30 June 2017

The V&A's new Sackler Courtyard and Sainsbury Gallery – I'm not impressed at all

I was invited to the press preview of these spaces and had been quite keen to go. On Wednesday morning, the day of the event, I put on the TV and saw it on BBC news. Oh ugh! How disappointing. I considered not bothering to leave the house after all. But then I thought, c'mon Jane, it's probably much better in the flesh, go take a look. So off I went.
As I approached the gates my heart sank and, as they say a lot these days, I am not going to lie to you – I really don't like it. Any of it. By which I mean any of it being here in this location. The elements are OK but just not for here. It reminds me of the Daniel Libeskind university building in Holloway Road which looks like some kind of malfunction happened and it was dropped from the sky into the wrong location.

Exhibition Road – the new entrance and the cafe just inside. 
Let's start with the gates on Exhibition Road. The Aston Webb Screen has been designed so that people can see through the gates when they are closed and have better access to the museum when they are open. All well and good, but the new gates are horrible.
As I approached them, I really thought they were temporary. The shade of grey is just like those corrugated panels that go up around building sites. A dark grey would have looked much better here. Apparently the barely noticaeble patterns within the mesh is meant to echo the shrapnel damage that was on the walls they replace. Call me weird, but I prefered the walls – did we really need so many gates?

Architectural features; curves angles and reflections. Yawn.
Inside the gates it's all geometric shapes and mad curves over a courtyard paved in ceramic tiles. The cafe building (shown bottom left, above) looks to me like it could be part of Crossrail's scheme; the sharp angle on the roof resembles those vile geometric greenhouses we now see at the entrances of Tott Ct Rd station.
But it's the colour of the courtyard floor that concerns me most. It hit me hard as I arrived as it is completely the wrong tone. The tiles are a basic dead blue-white with added colours in stripes which, being mostly blue, further add to the coldness of the white and jar with the natural earthy tones of the older buildings. It was explained that these coloured lines tied up with some elements in the gallery below but try as I might I could not find the visual connection (see pics further down). This brings to mind Enzo Piano's expanation for the bright colours he used on his large constructions at St Giles, near Centrepoint; that they were to echo the colours of the guitars sold in Denmark Street. Really? green, yellow and orange guitars?!
But, back to the V&A courtyard floor – it was also explained that because tiles can be slippery (no shit Sherlock) it took a lot of time and effort (and money?!) designing them such that the fired coloured stripes sat within recesses. I really don't know why they bothered. I wonder if the whole thing is just so the V&A can say they have the first porcelain courtyard...?
Some sandstone or yorkstone paving would have worked a treat here, even with all the other new elements, thereby mixing old and new.

Porcelain tiles – filth and a accident waiting to happen
The first two pics above show how the porcelain tiles are already filthy. Also worth mentioning is a triangular sloped section between the main flat area and the access ramp shown in the second two pics. In these days of Health and Safety madness I am quite surprised at this – see how the tiles have been placed with the design flowing downwards to further aid anyone who puts a step wrong. I reckon a guard rail of some kind will be added along the top after a few sprained ankles occur.

To the left of the courtyard near the cafe entrance, come carved lettering and leafy motifs on the old building has been re-gilded. All well and good but look how the new floor, which is metal here, obliterates WING and V&A.
Moving inside the building... The Sainsbury Gallery is a vast unsupported gallery space beneath the courtyard and is accessed via a staircase of glossy black and red (architects' orange). I was completely non-plussed on seeing this space – it's just a big dark empty room waiting for an event to arrive. It felt a bit like a underground car park with not columns. I suggest only architects and engineers who will be impressed by it. The general public will only appreciate the exhibitions that happen here.

Staircases, 1980s colours, wooden floors (nice touches) and the huge gallery
In conclusion, it's a mish mash of ideas brought together in the wrong location.
And it cost £48M – yes, that's forty eight million pounds.
I will stop now.

Thought: Have I ever written about how I don't rate Tate Modern and it's damn Turbine Hall commissions either...?

27 June 2017

Demise of the House of Toby

Walking down Swinton Street in Kings Cross last week I noticed scaffolding up against Swintons, previously The Kings Cross Arms.

King Cross Arms as was, then more recently as Swintons inc some interior shots grabbed from Google Streetview (it appears you can 'drive' inside pubs!")
The interior of the building looks to be gutted – I just hope the exterior remains as is with its Charrington tiles complete with 'The House Of Toby' plaques because the Toby on this building is a particularly fine specimen.

Look at Toby – he's a corker!
It's such a shame when renovation or new ownership results in the loss of lovely details like the Toby motifs. Some get painted over, but most get chipped away completely. I can never fathom why people paint over tiles at all; they are so low maintenance and wipe clean. Paint, on the other hand, fades or chips.
I have 'collected' quite a few Toby signs across London over the past decade or so and have put them together in the montage below to show how diverse they were even within the same style or arrangement – there appears to have been no set guidelines or rules so each one may have been a unique piece of handmade ceramic.

Shown above is a selection of London Tobys some of which have been subsequently removed or destroyed. Most of these are my own pics but some are grabbed from Flickr, mainly from Ewan Munro.
Note how most are 3D, but one is a mosaic, some are flat renditions including the one on the lantern and the one on the window. Note also the subtle changes in colour on his skin and breeches and how the colours used for the legend and company name differs across the board also.
I may be rather more fond of these little fellas than most because Mum enjoyed the occasional Toby Ale and that's the name we gave our to our dog (just Toby, not Toby Ale; that would be daft).
Find out more about Toby Ales here.
Charrington & Co started in Bethnal Green in the early 18thC and had breweries  across London.

I feel thirsty now...

25 June 2017

Brymay ghostsign revealed at Upper Holloway

Well, finally!
It's been uncovered for all to see:

This can be found overlooking the railway on Holloway Road opposite Upper Holloway station
 (  BRYMAY  ) 

I am not sure whether this is a permanent thing. I hope so.

Brymay is a conjunction of Bryant & May.

See here for more Brymay ghostsigns in London

Read about match-making here.

19 June 2017

David Mach at Griffin Gallery – ends July 7th

David Mach creates wonderful impressive pieces; a coathanger gorilla, a Greek temple made from old tyres, faces from drinking straws or matches, a brick train and some quirky amusing sculptures – just see the montage below and say "oh! him!".

Previous work. All pics from David Mach's website
David has recently created a tsunami out of newspapers as an installation within The Griffin Gallery, London W11.
On the eve of Wed 28th June from 6.30–8.30pm David will be at the gallery hosting a Q&A. I will be there – hope you will too. More info here.

16 June 2017

Cally Festival – Sunday 18th June

A section of Caledonian Road will be closed to traffic this Sunday for the yearly street festival which takes place between noon and 6pm.
It's basically a vibrant community-led street party – there will be all sorts of stalls lining the road plus live music, arts projects, dancing and creative workshops.
Find me at my stall selling my cards and prints of photos I have taken in the area including some new ones.

A selection of new cards (prints to order)


13 June 2017

The Banksy Job

Last night I went to the preview screening of The Banksy Job, an often hilarious film about the thefts of a Banksy statue that he had based on Rodin's The Thinker which stood for a while at the north end of Shaftesbury Avenue.

Before and after which included a Q&A session – Andy/AK47 is in blue.
I am not going to give too much away here (see the link to the trailer below if you like your films squished), but this true story spans a decade and centres around a tit-for-tat feud between AK47 (Andy Link) and Banksy about signatures and ownership.
The film will be available to purchase through iTunes, Skystore, Amazon, Googleplay, Virgin and Microsoft from Monday 19th June.
Enjoy... AK47, the man behind it all, is a joy to watch.

8 June 2017

Craft Fair at Hornsey Town Hall this weekend

A bit of self promo today...
Find me selling my cards and prints within the Art Deco splendour of Hornsey Town Hall on Crouch End Broadway, 11am–4pm on Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th June.

Please see the Facebook page here for more card images.
I will also have a small selection of clay pipe jewellery and cards and some upcycled leather wallets from my Amelia Parker range.

If you can't get to the event find the cards just round the corner from the town hall at Treehouse gift shop and Oxfam Books & Music both at the clocktower end of Park Road.
For online orders, visit my Etsy shop (if you don't see the image you require listed, please do contact me directly)

5 June 2017

Have a drink in a real London pub – The King & Queen, Fitzroiva

The homogenisation of London isn't just happening to the architecture, it's also happening to pubs as breweries rip out and refit in an attempt to blandify* our social environments.
Pubs used to be the social hub of an area, where people gathered to relax after work, meet friends and sing songs together in a place that felt like a home from home. But, sadly, pubs are closing down at an alarming rate these days and the landlords of our once-loved drinking holes and are calling "final orders" for the last time.
So a big "hurrah!" for the independently run King and Queen in Fitzrovia, run by friendly staff who know and understand every beer and whisky they sell.

Some pics mine, some from K&Q's website
As you can see from the pics above, this building is a one-off gem with it's witch's hat roof and weathervane atop a turret, and decorative architectural details. Note especially the mosaic floor in the side door (now only access to ladies toilet from within), the carved relief sign, those curved windows and some lovely woodwork and glass.

All power to K&Q's beer-pulling elbow.
The pub sits just around the corner from the BT Tower and across the road from the GradeII listed Georgian-Victorian workhouse building

I heard recently that another of my old favourites, the Duke of Sussex at Waterloo, near the corner of Lower Marsh, has been refitted and is now another gastropub. Yawn. It used to be great in there with a real mix of people enjoying each others' company plus fun friendly nights at the weekends. Go google yourself because I refuse to link to it now. I doubt they have they kept their colourful toilets.

*one of my own words. See also Dubaiification.