30 May 2014

A blooming lovely day at Chelsea Flower Show!

Summer's coming so it must be time for Chelsea Flower Show, except the British weather sometimes forgets to keep up!  We had a great day out even tho' there were a couple of mad dashes into the main pavilion to escape the downpours.

Chelsea Flower Show is a big event in London with local shops covering themselves with amazing floral displays, the TV has hours of coverage and the tickets are sold out well in advance every year. 

Saturday is a special day to visit because it is the last day of the week long extravaganza and the beautiful gardens and stands in the pavilion are on standby for 4pm. This is when the bell is rung and the keen gardeners turn into sharp elbowed rather frantic plant hunters as the plants are sold off at knock down prices.  I had picked out my stand in advance and although it was a bit frantic I managed to stagger away with my bounty without any injury! Getting the plants home is another matter and watching some fellow visitors trying to walk away with plants twice their body weight and half as tall again was quite something!

The show gardens are beautifully constructed works of art in living plant form and you just stand back and admire the creative work that has gone into them. The grand pavilion is packed full of stands, also incredibly well displayed and you can marvel at how they got the flowers in full bloom on just the right week. 

Many of garden designers have taken the anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War as their inspiration so you will see floral allusions to battle.

It's a big busy day out so sit back in comfort and enjoy a tour round Chelsea Flower Show 2014:

From the grand pavilion: 

not just flowers - veg too!

jolly gardener

1st world war bi-plane
not sure why the lovely rabbit was on the Thai stand?

elephants made more sense...

in memory of the 1st world war

I think he's a dog but others were not sure...

 Let's move outside to the show gardens:

Faaaabulous gorilla made of lavender

Lavender puppies and a kitten

Making the most of a small space

The people's choice - the Help for Heroes garden

Help for Heroes bench - 'they just blokes but they are our blokes'

Wonderful planting from the award winning Laurent Perrier garden

Not in a garden but lovely horses by the picnic area

A nod to the Viking exhibition with this boat/bench

Boy was it busy!

Let's not forget the Chelsea Pensioners whose home this is

Phew, that's Chelsea over! I hope you enjoyed this short tour round this major part of the London year.  Let's see what the next week brings......

Bye for now.

14 May 2014

London's Design Museum

London's Design Museum doesn't often come up on the list of our most visited museums but it's well worth a look. Located just next to Tower Bridge, it was founded in 1989 by Sir Terence Conran to encourage everyone to appreciate the value of design and looks at all types of design: product, industrial, graphic, fashion and architectural. 

Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, the museum champions emerging and established talent. It's looking ahead to an exciting new phase when it moves home at the end of 2015 to a much larger site in Kensington near to the great museum quarter where you can find the V&A, Science and Natural History Museums. 

The current site hosts a wide range of temporary exhibitions and I saw 3 varied shows during my visit: Hello my name is Paul Smith (he seems to have taken over the outside of the building!); Time Machines: Daniel Weil and the Art of Design; and, Designs of the Year 2014. 

Arriving at the Design Museum - welcome thanks to Paul Smith

My visit was prompted by the opening of Daniel Weil's show so I'll start with him.  I was lucky enough to have a curator's tour and Daniel himself was at the museum that morning. We learned about his life which began in Argentina until he left to come to London in late 1970 to escape political oppression and the formality of his architecture training. His graduation show from the Royal College of Art in 1981 was ground breaking and his famous 'radio in a bag'  showed his love of deconstructing everyday items, taking them away from their conventional box shape and it feels contemporary even today.  He had put the word 'radio' on the piece so people would know what it was! I really liked the one with a musical score printed on the plastic cover and could see it selling in a store like Muji right now.

Radio in a music bag
Radio in a bag 1981

 He has turned his hand to so many other design projects from a pavilion at the London 2012 Games to babies bottles for Mothercare, shop fronts for Boots the chemist, to champagne coolers for Krug, to Swatch watches and even album covers for Pet Shop Boys. A huge table displaying his sketches gives us some insight into the creative process. He brings wit, skill and invention to all his projects and dazzled me his range.

Sketches for the Swatch watch project

Pet Shop Boys CD cover

 Daniel has a specific focus on time and his words 'time neither stops nor starts' greet us as we reach the top floor of the museum. He was showcasing a new range of timepieces which challenge our perceptions of how clocks can look, breaking up the conventional form so they look more like works of art (which they are) than functioning clocks. 
The man himself in front of one of his new timepieces

The Paul Smith show was heart warming and inspiring. He dedicated all his work to his wife Pauline and he wears his success so lightly. One of the most successful fashion brands with shops across the world, he looks for inspiration all around him, saying literally anything can spark off an idea and loves colour whether it is loud and obvious or more subtle, even hidden in a jacket lining.  

There's a fun lining to this seemingly straight jacket

Classic collaboration with Mini for Paul Smith's trademark stripes

The 'Designs of the Year 2014' was a fascinating display of 76 creative ideas to improve our lives. The first photo lists most of them for you. There were too many great ideas to really pick any out but here are a few that I loved:  the display board to help you learn to write Chinese; a clever dye in syringes to let users know whether it had been used or not; and, the Lego wall calendar which somehow synchs with your smart phone!

As you leave the museum, you are treated to a great sight of London past the paddle-steamers, through Tower Bridge to the City's new skyscrapers the Walkie Talkie and the Cheese Grater. The more familiar Gherkin shape looms over the star of the show - the ancient and ever impressive Tower of London.

Tower Bridge on a stormy day!

Bye for now,

7 May 2014

A fun day out on the Olympic Park art tour

The Olympic Park in east London is really called the Queen Elizabeth Park as the area moves on from the Olympics  but I'm sure most people, including me,  will carry on calling it the Olympic Park as it holds such happy memories of the London Games of 2012. 

Most of the park is now open to the public and many of the iconic buildings remain:  the Aquatic Centre,without its extra wings which were added on to seat the thousands of fans of swimming and diving:, the twisting Orbit sculpture; the curving velodrome; the block of the Copper Box;  and, the famous athletics stadium, although they have taken down the pyramid shaped lighting gantries which went all around it so it looks a little naked now to my eye. 

There is so much to see and do at the park, especially on a lovely sunny day such as we enjoyed. To add to the fun they have set up various self guided tours so we picked up 'Art in the Park - A Field Guide', a comprehensive information booklet, and off we went.  We soon realised there are too many art works to see if you are also after a leisurely stroll and chat but we enjoyed the ones we saw and have saved many for our next visit. 

So, here are my highlights with a couple of extras which are not strictly art things but I loved them so have thrown them in!

1. Steles by Keith Wilson

This work consists of 35 colourful posts which look like crayons to me and they line the river in a carefully planned colour sequence. They are both an art work and mooring posts tho' I'm not sure you can just rock up on your boat and stay in the middle of the park!

You'll have spotted the extra ordinary shape of the Aquatic Centre in this photo. It is now open to the public so you can swim in the Olympic pool and dream of winning a medal!

 Here's a view of the inside of the aquatic centre with its impressive pool - I was almost tempted to get in, even as a non swimmer!

2. Carpenter's Curve by Clare Woods

This is one of two artworks by Clare which wrap around exteriors and make utility buildings disappear from sight. Clare created these huge works as paintings which were then transferred onto individual tiles which you can see these clearly in the photo. Apparently it is the most complex tile mural in the world!

3. Arcelormittal Orbit by Sir Anish Kapoor, Cecil Balmond

One of my favourites, Orbit can be seen from afar, even from the plane as you fly into London and is the UK's tallest sculpture. It's made of recycled steel and offers a great viewing platform up at 114 metres where Anish Kapoor's mirrors turn London upside down. It's worth going up the top but be warned, there are over 500 steps down so think carefully before you decide to walk - I didn't!

 4. Run by Monica Bonvicini

I remember this one really catching my eye during the Games and it felt so right with the  events that were going on all around it. Now it still impresses and I'd love to see it at night when the letters glow with lines of internal LED lighting. 

These next photos show one of the most iconic symbols of London and although they don't seem to be part of the art tour, I though they merited inclusion in my highlights. The phone boxes appear normal from a distance but are playing with that view as they are only part boxes,so you just have 2 sides of the box and they have poetry carved into the windows.


While I'm mentioning areas I liked that are not on the art tour, I have to mention the fun fountains curved like a snake. They start off very low and entice people to walk around and over them and then suddenly spurt up at least 5 feet into the air to shrieks of laughter from everyone caught out -  who then go back for more! Here's the before and after photos:

5. Pixel Wall by Tomato

There are over 2000 wooden cubes on this wall and as you pass by you can run your hands over them making a new pattern for the wall as the light and dark surfaces are changed around. If I'd had more time I would have been tempted to leave a message in pixels but instead just left them with a new pattern.  

6. Fantastic Factology by Klassnick Corporation, Riitta Ikonen, We Made That 

All around the park fascinating facts are tucked away on park benches, from information about the park and nature to more personal recollections which make you think about the history of the area and its people. As it was such a sunny day I chose this one which tells us the sun is on average 93 million miles from this bench!

A quick mention for the climbing wall as we pass by as it was really well used by young and older folk and looked great fun!

7. The Spark Catchers by Lemn Sissay

I loved the use of this wooden box carved with an emotive poem called the Spark Catchers to cover an electricity transformer and the juxtaposition of the danger triangle sign and the title of the poem. The poem references the first strike at the nearby Bryant and May match factory, giving us more plays on words. The strike was lead by the women, many younger than 16, who were protesting against appalling conditions leading to injury and illness and was a major event in our industrial and women's history. 

In total there are 26 different art works to enjoy on the art trail and I've only covered 6 (with a few extras not officially on the tour) so I'll definitely have to go back to check out some of the missing group. Why not have a go yourself and see how many you can find?

Bye for now,