circumstances.” Her work symbolizes the violent acts – public executions, floggings, stonings and hangings – that are being perpetrated today against females both in Afghanistan and neighbouring countries.

Prize founder and Chairman of Orient Global Richard F. Chandler said he was humbled by the bravery of this year's winners adding their courage and stories epitomised the daily sacrifices made by artists on frontlines from around the world.

"We celebrate not only the power of art to change lives, but also the bravery of artists who use their work to fight oppression and injustice and create a brighter future for all.

"The winners for the 2009 Freedom to Create Prize are global ambassadors for the power of creativity in building peaceful and prosperous societies.”


Cuba Italy China

Cuba Italy China – a fascinating exhibition, has just wrapped up in Somerset earlier this week. The focus of Cuba Italy was centred on capturing the pastels of decay and faded grandeur of the urban playground. The photographs were shot in Havana, Cuba, and Napoli, Italy. Although, very different places in the world, with diverse histories, language and culture, the images explore back streets and derelict palazzos, of these two vibrant cities; inviting you to complete the narrative of these isolated places.

Barry Cawston’s piece, the Yangtzee River Series, a 2000-mile journey from the mountains in the north to Shanghai, show the though provoking nature his work. The series is an opportunity to see this poignant insight into the lives of the people that live and relate to this magnificent river in China. The dichotomy of Man and environment stimulate his work. Through his lens he expertly depicts the world with a unique and subtle perspective. Shooting on a large-format camera, like a modern day renaissance painter he displays his talent for composition, colour and mastery of his medium.

A unique exhibition demonstrating the diversity of Cawston and Schofield’s work.

For more information visit www.closeltd.com

All images (c) the artist

Wednesday 25 November 2009

Mike Ballard – The All of Everything - Art will eat itself

The final exhibition to take place at the Arts Gallery, before the building is demolished for Crossrail, is set to be fittingly epic. This is the largest and most ambitious work yet by acclaimed artist Mike Ballard; from 10 December the Arts Gallery will become The All of Everything, a specially commissioned work which will to turn the entire gallery space into an all-encompassing installation covering floors, walls and ceilings featuring the artist’s flamboyant vision of art history.

Transporting the viewer on a supersonic journey through a galaxy of hypermodern and prehistoric art, The All of Everything races back and projects forward through art history, fusing, referencing and sampling at blistering speed.Merging painted floors and walls and a baroque collage ceiling into one gargantuan installation, the gallery will ultimately become one immersive artwork into which the viewer is absorbed. Negotiating the space, the observer becomes a participant in the installation’s embodiment of the eternal loop of life and regeneration; ciphers of the human endeavour to gain and preserve in a continuous trajectory of creation and accumulation.

This immersive experience is rooted in a giant pharaoh head projecting from one wall, within the eyes of which lie two videos secreted away awaiting discovery. A bespoke audio track entitled “The Last Broadcaster” will emit from the kaleidoscopic eye sockets, signifying the end of the beginning and the beginning of the end.

A time capsule hurled from London’s street art scene back through the artist’s personal art historical heritage appropriating aesthetics en route, from plundering the excesses of the Renaissance to sampling the euphoria of pop art, landing temporarily at prehistoric cave art, Ballard’s work calls on muses as disparate as Baroque kings of bling, prehistoric shamans, ancient Egyptian sovereigns, hip hop monarchy, comic book superheroes and the cosmic philosophy of jazz royalty Sun Ra.

Speaking about his ambitions for the work, Ballard comments “as it is the last show at the Arts Gallery, I wanted to go big, to give the gallery a good send off, by acknowledging all of its surfaces, preparing the space before it goes into the ‘other world’. With imagery from my own personal art history and music that has inspired my work, including flamboyant time travellers Sun Ra and RAMM:ELL:ZEE, I have selected guardians for the gallery as it goes to the other side of time.”

Mike Ballard graduated from Central Saint Martins MA Fine Art in 2007. He has recently exhibited at Maddox Arts and the Louise Blouin Institute. Ballard’s work appears in collections including the Richard Greer Collection, LesMes, Espace Uhoda, Belgium and University of the Arts London Art Collection

10 December 2009 – the demolition of the Arts Gallery 2010, 65 Davies Street, W1K 5DA. Open Monday – Friday 10am – 6pm, Saturday 11am – 4pm. Nearest Tube Bond Street. Admission free.

Images (c) the artist
Throwing the house out the window
Galaxy Ray Print

Visit the website

Friday 20 November 2009

Letter from the Curator - Amelie Art Gallery, Beijing

I received this yesterday from Amelie Art Gallery in Beijing. I really liked the images, and the letter to the curator as well, so I thought that I would share this with you. Especially, as the opening line two lines are so poignant for anyone working in the creative industries –we all have moments of genius and then sometimes…nothing at all! How the imagination works. Anyway, I thought this was a lovely way to discuss this exhibition. I hope you enjoy reading the letter.

Letter from the Curator

Dear Ruizhao,

I hear that you’ve hit another creative block. This comes as no surprise to me. Much of any professional artist’s time is spent dealing with setbacks. Your predicament shows that your painting has not grown to formulaic over the past few years, and that you still face each artwork with sincerity. I am very happy to see this. You love fishing. You once told me that the fish and the mythical dragon are very much alike –swim through waters of untold depths in complete silence. You spend much of your free time refining your fishing techniques, and working on strange problems such as how to release a fish after catching it and how to tell its age from its scales.

That is why I proposed Notes on Fishing as an art project. I hoped that it would allow you to bring together your creative experiments and spiritual growth from the past few years. You painted images of a young boy alone at night in the water with a fish, coming home in the evening with a fishing pole, or sitting in a room…I see a bit of you in them. Your fishing experiences (such as your observations of the inconsistencies of fishermen by the pond, your encounter with a wild boar one night on Wild Boar Island, etc.) have imbued your paintings with fascinating and mysterious airs. I agree with your view that an artist’s process of creative maturation is like a pendulum, wherein the larger the amplitude (the larger the breadth of experimentation), the more powerful it will become when it stabilizes. Notes on Fishing calls to mind the daily clashes of ideas in your artistic experiments: you in your studio with the big wooden boxes from Jingdezhen, carefully pulling the half-finished sculptures from their reed wrapping; you were wearing that robe, and at the height of discussion, tearing up your sketch; you writing the words “freedom” and “power” on the wall with an ink brush…

Fishing is such a strange activity. It is the convergence of patience-stretched wisdom and serendipity, with unpredictable results. Perhaps a lifetime of squatting will amount to nothing, or perhaps an inspiring surprise will leap from the water just as hope is fading. The goal of fishing is clear, but one can never depend on the outcome. The best fishermen like Jiang Ziya*, that legendary fisherman of old, are profound figures. For you, fishing lies somewhere between an act of life and the practice of inaction, an allusion to the creative state: hesitation, meditation, patience.

Through Notes on Fishing, I have seen your probing of the essential questions of artistic creativity through pondering the “Tao of fishing”. Why does an artist paint? Why is he enamored with unreal, mysterious things? Fishing becomes a metaphor for artistic creation, even the meaning of life. In these times, when the great sages are long gone, and the keys to thought have grown covered in rust, Notes on Fishing reflects the spiritual conundrum that a young artist faces here and now.

You’re never satisfied with your paintings, and you make repeated changes on the canvas in a single-minded pursuit of spiritual dignity in colors, brushstrokes and facial expressions, swinging from mood to mood. You shouldn’t worry about being perplexed like that. People only have self-contradictions and hesitation when they have a lot going on in their minds, and this is necessary for spiritual growth. Only through deep immersion in them will you make surprising discoveries. The profound nature of fishing lies in the process. One does not have to come home with a bucket full of fish to be a success. Now I realize that falling into your own trap is the key to unlocking yourself. Every artist is like a fisherman. In the flow of vulgar life, he chooses to be an observer. He is never washed away in the waves, and remains in lonely self-doubt. What matters is that you persevere in your belief that in these constantly changing times, painting is a quest for those “mystical traces” that transcend thought, and that this is an irreplaceable and sacred endeavor. For this you need extreme wisdom and tenacity; you need to swallow the drudgery of fishing with a smile.

It looks like we won’t be able to go to Vietnam together, though I’ve always wanted to go. I’m scrawling out this letter to you under the lamplight, and thinking that right now you’re probably under the stars in Jingdezhen, writing, pondering wooden architectural structures of ancient times, or reading ghost stories from “Liao Zhai” (Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio, Qing Dynasty), doing spiritual fishing in the midst of internal chaos. I hope you can maintain this precious vigor.

Think about it, in another ten years, our sharp mental worlds might recede; I hope that your thoughts on the riverbank are always free and unrestrained.

Take care,

Tony Chang

Notes on Fishing-Paintings & Sculpture in 2006-2009
Liu RuiZhao Solo Exhibition
14 November –30 December 2009
Amelie Gallery, Beijing
Curator: Tony Chang


All images (c) Liu RuiZhao

Thursday 19 November 2009

Lorenzo Quinn’s Give & Take III unveiled in Berkeley Square, London

Lorenzo Quinn’s monumental bronze sculpture Give & Take III, measuring almost four metres high, was unveiled on Wednesday in Berkeley Square, London. The piece, which will be resident in the square for the next six months, forms part of Lorenzo’s major new solo exhibition, Equilibrium, which opened at Mayfair’s Halcyon Gallery, 24 Bruton Street, on Wednesday. Give and Take III will spend six months on public display in Berkeley Square until May 2010.

Celebrating the opening of this important show, Halcyon Gallery will host a "Meet the Artist" day on Saturday 21 November, with Lorenzo Quinn discussing the inspiration for his new work, his poetry and his vision. This is a chance to meet one of today's finest sculptors.

Quinn’s works are internationally acclaimed. Major commissions include the United Nations, the Vatican and a sculpture for Bacardi to honour the hometown of its founder in Sitges, Spain. His cultural influence has been recognised in an iconic advert for Absolut Vodka, entitled Absolut Lorenzo, part of a campaign featuring celebrated international artists. Quinn has received widespread success in the highly regarded Middle Eastern art market. Highlights include his iconic sculpture Rise Through Education in Doha, Qatar (2005) and a new commission to create an Olympic Tower, to be unveiled in Doha in 2010.

For Equilibrium, Quinn has created new pieces including What Came First?, Love and Home Sweet Home. What Came First? depicts male and female forms, each within an egg-shaped marble hemisphere, displaying the sculptor’s rich figurative symbolism at its finest.

The Love series of kinetic sculptures features paired hands, a recurring theme in Quinn’s work, representing the four stages of a relationship. Hypnotic and graceful, the works evoke the hands of strolling lovers. Considered the greatest challenge for an artist depicting the human form, for Quinn hands convey the intimacy of human interaction in a simple, powerful way.

In Home Sweet Home, he uses the female form cocooned in barbed wire to represent the claustrophobia and isolation of victims of domestic abuse. Quinn and his wife are active in their work for charities supporting victims of domestic abuse.

Accompanied by his most popular works such as Adam and Eve, Force of Nature and the massive Hand of God, Equilibrium presents an oeuvre of work mature in style and demonstrative of Quinn’s visceral empathy and technical accomplishment.

Poetry, family and society all feed into the creative process of his work and the immediate emotional response his works produce mirror this heart-felt input. Quinn said: “My inspiration comes from the everyday life, books or poems that I read, from my encounters with people and from my own experiences; sculpture is a part of who I am. I feel honoured and proud to be working with Halcyon Gallery to put together this major exhibition and to share my work with the world.”

Paul Green, President of Halcyon Gallery commented: “This exhibition is a culmination of our decade-long partnership with Lorenzo Quinn, and Equilibrium is validation of his growing status. We are also delighted that his celebrated piece ‘Give and Take III’ will be accessible to all Berkeley Square visitors until May 2010.”

For further information on Quinn or the "Meet the Artist" session visit www.halcyongallery.com

Images Credits:
Lorenzo Quinn unveils Give & Take III in Berkeley Square(By Getty)
Lorenzo Quinn's Give & Take III in Berkeley Square
Finding Love, Lorenzo Quinn
Love (2m), Lorenzo Quinn

Lorenzo Quinn’s monumental bronze sculpture Give & Take III, measuring almost four metres high, was unveiled today in Berkeley Square. The piece, which will be resident in the square for the next six months, forms part of Lorenzo’s major new solo exhibition, Equilibrium, which opens at Mayfair’s Halcyon Gallery, 24 Bruton Street, today.

See New Works of Art For Free

The ING Discerning Eye Exhibition 2009 showcases some of the best new talent to hit the gallery walls this year. The artists were selected independently by six prominent figures from the art world: two artists,two collectors, two critics.

Among the selectors this year were collectors Peter Bowles and Lawrence Llewelyn
Bowen; Financial Times Art Critic Jackie Wullschlager; Keeper of the Word and
Image Department at the V&A, Julius Bryant; Royal Academician, Gus Cummins and
artist Lincoln Seligman.

Each selector has curated one section of the exhibition, drawing their own selection from works submitted by the public and the works of artists they have personally invited to exhibit.

The uniqueness of having each work chosen by an eminent individual, unlike in a group selected show, has earned the exhibition an excellent reputation among art lovers and collectors alike. The works of lesser-known artists are given the opportunity to hang alongside the work of more established artists helping to connect hundreds of new artists with new audiences.

ING Discerning Eye Exhibition 2009 at the Mall Galleries, London SW1
Until 22nd November 2009. Admission Free.

Image credits: (c) the artists
Fujii, Atsuko - Asparagus with red string
Kessling, Kate - Thirty-Six-Guineas

Wednesday 18 November 2009

Malcolm Middleton's New Tour

Sorry, I know that I've been silent for the past few days. I've been busy with our deadline, and in fact, I am busy now, but I wanted to take a few minutes to write this. I am a HUGE Malcolm Middleton fan. It reminds me of our very first office, I listened to him over and over again, finding new things with each turn.

We'll Mr Middleton is back this winter with a series of intimate evenings. Malcolm will perform a collection of comforting wintry acoustic songs about love, hate, death, and other stuff.

A unique voice among the dirge of singer-songwriters, Malcolm Middleton balances a fragile mix of self-doubt, humour and wry observations on the human condition. Few current singer songwriters can claim to be as prolific – or as focused – as Middleton in the past five years, averaging a release a year.

Prone to self-deprecation - listen to any given lyric for proof - Middleton issued a statement saying Waxing Gibbous would likely be his last solo album for a while. Needless to say, reports of his creative death have been greatly exaggerated. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

“I am not giving up music, retiring, dying, stopping song-writing, or becoming optimistic, content or anything else along these lines. All I've said is that I'd like to try some other musical projects before I return to doing more solo albums in the future. I fancy a change and I need something new. I want to do an instrumental acoustic guitar album, some electronic music, some collaborations, maybe start a new band, produce someone else etc,” he says.

It will be interesting to see what's next for MM.

Anyway, if he's at a venue near you, I'd pop down. Really, I would.


Tue 24 LONDON Bush Hall
Wed 25 BRIGHTON Hanbury Club
Thu 26 NORWICH Arts Centre
Sat 28 EXETER Phoenix Voodoo Lounge
Sun 29 OXFORD Jericho
Mon 30 CARDIFF Barfly


Tue 01 CAMBRIDGE Junction 2
Wed 02 BRISTOL Thekla
Mon 07 NEWCASTLE Cluny 2
Tue 08 YORK Basement
Wed 09 WAKEFIELD The Hop
Thu 10 GLASGOW Oran Mor


Wednesday 11 November 2009

National Portrait Gallery to host McQueen’s Stamp tribute to Iraq fallen

On the day that the nation observes a two minute silence to remember those who have given their life in service to their country, The Art Fund, the UK’s leading art charity, announces that Queen and Country, the work of Official War Artist for Iraq, Steve McQueen, will go on display at the National Portrait Gallery in the Spring. This will mark the culmination of a UK wide tour of the artwork which is part of a campaign for images of those who died as a result of the Iraq conflict to be issued as official postage stamps by Royal Mail.

McQueen’s artwork is a collaboration with 155 families who lost a loved one in Iraq. It takes the form of facsimile postage stamps which are housed in a large oak cabinet. The work will be on display at the National Portrait Gallery between 20 March and 20 July during which time it is hoped that visitors to the gallery will show their support for the campaign for stamps which Royal Mail has so far refused to issue.

For details of the tour, and to sign The Art Fund petition, please visit www.artfund.org/queenandcountry

The Art Fund bought Queen and Country outright for the Imperial War Museum in 2007 and is spearheading the campaign and managing the tour of the artwork. To date over 21,000 have signed The Art Fund’s online petition in favour of the stamps which can be found at www.artfund.org/queenandcountry.

Andrew Macdonald, Acting Director of The Art Fund said: “Queen and Country is a powerfully moving work presented by an artist of international renown which challenges us to think again about the relationship we have with those who die serving in our name. The public support for these stamps demonstrates the enthusiasm for the whole country to join in reflection and tribute. Bringing the work to the National Portrait Gallery is an important next platform for the campaign to see Steve McQueen’s vision realised”.

Steve McQueen was born in London in 1969. He won the Turner Prize in 1999 and was awarded an OBE in 2002. His first feature film Hunger won the Camera d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008 and the Carl Foreman Award at the 2009 BAFTAs. In 2009 he represented Britain at the 53rd Venice Biennale with his new film Giardini.

Image credits:

Steve McQueen by David Parry
Major Matthew James Bacon, Intelligence Corps, Died 11 September 2005, aged 34.

Friday 6 November 2009

Winners of The Young Masters Art Prize

Contemporary art is really my passion, but I have considerable admiration for the Old Masters, the contemplative nature of this work is incredibly inspiring, so I was pleased to see that the Cynthia Corbett Gallery have launched a new Prize, The Young Masters Art Prize. Great concept - the fusion of the old and the new. This is something that I love to do.

On 3 November 2009 the winner of the inaugural Young Masters Art Prize, Hector de Gregorio and artist duo Ghost of A Dream were announced as the joint winners. The artists were presented with a combined prize of £4,000 at an awards ceremony at The Old Truman Brewery. The winning artists were selected from 16 emerging and newly established international artists who were chosen to exhibit their work, which is inspired by the Old Masters, at the Young Masters exhibition that opened to great acclaim last month at joint venues Sphinx Fine Art and The Old Truman Brewery.

The prize was judged by a panel of high profile artists and historians including Medeia Cohan- Petrolino, Head Curator for the University of the Arts London; Lock Anderson Kresler, Christie’s Contemporary Art Department; Averill Ogden, Outset Art Fund, and Tom Hunter, Artist. London-based artist Hector de Gregorio, a recent graduate from the Royal College of Art, transforms his modern subjects in to fantasy characters, referencing the religious narratives of the Old Masters. In work such as Absinthes (2009) de Gregorio repeatedly paints and varnishes over digital photographs, creating a work, which evolves around theatre and fantasy, raising questions about power and submission and contemporary sexual confusion.

The American artist collaborative, Ghost of a Dream, (Adam Eckstrom and Lauren Was) are inspired by the idealised notion of the get-rich-quick dream. Using discarded UK lottery tickets and scratch cards collected over the summer as their primary material, the artists have created an installation of desirable goods. Iconic works of art are represented, including Of the Pinks, In the Red (2009) – a direct reference to Raphael’s Madonna of the Pinks in the National Gallery, which was bought with the assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Cynthia Corbett commended: “The judges choices were all very interesting and we are delighted that the prize will be shared by these three outstanding artists. Both Hector de Gregorio and Ghost of a Dream emphasise the sheer craft and technical skill in homage to the Old Masters, which has often been ignored when bestowing recognition and awards to young artists.”

Upon winning, Hector de Gregorio said: “As an emerging artist it is an honour and an encouragement to receive this award. Supporting the arts helps society to expand ideas and alternatives both in times of stagnation and in times of richness, it consolidates and it breaks through." While Ghost of a Dream said the following after hearing the good news: “We are extremely honoured to win the Young Masters Art Prize. It has been an amazing to be included in this show and have the opportunity to exhibit our work internationally. Working alongside the Cynthia Corbett Gallery and the other artists showing in Young Masters has been exceptional experience. We want to thank AXA for sponsoring the Prize; we are honoured.”

Images © the artists
Absinthes by Hector de Gregorio
Of the pinks in the Red by Ghost of A Dream
Sepulchre by Hector de Gregorio
Beat The dealer 2009 by Ghost of a Dream

Wednesday 4 November 2009

Immersive installation - Anthea Hamilton at IBID

Anthea Hamilton’s new show at IBID includes sculptures and wall-based work following on from her recent exhibitions at Chisenhale Gallery and La Salle de Bains, Lyon. Hamilton produces carefully arranged environments in which each sculptural element is autonomous and yet come together in a way that has been described as “three-dimensional collage.”

Often her environments have taken cues from specific, non-gallery spaces, such as the gymnasium, TV studio or swimming pool, while her sculptures act like players within these stage sets – commonly carrying out appropriate routine tasks and rituals. In this way her immersive installations explore such themes as leisure, attraction and mechanisms of desire, creating delicately balanced situations where the viewer is always placed at centre stage. What is so poignant about her work, is the way that it creates interplay between the concept of the gallery and the power of art - where ever that may be.

Central to an understanding of Hamilton’s work is her use of materials. Some of the found-objects present in the current exhibition are taken from popular TV or fiction, for example are a translation of a 2D character into 3D merchandise. Often, they are strikingly removed from their original context (for example, a pin-up poster that was intended as a symbol of desire seems more appropriate to a teenage bedroom than a gallery setting). While her more idiosyncratic assemblages may seem bewildering at times – including a rubber cartoon mask of a character from The Simpsons, an over-sized wrapped cheese fashioned from leather and foam, or a clear perspex chair made from cut-outs of the artists own legs – each are precisely chosen for the specific senses they provoke and the associations they inspire.

More often than not these associations are to do with the body. Indeed, in previous examples of Hamilton’s work her sculptures often appeared like disconnected bodies – figuration was hinted at but never actually revealed. In her new works the figuration remains but in a form that is abstracted even further. Indeed, her sculptures appear more solidly grounded in the idea that they are inanimate objects that work within a wider environment, even with a use value (a chair, a blind, a table), or that they might be chosen in a similar way to furnishings – integral choices that inform a larger set of surroundings within which the visitor is invited to explore and reveal connections.

Whilst Hamilton’s use of ‘poor’ everyday materials – as well as her overall reductionist style and a retro-store colour palette – clearly connect her to a contemporary aesthetic, the effect is anthropomorphic and less to do with the legacy of Minimal Art than a choreography of different feelings and emotions. Issues of titillation and an overtly sensual mood verging on the sexual come into play, in the same way that curator Francesco Manacorda has written of Hamilton that she “is interested in tracing a personal history of love and attraction … in a mapping of the distance between individuals and the objects of their desire.”

For further information visit www.ibidprojects.com

All images (c) Anthea Hamilton courtesy the gallery.

Tuesday 3 November 2009

Wunderbar Festival 2009

A new concept is afoot – performance art in people’s homes? What’s this all about?

Wunderbar Festival 2009 is hosting 12 incredible experiences in 12 homes across the North East this November. This outstanding new commission invites audiences into the homes of members of the public to see incredible new art performances – offering once-in-a-life-time insight into the astonishing diversity of people’s homes.

Tours of People’s Homes is a new commission for the internationally acclaimed artist Joshua Sofaer, who will lead a number of workshops culminating in a series of public performances inside the homes of selected participants. Members of the public have been working with the artist and director over the last few months to develop a tour or encounter in their own home.

What a strange and unique concept. This really is the democratization of the performing arts. If you're in the area, it’s well worth a visit. I’m particularly looking forward to Craig Astley’s “Pop Sandwich” – how fun. We were all young once. A bit of nostalgia for the good times? DIY is rife...and I like it!

Highlights of Tours of People’s Homes include:

Walnuts and Grapefruits
Pauline Frost tells the story of how she discovered her healing powers. Pauline invites you to hear her miraculous story, and to learn why a walnut can be a matter of life and death….

Bath Time
Katy Merrington and her brother Peter welcome members of the public into their warm and friendly home and run a deep bubble bath for you. With tenderness, respect and time, they’ll listen to your preferences and pamper participating audiences.

A Pop Sandwich
Craig Astley invites you to his “Pop Sandwich” in which he will indulge audiences in popular programmes, pop music and fizzy pop. Astley will allow you to share three experiences in three different rooms and indulge in watching, eating, looking and listening and, literally drinking ‘pop’.

Make A Splosh
Katie Fletcher invites audiences to “Make s Splosh” in which she welcomes visitors for a slap up meal. However they will have to decide whether to eat it or throw it. Hurl the hamburgers, toss the tart, pitch the peas, lob the lentils and propel the pancakes. Katie asks that you join her for a feast of pleasures and indulge in playing with your food.

Craig Astley, star of A Pop Sandwich said “It’s been really satisfying being a part of this project as it appeals to many sides of my personality from the décor-obsessed, proud homeowner to the record collector to the mild showoff to the perpetually, “theming” event host. Tours of People’s Homes has meant I could bring all of this together and devise a really indulgent experience for an audience.”

Wunderbar Festival 2009 will bring exciting multi-art form, contemporary performances and visual art to the North East. The festival will present work by pioneering artists that is challenging, brave, different and thought-provoking, alongside large scale spectacles with a definite ‘wow’ factor and charming, quirky, unexpected happenings that will surprise and delight.

Further Tours of People’s Homes performances will include:• Building a shed with Dan Civico
• Spending an hour in the company Carole Luby and her horses.
• Listening to fireside fables and graveyard tails with Peter Saaremets and Claire Webster Saaremets
• Having a private chat with Nathalie Levi
• Accepting Kate Stobbart’s invitation to tea
• Step into drawers, chests and wardrobes with Nicola Singh
• Unravelling a house history in Hexham with Bob Hull

Tickets can be purchased at www.wunderbarfestvial.co.uk/TOPH or at the Wunderbar box office located at Dance City. Locations will be provided when tickets are obtained. Houses are not open to the public and Tours will take place at allocated times.

Other Wunderbar highlights include:

Performances by Internationally acclaimed artist Alistair Mclennan
Internationally acclaimed performance artist Alistair McLennan will produce one of his infamous pieces for the Festival. McLennan’s work over the past 30+ years has been at the forefront of the international performance scene. A new commission in collaboration with Locus+, who are renowned for creating hugely innovative temporary exhibitions and installations in non-gallery locations.

Dinner with America
A year on from Obama’s election, this works looks at our perceptions of ‘America,’ via historical recordings and sound bites alongside Shah’s own highly arresting visual and performative interpretation. I wonder what this one will be like?

Who wants to be...? - The People Speak
The ‘ask the audience’ game show! Did you know that in the ‘Ask the Audience’ bit of the TV gameshow ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire‘, the audience is right 98.9% of the time? ‘Who Wants to Be...?’ is a live reality gameshow where the audience make up the questions, have all the answers, and set their own rules, using a simple voting system.

Haircuts by Children
Would you let a nine-year-old loose on your hair? Trained to greet, style, chat, cut and colour just as a hairdresser would, a group of children will be offering their hairdressing services to the public during the festival!

From Here on Out
How does this city work? Where does all of this stuff come from? Explore the props, pulleys and power that underlie urban life in From Here on Out, a city walk with a difference. A 45-minute video and sound walk gives you a kind of x-ray vision of the city, layering the cityscape with images of the otherwise invisible processes that drive it. You are invited to experience a city where the back lane is a dairy farm, the shopping centre is a colliery, and there’s a power station on your street corner. Experience the unseen and unspoken substructures of the city brought to life in the centre of Newcastle.

Listening to Leonids
Between the 10th and 20th of November 2009, Earth will pass through a stream of meteors, the Leonids – a prolific meteor shower known as “the King of Meteor Showers” – producing not only a spectacular light show in the night sky, but also the opportunity to hear their progress across the upper atmosphere.

Astronomers have noticed a unique phenomenon relating to meteors, as under certain circumstances, observers seem able to hear meteors as they see them. Technically this should be impossible, as, travelling at the speed of sound, these noises should take around 5 minutes to arrive on earth. However, a phenomenon has been discovered suggesting that certain everyday household objects responding to electromagnetic radiation given off by the meteor can act as makeshift radio receivers. These objects can be as varied as aluminium foil, wire-frame glasses, thin wires, pine needles, old aerials, and even dry or frizzy hair!

To test out this theory, Ed Carter will be spending time in preparatory research at Kielder Observatory during the festival and will be sharing his findings in an online diary you can follow on this page. As part of the Wunderbar Grand Chaser on Sunday 15th, Ed will present his research findings and show you how you too can ‘Listen to Leonids’. The peak time for hearing and seeing the Leonids is on 17th and 18th November, so make sure you’re prepared to be part of this celestial spectacle.

Watch Me Fall - Action Hero“I’m going over in a barrel. I’m leaving the cannon, hitting the ramp at 90mph and clearing ten double decker buses. I might fall. I might break my body into several pieces, but then I’ll pick myself up, dust myself off and do it all over again. This time, I’m going higher, further and faster. Tonight, I will attempt the impossible.”

Action Hero have measured it out, done a few calculations and they’re confident ... it could go either way. Come along and cheer for us, pull for us, pray for us and watch us fall. Watch Me Fall is for the daredevils. It’s our obsession with those who attempt the impossible, the futility of their attempts and their inevitable fall from grace. Set on a DIY runway with a standing audience, Action
Hero pushes the limit in the name of entertainment.

Wunderbar Festival runs from 6th-15th Nov 2009 www.wunderbarfestival.co.uk/

Images (c) Craig Astley

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