Archives for category: Inspiration

2013 was my first Christmas spent away from home and my family in the sunnier climes of Sri Lanka, which was a surreal but wonderful experience. Despite our best efforts (the Nat King Cole Christmas album on repeat and some slightly haphazard decorating) it was hard to make it feel like Christmas when it was 30 degrees and we were surrounded by palms. Though I think, as a fan of all things kitsch and colourful, the Sri Lankan Christmas aesthetic may appeal to me more anyway. And I’d take curry over a traditional Christmas dinner any day. Here are some Christmas snapshots from our trip:

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SL8

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Sorry for the brief hiatus – here is some idea of what I have been doing. There will be more to come soon.

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I was lucky enough to spend a week in Istanbul at the start of December, staying with some friends who are currently living there. It was really nice to be staying somewhere completely new, whilst being able to see and experience it from the perspective of a local. And it was really great to explore the more creative districts of the city. Aside from a lot of food photography, here are some of my favourite snaps.

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This is probably the first Christmas that I am living somewhere in London that really feels like home. Especially after a long period of constant moving, I feel vaguely settled, or as settled as anyone can do in London. Unfortunately, I am paying an awful lot of rent money for this privilege. So Christmas is taking on a tragically home-made feel this year. With some help from my very devoted Mum, my modest Christmas tree is now decorated with 24 miniature knitted stockings – I am very glad that is it only 3 foot tall now. And the wonderful knitted paper chain was a gift from a family friend. The flat is certainly starting to look a lot brighter, and slightly more festive in an unusual sort of way.

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Revisting another of my favourite photographers, Pieter Hugo. The Nollywood series captures the macabre world of the Nigerian horror film industry but in a playful way. I am never very sure if I like them because of the actual photographs, or because of the bizarre industry that they capture. The Nollywood film industry releases over 1000 films a year straight to home-release. Without a Hollywood budget, there is something very charming about the lo-tech effects and costumes. But I feel Huge captures this feeling perfectly, by almost making the characters look at home, and often in a very mundane set. Check out more of the series of Hugo’s website.

http://www.pieterhugo.com/nollywood/

I was incredibly lucky to be taken on an unexpected (and wonderful) trip to Budapest last week. It is a city that I feel I know well now, and really love – probably because whenever I go I now feel I can spend the time in spas and bars instead of sightseeing! It offers a completely different vibe to London – so much more laid-back with a real creative-vibe. The ‘East London’ of Budapest is the Jewish Quarter, which is full of restaurants, independent shops and outdoor bars – perfect for 34 degree heat. I was really excited to visit a real favourite of mine, a bar (if you can call it that!) called Szimpla, and it appears to have gone from strength to strength.

It is absolutely huge, and spread out over 2 floors. There are outdoor areas, large patios and terraces, as well as numerous nooks and crannies that are probably a bit more favourable in the winter. The floors are connected by various staircases (some a little more precarious than others) and there are balconies to look down on to what is going on below. But what is really incredible about this place is the truely unique decor.

Every single surface is covered. All of the furniture has been salvaged and updated. And at night the place comes to light with fairy lights and other odd-ball pieces. There is always something new to see. It may take you a while to notice that you have sat down in a reworked bath tub, or that there is a gnome hanging from the ceiling above you. Also, the decor is interactive. There are switchboards where you can change the lighting in a room, or provoke a reaction on a tv screen. There is even a switch that made an entire ceiling of battery powered animals suddenly come to life. It has hard to describe – but the whole experience is a bit of a sensory overload.

The outdoor terrace is amazing, being characterised by a burnt out car. Colourful awning and mismatching chairs make it a really great place to drink on a summers evening. But the entertainment Szimpla offers excels that of a normal bar, with film screenings, bands, performances and food. It really is a one off place – and judging by it’s popularity I am not the only person who thinks so!

http://www.szimpla.hu/

I have just completed a term of evening classes to learn traditional upholstery techniques – and here are the results! I have found the whole process incredibly satisfying. I picked up this nursing chair at an auction and consequently knew nothing of it’s history, except for it’s Edwardian date. It was amazing to see some of it’s past through stripping it all the way back to a wooden frame. And it is equally amazing to think that, due to my own handiwork, it could now last another 100 years. But what made the process really special for me was being able to cover something with my own design. I love the idea of a very traditional piece being juxtaposed by a completely unexpected and modern print.

The kitsch prawn fabric was hand printed by myself (although with some crucial assistance from a wonderfully reliable friend). It was interesting trying to visualise how my print would look applied to a chair during the design process – putting my illustration into a traditional repeat grid helped. And I think the playful print works really well on a smaller nursing chair – although it may now be more suitable for a children’s room!

I am hoping to continue classes to learn other techniques in the Autumn. I love the idea of being able to create something completely bespoke and individual. I am trying to take on as many commissions as possible – so as not to forget everything that I have learnt. So watch this space.

The ‘Afronauts’ is an ongoing project from Spanish photographer Cristina de Middel. I really love the mood of these images – they feel like a sci-fi scenario that has got completely misplaced whilst travelling through time and space. They are humorous but also slightly eery at the same time.

However, in a statement about the ‘Afronauts’ project, Middel suggests that her actual inspiration for this project was just as obscure as you would imagine it to be.

In 1964, still living the dream of their recently gained independence, Zambia started a space program that would put the first African person on the moon catching up the USA and the Soviet Union in the space race.

Only a few optimists supported the project by Edward Makuka, the school teacher in charge of presenting the ambitious program and getting its necessary funding. But the financial aid never came, as the United Nations declined their support, and one of the astronauts, a 16 year old girl, got pregnant and had to quit. That is how the heroic initiative turned into an exotic episode of the African history, surrounded by wars, violence, droughts and hunger.

“Afronauts” is based on the documentation of an impossible dream that only lives in the pictures. I start from a real fact that took place 50 years ago and rebuild the documents adapting them to my personal imagery.

Middel creates the perfect realisation of a truly bizarre story. There are so many other beautiful, witty and imaginative projects on Middel’s website. Make sure you check it out.

http://www.lademiddel.com/
http://www.heyhotshot.com/blog/2012/01/23/second-edition-2011-hot-shot-cristina-de-middel/

I came across the work of French Artists Pierre et Gilles a very long time ago – and yet it still fascinates me. Every time I look at them, I find something new about them that I love. And although many current artists and photographer may cite Pierre et Gilles as an inspiration – no one has done it quite like them yet.

Their work can only be described as multi-disiciplinary. The actual photography is only the end result. Pierre et Gilles were experts at creating incredible mini-worlds in which to photograph their (often famous) subjects within, building their own flamboyant sets and costumes. However, I believe it is the retouching that really brings their pictures to life – helping to reinforce the narrative created within them. Although kitsch and devotional, I really don’t know what it is about them that makes them still seem so new and appropriate for today.

I first came across the work of artist Stephen Wright in a small boutique in Brixton Village called Brixi. A mixture of tapestry and mosaic techniques, Wright’s work is immediately eye-catching and engaging, if not a little on the wild side. As a fan of all things kitsch, the way that Wright combines materials, objects and imagery seemed wonderful to me. Large scale embroidered tapestries have been photographed and interpreted into beautiful prints that have not lost any of their texture and the abstract qualities that make them interesting.

Stephen is currently exhibiting some of his work on the first floor of the legendary patisserie and art gallery Maison Bertaux on Greek Street in Soho until mid June.

Having seen Stephen’s work for the first time, I immediately found out about his current project, the ‘House of Dreams’, from his website. An ongoing project, Stephen is gradually turning the ground floor of his house in East Dulwich into what feels like a living, breathing piece of art. The house has now been bequeathed to the National Trust, and consequently will be open to visitors long after it is completed. Before visiting, and having seen the aesthetic of Stephen’s work and a few images of the house online, I had a fairly good idea of the sort of sensory assault I was expecting. It certainly lived up to those expectations. Instantly visible upon the terraced street, every surface is covered in literally everything – objects from all over the world, ranging from the utterly mundane to the outright bizarre. You could walk around the house for days on end and each time you would still spot a detail that you had overlooked before. However, I also experienced something more, which I hadn’t expected. The house isn’t just an artwork, but more of a museum of Stephen’s life. It is incredibly personal – full of stories and moments from all stages of his life – as well as all of the objects, themes, and issues that are currently consuming him. The combination of this provides an all-encompassing and truly unique story, straight from the artist himself. One might have thought that the house would seem claustrophobic and chaotic, but in a strange way it almost feels like everything is in it’s correct place, which is a true feat. Unfortunately, I was not able to take any photos as work is currently in progress towards a book documenting the House of Dreams and the journey that Stephen has been on, which is a very exciting prospect. But these images taken from an interview with Stephen in ‘Dulwich On View’ should give you a taster.

The House of Dreams is having an open day this Saturday (the 2nd of June) between 11am and 4pm. Booking is required. I felt I had such a personal experience from going there – and strongly recommend it to anyone with an erring towards to kitsch. There will also be another open day on the 7th of July.

http://www.stephenwrightartist.co.uk/house-of-dreams.html
http://www.maisonbertaux.com/maisonbertaux.com/Maison_Bertaux.html
http://dulwichonview.org.uk/2011/01/28/welcome-to-the-house-of-dreams/