Tuesday, October 25, 2011

White Cube

Last night I went to the opening of White Cube Bermondsey, YBA hipster Jay Jopling's newest addition to his collection of galleries. At 58,000 square feet of faceless 1970s warehouse, it's Europe's largest commercial gallery and will no doubt continue to raise the area's profile. (Of course, the gallery is of course not in Bermondsey proper, but among the growing strip of boutique shops and restaurants on Bermondsey Street, dominating the end just below José).

The art on display last night was second fiddle to people-watching, with the international jet-set clique choosing to slum it in SE1 before the Frieze Art Fair over the coming days. Hundreds of people queued down Bermondsey Street, hoping to rub shoulders with glamorous opening night crowd, including Damien Hirst, Tracy Emin, Gilbert & George and other YBA luminaries along with countless expensively-dressed, beautiful people laughing into their champagne flutes. Literally, all night.

While technically a commercial gallery, the prices mean that the art is as out of reach for most people as any Picasso, but it's still worth popping by if you're in the area. Future exhibitions and premieres are expected to feature contemporary works household names, so White Cube Bermondsey could become part of the gallery trail yet.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Cyril Power

A kickass British modernist fascinated by the technological advances brought about in the interwar years, specifically the London Underground network.
Whence and Whither (1930)
The Tube Station (1932)
The Escalator (1929)

Power's interest in speed and machinery didn't stop at the Tube - my favourite of his linocuts is one of the non-transport ones.
The Merry-Go-Round (1931)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

True prosperity

(I actually thought it said "PASSION" not "COMPASSION"... I actually like it less now. But still pretty cool - the hazmat colours keep it just the right side of saccharine.)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Watch envy

I don't really wear watches, but maybe that's because I don't have a nice one. If anyone wants to buy me this, that's fine.

Raymond Weil, Tradition, £835.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

José opening

I recently went to the opening of José on my own wee Bermondsey Street.

José is a new tapas bar opened by José Pizarro, co-founder and former executive chef of Tapas Brindisa (itself an SE1 and Mr Christopher institution), and is inspired by the tapas joints of Barcelona’s bustling Boquería market. It's low-key, small, busy and very suited to Bermondsey Street.

José was so busy on the launch night – and has been the couple of times I've been back since – that punters tend to stand rather than sit, which adds to the authentic, bustling atmosphere and keeps the place lively. Despite being rushed off their feet, the staff were very attentive and able to talk in depth about each dish.

José himself (above) is affable and looks like a mischievous little devil – although if according to his works shall a man be judged, this guy is an angel: the menu changes daily and features incredible jamón ibérico de bellota, boquerones, croquettes and a very simple but very good tomato mush on bread. It doesn't sound like much, but I promise you would like it. The Spanish wine list was curated by Tim Atkin and has a strong focus on sherry, which I'm told Sr. Pizarro believes is well-overdue a renaissance in the UK, and a decent range of prices.

With a larger, more formal restaurant in the same area in the pipeline for later this year, José Pizarro appears to be establishing an empire in SE1. Lord knows, he has made an auspicious start.

José, 104 Bermondsey Street, SE1 3UB

Monday, January 24, 2011

Flesh and Blood & Fish and Fowl

Last week I saw Flesh and Blood & Fish and Fowl at the Barbican.

The short play centres on two admin gophers in a non-descript American convenience foods superstore. Gerry, played by Geoff Sobelle, is a sort of scruffy middle-manager who lives in the office bin; Rhoda, played by Charlotte Ford, is his gawky, whiny secretary who desperately wants to be sexy. Both are neurotic, obsessive and live an ordered, suppressed non-life. Geoff's inability to either successfully swat or ignore a buzzing fly, and Rhoda's guilty and constant Wotsit-munching sum up their powerless, unfulfilled, tedious existences.

BUT ONE DAY, with bathos and frustration already at fever pitch thanks to an unappreciated memo, noisy microwave and overly effective flypaper, ORDER AND RESTRAINT DISINTEGRATE. Rhoda reads out a news report about a pack of captured chimps murdering one of their own, and base and revolutionary instincts in the pair erupt. A deranged Gerry devours Rhoda's ready-meal, the pair do it like they do on the Discovery Channel in an unstable dumpster, and a sexually awakened Rhoda prowls round the office wreaking havoc. The degeneration is mirrored, or perhaps provoked, by the sudden appearance of nature in the office. First a bit of ivy creeps out of a drawer, then a stuffed weasel jumps out from behind a desk, escalating until the set is dripping with vines and taxidermy.

The message is unmistakable: "hey, don't ignore the natural world, and remember that we too are all animals". Nothing new – it's not a million miles from Day of the Triffids – and subtle it ain't. But by the time rabbits, pheasants, rams and deers have invaded the stage, and an uncomfortably life-like bear has mauled the protagonists (in front of a corporate video showing industrial food processing), you don't feel short-changed.

The balance between horror and comedy was perfectly struck. To my surprise, given it was part of the London International Mime Festival, there wasn't a beret or glass box in sight and the show wasn't silent. There were, however, long periods without script, admirably kept alive by tension, the eerie or absurd appearance of a stuffed fox or two, and the sheer physicality of the performers. Indeed, Sobelle and Ford each appear to be a blend of actor and clown: even leaving physical comedy aside, the characters are defined by their failings, and reveal their true selves in spite of their best efforts to project a casual, flirtatious or cool image – very clownish traits, as Sobelle noted in the post-show Q&A.

Flesh and Blood is inventive, funny, apocalyptic and a worthy winner of a Fringe First award last year. The show was first conceived in Philadelphia something like 7 years ago, and has appeared in various incarnations since, so keep your eyes peeled. And steer clear of ready-meals in the meantime.

Friday, January 21, 2011

127 Hours in 127 words

Compelling, visceral, exciting, intense, well structured, not gratuitous, not very relaxing, you see Tom Hollander on the steps when you leave (though this might have just been for us), excellent sound (effects and score), could have been edited a bit in the middle when he gets a bit wise-ass, some really good passages though like the bit where he chops off his own arm *CHOP CHOP CHOP*, I had some popcorn, *CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP*

Black Swan posters

Black Swan, comes out today. I am very excited about the fact that it stars Natalie Portman (fresh from her star turn in My Imaginary Midsummer Night's Dream last summer) not just once but, from what I can make out, TWICE – as a nice goodie and a sexy baddie. Absolutely fine.

And I am also very excited because of the absolutely fantastic teaser posters – bold Soviet imagery courtesy of British design studio LaBoca. Apparently not available to buy. So befriend the popcorn girl at your local cinema as quickly as possible.

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