Travellin’ Man: Jack Steadman, Bombay Bicycle Club

The frontman talks to Millie Walton about his love of travelling, and how the band owe more just than their name to the city of Mumbai as he shares some of his travel-snaps

What would So Long, See You Tomorrow, taste like if it was a dish? I ask Bombay Bicycle Club’s frontman Jack Steadman. “Fish tacos” he says, chewing the question with more relish than I’d anticipated. “You’d probably put lemon on your tacos, so it would be quite citrusy. Maybe the fish is battered, so it’s got a bit of bite to it” he enthuses. “Actually, I could really do with some fish tacos now…” Not the greasy kind, Jack clarifies, more the “Refreshing, very summery, quite clean [variety]. I think the production of the album is like that, it’s not really rough around the edges.”

Photo courtesy of Jack Steadman


“I liked being anonymous and alone in Mumbai, and everything around me moving on fast-forward”


It’s lunchtime in September and we’re sitting in a hotel room in Soho, which is not as seedy, nor as greasy, as it sounds. It’s been a warm month in the capital, which has extended the summer, and the band have played a string of festivals and gigs in support of the dance inspired Bollywood romance album, So Long… Infused by the colourful cultures and climates of Mumbai, Istanbul and Amsterdam where most of the ten tracks where conceived, the album is a huge leap from the soft, lulling sounds of their previous albums, which were more comparable to warm cups of melted chocolate than the fiery spice of So Long…

The shift was a risk, but it paid off. Just days after its release in February, the album reached number one in UK charts.

“When we started playing at the beginning of the year people were enjoying it, but as soon as the summer started and we started playing festivals, it really clicked. We made an album that’s completely suited to playing outside in the sun.”

As with all of the band’s records, Jack wrote this one alone. But unlike previous albums, he laid out the tracks during his travels around the globe, starting off in a remote cottage in the Dutch countryside where he lived with a local family and set up a studio in their barn. “It worked out really well – the guy was not only hugely passionate about music, but also about sound. He had all these speakers and hi-fis that he’d collected which I could use.”

After Holland, Jack went to Istanbul, where again he found a family – “with a little barn” – who offered him board and a place to work. “The guy I was staying with was the head of the village. It was crazy, a tiny Turkish village. One day, I said I needed a drum kit and he drove me to this travellers’ settlement outside of town. He said ‘The local community has ostracised these people and they live here now on this campsite, but they have a wedding band and he’s agreed to lend you his drum kit. But not before you spend the night here and meet everyone.’

They put on a concert for me and there was a guy playing old gypsy folk songs on the violin and there was this nine-year-old kid prodigy who was playing the clarinet. It was the most surreal couple of weeks!” he says of the experience.

recording-studio-Holland Jack Steadman

It was during a month Jack spent in Mumbai that the album really started to come together: “I got so much done and I was just in a really good place. I fell in love with the city. I woke up every morning feeling great and excited to be there, which is the perfect mind set to be writing music in.”

What was so inspiring about the city? “The food, the music, the people. Mumbai is this sort of crumbling old colonial city that is so small, yet it can manage to fit a billion people into it. It’s insane,” he rushes. I posit that it must have been stressful, being in such a densely packed place. “No” Jack says, shaking his head with a smile, “it was the opposite. I’m a big city guy. I liked being anonymous and alone in Mumbai, and everything around me moving on fast-forward. I made sure I took the train everyday to the studio rather than a cab because I loved them being so packed that I had to hang out the doorway, and I had the breeze in my hair. It’s the only way you can stay cool because it’s so hot, it’s like the only air conditioning you get.”

Jack and bandmate, image Jack Steadman

Above: Jack with bassist, Ed Nash
The music video to Feel was shot in Mumbai and takes the form of a mini-Bollywood movie – an idea that that bassist Ed Nash and Jack dreamt up on a trip to Australia some years earlier. “We were in this very authentic Indian canteen which had TV screens everywhere showing Bollywood movies. We were watching them and thinking, one day we’ve got to make one of these. Suddenly, this song came along that was just dying for this video, but there was a lot of hesitation because of our band name. It’s such a cynical country we live in, a lot of people were obviously going to be like, ‘That’s ridiculous, some kid went on his gap year and was suddenly really into Bollywood’. We just take all that with a pinch of salt because I think it’s a hilarious video and the song makes you feel really good.”

“A lot of people might have got the impression that I was going to ‘find myself’ or going to specifically try and write different sounding music…”


What’s it like writing in foreign studios I ask him. “When I’m in London there’s such a blurred line between me just hanging out in the studio and actually having to work. When you go away for the specific reason to write, you feel stupid just hanging around so you’re a lot more driven. That was the entire reason I started going away. In fact, that’s probably quite important to explain because a lot of people might have got the impression that I was going to ‘find myself’ or going to specifically try and write different sounding music… It was to go and have that sense of purpose.”

Did he find it difficult to return home after such a productive period abroad, I ask: “Everywhere I go after about three or four weeks I start missing London buses, rain, and sarcasm” he laughs.  “I really long for it, especially when I’m in places like the States where it’s really hot. I just want it to be green and wet and cold, and I want somebody to be mean to me, and not to just smile all the time!” he jokes. More seriously, he admits, “When I am at home I get restless again. I’m definitely a grass-is-greener type of person, which is annoying. It’s not healthy in any aspect of your life.”

We both agree on this point, but I can’t help feeling that in Jack’s case, it’s not that unhealthy. In fact, it seems to be the vital component of his creativity and success.

Words Millie Walton
Images courtesy of Jack Steadman

This article was originally written for and published by PORT magazine: http://bit.ly/1BajNwt

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Photographing Constructed Worlds: The Barbican

As the Barbican Art Gallery’s newest exhibition opens we speak to co-curator, Alona Pardo about the works on display and the relationship between photography and architecture

rISC73cbb483mRI6N4gFNCLdLxbj_jgo-Ev5FU_tPoE

Julius Shulman, Case Study House #22, 1960 (Architect: Pierre Koenig), Courtesy of J. Paul Getty Trust

Photography and Architecture in the Modern Age forms part of the Barbican’s Constructing Worlds season, featuring over 250 works from 18 prominent photographers across the globe and offering audiences the opportunity to contemplate on the progression or demise of our urban landscapes.

How do photography and architecture interconnect?

Architecture and photography have a really long and shared history. The earliest known surviving photograph was taken by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce. He took it from an upstairs window of his estate in Les Gras, France, across the rooftops, and the primary reason for him doing that is that buildings are static. As cameras have developed exposure times have shortened, but back in the day, the exposure time was very long – several hours in fact – so you needed something that didn’t move. A building then, was of course perfect, because it didn’t move or respond to the natural elements. Although it’s a genre that’s not been widely researched or given a lot of prominence, there’s a complicity between these two mediums. The exhibition itself starts in the 1930s when both photography and architecture changed very dramatically and photography suddenly became a tool for architects to use to disseminate their vision of the world.

So photography became a way for architects to seek wider recognition?

Absolutely. Architects understood and harnessed the power of photography from a very early point. Most people wouldn’t travel to see a building, so the only way to promote their vision was to photograph it and have that image disseminated. Editors preferred to have photographs in their magazines because they were far more evocative and less dull than blue prints or plans. I should clarify though that in the show, photography’s not there to accurately describe a building, it’s tracing the social history of the 20th and 21st century as expressed through architecture. Architecture became incredibly symbolic in those periods.

How is the exhibition organised?

Chronologically. It starts in 1930s with a really fantastic female photographer called Berenice Abbott – a woman of formidable resolve who returned to New York after living in Paris for several years, where she attempted to get the archive of Eugène Atget published. Whilst she was there, she was struck by the rapid pace of change and transformation that was taking place in the city. It’d grown from 19th century city into a modern metropolis within a period of a decade and she was absolutely overwhelmed. But she was also quite critical of what was going on: the race to modernise. So the exhibition charts a chronological pathway, but themes and interests interconnect across different generations of photographers as well as different geographies.

Why did you decide to take a global approach?

We wanted to tell different stories. Architecture is everywhere, and it impacts all of our lives. There are sections within the chronological order that deal with different themes or stories. The first looks at photographers such as Berenice Abbott and Walker Evans, who were working in the Deep South, looking at early typologies of road side architecture and timber churches. Then there’s Julius Shulman, who’s kind of the archetypal architecture photographer, taking glossy, sexy, poppy images of LA. Then alongside that, there’s a section which looks at the vernacular: Ed Ruscha looking at parking lots; Stephen Shore looking at elevating the quotidian against vast expanses of American landscape. Shore’s interested in what interrupts the view. The street furniture, for example – all those things that we take for granted as part of our urban and suburban landscapes.

There’s Hiroshi Sugimoto’s blurry, soft edged photographs of iconic buildings such as the World Trade Centre, which has an added poignancy in that it’s no longer here. These buildings are so famous, so impressed on our minds that we don’t even need to see an accurate reproduction of the building to know what we’re looking at. They’ve transcended their function to become part of our cultural language.

The exhibition claims that the photography uncovers ‘hidden truths’ – what’s meant by that?

It’s the idea of unveiling, de-mystifying and reflecting on the world around us rather than shrouding it in beauty. It’s about Architecture becoming a metaphor.

Would you agree that the public’s attitude towards architecture has changed in recent years?

I think so. There’s a move towards places of architectural brutalism – an attempt to understand why they were built and why they were designed as they were. We’re beginning to reflect more on how our cities, public and private spaces are formed. In a city like London, we are forever talking in an indirect way about architecture, whether it’s through the topic of housing or cooperate buildings, so there’s a constant discussion about how the world around us is being defined.

Constructing Worlds: Photography and Architecture in the Modern Age runs from 25 September – 11 January

This article was originally written for and published by PORT: http://bit.ly/1unzi5j

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Dressing the Part: Juliet & Romeo at Sadler’s Wells

As the theatre’s Nordic Dance season gets underway later this week at Sadlers’ Wells, Millie Walton talks to costume designer Magdalena Aberg about dressing and designing the set of Shakespeare’s most iconic love-story

As part of the Sadler’s Wells Nordic Dance season this autumn, the Royal Swedish Ballet brings their interpretation of Romeo and Juliet to London following a successful tour across Germany. This new adaptation of Shakespeare’s timeless love story has been given a modern twist by set and costume designer, Magdalena Aberg, whom I skype with from her studio in Stockholm late one evening. “I’ve personally never seen Romeo and Juliet as a ballet before” she tells me, “and Mats Ek, the choreographer, has a very special landscape in dance which makes it very unique. It’s an unusual ballet.”

This is Magdalena’s first time working with Ek and an experience that she describes as “very inspiring”. Together they have updated the tale and brought it into the modern world: “You have to make a decision about what you want the universe to look like. The world you see in this production is quite dark and urban. There’s a beauty in the theatre itself which is often disguised, or goes unnoticed because of there being too much set. It’s about making the audience recognise beauty but also giving the dancers space in which to work – as they move, they pull and push the walls so the room is constantly changing.”

JR_20130517_GW0024-Gert-Weigelt

Though the set design was fairly straight forward, comprised only of bare, black walls, Magdalena found that the costumes were an altogether more demanding challenge. Without much previous experience working with the dance industry, she explains, “I’m used to theatre and opera, where the actors don’t have to move so much, and therefore you don’t need to wash the costumes. But in dance, the costumes need to stretch and because of that the choice of materials you can use is quite limited. It also has to be really, really strong.”

Magdalena used the Renaissance period as her starting point in the design process, stripping back the ornateness of the period to bring it closer to contemporary culture. However, elements of Renaissance dress are still visible through her use of “silhouettes”, i.e the capes the dancers wear in the party scene, as well as “metal-colouring of the clothing” worn in the war scenes, which evokes traditional armour.  Fabrics, like the stretchable velvet for the chain-mail armour, were then dyed in specific colours to match her characterisation.

“Researching the characters in depth is a very important part of my job” Magdalena stresses. “It’s also important I see who who’s going to play the part – that’s half the costume, which maybe differs from general fashion. In theatre you need to know the body you’re designing for.”

Describing Juliet’s costume, she says: “Juliet wears a short yellow dress. At first, I was quite unsure about that particular shade of yellow, but I think that it’s very vivid and unusual on stage. She’s a rebel, you know – love makes her a rebel  – and she goes against everything, she offers everything for Romeo. It would have been easier to put dress her in white, like a virgin, but I wanted to get away from that. Yellow is so vivid and so young.”

Romeo in comparison “wears a very simple long knitted, light grey sweatshirt. With both Juliet and Romeo, you need to dress them in a very pure way because they are so young; the audience needs to see them as pure. [Clothing is a strong visual prompt for the audience, and] for that reason, they are very simple, using only one colour.” Smiling, she adds, “Light grey is also very beautiful with yellow, and the combination gives a natural sense of togetherness.”

JR_20130517_GW0141

How important, or commonplace is it for the dancers to rehearse in their costumes? “Well, they rehearsed with their capes throughout. They are very long and wide, and we made them first in another material, but chose a better one after watching rehearsals because they weren’t following the body in the way I wanted.”

Similarly, the coloured threads used in the warp and weft of Magdalena’s woven fabrics are deliberately different, so they catch and work with the lighting of the set. “Different colours are obviously more visible under different lights”, she explains, “ I gave the lighting designer all of the fabrics so he knew what we were using, but you can never fully predict how it will look. It’s a puzzle working out how all the colours interact with each other and the lights!”

How gratifying the opening night must be then, that moment when the beautiful and complicated world Magdalena has envisioned comes to life.

Images of Romeo and Juliet, performed by the Royal Swedish Ballet. Courtesy Gert Weigelt

Juliet and Romeo runs at Sadler’s Wells from 24 – 27 September with a free post-show talk with Mats Ek on Thursday 25 September. The Nordic Dance series runs until 14 November. Click for tickets and further information

This piece was originally written for and published by PORT Magazine: http://bit.ly/1DsH54A

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Theatre Review: The Play That Goes Wrong, Duchess Theatre

I’m always slightly dubious of comedies. I think this is probably because they’re actually harder to master than tragedies. I mean it’s pretty obvious if the audience sit stony faced in silence that your joke has fallen flat.

The-Play-That-Goes-Wrong-Duchess-Theatre-600x350Image source

Mischief Theatre Company have chosen to tackle an even more difficult genre than straight up comedy: “deliberately dreadful drama” (FT). The art of this is to convince the audience that the collapsing walls, unconscious actresses and badly placed props are all the result of disastrous misfortune when in fact, of course they are the result of endless rehearsals and clever set design. This is meta-theatre at its most complex and effective.  And all in all, they got it pretty spot on. Posing as the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society performing a murder mystery play entitled ‘The Murder at Haversham Manor’, the cast’s battle to stay true to the plot despite the onslaught of mishaps and casualties was very amusing. My laughter was somewhat contained compared to my surrounding spectators whose sides were dangerously close to literally splitting at the sides, but nevertheless it made me smile, chortle and occasionally snort. At times it verges on the absurd and predictable, but it’s pleasantly enjoyable and stress-free to know what’s coming next – the definition of easy watching.

Nigel Hook’s set design is fantastically unreliable, falling apart at the seams just at the right moment (how coincidental!) and the cast’s performances are all very strong or rather, appropriately weak in the case of the only actress who is knocked out and replaced by a “stage hand” reading the script out of a book. Dave Hearn stands out as the smiling idiot who gets carried away by the applause as does Henry Shields (one of the plays co-writers alongside Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer) as the apologetic, deadpan director come inspector.

The Play That Goes Wrong

Image source

The joke does tire but thankfully by that time there’s an interval – a chance to step back into solemn, comfortable reality – and when the bell rings you’re ready to enter back into the hilarity of it all.

It’s well worth seeing and Friday’s probably the best night for it after a few post work drinks to loosen up the facial muscles.

For more reviews head to www.officialtheatre.com

Tagged , , , , , ,

Ones to watch: Ed Fringe Recap

This was my first year at Edinburgh Fringe – a very generous late birthday present from a good (now even better) friend who I suspect bought me the flights so that she wouldn’t have to go alone but never mind the reason, it was probably the best birthday present i’ve ever received (apart from a puppy on my 8th birthday, nothing beats that). It was the highlight of my summer so far and I’ve had a pretty great summer as far as summers go. Anyway as Fringe officially finished today, I thought I’d write down a few of my favourites as a self-reminder for next year but also in case they head to London in the near future…

THE DUCK POND: withWings theatre company apparently turned heads at last year’s festival with their clever re-imagining of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” and this year’s re-telling of “Swan Lake” was just as much of a success, selling out the night before each performance. Without giving too much of the story away… the action takes place at a fairground seeing the Prince hook his true love on his 21st birthday under moonlight. What follows is a passionate and amusing love story as the Prince attempts to break the spell that suspends his love in feathery (or rather rubbery) form. The physical performances by the two leads were utterly absorbing as was the music all written and performed by the cast – an exceptionally talented bunch of individuals. Rumour has it that the production may be coming to Hoxton in December. Fingers crossed.

The Duck Pond

BIG BROTHER: BLITZKRIEG: Max Elton’s concept of Adolf Hitler in the Big Brother house sounds simple on paper but makes for a very clever and genuinely hilarious play.  The Furher’s housemates include the usual bunch of unfortunately very realistic stereotypes: dodgy dealer/self-acclaimed entrepreneur Clive, performing arts student/kate moss wannabe Camilla, bejewelled chav Michael (aka M-CAT) and the food obsessed middle-aged widow Maude. The compact venue at Fringe worked to the play’s advantage, maintaining an uncomfortable line between humour and fascism as Hitler spat globules of spit onto nervous audience members. Here’s a couple of  their teaser trailers…

BOTTLENECK: Luke Barnes’s play about the Hillsborough disaster is perhaps one of the most impressive pieces of theatre I’ve ever seen. The story (performed by one actor, the brilliant James Cooney) follows fourteen year old Greg from Liverpool on his mission to earn enough money to pay for tickets to the Liverpool FC game on his birthday. It would be a mistake to ruin the power of the performance, but it left us stunned, mesmerised and completely humbled. It’s something you need to see when you’re feeling ecstatically joyful or stable, otherwise it might be difficult to cope.

Bottleneck01_700_480_60_c1

CALYPSO NIGHTS: Essentially this is just an hour or so of Juan Vesuvius, a Venezuelan Calypso DJ (aka Barnie Duncan) mixing calypso music and saying random things about cunnilingus whilst rudely gesturing with a pair of maracas. It was one of the most surreal experiences i’ve ever had, but also the funniest. It ended with us all dancing on stage to Soca which sounds a little like this…

 

 

 

 

 

Film Review: Prince Avalanche

I’m a big fan of Emile Hirsch and Paul Rudd so a film starring both of them is exactly the sort of film I like. Throw in some exceptionally beautiful shots of natural landscapes and that’s the sort of film I really like.

photo_06

 

Prince Avalanche has sort of side-stepped the big paper reviews, which is strange considering the hollywood names attached to it. It caught some attention when it was revealed Joyce Payne was given an impromptu cameo role when the film crew stumbled across her hunting through the rubble of her house, which had been destroyed six months earlier in the worst wildfire in Texas history in a wide brimmed red sun hat. But the film itself was little mentioned. Sadly this is probably due to the fact that it’s classed as an ‘indie flick’. Not enough sex, not enough blood, not mainstream enough for headlines.

The film is a new sort for the director of blockbuster, gore and drug filled Pineapple Express. It’s quiet, calm, gentle, solitary. An meditation on the friendship between two disparate men employed to repaint the yellow road lines in a Texas state park that’s been wiped clean by wildfires. It’s slow to start and unusually silent. My friend commented it made her ‘ears hurt’ straining for a sound. But it doesn’t need to be fast, this isn’t an action packed thriller. This is an exploration for director, cast, crew and audience. The camera lingers on the astounding views and the achingly sad wreckages of lost homes, allowing your mind to wander and contemplate the material destruction compared to the continuation and rebirth of nature.

As you can probably already guess it’s not the most uplifting of films, at least not at the start. Alvin (Rudd) has escaped into the wilderness to deal with his depression, whilst Lance (Hirsch), the brother of Alvin’s girlfriend, is an adult trapped in a teen’s body, who cries about not getting laid on his weekend away. There are humorous moments but they’re underlined by the tragic realisation that both characters are trapped in their own delusions.

The story is simple, real. No plot twists, no gasps. And unbelievably touching. It won’t win any oscars, but it will stay with you.

Give the trailer a go:

 

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Alice Rainis: Ongoing Projects

London/Paris based photographer Alice Rainis has a way of finding beauty in the everyday – it’s an enviable talent and often makes her pieces very poignant. She’s got a number of long term projects which she adds to every now and then, such as the series of Polaroid Portraits, Music Artists Off Stage or Late Nights Early Mornings (well worth flicking through), but the most recent of these and the most interesting is XXI Century which features portraits of the creative or inspiring people who have crossed her path. She adds a new image every two weeks with a one line blurb beneath telling you who’s who and what’s what. 

 Check out her full portfolio on her website: http://www.alicerainis.com/. She’s a cool kid.

21_Omar Elarian_ Theater Director 21_88500022 21_Blue_ Music Producer_ London 21_88450005

 

 

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Zulu Winter – Heavy Rain

I normally shy away from writing about my family’s triumphs mainly because it can come across as a kind of arrogance, boasting about my brilliant genes and all that but also because there’s that whole issue of bias. Obviously, it’s hard not to be biased as a proud and awe-filled younger sister, but I’m going to allow myself one gushing post about my brother’s band, Zulu Winter’s newest music video ‘Heavy Rain’ because, quite frankly, it’s too good to ignore.

Filmed by the brilliant and immensely talented director, David Higgs the video exploits the rosy light of sunrise to create scenes so beautiful and eerie that they’re really quite mesmerising. Throw in some peculiar dance moves, a bit of rolling around in the grass, hallucinogenic repetitions and a pony and it all gets rather surreal.

The track’s not bad either. Well done bro.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Georges Braque at Guggenheim Bilbao

Georges Braque at Guggenheim Bilbao

Standing in front of the sharp-edged, shining sliver shapes that comprise Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim in Bilbao, it’s difficult to think of a more appropriate building to house a retrospective of one of the founders of cubism. After all, if you’re familiar with Georges Braque, it’s no doubt for his complex paintings that aim to capture objects from multiple perspectives.

Though revolutionary at the time and arguably, still now, Cubism’s not the most friendly of artistic movements – it requires a somewhat mathematical eye. Fortunately, the Guggenheim’s exhibition introduces audiences to an artist connected to, but by no means defined by Cubism or his work with Pablo Picasso.

The foremost space is a room of juxtaposition. One wall is lined with a selection of the young artist’s glaringly bright paintings influenced by Fauvists such as Henri Matisse whilst the other documents Braque’s journey to Cubism. The former have a hallucinogenic quality that makes them seem quite otherworldly. ‘L’Estaque’ (1906), for example, depicts two small shadowy figures walking along a pathway edged by thin, sloping trees. It reminds me of a scene from a Dr. Seuss book, although the colours are warmer and the shapes less stark.

 

Landscape in L'Estaque (Paysage de l’Estaque), 1906–1907 Oil on canvas 50 x 61 cm Centre Pompidou, Musée national d'art moderne, Paris. Gift, 1986 Georges Braque © VEGAP, Bilbao, 2014 Photo © Philippe Migeat - Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Dist. RMN-GP

I found myself most captivated, however, by the seemingly simplest of creations: one of Braque’s papier colles (that’s paper collages to you and I), ‘Guitarra’ (1912). Stripped bare of colour, but for a strip of wallpaper mimicking the appearance of wood, it’s much lighter and peaceful to view. It comes as a well-placed break from the intensity of the former movements and stylistically functions as the perfect lead into Braque’s illustrations for Hesiod’s ‘Theogony’. These drawings maintain the bareness but here the pencil lines are entangled in webs forming bizarre mythological creatures and figures in an imaginative reimagining of Roman art work – a surprising pursuit for the master of Cubism.

The classical theme is loosely continued with a striking pair of female figures, ‘Canephores’ (1922), standing side by side on two large canvases. These generously proportioned women demonstrate strength rather than vulnerability with dark skin and exposed muscular stomachs. The rippling lines capture the movement of their bodies as they carry their baskets balanced on one shoulder.

“Staring at the flowing colours and swooping shapes it’s easy to imagine Braque’s paintbrush moving frantically across the canvas”

 

 

Large Nude (Grand Nu), winter 1907–june 1908 Oil on canvas 140 x 100 cm Centre Pompidou, Musée national d'art moderne, Paris. Gift Alex Maguy Glass, 2002 Georges Braque © VEGAP, Bilbao, 2014 Photo © Georges Meguerditchian - Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Dist. RMN-GP

The third room exposes a more vulnerable side to Braque. Influenced by war, loss and his own personal isolation, morbid symbols of skulls are forefront, along with dark, solitary figures, their backs always turned from the viewer – this is the work of a man who once described art as “a wound turned into the light”. Though interesting from a contextual point of view these pieces lack the sophistication of previous works betraying an occupied mind and wandering inspiration.

Braque’s birds are the highlight of the next space, symbolising spirituality and liberty. ‘The Black Bird’ and ‘The White Bird’ is the most obviously eye catching because of its light colours and sheer scale, but it was ‘The Birds in Flight’ that I found myself returning to. Staring at the flowing colours and swooping shapes it’s easy to imagine Braque’s paintbrush moving frantically across the canvas, desperately trying to capture the movement of the wings, the air.

Braque’s series of late landscapes, however, leave the most lasting impression. Displayed in a wide, open circular room, the paintings and the viewer are dwarfed by the vastness of the space. I was fortunate enough to experience the space alone, intensifying the powerful sense of solitude – it’s a room that demands quietness and contemplation.

The exhibition concludes with a display of Braque’s ballet costumes and set designs. Though less immersive than the rest of his work, it functions as a tribute to the artist’s diverse talent and varied body of work. In the words of Juan Ignacio Vidarte, the Director of the Guggenheim Bilbao, “What makes exhibitions like these so interesting are the surprises.”

This article was originally written for and published in PORT Magazine : http://www.port-magazine.com/art-photography/art-review-georges-braques-at-guggenheim-bilbao/

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

The sweet, sweet sounds of João Sobral

I discovered João Sobral’s debut album, ‘Vai Na Fé’ today and I’ve already listened to three times through – admittedly it’s only four songs, but it’s not often I hit repeat. Based in Brazil and influenced by his nation’s colourful, laid back culture, each song is effortlessly cool and as smooth as silk. Sobral’s tones are seductive with the effect of deepening relaxation much like the sensation of sinking into a warm bath… It’s seriously addictive stuff – the very encapsulation of tropical paradise.

I’m excited to see what Sobral gets up to next.

Here’s the silkiest of the bunch:

Catch the rest of it here: http://www.joaosobral.com.br/

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,