Category Archives: Museums

Tuesday…with ‘Breathing Colour’ by Hella Jongerius at The Design Museum

August 1, 2017

Filed Under : Art - colour - exhibitions - London - Museums - Summer - trips

Last month I visited the new Design Museum in Kensington, London for a look around the ‘Breathing Colour’ exhibition by Hella Jongerius.

I didn’t know much about it but knew that it would definitely appeal to my obsessive sense of colour…

What I hadn’t anticipated was how the exhibition and the way in which Hella Jongerius explores and works with colour, would form part of a new appreciation I am personally exploring at the moment with colour, light and shadow.

I recently read Tanizaki’s ‘In Praise of Shadows’ which opened up so many questions and thoughts about how I view light and shadow, and so to then walk into an exhibition which examines how colours change and ‘breathe’ with times of day was not only serendipitous but also completely fascinating.The exhibition examines how we perceive colour and encourages us to be receptive of the effect that shape, texture, pattern and colour have on each other and Hella Jongerius has created a collection of Colour Catchers and textiles in an immersive light changing environment which leads you to experience metarism where colours come to life, changing and morphing at different times.

Hella Jongerius says of the Colour Catchers which she creates;

‘These Colour Catchers are an abstaraction of all the daily objects which surround me. They are the ultimate shapes for researching colour, shadows and reflections. They are my canvases.

She also says:

‘The colour phenomena and optical effects demonstrated in this exhibition are not just abstract theories. The exhibits are designed to provide knowledge about colour that can add value to practical objects and improve our daily lives.’ I have always found the perception of colour fascinating and when I was studying Art A Level my  art teacher completely opened my mind to seeing colours in places I had never seen them before. My work at that time became way too obsessed with colour, because it really was like I was seeing the world with new eyes…shadow and tone went out of the window and to be honest, they are still always something I have to work harder to see.

This exhibition really re-awakened my interest in colour as well as colour theory but also opened another door into the joy of shadows, alongside the Tanizaki I’d been reading.

The exhibition is a brilliant contemplation of colour and really lets you think and look at the world around you; the visual, tactile world as well as the intangible, ever changing world of light and shadow around us.

If you are in London over the Summer and up to 24rd September, you really should try and get to see the ‘Breathing Colour’ exhibition and visit the Design Museum itself. It’s an inspiring study and collection of work focused around colour which would appeal to fellow colour enthusiasts like me, but also those people who struggle with colour.

More information about the Design Museum here

Sunday Night & Monday…in Amsterdam

July 10, 2017

Filed Under : cycling - exhibitions - Museums - Summer - trips

I’m staying in Amsterdam for a couple of day with my son as he’s just finished his GCSE’s and I thought he could do with a post exam treat…I’m on a kind of digital diet because part of the holiday deal was that I wasn’t always on my phone! But with a bit of spare time before we head out for supper tonight, I thought I’d share my pics…lots of which I took before he was even awake this morning as I got into trouble last night for taking too many…

He’s mad on film so we visited the EYE Film Museum with their Scorsese exhibition today as well as the Art Deco Tuschinski Cinema…

I haven’t got enough time to write about each pic so it’s just a glut of images and will hope to have another batch tomorrow!

Saturday…with Georg Jensen and London Craft Week

May 6, 2017

Filed Under : Art - collaborations - exhibitions - London - Museums - Spring - trips

This week I was invited by Georg Jensen to visit their Mount St store in London to watch one of their Danish silversmiths from Copenhagen, Tina Bentzen, demonstrate some of her techniques, her sketches, answer questions and show us some of her amazing hand made pieces.

It was an event which was part of London Craft Week which runs from May 3rd – 7th 2017. London Craft Week is an annual event showcasing exceptional craftsmanship through a programme which features hidden workshops and unknown makers alongside celebrated masters, famous studios, galleries, shops and luxury brands.

I was really excited to visit Georg Jensen as I absolutely love their designs and also the fact that they champion design collaborations between architects and fashion designers such as Zaha Hadid and Ilse Crawford.

Tina Bentzen started at Georg Jensen as a silversmith apprentice in 2006 and finished in 2009 and since then has worked on various hollowware products and has an extensive knowledge and expertise, often being involved in product development projects, like Kengo Kuma and the re-launch of the Bernadotte cocktail set.

I have always been interested in craft and design, choosing to study the History of Design at Manchester Met years ago… a course which unfortunately I never finished as I decided to train at RADA instead . I’ve always loved design and been fascinated by working processes, so being able to have a glimpse into how a silversmith works was perfect…

Below is the original 1939 design for the Bernadotte Cocktail Shaker… There are hundreds of hammers to use in the workshop, but each silversmith has one  personal hammer which they make themselves, and the one below is Tina’s… The finished Bernadotte Cocktail set…Hours of work goes into each piece with different specialists working on different elements: there is a chaser who is able to create the marks within a piece and a spinner who works on a machine to create the shape. I hadn’t realised that often silverware is a collaborative process between different craftspeople.

The soup tureen below was also made by Tina and took over 600 hours of work and used at least 7 different solders…After the demonstration I popped downstairs to have a look at their new cocktail set Manhattan as I’m particularly in love with the bowls…I just love looking at them as their smoothness and reflections are incredible…I was inspired by seeing Tina work and thought how amazing it is to have a particular craft and talent to make such exquisite pieces. I thought the personal touches, like making her own hammer, which is such an integral element of her work, was really important; creating and adapting your work tools is part of what makes every piece of art unique; it’s the artist’s hand, the artist’s movement and the artist’s personality, is what creates a truly beautiful piece of work.

I realised when I got home that I also had a favourite hammer, and although it’s only used for domestic chores, it was made by my grandfather who started off as a carpenter and it’s precious because this was his hammer…
The following day I visited the V & A Museum to see the Silver Speaks: ‘Idea to Object’ display in the Silver Galleries with a talk from Design critic, journalist and curator, Corinne Julius, which was another London Craft Week Event…
Corinne Julius discussed the works on display with a selection of the makers and there were demonstrations with silversmith Abigail Brown from Contemporary British Silversmiths as well as Tina Bentzen from Georg Jensen… Tina was working with the tea leaf container from the new  Kusa tea set , designed by Kengo Kuma, before the oxidisation process which turns the inside elements to a charcoal black finish. Tina would then polish the outer silver giving it the 2 tone effect. This is one of the Georg Jensen images of the finished set…The Silver Speaks: Idea to Object display was also really interesting as it was virtually all non functional silver and explorations in design from contemporary British silversmiths alongside some of their workings such as notes, models and found objects. ’Animus’ by Kevin Gray ’Ice Tea for One’ by Rajesh Gogna Pillow Cutlery set by Angela Cork Silver and Leather Clutch by Kyosun Jung ’Urban’ Candle Holder by Anna Lorenz Alistair McCallum’s Silver Vase with Makume Gane Rim alongside his spontaneous sketches ( on betting slips! ) Rebecca de Quin’s ‘Four Vessel Set’ (with a group of her paper models below ) Below was my favourite piece in the display ‘Boscawen-Un’ Vessel by Abigail Brown who was interested in the symbiotic relationships between man and stone and lichen and stone. The vessel was designed to evoke a monolith much like the standing stones in Cornwall, which is where Abigail lives. Abigail was also demonstrating in the silver galleries and having learned what chasing was the day before, it was brilliant to actually see a silversmith doing some deep relief chasing; the silver vessel being supported and filled with pitch, made from Stockholm tar, pine resin and tallow, so that the silver still has movement when being hammered.

After the talk and demonstrations I had a look around the Silver Gallery.

There is an original Georg Jensen tea pot set from 1911, made by Georg Jensen himself for a cabinet maker friend who had designed his bedroom furniture!The Silver Galleries are spectacular and show something of a completely different age…I was trying to explain to my son a couple of days ago what decadence was…I reckon a trip here would probably illustrate that pretty well!
The decadence of this giant wine cooler, in my personal opinion, is dwarfed by the simpler, stylish tea set…
…or coffee pot It was so brilliant to have a wander around part of the V & A Museum which I had never been to before. The museum has so much to offer that you can never really squash it all into one day. I’m obsessed with The Antiques Roadshow ( it really is my favourite television programme ) and I loved looking at all the little bits and pieces in the cabinets, imagining them turning up in a box of bric a brac at a car boot sale, waiting to be discovered by a potential visitor to the Roadshow! It was hard to pull myself away and head back to Brighton; there was so much to tempt me to stay longer all the way to the exit, so I will definitely be going back to spend more time exploring soon… It’s been such a fascinating and inspiring couple of days for me which has really left me fired up to connect to my own painting and making again.

You can still catch London Craft Week as it runs all over this weekend, so if you’re in London you really should have a look at some of the events which are happening all over the capital…I certainly feel very lucky, thanks to Georg Jensen, that I was able to experience and learn so much about silver.

Thursday…The History of Modern Medical Science ( Part 3 )

April 20, 2017

Filed Under : Art - collaborations - colour - moving stills - Museums - short poem films - The History of Modern Medical Science - trips

In this third week of my work with The History of Modern Medical Science, I wanted to look at a recurring theme which seem to run through quite a few of the stories from Witnesses To Modern Medical Science.

It became apparent to me that the element of hobbies, external interests and passions often lead to a greater understanding or insight into some aspect of research.

Professor Estlin Waters for example was an epidemiologist ( the branch of medicine which deals with the incidence, distribution, and possible control of diseases and other factors relating to health. ) as well as a keen naturalist and spent time on the island of St Kilda  writing notes for ornithological journals about birds, particularly the wrens, and grey seals and he could later see the connection with monitoring wildlife to population based research.

( below is the Witness Statement from Professor Estlin Waters, Senior House Officer – MRC Pneumoconiosis Research Unit )

In my case, there was an overlap between counting birds and epidemiology. I had been interested in birds from a very young age but I was also interested in the scientific side of birdwatching, especially bird migration and bird numbers. When I was on St Kilda I wrote about a dozen papers and short notes for ornithological journals and for the Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London on various aspects of birds and on the grey seal. I was interested as a naturalist. At that time I didn’t have any real knowledge of statistics. It was my birdwatching that kept me scientific during my medical student days. I used to read some of the bird journals; the medical journals were too heavy to read as a student. I don’t know how some of our medical students now manage, but they can and do. I felt the teaching we had at London was not very scientific, it was more of an apprenticeship: I do this, so you do this. The birdwatching kept me critical of the scientific side of things. When I joined the MRC it was very much the other way round. It was the epidemiology that was the scientific side, and I think I have been able to apply a bit of it to my birdwatching. The two have run together, one perhaps ahead of the other, but the two are related. I think that someone who wants to count wrens on St Kilda has got something in common with someone who measures the haemoglobin level in a population. My experience of working alone on St Kilda and writing papers on natural history probably helped me when starting in medical research.

I was inspired by his witness statement to take a trip to my local Natural History Museum in Brighton; The Booth Museum. I also wanted to look at some wrens close up as he had been so intrigued by them.

The whole museum is like a historical exhibit in itself, being primarily full of Victorian stuffed animals, and collections of insects and minerals… While I was there I also wanted to look at the collections of butterflies and moths as there were another couple of stories relating to them…

Professor Peter Harper, medical geneticist, describes how important it is to sometimes stand back from immediate specifics in one field, whether that’s serology, paediatrics or obstetrics for example, and look at it as a kind of research problem from first principles. He describes how Sir Cyril Clarke, a physician and geneticist, was particularly talented in this area. He says in his witness statement:

Workers in genetics use model organisms all the time, and now in human genetics one shifts, as indeed Cyril did then, between one species and another without much trouble. We know the genomes are all very similar. I think Cyril may have chosen butterflies as a rather unorthodox model organism, and I am quite sure one of the reasons he chose them was because they were more enjoyable than something like Drosophila ( fruit flies ) to work with.

I was also interested by the statement below from James Lovelock, who then worked in the Common Cold Unit, about how Sir Christopher Andrewes (  the virologist who helped discover the influenza virus ) used to take the researchers to the New Forest looking for butterflies as entomology was his sideline:

One of the things I remember most fondly about the days at Harvard Hospital were visits from the parent institute in London of Christopher Andrewes, Forrest Fulton, and other scientists, and there would be the most long and intensive discussions on the virology of the problem. Andrewes had a wonderful trick of suddenly coming into one’s lab in the afternoon and saying, ‘I say, would you like to go for a walk in the New Forest?’ He had a car and, of course, in those days very few people did, and we would be driven into the New Forest and he would be carrying his butterfly net, because his sideline was entomology, and there, while walking along the path, one would talk about what experiment should be done next on the common cold.

I really loved looking at the butterflies and moths as amazing and incredibly detailed manifestations of design and which then in turn completely inspired a new project for me into silk scarf designs, and so although I have taken the aesthetic qualities of something in nature, I can absolutely see how a scientist could look at the genetics of an insect and be inspired to take their research into areas they may not have considered before.There was also a witness statement which made me think how much easier life is, especially for the medical profession, now that we have plastic.

Now plastic isn’t something I usually get excited about ( although there’s a great song by The Beautiful South you can listen to here about Tupperware and Plastic! ) but reading about how it has basically revolutionised work in hospitals is staggering, and to imagine life and health care without it it is actually a bit scary. The fascinating witness statement here is from Professor David Galton ( physician and secretary to the MRC working party on Leukaemia )

I think very few people below a certain age can remember our working conditions in the early 1950s. For example, nowadays people use butterfly cannulas for intravenous transfusions and they can do all kinds of things with them. In our day we had dreadful glass syringes; they had a central nozzle and there was no way you could get into a small vein – we always had to use the cubital fossa veins. If we wanted to put up a drip, for example, we had to rummage about in a great cardboard box where there were lots of rubber tubings of different sizes, and we had to fit these up and stick them into a glass rod that fitted into a hole in a cork in a bottle – we didn’t have any plastic transfusion equipment. All this took a great deal of time.
and Dr Pamela Davies, ( consultant paediatrician ) who worked in Neonatal Intensive Care describes how essential the introduction of plastics was for their department:

In 1962, Victoria Smallpeice in Oxford started feeding babies who weighed 1,000 to 2,000g at birth early, with expressed breast milk. The relatively newly available polyvinyl feeding tube passed into the stomach was a great advance over the teaspoon and ‘fountain pen’ dropper. An enthusiastic young nursing staff showed that even ill babies could be fed small amounts frequently from soon after birth with indwelling tubes strapped in place.

This was of particular interest to me as my son had been in intensive care immediately after he was born, and I remember those feeding tubes leading to his stomach, which I hated, but which were helping to keep him healthy. This story made me realise just how much I personally take for granted with these recent advancements which weren’t available before the 1950’s.

And there was one story, connected to plastics:

Dr Ethel Bidwell ( research scientist in blood coagulation ) was working in Haemophilia research in 1950 and was helping pathologist, Professor R G Macfarlane, to devise new ways of treating haemophiliacs. She had to collect blood from the local slaughterhouse for her research and only had her Vespa to transport it. It conjures up a bit of an odd image but illustrates again how important plastics are:

I went down to the slaughterhouse on my Vespa motorbike and I came back with a large glass container. I got concerned lest I tipped off my motorbike and tipped blood on the floor. People don’t realise that plastics were only just coming in. It cost me about the equivalent of a week’s wages to buy a plastic container to put the blood in so that it wouldn’t break on the road to Oxford.

And finally there was a short witness statement which, as a very slow reader, I found really interesting ( and which inspired me to create a tiny stop frame film ), from Professor Alan Baddeley ( Director of MRC Applied Psychology Unit ):

At the Applied Psychology Unit, John Morton, among other things, used to do some research on speed-reading, at least he used to do practicals on speed reading. This would involve all the students being encouraged to bring a paperback book and to read it for x minutes, followed by a period when John would urge them to go faster and faster and faster, and demonstrate then that they could actually read a lot faster, and that there was nothing very magical about it. It was just that we tend to read slowly – it’s a habit.

Speed Reading stop frame film below…

Just  to go briefly back to what I said earlier in the post about being inspired by butterflies but in a slightly different way from Sir Cyril Clarke, here are some of the patterns I’ve created from elements of this particular post which are now silk pocket squares. I had absolutely no idea that this project was going to lead me into designing a selection of textiles, and I’ve really enjoyed the fact that my passion for aesthetics has been able to be informed by genetic research, epidemiology, early plastics and the psychology of speed reading!

Next Week I’ll be focusing on various elements of comfort within modern medical history including pain relief, native remedies and advancements into home care.

You can look at the visual Steller Story version of this post here my instagram posts here and some of my Pinterest inspiration for the whole project here.

You can also find out more about The Modern Biomedicine Research Group funded by The Wellcome Trust, on their website here , their Facebook page here , their YouTube Channel here and their Twitter account here.

Monday…with Windows and Walls of St Fagan’s

April 10, 2017

Filed Under : colour - Museums - Spring - texture - The History of Modern Medical Science - trips

St Fagan’s was one of those accidental finds…my friend told me about it the day before I left for Wales and it was one of the best museums I’ve ever visited, and to be honest it is full to the brim of ‘Instagram Gold’!

I was exploring some creative opportunities for The History of Medical Science project ( Part 1 is here and Part 2 comes out later this week ) and I took so many photos it was ridiculous; I couldn’t stop…but here I’ve sort of honed it down to lots of the windows of St Fagan’s which I got a bit obsessed with…

Visuals below; words will just clutter things…

If you want a day out at a fantastic and inspiring museum in Wales, this is your place…St Fagan’s website here for all the details!

You can see my Steller Story version of this post here