Update: Written in Soap

Given that it’s now over three months (yes, a quarter of a year, where did it go?) – and we’ve had some pretty inclement weather in that time – I thought it was high time I made good on my promise to keep you updated on the progress of the soap statue in Cavendish Square. To briefly recap, artist Meekyoung Shin created a statue made from soap of the rather unpopular Duke of Cumberland – to fill the plinth that has stood empty in the square since the original was removed in 1868.

Before

After

Shin’s piece was unveiled back in July and will be on display until 30 June 2013, weathering whatever nature throws at in in the meantime. You can probably imagine my surprise when on approaching the statue there at first appeared to be no change at all. A closer inspection, however, revealed some extra cracking along the hind and one of the hind legs – some cracking was already present when I visited in August. Part of the soap is breaking up around the top of the tail – probably the most obvious new sign of decay – and there are a couple of darker marks elsewhere that might be parts of the underlying metal base showing through.

But all in all horse and rider are in excellent condition considering. The mottling of the colour was already present on my first visit and is probably due to the nature of the soap itself. The major difference to report is that a sign has since been placed next to the statue, explaining the project. This actually constitues a significant improvement, as due to its realistic appearance many visitors to the square seemed unaware of the unusual nature of the statue in their midst.

You can view my original post about Written in Soap here.

Read more about the project at: http://www.writteninsoap.com/

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Horrorgami

Marc Hagan-Guirey’s Horrorgami certainly seems to be the flavour of the moment with London’s art lovers – if the numbers visiting last Sunday were anything to go by. Hagan-Guirey’s own specialist blend of the Japanese art of kirigami (think origami with scissors) with the horror films that were so influential on him as a child – resulting in ‘horrorgami’ – has also generated a unique exhibition featuring intricate paper models of iconic buildings from the genre.

London-based Hagan-Guirey’s first foray into horrorgami occurred when he built a model of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House as a thank-you gift for a friend who organised a visit to the innovative, concrete Californian house. Ennis House was also the setting for House on Haunted Hill – and when the next model he produced was the Addams Family Mansion, Hagan-Guirey realised he had something of a theme going.

Each of the 13 models in the exhibition are created from a single sheet of white paper. The gallery has presented these in two upstairs rooms, curtained off to create darkness. The works are placed in light boxes, with different colours backlighting the models to great effect. The devil is very much in the detail here – both the intricate nature of the works and the subtle features like the pram placed outside the Dakota Building in the Rosemary’s Baby model, and the figure peering eerily out from a window in the Psycho house. The reflections produced along the base of many of the light boxes are also particularly striking.

Horrorgami is free and on now until Wednesday 14th November at Gallery One and a Half, Ardleigh Street, N1 4HS. Monday-Friday 10-5, Sat-Sun 11-4. The closest station is Dalston Junction.

http://www.one-and-a-half.com/index.php?/upcoming/marc-hagan-guirey—horrorgami/

The models pictured here are (from top): Rosemary’s Baby/The Dakota Building, The Addams Family/The Addams Mansion, Psycho/The Bates Residence (detail), Ghostbusters/The Fire Station, The Amityville Horror/112 Ocean Avenue, House on Haunted Hill/Ennis House, Rosemary’s Baby/The Dakota Building (detail).

Paul Benney in the Deadhouse

Paul Benney’s atmospheric series of paintings – entitled Night Paintings – are the perfect fit for their current home in Somerset House’s Deadhouse. Londonphiles will also be interested to know that the subterranean Deadhouse and the surrounding lightwells – normally only accessible on guided tours or for private events – are currently open to the public for this free exhibition, the first of its kind in these spaces.

The Deadhouse runs underneath Somerset House’s Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court, linking the east and west wings and has long functioned as a passageway for just this purpose. The lightwells that surround the courtyards are home to a number of small alcoves – often used for storage – and some currently have individual works by Benney displayed very effectively within them. The Deadhouse is also home to a number of seventeenth century gravestones – but no bodies. To explain this anomaly we need to go back in time somewhat, into the depths of Somerset House’s long history.

In short, a former incarnation of Somerset House used to be the Buckingham Palace of its day for the three queens who lived there. Charles I rather contentiously built a Roman Catholic chapel for his French queen Henrietta Maria here. This site also included a burial ground. When this version of Somerset House was demolished and replaced by the current building, which was built between 1776 and 1802, some of these gravestones were kept and relocated into the walls of what is now known as the Deadhouse. These walls actually serve to support the quadrangle due to the sloping nature of the site.

But back to the art… London-based Benney has a studio at Somerset House – which also explains why his works suit the space so well. Night Paintings includes some works featuring an interesting use of resin and a number of water-based subjects. It was raining on my first visit to this exhibition and the watery works seemed well suited to the mysterious, damp, enclosed environment, which was literally dripping in places. The shadowy, paved alleyways of the lightwells, with their individual works placed inside the alcoves, lead the viewer neatly round to the Deadhouse, where the larger body of works are found.

So both the rare opening of the Deadhouse and Paul Benney’s evocative works make for two very good reasons to visit Somerset House right now. You have until Sunday December 9th, when the exhibition closes.

Free guided tours of Somerset House – which visit the Deadhouse and lightwells – run all year round on Thursday and Saturdays afternoons.

Turner’s House

The Londonphile has been out to Twickenham again, this time to visit Sandycoombe Lodge, the former house of Britain’s renowned landscape painter, JMW Turner. This fairly modest Regency house in St Margarets is thought to have been designed by Turner himself, with a little help from his close friend John Soane. Today, Turner’s former abode is surrounded on all sides by houses, but it once sat on a plot of land that stretched all the way to the Thames, where Turner strolled, went fishing and gained inspiration.

Turner bought the plot of land in 1807 as a country residence for himself and a permanent residence for his father, Old William, a Covent Garden barber and wigmaker who had long had a hankering to play farmer. The house itself was not built until 1812. Although his father generally maintained both the house and garden for him, it was Turner himself who snuck into Pope’s nearby derelict villa to steal a cutting of the poet’s famous willow tree for his own garden. Some lovely Soanian touches are still evident in the curved walls and decorative roof light in the stairwell.

Turner’s father also looked after his son’s West End studio – it’s not known for sure whether Turner had a studio at Sandycoombe Lodge, but at the very least he would have sketched here. Old William lived at Sandycoombe Lodge – his quarters were mainly in the basement area – until poor health forced him to return to central London. Even today the house is clearly still very damp. Interestingly, Turner’s mistress and two daughters never visited this house. After his father’s departure, Turner sold the residence in 1826 for £500.

Having served as a secret factory during the war (producing pilots’ goggles), the house was bought by one Professor Livermore in 1947, who was interested in preserving it as Turner’s former home. He certainly undertook very little modernisation during his time and the house is now awaiting a substantial restoration, overseen by Turner’s House Trust. This means that current visitors are allowed a rare opportunity to see the ‘before’ picture of what promises to be a significant project.

Sandycoombe Lodge has been open on the first Saturday of the month since April and will have its last opening of this year on the 6th of October from 10am-1pm (last entry 12:30). £4 gets you an informative guided tour of the premises. It will also be open for free guided tours as part of Open House on the weekend of 22nd and 23rd of September, from 10am-3pm both days, on a first-come, first-served basis. The Trust is still seeking donations towards restoration and maintenance so do get in touch if you can help out at all, or show your support by paying a visit.

2013 update: this year the house will be open on the first Saturday of each month from April-October. 10am-12:30pm, no booking required, and still only £4! It will also be open 10-12:30 on Saturdays June 8th, 15th, 22nd and 29th as part of the Twickenham Festival.

http://www.turnerintwickenham.org.uk/

http://events.londonopenhouse.org/Building/2961

Written in Soap

When Londonist wrote about the soap sculpture in Cavendish Square last week I knew this was something I had to see for myself. Much like the structure featured in last week’s post, Paleys upon Pilers, Meekyoung Shin’s soap sculpture is a temporary addition to London’s streetscape, which is part art installation, part historical reference.

This soap scultpure of the Duke of Cumberland, which launched on 24 July, replaces the one originally installed in 1770 then removed in 1868 when the subject became increasingly unpopular. While the fate of the original statue is unknown, the stone plinth has stood empty ever since in the middle of Cavendish Square, just behind Oxford Circus.

While Shin’s work is indeed made of (vegetable-based) soaps it does include a metal skeletal armature attached to the base on which it stands to hold the sculpture upright. The piece was intended to be as close as possible to the original, based on existing sketches – although the exact dimensions remain unknown it was created to fit the proportions of the plinth. Intriguingly there are no signs in the square about its latest addition, so I can only guess that the casual visitor would assume it was an ordinary statue.

Shin’s work has much to say about the changeable nature of art, monuments and history – she is particularly interested in the way that history is drawn (and re-drawn and erased) on the urban landscape. The sculpture will remain in Cavendish Square for one year – and it’s anyone’s guess how it will endure the four seasons. I plan to revisit it over this time and will update you on how it is progressing.

http://www.writteninsoap.com/

Hogarth’s House

It’s hard to believe with the traffic thundering along the six-lane dual carriageway just metres outside, but William Hogarth and family bought their Chiswick house as a country retreat. No doubt it was still considerably quieter back in the day than their London home in what is now Leicester Square. Exactly what the artist would have made of the nearby Hogarth Business Park and the chaotic Hogarth Roundabout is anybody’s guess…

Hogarth’s House must be one of London’s oldest house museums. It was first opened to the public in 1904 after one Lieutenant-Colonel Shipway purchased the property for this purpose. He also commissioned the reproduction of Georgian-style furniture for the house from the Chiswick Art-Workers’ Guild, with each piece based on a piece of furniture featured in Hogarth’s work. This furniture is still on display in the house today – along with some of Hogarth’s personal possessions, including a palette and a snuff box – and sits well with the lovingly restored Georgian interiors.

Hogarth depicted life in Georgian London (often menacing, mercenary and decadent it turns out) in his satirical illustrations and series of paintings on ‘modern moral subjects’, the latter being serialised as hugely popular prints. Copies of a number of these prints are on display in the house, including Gin Lane, Beer Street and The Four Stages of Cruelty – so if you’re looking for a a crash course in Hogarth’s work a visit to his former abode might be just the thing.

The model for Jim Mathieson’s statue of Hogarth is on display at the house.

The house itself was built around 1700 and Hogarth lived here from 1749 until his death in 1764. His wife Jane stayed on in the house after his death – apparently on the condition that she did not remarry. Jane Hogarth organised the extension of the kitchen wing on the ground floor, which is now a gallery. Currently on display is a range of historical pictures of the house and photographs documenting its recent restoration and unfortunate history of damage – it was badly bombed in the Second World War and a fire broke out in 2009 during the restoration process, delaying its re-opening until November 2011.

Hogarth’s House is open 12 noon to 5pm, Tuesday to Sunday and Bank Holidays. Admission is free. The closest tube in Turnham Green – keep an eye out for the Jim Mathieson statue of Hogarth (and his pug dog) just down the road from the station, on the corner of Turnham Green Terrace and Chiswick High Road.
You could combine a trip to Hogarth’s House with a visit to Chiswick House and Gardens, which is located virtually next door.

Out of Sync, Somerset House

Given that for much of winter Somerset House’s courtyard is covered in an ice skating rink, it seems only appropriate that this spring it’s full of flowers. 10,000 of them in fact – made of clay – have colonised the Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court, replacing the fountains and forming sculptor Fernando Casasempere’s latest installation Out of Sync.

Casasempere, who was born in Santaigo and studied both ceramics and sculpture in Barcelona, has called London home since 1997. He works with clay left over from industrial processes and was so fond of his own special mixtures that he brought twelve tonnes of them with him when he moved to the UK. The confection of hand-painted pink and white blooms creates an unexpectedly pretty garden among the stately buildings, while both the flowers and buildings provide a striking contrast to the fresh green turf that has been laid out across the courtyard for the installation.

The piece is meant to celebrate the start of spring and the feelings of happiness associated with this change in season, but despite getting off to an excellent start it would seem that it is the weather itself that is now a little out of sync. However as the installation will be up until the 27th of April it has until then to get back on message.

http://www.somersethouse.org.uk/visual-arts/out-of-sync

http://www.fernandocasasempere.com/index.html

Chihuly at Halcyon Gallery

Looking for some colour to brighten up these grey winter days?  Then head to the Halcyon Gallery’s brand new flagship site at 144-146 New Bond Street for the Chihuly exhibition. Dale Chihuly – a master American glass sculptor – is possibly best known in London today as the creator of the spectacular chandelier in the foyer of the Victoria and Albert Museum. His 2005 exhibition Gardens of Glass: Chihuly at Kew was one of the Londonphile’s all-time favourite London events.

'Mille Fiori'

Chihuly’s pioneering work with colour and technique really does need to be seen first-hand to be fully appreciated – even the best photos cannot do it justice. The highlight of the Halcyon show is the 24-feet long Mille Fiori garden installation upstairs, which was built specifically for the space. You can also see several of the aforementioned chandeliers and some of Chihuly’s trademark Macchia (plant-like giant bowls) and Seaforms (shell-like creations) on show. As always with Chihuly’s work, the clever use of light and display really sets off the pieces.

This exhibition – which coincides with the fiftieth anniversary of the International Studio Glass movement – is a selling one in a pretty ritzy commercial gallery, but don’t let that put you off as everyone is made welcome here. It has now been extended again until 21 April 2012 so you have even more time in which to get yourself there; entry is free.

http://www.halcyongallery.com/exhibitions/chihuly

Tacita Dean at Tate Modern

Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall makes a natural cinema – which is fitting as it is currently the venue for Tacita Dean’s latest filmic output. FILM is a 35mm, 11 minute silent film set on a constant loop. It contains a startling montage of colour, black and white and hand-tinted analogue film, complete with sprocket holes along the vertical edges. Dean has rotated the normal anamorphic lens by 90 degrees to create an unusual vertical format. All of this is projected onto a white monolith which references the one seen in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Although British-born Dean is best known for her work in film – particularly 16mm film – she originally trained as a painter and has also worked in photography, sound, book art and drawing. She has become an ardent supporter of analogue film, whose very existence is being threatened by the digital format. Earlier this year she was instrumental in putting together an online petition aimed at keeping London’s Soho Film Lab’s 16mm print service (the only one in the UK at the time). Despite garnering 5,489 signatories the new owners discontinued the service.

FILM can be found in the Turbine Hall until 11 March and is free, so there’s no reason not to drop by. You might even find yourself being entertained by children using it as one giant silhouette screen – including climbing up the escalator projected in one of the scenes. And while you’re there you can take in Gerhard Richter’s excellent paying exhibition upstairs until 8 January if you have the cash.

http://www.tate.org.uk/modern/exhibitions/unilever2011/default.shtm

Eyebombing

‘Humanizing the world, one googly eye at a time’.

Image

Possibly the sweetest take on street art – eyebombing involves sticking those googly eye sticker things on to any inanimate object out and about in the street. This creates the cute and often funny effect of making a random object of street furniture appear like a character or even a person. A new website devoted to this phenomenon has attracted submissions from around the globe, but it’s good to see London featuring in a few. This photo above (taken by Finbar Hawkins – thank you!) gives us a fresh take on a classic London icon.

http://eyebombing.com/post/13154350881/post-me-something-first-class

http://eyebombing.com/