Last weekend I managed to get down to London from Birmingham (my supposed home) to catch Pick Me Up graphic art fair just before it closed. My housemate and I ran to the station to make sure we got a train, we paid on the day so it wasn’t cheap, we rushed to Pick Me Up to make sure we had enough time to absorb all the wonderful illustrations we expected to find…and were sorely disappointed. Last year was brilliant, this year was just incredibly commercial: typography pieces displaying ordinary ‘quirky’ phrases, over priced drawings that just weren’t that good and worst of all, my pet hate, ‘naive’ art. Don’t even get me started – if you can’t draw either learn, or do not draw. There is no talent in drawing like a five year old, really it just makes me angry. No wonder mainland European galleries have recently been chatting about how little respect they have for British art – where’s the craftsmanship!? Where!?
Luckily I did find a few gems, four in total. Well four I was reasonably impressed by, this artist is the favourite…I haven’t decided yet whether the other three are blog-worthy. Wait and see! For now it’s Kristjana S Williams, she went to art school in the UK so it’s not drawing but collage of course! No, but honestly it is beautiful collage and there’s a bit of Victoriana in there, so for me her work is a winning lot. I didn’t get to see any of her huge works at Pick Me Up like those huge canvases you can see up the top there, but her smaller pieces are gorgeous too and I suppose there are also those tiny details which add to it all and really draw you in.
Weirdly, last year I was at the Food Festival in Brighton just by accident and on one of the tables I found a flyer for Wilderness festival which I kept – not just because I wanted to go to the festival, but because I loved the illustrations. I couldn’t find out who’d done the artwork for them from the Wilderness website and I scoured the web to find out the artist’s name, then a couple of days ago hopped onto Kristjana William’s webby and there it was! So I suppose I’ve admired her for a while.
And I still want to go to this festival. Maybe this summer…
Not only does Williams do pieces for little festivals, she’s also worked on wall murals at the V&A for the London Design Festival which are just MMM! I’m currently having my room redecorated, I can’t quite afford a bespoke Kristjana S Williams mural however I’ve got the imitation curtains down to a ‘t’, birds of paradise and everything.
Last but certainly not least, she is in fact the Creative Director of Beyond The Valley home and fashion store in London’s West End – Victorian illustrations merged together into multicoloured impossible animals in my room and on my clothes!? Go on then.
Over by Grand Union we spotted the Ikon Slowboat, it’s a great scheme I’m unfortunately just too old for! 16-19 year olds get a space on this boat to work and exhibit as they float down the canals, pretty idyllic and I’m rather jealous!
After Grand Union, we went over to Trove which now inhabit the old Curzon Street Station: a beautiful old building facing Millennium Point. I’ve lusted after that building for years, I can’t stand to see such amazing buildings wasted and this one is perfect as a gallery space.
The interior of this building is an art work in its own right: deserted ticket offices, station clocks, a mummified cat (more on that later)…all sorts of strange curiosities lurk within it.
One of my favourite pieces was Wayne Chisnall’s mahogany assemblage: The City. This mysterious object fitted in with the surroundings perfectly, each box or clockface contains some sort of weird and wonderful object – sinister but delicate. It’s a nostalgic piece and, although quite dark as a whole, there are moments of hope and humour within it. Definitely one of my recent favourites.
Chisnall’s piece sort of reminds me of just the phrase ‘morbid fascination’: it’s eerie and unfriendly looking, yet as a viewer you’re drawn in until you’re nose to nose with some sort of nightmarish creature.
One other nightmarish creature you could easily walk past is a permanent resident of Curzon Street Station: Lucky, the cat. The dead, mummified cat found under the floorboards! According to moggy’s little plaque, in the past it was ‘customary to entomb live cats within the floor of buildings for superstitious reasons’, not that I can find any evidence of this myth online. That’s certainly something I will be researching tonight as the perfect procrastination to avoid my dissertation…yaaaawn…mooching about Digbeth is far more fun, oh and it’s Saturday tomorrow: FLEA MARKET!
Open studios, music, flea markets, cinema and all for freeeee!
I went along with my friend Lucy on a beautiful sunny Saturday – great weather for exploring, not such great weather for photographs, especially when you’re armed only with an iPhone! I tried anyway…
I had no idea there were so many studios packed into this cluster of warehouses and disused factories in the East End. It’s also home to the main Olympic Stadium which rises up from the grid of industrial units like a spaceship, just landed.
We spent the afternoon wandering in and out of the towers of this concrete jungle to various booming soundtracks coming from huge sound systems set up in the streets, stopping for a beer now and then. Lovely!
We settled down in a friend’s flat in The Peanut Factory for lunch which she’s opened up as a Ghanaian restaurant, after the success of the last two years I’m sure it’ll be open next year too! We tried the famous Peanut Butter Stew followed by the Guava and Lime Sorbet, all home-made, all delicious!
Art-wise the standard was pretty high; I liked more than I disliked, and for me that’s impressive!
Absolute favourite were the works of Endri Kosturi, just really refreshingly interesting and well done paintings.