Posts Tagged ‘Art’

Resto 24 Dear Pizza, Highbury

August 5, 2018

Another meal, another pizza. But this time the Italian vibe started earlier in the day with a visit to the Estorick. If you don’t know the Estorick you should familiarise yourself soonest. A perfect museum to visit if you have a spare hour in north London, it has a small but perfectly formed collection of 20th Century Italian art with temporary exhibitions that are of an exceptionally high standard in terms of curation and novelty.

At the moment they have two exhibs, so even more reason to go than ever. On the ground floor the rooms are given over to original artwork for Campari, ranging from the late nineteenth century to the 1990 World Cup (my favourite piece – a football themed jigsaw which put me in mind of not just Toto Schillaci but also Georges Perec).

Early Campari ads. Thirsty again.

Futurists working at the command of fascist era booze mongers turns out to be a match made in heaven for the visual arts. And having been subjected to around 29 images of Campari it was difficult to resist a cocktail in the gallery’s very peaceful garden. (Service 10/10, we didn’t eat.)

I was less keen on the neo-futurists’ interventions in the permanent galleries. Their anti-capitalist rhetoric was a bit one note for me, though entertaining in parts. Irony ladled on irony can be very wearing, especially when funded by the Arts Council. But I’d still recommend it for its variety of approach (music, video, sculpture).

And so to dinner. A shortish stroll to Dear Pizza who lured us in with their promise of a garden. Strictly speaking I’d say it was a yard. But an awning-covered yard on a hot day is rather pleasant. The cooking was higher quality than I was expecting – octopus arrived with a very good sauce. The pizza was excellent (can you get bad pizza any more? Oh yes, p***a h*t), as was the service.

What a great day, and spent in our own manor with no need to get the tube.

8/10

#Food #London

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

Resto 12 National Gallery Dining Rooms

April 29, 2018

Having been to the excellent Monet and Architecture in the Sainsbury Wing we didn’t fancy walking through filthy April weather to eat and decided to go to the NGDR even though the barren expanse of the room had something of the air of the Marie Celeste about it.

We were given an excellent table by the window with a view over the square and, more immediately, the queue of bedraggled arthounds queueing to get through the desultory security check.

They’ve stripped back the menu in here since last I visited so you now have precisely three options of meat, fish and veg for the first two courses, and a marginally broader selection for the desserts. But at £19 for two courses or £22 for three the limited choice is the sacrifice you make for economy.

I went for the beetroot slanted salmon up front and then a cheese tortellini for main. The salmon was a hefty amount with a crunchy and refreshing cucumber and fennel salad. The tortellini were perfectly cooked and delicious with enough sauce for the job. But I wouldn’t have minded more. House white (French, Rhone Valley) was fine for the price.

Why it was empty on a Friday evening I’ve no idea. The service was excellent, you’re paying around 30 quid a head (more if you want sides) to eat in a room with a world class view with upscale nappery and fighting irons. Maybe it’s more of a lunchtime joint but it’s a good post-exhibition option if you want straight up modern cooking at a good price.

8/10

#Food #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 69 Le Moissonnier, Köln

November 26, 2017

The foodie highlight of the week, and one that we’d already booked in advance as a treat, was Le Moissonnier. It was a good job that we booked as the restaurant was completely full soon after we arrived at half twelve. The room, however, is peaceful with solid local business types as fellow diners and thus a discreet distance between tables to avoid anyone overhearing gossip of deals and trade secrets. Dotted around the walls are old French posters and ads and the whole place has the feel of a classic French bistrot à la Vagenende.

As you might guess Le M specialises in French cuisine and has done so for years. Run by a family it feels as though each of the staff have absolute mastery of their role in the business, which makes for a very relaxing customer experience. We kicked off with a sparkling wine from Alsace as an aperitif while perusing the not too extensive menu and munching on high quality bread.

There’s a tasting menu of a fistful of courses but we went à la carte. To start I had perch with pike mousse and a lot of other detail that I can’t go into here. The cooking is classic yet elaborate. My perch had been deconstructed then reassembled into a fishy masterpiece complete with its original tail for decoration. The pike mousse was fluffy and tasty and arrived in its own jar, and then alongside that some vegetables in their own dish. With three crocks per person per course it was a good job that there was plenty of room on the table!

Some thought this level of sophistication was a bit too much but I don’t often go to such high end places so I was happy to indulge. The price of the food was  slightly eye-popping (€50-60 for mains), excellent wine was available at a more modest rate. We took a dry Muscat from Corsica at €40 that was utterly delicious. This was used to wash down ris de veau, which came with mushrooms, plenty of sauce and lots of other nice little touches such as a thin sliver of foie gras on its own cheesy fluff.

By now we were into hour two of lunch but in no mood to call it a day. A dessert of chocolate ‘pizza’ (of course it was a lot more than that) was good but a slight mis-step for someone who isn’t a chocolate fan. Thankfully I had a Gerwurtzträminer to sip while I cursed myself for going against my instinct. I should have gone for the sorbet. A rum for digestif (they specialise in it here) was nearly but not quite a bridge too far but I was happy enough with that and a perfect little coffee to round off. All I was lacking was a cigar for the walk home.

This was an excellent experience but not one that my credit card could handle too many times in a season. However, to have come into a womb of sophisticated Frenchness after having spent an evening watching the most turgid Europa League match since the last one in a noisy brauhaus was a most welcome thing. And this on the back of an excellent morning in Cologne’s fine art museum where they had an extraordinary exhibition of Tintoretto. After that it was back to sausageland, the latex girls, Kölsch and a man with a very annoying drill in a terrible hotel bar.

9/10

#Köln #food #Germany

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Affordable Art Fair

October 19, 2017

I haven’t got round to my full Estorick post yet, in fact I’d like to go back before I tackle it, so in the meantime my art focus falls on the Affordable Art Fair in Battersea Park. This is my third art bunfight of the year after the RA’s Summer Exhibition and the Venice Biennale (not that I was in any danger of buying anything at that!) and I was there at the invitation of my talented friend, Nick.

Nick Kobyluch – not just a talented artist, also a fine centre back.

I’ll spare his blushes and briefly state that he does fine landscapes that are topographical without being pedantic. See the depiction of Elephant and Castle tube over his shoulder to discover how he finds the ray of sunshine in even the gloomiest London locale.

And the Fair? I’d recommend a visit if you’re in the area. Like all of these kinds of things you can get a bit art blind by the 100th stand but there is plenty of good stuff for the discerning eye. I was most taken with the photographs of delapidated buildings by Dan Oude Elferink. The temptation to take one home was strong but I reckon it best to approach purchases without free wine in the tank and we decided to visit the Ranen Art Gallery at a future date.

Punters queue to bag up their art. We kept a cool head.

Try and get there early if you can as the aisles get tight as the evening progresses, and no one likes tight aisles. As it was two knobhe … err, art fans spilled my drink while looking at the walls rather than where they were going.

A relatively clear aisle, it looks safe for beverages. But watch out, those red trouser guys come out of nowhere.

And is it affordable? Well it’s a relative term isn’t it. Some stands have prints (and originals) for sale at under a monkey but most featured works are four figures and above as far as I could see. So if budget is an issue for you follow the racecourse golden rule and keep your maximum stake in one pocket and your taxi fare home in the other. 

Resto 56 Estorick Café, Highbury

October 10, 2017

I nearly forgot my visit to the Estorick (more of which in another post) as it was a bit of a pit stop but since they brought me the bill I should add it for completism’s sake. And also because the service and food is always excellent.

On this occasion I just stopped by after the exhibition (Arte Povera, recommended) for a quick coffee. So I got an espresso and then was tempted into having a custard tart by the very cheerful waiter. It was too cold to sit outside but now that they have a conservatory style fitting it feels like you’re in the garden anyway. Even if you’re not visiting the collection it’s worth having a pop in to do the crossword or chat with a friend.

Though why you wouldn’t want to look at the art as well I don’t know. It’s one of my favourite places in London.

8/10

#coffee #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Bram Bogart at Vigo Gallery

September 20, 2017

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It feels a long time since I wrote about something other than food on here. Not because I’ve been culturally droughted of late, I’ve just been writing other things. I’m also preparing a fairly chunky piece recommending membership of the London Library in the semi-flippant style of my Southwark Jury Service post.

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An old-fashioned desk in the London Library. I think someone stole my laptop?! Just kidding.

So this is a quick post to recommend the Bram Bogart show at Dering Street’s Vigo Gallery. This isn’t the first time that I’ve written about Vigo; due to a family connection it’s a gallery whose fortunes I follow more closely than most. However, that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t flag up things that they do that I think a wider public might enjoy. As I’ve said before the private galleries of London are an intellectual resource that is underused by those not in the art world but who have an interest in culture.

And the Belgian artist Bram Bogart is a case in point. Bogart developed as an artist after World War Two and was part of the move of Arte Povera (which reminds me I should get to the Estorick sometime) towards simplicity of colour and radical interventions on the plane of the canvas. While some, like Fontana, went in for slashing the canvas in order to break the surface Bogart treats the canvas as a basis for sculptural creations, pushing the paint out towards the viewer in a more extreme version of, say, Van Gogh’s heavy impasto.

The works collected in the two rooms at Vigo come from a later stage in Bogart’s career when he had moved away from the minimalist colours of AP and embraced vibrant colours, mixing paint with glue to achieve billowing effects on the canvas. If you visit the show, and I hope you will, you’ll be met with a riot of colour that would elevate even the lowest spirits crushed by a combination of a rotten global outlook, the cruel chill of September in London and the very hell that is trying to walk on Oxford or Regent Street.

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Bram Bogart, ‘Zonzucht’

You can see the sculptural aspect to his work in the above photo but as ever I advise you to see these works in the flesh if you can. Taking photographs of paintings really is the most redundant thing in the world. If you want a record of something write about it, or pull a more professional image down from the net for your personal use. Unless you want to illustrate a hurriedly written blogpost of course! But do go to the Vigo if you can, they have an excellent booklet to accompany the show which talks far more articulately about Bogart’s work than I can!

#Art #London

Resto 47 The Keeper’s House, Piccadilly

August 28, 2017

Having lunched at Caravan, I was rather improbably dining in The Keeper’s House later the same evening. Sometimes the most banal days turn epic. Hence my memory of the meal is sketchy, especially given a couple of days of August Bank Holiday (one of which drinking Gamma Ray in the hottest car park in London) occurring since we ate.

The room is down the warren of corridors off the main body of Burlington House. But it’s worth the trip. As you’d expect there’s a selection of artworks on the walls to occupy the eye if you’ve had enough of looking at your fellow diners. There was a smattering of these but it wasn’t difficult to get a table on a Friday night.

The food is solid high-end stuff. Pea soup was a decent warm up, then a bit of fish for main (I don’t remember the brand of fish … hake? No. Umm, possibly salmon) was good too. The new potatoes on the side were perfectly cooked (not always the case) and the best thing I’d eaten all day. The only disappointment was an underwhelming pistachio ice cream.

There’s stiff competition round these parts for this kind of food at this kind of price (plus £25 for most mains) but I kind of liked it’s dungeon-y vibe and could be tempted back for a post-show scoff. Matisse is definitely worth the trip, even if (like me) you feel a bit Matissed out from a holiday in Paris.

7/10

#Food #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

 

The Crouch End Players and the Comédie-Italienne

May 24, 2017
Corbyn Island with Cast 2

Artwork © Nick Kobyluch

Since translating Marivaux’s comedy L’Ile des Esclaves for the Crouch End Festival I’ve been immersing myself in the culture of the early eighteenth century in France, partly with an eye on working on something more ambitious sometime in the future but also with my mind on costumes for Corbyn Island, the updated version that’s in production with the Crouch End Players. One way I felt that I could tie the modern adaptation to the work that inspired it would be by having two of my modern characters in fancy dress that had a whiff of Baroque France about them.

Naturally my thoughts turned to the Wallace Collection in Marylebone, whose building is a little bit of France in the West End. The 18th Century French rooms I’d tended to skip through on previous visits – all that flouncy, sleazy Boucher is a bit quease-inducing even if you have the reward of the more civilised Watteau alongside.  I prefer the more sober pleasures to be had in the company of Poussin and De Hooch.

So it was a surprise to find that not only did the Wallace have plenty of canvases depicting eighteenth century French fashion it actually had a picture of our antecedents as interpreters of Marivaux, the Comédie-Italiennes.

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The Italian Comedians by a Fountain, Nicolas Lancret

The painting depicts the actors in theatre dress with the stock characters Pierrot and Arlequin most obvious – each in his distinctive costume with Arlequin also masked. Arlequin appears in L’Ile des Esclaves as the slave to an Athenian aristocrat and displays all of the attributes that his audience would expect whichever production he appeared in. He’s a cheeky, rustic joker who has simple tastes – food, drink and the ladies, not necessarily in that order.

In Marivaux’s production he would have been played by Thomassin, the most famous Arlequin of his age and probably the man depicted by Lancret in the painting above. Our own Arlequin (who now goes under the name of TC, a little nod to the Assistant Coach of my football club, Ipswich Town) is played, I have to say magnificently, by Ric Lindley. He doesn’t have to perform the acrobatics that would have been expected of a seventeenth century Arlequin, nor did we direct him to adopt a ‘high-pitched voice like a parrot’ as described as being characteristic of the part by contemporary accounts.* But I think he definitely captures the earthy qualities of Arlequin, as well as his sentimentality and good-naturedness.

Lancret is one of those artists who seems to be permanently overshadowed (like de Hooch by Vermeer) by a more illustrious peer for seemingly no good reason. Watteau of course is the big name here but they had very similar backgrounds starting as apprentices under the theatre scenarist and artist Claude Gillot. For some reason Lancret seems to be treated as the apprentice to Watteau whereas in fact he was much more of a rival. So researching Lancret’s painting was a lot more difficult to do than if it had been Watteau’s. There are (justifiably) books by the yard on Watteau in the library but very little, even in French, on his fellow painter.

Lancret’s ability is shown by many canvases in the Wallace but is nowhere more apparent in London than in the marvellous Gallery A at the National. Tucked away either side of a large canvas from the studio of Boucher (isn’t that telling of Lancret’s neglect, he could probably chat to Guardi about it who has a little picture up the row) are four canvases depicting the four ages of man. Philosophical pieces describing childhood, youth, maturity and old age, they are little gems that deserve a wall of their own.

They also led me to reflect how one would depict the life cycle in the modern age. Childhood and youth separate? It hardly seems that a tot is out of nappies before it is turned into a consumer and given a screen to suck on. But then how to separate youth and maturity when middle-aged men go shopping in the supermarket in leisure wear and spend their cultural capital yarning the ins and outs of superhero franchises. So, it would seem, we go straight from youth to senility. But I digress.

True, Watteau was the pioneer of the fête galante but it was a genre that Lancret developed and proved to be a master of very quickly, as shown by the portrait of the Comédies-Italiennes. The vividness of their characters brought them into the modern age for me as I was standing in the Wallace and gave me the feeling that even if I’ve twisted and mangled Marivaux out of shape as an author, as a company we’re still communicating with these people through four centuries of theatre history and revivifying the roles that they created. It’s a tremendous credit to Ric, Sophie, Richard, Mia, Victoria, Mike, Nadia and Vic that they’ve taken this project on and given it life beyond the page. If only we had Lancret around to immortalise them.

#Theatre #London

*François Moreau, Le goût Italien dans la France tocaille: théatre, musique, peinture (Paris, PUPS: 2011), p. 40

More good things at the National

May 21, 2017

In the last post I intended to talk about some more highlights beyond Gallery A but having gone off on one about Arthur Ransome’s oeuvre I thought it best to split my ramblings into two more digestible helpings. There are two temporary offerings at the National that any self-respecting art lover finding themselves with an afternoon in London should get to.

Firstly, Chris Ofili’s wonderful Weaving Magic. A collaboration with the Dovecot Tapestry Studio the work is the brightest jewel in London right now. Ofili’s preparatory drawings in the ante room give you the context of the tapestry’s design, including the information that the cocktail waiter is based on Mario Balotelli.

The tapestry itself is in a grand, subtly lit room where it glows with pure sensual pleasure. If the Trinidad Tourist Board had any sense they’d snap it up immediately for their publicity because it’s the best argument for visiting the Caribbean that I’ve seen since the retirement of Brian Lara.

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But Ofili’s isn’t the only gem. Tucked away by the front door of the NG is a grand baroque canvas by an artist I’d never come across before, a glimpse of which can be seen in the image above. Cagnacci’s Repentant Magdalene is another work of sensual delight on a par with Ofili’s, even if it comes in the guise of a work of religious devotion. The Magdelene is repentant but in the depiction of her transition from sin to contrition she seems to have her carnality multiplied by Cagnacci’s brush. Not even the devil, in the allegorical figure of Vice, has the best tunes in this piece. For once they belong to the godly; Vice barely merits a glance.

Individual sections of the painting are worth studying closely. The Magdalene’s blue robe a gorgeous slather of colour on the floor, a sunlit balcony straight from a perfect holiday on the Med and Cagnacci’s own signature (Guido Cagnacci, Inventor) deserve patient attention before your gaze is inevitably pulled back to the central, intense relationship between Mary and Martha. Catch it while you can, it closes today!

#art #London #NationalGallery

The National Gallery basement and Arthur Ransome

May 15, 2017

The National, besides its usual haul of treasure, now has two must-see freebies to lure in the art hound (of which more in another post). And this in addition to the fact that the whole of the basement is now fully opened up to the public for the first time, or at least in this correspondent’s memory.

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The Fall, 458489 BSIDES. Better than the A-sides for some aficionados.

The basement, as well as housing the displaced works owing to the Michelangelo/Sebastiano exhibition taking place in some of the permanent galleries, now has a smattering of the NG’s artistic B-sides in ‘Room A’. Which makes it sound like it’s not worth the trouble to go down there. But that’s wrong. These are for the most part high quality B-sides, reminiscent of The Fall’s classic compilation, 458489, in that some of this stuff is better than what’s upstairs/on the flip side. Especially in the way that the work is curated – a broad sweep of art from the Renaissance to the late 19th Century in one room, allowing the eye to juxtapose subject, style and composition to delightful effect.

The central space is dominated by four grand canvases of battles from the French Revolutionary wars (Jemappes, Valmy, Montmirail and Hanau) by Vernet that are splendid in their drama and attention to detail, even if the carnage wouldn’t be to everyone’s taste. Those of a more peaceful bent might want to stroll around to Gentile Bellini’s Madonna and child, which for me is as handy a bit of god-stuff as any you’d fine in the Sainsbury Wing.

In between you’ll find a broad range of things to enjoy – the Impressionist Jongkind’s view of the Boulevard Port-Royal, Puvis de Chevanne’s Summer and a heap of Golden Age Dutch stuff were my own particular favourites until I came across a wall of Dutch seascapes from the nineteenth century. These were less familiar to me than the Van de Veldes (of which there are a couple here) from the seventeenth century, which is probably why they attracted my attention.

They are both by Paul Jean Clays, an artist of whom I knew nothing, and on seeing the first I noted in my book, ‘Ships Lying Off Dordrecht reminds me of Flushing in Ransome. Round boats coming up to meet us. Dutch flags, blue sky flash though grey cloud, can hear the seagulls and smell the rain approaching in the air.’

What I meant by ‘Flushing in Ransome’ is one of the greatest children’s books ever written (sadly overshadowed by its more famous predecessor) We Didn’t Mean to go to Sea by Arthur Ransome. In this story the Walker children (made famous by Swallows and Amazons) in a series of slightly improbable conjunctions of circumstance are swept out to the North Sea on a small yacht, the Goblin, where they are forced to cross to Holland, driven by the weather and their own determination not to fuck things up (ok, that isn’t exactly how it’s phrased in the book). If you don’t want to know how things work out for then skip the next paragraph or two!

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Ransome is also an underestimated illustrator.

After a perilous crossing in hideous weather and with a cute cat picked up along the way they are guided into Flushing by a peaceable Dutch pilot, who is flabbergasted to find that they’d made the trip all by themselves and not as they pretended to him under the guidance of a master who is too tired to emerge to talk to the pilot in person. But the real joy comes when they realise that their father by coincidence is on his way back to Blighty via Holland on leave from the Navy and he leaps ashore from his ferry to complete a happy family reunion.

I once heard someone on Radio 4 say that there was no politics in Ransome’s children’s fiction. Let’s  leave aside the fact that the whole adventure is predicated on the disruptive shock of modernity in the form of a symbol of modernity (a motor bus) knocking over a representative of tradition (Jim Brading, the Goblin’s skipper, who is no fan of motors on the road or in boats and romanticises the pre-modern technology of sail).

Putting aside the symbolism involved in the story in the struggle of tradition v modernity the contemporary political context for this novel, while never stated, is ever present. The book was published in 1937, a time when anxiety about British dominance of the sea was not just focussed on the North Sea, where the story takes place, but also in the Pacific, where Walker père has been stationed and the Japanese threat is just as obvious as the Nazi one closer to home (to readers in the 30s at least, nowadays it seems that the British prefer to forget that WW2 was a war of imperialism as much as national survival). Ransome’s story then can be read as an exhortation to the young to be stoic in the face of adversity, and a reassurance of the reserves of British resources far flung around the globe to come to the rescue of those struggling in the motherland.

Looking around for academic analysis of the Swallows & Amazons series I’ve yet to find much. It would seem an admirable project for a PhD to me, especially as as far as I can see most writing about Ransome has concentrated on his role as a sometime spy during the Russian Revolution and beyond.

Anyway, with all this going through my head it was with great delight that I saw that the pendant piece to Ships Lying Off Dordrecht was entitled Ships Lying Off Flushing.

What joy. What simple joy.

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#NationalGallery #Ransome


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