Havelock Walk

IMG_6379Forest Hill’s Havelock Walk is one of London’s many fascinating artistic communities. Just off the high street, but hidden down a charming cobble-stoned mews, Havelock Walk may be less known than some, but is well worth a visit.

IMG_6415

IMG_6417Badly bombed during the Second World War, by the 1980s Havelock Walk was partly derelict, playing home mostly to industrial storage space. Sculptor Jeff Lowe recognised its potential and moved in, buying up several properties that he then sold on to other artists, creating a street of live/work spaces. Today, Havelock Walk is designated as an official conservation area by Lewisham Council.

IMG_6462_2

Havelock Walk contains a good mix of artists and designers, and holds open studios twice a year. It’s currently open as part of the Dulwich Festival’s Artists’ Open House – the last day of which will be tomorrow, Sunday 18th May 2014, from 11am-6pm.

IMG_6375_2

Forest Hill overground station is literally around the corner – why not combine a trip to Havelock Walk with a visit to the nearby Horniman Museum for a day out?

IMG_6452

IMG_6398_2

IMG_6459

Advertisements

Pullens Yards and Buildings

IMG_5200_2

Pullens Yards are a series of artists’ studios nestled within cobblestoned streets behind Pullens Buildings, a fascinating but surprisingly little-known area that I visited for the first time last weekend.  The development by builder James Pullen of the Pullens Buildings – also known as Pullens Estate – began in 1886. The remaining 360 flats (of an original 684) represent one of the few surviving Victorian tenement buildings in London today.

IMG_5190

The Pullens Buildings are four-storey, yellow stock brick residences with flat roofs. Decorative terracotta arches are featured above each window and central entrance door, behind which you will find a common stairwell for each section of flats. Cast iron window guards are found on the front window sills on the upper floors, and are sometimes used to nice effect to create a window sill garden.

IMG_5050_2

IMG_5065_2

After falling into disrepair by the 1970s, the estate was bought by Southwark Council and the southern blocks demolished. Luckily, further demolition was blocked by local residents and the zone is now protected by its Conservation Area status. The buildings have since featured in a number of films seeking historically realistic settings, including The King’s Speech.

IMG_5041_4

Pullens Yards were purpose-built for craftspeople, and three of the original four remain: Clements Yard, Peacock Yard and the large Iliffe Yard. These were originally designed as live/work spaces, with access through to one of the flats behind, though it’s believed these doors were generally bricked over and the studios separated from the housing early on in the buildings’ history.

IMG_5124_2

Today a wide range of artists and craftspeople work here, including ceramicists, painters, jewellers and photographers. Open studios events are held twice a year, generally once before Christmas and once in summer, when the normally private studio areas are open to the public.  I highly recommend visiting during this time as access is otherwise limited, although the Electric Elephant Café is open all year round.

IMG_5150_2

The next opportunity to visit this unique little slice of London life is the Pullens Yards Summer 2014 Open Studios, which will take place on 13-15th June.
Pullens Yards are located in SE17, between Kennington and Elephant and Castle tube stations.

IMG_5093_2

IMG_5143_2

Superposition, Canal Museum

IMG_3847_2

I must admit that a big part of the attraction for me of the art installation currently being hosted by the London Canal Museum was the opportunity to climb down into the underground ice wells and take some pretty photographs. But like many such things, it turned out to be about so much more than that, and I found myself exploring a fascinating interplay between art and science – with a little bit of London history thrown in for good measure…IMG_3898 This installation was created by artist Lyndall Phelps in collaboration with physicist Dr Ben Still, who have been working together since 2012 exploring particle physics. You can read more about their work on their blog. This piece, Covariance, is actually the first instalment of the Institute of Physics’ Superposition series, which brings together artists and physicists to create new works of art. IMG_3943 And yes, you do get to climb down some ladders into the usually fenced-off ice wells that sit beneath the museum building. Built in around 1863, it was originally a warehouse for Carlo Gatti, who as well as being a restaurateur was also an ice importer and ice cream maker. At the time, ice was imported in blocks from Norway, then driven along the canal from what is now Limehouse Basin. The smaller pieces in the first well represent this history, with light boxes that mirror the shape of these ice blocks. IMG_3884 But the main work is in the second well, underneath the front of the building. This dark, circular space is now home to the striking work shown here in these photographs. These colourful disks were inspired by various ways in which data from particle detectors is visualised. I’m no scientist – but fortunately the knowledgable guides can explain more, and show you photographs (also contained in the exhibition guide) of the various inspirations, such as Ben’s own coloured dot diagrams, the women who used to process data from the early detectors, and Japan’s Super-Kamiokande particle detector. IMG_3922 The work is created from everyday materials, including over one kilometre of brass rods (representing the history of science), and beads and diamantes (representing women’s contributions to physics). The space itself also informed the work’s design – and its dark, silent and rather cold environment is well-suited to it. This is one of those works that you really need to see for yourself, but suffice it to say that I could have spent another twenty minutes down there quite happily! IMG_3919 Superposition runs until 20 October at the London Canal Museum (closest tube: King’s Cross). Tours should ideally be booked in advance here, run on Thursday afternoons, Saturdays and Sundays, and cost £4, which covers entry to the museum. There will be a free conversation event with Lyndall Phelps and Ben Still on the evening of Thursday October 17th. IMG_3894 IMG_3899

God’s Own Junkyard

IMG_3718

The imminent closure of God’s Own Junkyard‘s Walthamstow home – with the developers champing at the bit to move in – has been garnering a lot of press attention lately. The Londonphile dropped by on its second-last weekend at its current location to document this unique site.

IMG_3705

The railway-side site that the business has inhabited since 1978 is overwhelming, to say the least. Bright neons designed by owner Chris Bracey jostle for space with old movie props, reclaimed vintage signs and lettering. The yard area has items literally piled on top of each other – not to mention trains regularly thundering by.

IMG_3671

IMG_3756

The Bracey family has owned the business for more than six decades and Chris has been designing neons for almost forty years. His designs have featured in numerous shops, fashion shoots, sets and films – many of these have been salvaged by their creator and are today on display (and sometimes for sale) at the Walthamstow site. The ‘Hotel’ sign below, for example, was used in Tim Burton’s version of Batman.

IMG_3762

IMG_3791

The good news is that it looks like Chris’ neon gems will find a new home in Walthamstow’s Wood Street Indoor Market. Nonetheless, it’s hard to imagine that a market stall can have the overwhelming impact and atmosphere of the current site.

IMG_3819

IMG_3824

You have one last week to visit God’s Own Junkyard in its current location – it will be open Friday 19th and Saturday 20th from 10:30am – 5pm and have its final day on Sunday 22nd, from 11am – 4pm.
It can be found at 97 Vallentin Road, E17 3JJ. Wood Street National Rail station is just around the corner.

IMG_3812

IMG_3835

IMG_3785

Summer Pavilion

IMG_2927

One of my favourite annual London events is the emergence of a brand new Summer Pavilion each year in the grounds of Kensington Garden’s Serpentine Gallery. Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto provides the 13th iteration of this project, with his cloud-like grid of white steel poles arising from the green grass. But this a cloud you can sit in, with transparent steps creating seats and producing an interactive feel to his installation  – and also making visitors appear as if they are suspended in space.

IMG_2891Fujimoto has spoken of how his installation contrasts the natural environment of the park with a ‘constructed geometry’ – and there is a decidedly digital look to the grids of which it is composed.

IMG_2906

This is the fourth Summer Pavilion that I have visited and photographed – to celebrate, this post will also look back briefly to the last three designs in this unique series.

IMG_2049

The 2010 Summer Pavilion by French architect Jean Nouvel (shown above and in the following two images) holds a special place in my heart given that it is pictured across the top of The Londonphile’s website. Yes, that green and red image I use everywhere was taken looking through the bright red, transparent walls of the pavilion through to the gallery beyond. Like this year’s version, Nouvel’s design included a cafe inside the pavilion itself.

IMG_2042

IMG_2064

The black, almost forbidding exterior of the 2011 pavilion (shown in the three images below) – designed by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor – belied the fact that it contained a very pretty surprise on the inside, in the form of a fully planted garden. The garden was surrounded by seats, so visitors could soak up the tranquility.

DSC01154

DSC01113

DSC01117

The 2012 design (pictured in the following three images) also boasted some pretty unique qualities. Ai Wei Wei designed the pavilion in conjunction with Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron via Skype whilst under house arrest in China. The design itself referenced all the previous pavilions by integrating their outlines and contours into the design of the floorplan, which was clad in cork. It also featured a rather lovely floating platform roof built across the structure.

IMG_1828

IMG_1818

IMG_1838

To return to the present day, the 2013 Summer Pavilion by Sou Fujimoto is open until 20th October. It can be found in the grounds of the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens, and is free to visit.

IMG_2914

IMG_2947

IMG_2879

Written in Soap: Final

IMG_2821

So as the Written in Soap project nears its ends, just how well did the statue made from soap stand up to one of our most bitter winters on records? But just to recap slightly, artist Meekyoung Shin created a statue made of soap (with a metal armature) of the controversial Duke of Cumberland in Cavendish Square. The idea was to see how it would fare over the four seasons.

IMG_2830

Erected in July 2012, I first visited in August and by my second update in November not much had changed really, bar a bit of cracking. Almost twelve months on – and a lot of snow and rain later – it is a bit of a different story. The Duke has now lost his left leg below the knee, exposing a metal rod. Nearby, the horse on which he sits is losing some of the ‘skin’ on its left foreleg, exposing yet more metal.

IMG_2835

The Duke’s right hand is also separating from his jacket sleeve and looks to be dangling somewhat precariously. Needless to say, all the cracks are now much more emphasised – the Duke has also developed an unusual collar, whose rusting colour looks appropriately like blood (the Duke became known as ‘Butcher Cumberland’ after putting down the Jacobite Rising during the 1746 Battle of Culloden). So maybe history is showing through somewhat here…

Overall though, I’d say the statue has weathered the storms remarkably well. If you’d like to see it for yourself it will be in position in Cavendish Square until the 30th of June.

IMG_2849

IMG_2860

IMG_2827

New Paddington sculptures

IMG_2442_2

Some delightful new sculptures popped up recently in Paddington. A short stroll from the revamped canal areas around Paddington Basin, you can find these striking iron depictions of Michael Bond (and his famous creation, Paddington Bear), Alan Turing and Crimean War nurse Mary Seacole. Part of Sustrans’ nationwide Portrait Bench project, these new additions are well worth a quick diversion.

IMG_2403

And after visiting the Paddington Bear statue in Paddington Station, obviously you’ll be wanting more! While all three individuals lived in the area, Paddington creator Michael Bond is still a resident today. The Portrait Bench project sees the creation (along cycling paths) of groups of three life-size characters selected by the local community for the contribution they have made to local life, culture or history. They also provide a wooden bench, so you can stop awhile and admire the pieces.

IMG_2354

This series saw Sylvia Pankhurst, a towpath horse and a footballer immortalised in steel in Mile End Park in 2011, with Soul II Soul’s Jazzie B featuring among the freshly unveiled set outside Finsbury Park station. The sculptures themselves are two-dimensional, and made from Corten steel – the same material used for the Angel of the North – which is designed to rust nicely over time. Their style of outlined features reminds me of some street art, and I found the works often became better defined the further you moved away from them.

IMG_2401

Alan Turing was of course the computer science and artificial intelligence pioneer – generally heralded as the father of the computer – who also worked at Bletchley Park cracking German codes during the second world war. His country rewarded his immense talent by persecuting him for his homosexuality, leading to his suicide in 1954, aged just 41. He poisoned himself with cyanide – thought to be injested via an apple, and the day I visited someone had left several green apples at this feet (you can just make these out in the picture below). It’s fitting to see him immortalised here and standing proud against the ever-expanding skyline of modern London. The Science Museum is also currently holding an exhibition on Turing’s life and work.

IMG_2366

In a somewhat serendipitous moment, I just happened to notice some similar, silhouette-style sculptures across the road – which may soon be lost to London. These two figures below are languishing in a rather lonely state in the former campus of the City of Westminster College, currently a deserted development site. I can only assume they are former campus public art – and it seems a great shame they will probably be destroyed. If you want to see them while they are still there, take a peek through the fence along North Wharf Road, near the corner of Harrow Road. It may be a case of losing one set of sculptures just as we gain a new one…

The Sustrans’ Portrait Bench sculptures can be found in the small park to the east of the church of St Mary, Paddington Green.

IMG_2334

Orleans House Gallery

IMG_2060

If you’ve ever thought about visiting Twickenham’s Orleans House Gallery, now is a great time to go while it is hosting Arcadian Vistas: Richmond’s Landscape Gardens. Given that the English landscape garden movement was first nurtured here along the banks of the Thames, it’s hard to imagine a more fitting locale for this exhibition.

IMG_2088

Neatly divided into sections focusing on some of the more influential gardens, gardeners and garden designers of the movement – including Alexander Pope, Horace Walpole, William Kent, Kew Gardens and Chiswick House – the exhibition features mostly illustrations and paintings from the Richmond Borough Art Collections, nicely supplemented by some loans. A smaller collection of objects is also on show, including John Serles’ guide to Alexander Pope’s garden and grotto, alongside A Description of the Villa of Horace Walpole (describing nearby Strawberry Hill).

IMG_7805

Two large paintings depicting Arcadian Thames – Leonard Knyff’s A View of Hampton Court and Peter Tilleman’s The Thames at Twickenham – are also highlights. Don’t miss the gallery upstairs, where slightly more esoteric topics – follies, Chinoiserie, orangeries, water features and grottos – are featured, accompanied by some lovely examples of blue and white porcelain.

IMG_2080

Sadly, Orleans House’s beautiful Octagon Room, a few adjoining buildings and the Stable block out the back are all that remains of what was once an extensive estate built in the early eighteenth century for James Johnston, Secretary of State for Scotland. The Octagon Room was actually a later addition, designed by James Gibbs (who also designed St Martin-in-the-Fields church) as a separate garden entertainment space for Johnston. The house acquired its name after it was rented to Louis Philippe, Duc d’Orleans, during his exile from France.

IMG_7720

After passing through a number of hands, the main house was finally demolished in the 1920s by a firm of gravel merchants. They failed to find any gravel on the site. Today, Orleans House Gallery and its Octagon Room are worth a visit – their interesting program of exhibitions is free and open to the public on most afternoons except Mondays (check online here, as times vary throughout the year). Marble Hill House and Grotto are just next door, and Ham House is but a scenic ferry ride across the Thames.

IMG_7804

Wrapper

IMG_0332

Stand on the platform at Edgware Road tube station (the Circle Line branch that is, not the Bakerloo line), face south, and you can hardly fail to notice WrapperJacqueline Poncelet’s latest work, which literally wraps the building above in 1,500 square metres of vitreous enamel. There’s much to like about this striking work – one aspect I find particularly fascinating is the way in which Poncelet uses patterns and colours to tell a story, a device often found in her work.

IMG_0442

As regular Tube travellers will soon guess, the colours employed in Wrapper reflect those used for various lines on the Tube map, in a nice hat tip to the building’s use. Poncelet’s research into the local area led to the inclusion of numerous references to local history, places, architecture, transport, waterways and people in the work’s patterns. Closer inspection reveals the leaves of Regents Park, water patterns that suggest the Tyburn stream flowing underground and Moorish tiles reflecting nearby Edgware Road.

IMG_0380

Some of the best views of Wrapper are gained from outside the station in Chapel Street. Both the variety of Wrapper’s patterns and the differing contours it follows around the building means that different stories and different views of the work are revealed depending on where the viewer stands. In this way, Poncelet’s design reflects the way in which the building is generally viewed in parts rather than in its entirety.

IMG_0448

Poncelet started her artistic career as a ceramicist but has since branched out. Wrapper’s abstract patterns were actually screenprinted onto the enamel surface. To give some idea of the massive scale of the work, over 700 enamel panels were used across approximately 1,500 square metres, making Wrapper not only Poncelet’s largest work but Europe’s biggest vitreous enamel artwork.

IMG_0411

Thanks to Joanna Moncrieff, City of Westminster Tour Guide and Westminster Walking blogger, who tipped me off about Wrapper after seeing it on one of her walks.

IMG_0437

IMG_0390_2

Eel Pie Island

IMG_8291

Just twice a year Twickenham’s Eel Pie Island opens its doors to the general public when the normally private island holds open studio weekends for its artists. I availed myself of the the opportunity to visit last weekend for the pre-Christmas opening and crossed the bridge to this most exclusive island, which boasts 26 artists’ studios, only 50 or so houses and around 120 residents.

IMG_8176

It’s thought that the island was originally in three parts and may have once been connected to Twickenham by a prehistoric causeway. The footbridge which now connects the island to the mainland was only built in 1957. Once across and on dry land again, one main walkway (pictured above) runs much of the length of this very narrow island, with houses, studios and boathouses along either side. Housing styles vary immensely – from the cute and rustic to the surprisingly modern – and there was even a new house in the process of construction and one to let in case you’re tempted to move in. Despite its extremely narrow nature, views were only available back across the Twickenham side of the river (see below) during the open studios as private houses line the other side.

IMG_8215

Eel Pie Island has a long history as a place of leisure and entertainment – its name derives from the pies once served there to visiting boating parties and day trippers. Sadly this taste sensation died out on the island along with its eel population. The Eel Pie Island Hotel was long a top musical destination – particularly for jazz and blues – and also saw one David Jones play there before metamorphosing into David Bowie. The hotel closed in 1967 when the owner was unable to afford necessary repairs – squatters moved in and it has been claimed that by 1970 it had become the largest hippie commune in the UK. The hotel burnt down in mysterious circumstances in 1971 while it was being demolished.

IMG_8188

The island is also home to both the Richmond Yacht Club and the Twickenham Rowing Club as well as working boatyards. In keeping with this boating theme, several of the artists studios are housed in old boats, including one with a fantastic roof terrace composed of the old ship’s deck. There are nature reserves at both ends of the island, including a bird sanctuary, but these are not accessible to the public.

IMG_8308

Open Studios events are held twice a year, generally once in summer and in the lead up to Christmas. Keep an eye on the Eel Pie Island Artists website for future events. They’re free but do bring some cash as the artists don’t have credit/debit card facilities.

For more historical detail and images see Twickenham Museum’s Eel Pie Island page.

2013 update: another open weekend will be held on Saturday 22nd & Sunday 23rd June from 11am until 6pm.

IMG_8179

IMG_8202

IMG_8191

IMG_8300