Tuesday 14 March 2017

A cult classic re-imagined on stage, an eclectic mix of art and some splendid live music...

6th March - 12th March 2017

This week saw some diverse art sandwiched between a theatrical interpretation of some cult literature/cinema and some live music. Are you all sitty comftybold two-square on your botty? Then I'll begin...

A Clockwork Orange

So our first outing of the week was all the way over to Finsbury Park to the Park Theatre.

We'd never been here before and had unfortunately chosen a match night too, although this didn't cause too much hassle, just meant the parking needed paying until 20:30, but nothing drastic.

The theatre itself is quite modern and situated away from the high street area, boasting cafe and bar in its foyer too.

There are two spaces here, and we were in the larger Park 200 auditorium, which had stalls and circle seating and a layout similar to the Donmar Warehouse with bare brick walls and exposed metal beams, the only difference really being that it was smaller and the stall seats surrounded all four sides of the stage, so there isn't really an issue with sight lines anywhere it seems. We had second row seats just off centre which afforded a great view of the action and were slightly cheaper too.

Mr Culture is a fan of source material, both the book and the infamous Stanley Kubrick adaptation, (which despite the furore was never actually banned, it was withdrawn by Kubrick himself), so was intrigued to see how this translated to the stage and whether any changes had been made.

Firstly it's performed by an all male cast, (including the very few and far between female roles), and sticks broadly to the story line established in the book. However this production included some more modern versions of the classic Beethoven music synonymous with the film, amongst other modern pop music, and many of the fighting/violet scenes where choreographed with elements of ballet and quite athletic movements.

The whole cast were great, playing multiple parts, (except for Jonno Davies who plays Alex), and the sparse set manages to keep things uncluttered to allow the physical nature of the piece to really take fill the space. The clever use of colour is also notable, with only blacks and whites throughout, with splashes of orange punctuating key scenes. The use of the 'Nadsat' language spoken by the gang members, (slang inspired by Russian), is almost poetic and Shakespearean in it flow and is performed well by all concerned.

The story still maintains it's power today, and the slight updating of it here can only win it new fans. For what seemed like a book which would have proved almost impossible to adapt, this proves that taking risks can pay dividends, much like Kubrick found with his adaptation. For those unfamiliar the story concerns a group of young thugs known as the Droogs, led by Alex, who spend their evening drinking, fighting, stealing and much more besides who eventually tire of being told what to do so turn on Alex who is eventually imprisoned and offered a scheme to 'rehabilitate' him to achieve early release, and the consequences that entails...

However at the end of the day if you're familiar with the source material and like it, or just curious about it then take a punt, it's not going to change the minds of anyone who doesn't admire the origins however.

For something challenging and fresh it's well worth catching if it gets revived or tours as it's only on until the 18th of March.

Gavin Turk : Who What Where When How & Why

Over at the fantastic Newport Street Gallery owned by Damien Hirst is a retrospective of sorts, (I say of sorts as shows here are populated with items in Hirst's own personal collection), of fellow YBA Gavin Turk.

What makes this show such a treat though is the fact that Hirst owns so many of Turk's signature pieces so it doesn't feel like a cobbled together collection of lesser pieces.

The gallery itself won an architecture award in it's year of opening last year, and it's easy to see why. It's been beautifully fitted out with lovely wood and brick finishes in the spiral staircase areas and polished concrete floors accentuate the very high ceilinged rooms, which allows large scale pieces to truly shine with plentiful space, as proved during the previous Jeff Koons show here where a large balloon animal sculpture had ample space to be appreciated.

One of the stairwells...

The first large gallery has a few earlier pieces, including Turk's Hello! magazine of himself, a couple of the tables with the motorised spinning bottle and knife on them, plus a large replica of Turk's signature which has been accentuated with Yves Klein style blue sponges.

Incorporation of popular historical art subjects or popular culture is a common theme within Turk's works.

One of Turk's most famous, (infamous?), if not the most famous is 'Cave'. This was the piece Turk submitted as his final graduation exhibition at the Royal College of Art, (which meant he failed to be awarded his postgraduate degree as the tutors didn't appreciate it), however it has since gained more appreciation and reputation. It' is a blue heritage plaque, such as the ones seen around the country on significant historic buildings and commemorates his presence as a sculptor, and is given pride of place in it's own space.


'Cave' seen from the balcony...

Also on the ground floor are some of the Jackson Pollock-esque paintings which contain more than initially meets the eye...

Up the the second floor and the first gallery presents another iconic set of images within Turk's output, his Andy Warhol aping screen prints of himself as Sid Vicious striking the famous Elvis pose with a gun, plus his Transit van screenprints reminiscent of Warhol's car crash 'Disaster' prints.

One of the Transit van pictures...

The next gallery contains several of Turk's waxworks, most notably the one of him as Sid Vicious 'Pop', plus also several others of Turk in variety of guises such as 'Bum' and those striking poses familiar from the work of Giorgio De Chirico.

The final room contains a host of Turk's painted bronzes, surrounding an appropriated skip in the centre of the room, these various sculptures ranging in size from a single spent match and rotting apple core up to some of his famous bin bags. These sculptures are so well rendered you would be hard pressed to believe that they are not just what they look like.

The final room in the exhibition...

One of the life like bin bag sculptures...
The show has been extended to the 26th of March so not long left to catch it, but anyone interested in the YBA scene and exploration of celebrity and culture should check it out, and it's all free!

Bourgeois/Kusama : Traumata

Over at Sotheby's S|2 gallery in Mayfair, (free to visit just like the exhibitions at their sale rooms, which are always a treat as they afford the opportunity to see works which are usually part of private collections), is a dual show showing works by two very prominent female artists, Louise Bourgeois and Yayoi Kusama. Bourgeois even has a room of her work currently installed in the new Switch House at Tate Modern.

Sotheby's S|2 gallery...

The works here represent sculpture and paintings/drawings by both artists and are shown intermingled as they explore similar themes of challenging male domination of the art world and production of art, and also explores the psychological aspects of their careers which form the basis for much of their work. Probably most famously for Kusama who resides in Japan in a psychiatric hospital, by choice.

I found the sculptures by Bourgeois to be the most interesting of here work here, the familiar motif of the spider is present in a small sculpture along with some abstracted minimalist totem like pieces which represented human forms.

Kusama's pieces included some of her phallic fabric works, which comprise stitched phallus' attached to objects such as chairs or shoes and then painted, along with variations on her infinity net series of paintings which are mesmerising in their intricacy and bold colours.

Some of the Kusama sculptures...

This is only a small show, but a worthwhile one, and again affords the opportunity to see works which might night necessarily make it to bigger retrospectives, but are not less relevant to their outputs.

It's on until the 13th of April.

Anna Laurini : The Female Portrait

Anna Laurini's work is quite new, however many people who frequent London itself may be familiar with her works without realising it, as she has been quite prevalent in the last couple of years with street art pieces popping up around town...

One of Laurini's paste ups on Charing Cross Road...

We've become quite taken with her work whenever we see it and more interested in seeing a bit more and finding out who's behind it. The familiar sight of her primarily female faces can be seen on hoardings, boarded up shops and  pasted up on lamp posts or phone boxes quite regularly. However was our first chance to see her work in a gallery setting.

The gallery space is a gallery/members bar called Lights Of Soho, near Piccadilly Circus, which mainly shows works in neon, and for this show Laurini has produced canvases and works on paper to compliment these.

Lights of Soho...

We were also looking forward to this as it was an evening view to celebrate International Women's Day and we had a slot booked with Anna to have our double portrait painted too...

A painted door, representative of Laurini's street work...

Several of the larger canvases...

The venue itself was great, comprising an upstairs bar at the back of the gallery space surrounded by the artworks and various neon signs, and a downstairs bar also decked out with neon and art, drinks were very reasonably priced too.

The large canvases are very colourful and expand on the street pieces nicely, they really need to be seen in the flesh to appreciate fully.

We then sat for Anna who then proceeded to paint us. You can see our finished portrait below, the style is quite reminiscent of Picasso, but to watch Anna work was a joy as her proficiency with a brush was great.

Our finished portrait...

The show's on until the 18th of March so catch it while you can!

The Family Silver

Friday night's jaunt was over to Great Portland Street and a venue called 229, which is attached to the International Students House building there.

We hadn't been here for a few years, however it's a pretty good venue, with good sound too and a reasonably priced bar.

The Family Silver are a three piece comprising Matt Deighton, (originally of Mother Earth, and touring member for Paul Weller and Oasis at one time) on vocals and guitar, Damon Minchella on Bass, (Ocean Colour Scene and The Who), and Steve White on drums, (The Style Council and Paul Weller).

It's fair to say their sound is reminiscent of all of these influences, and that's no bad thing, especially as they are all such great players and songwriters.

The only album thus far, 'Electric Blend', was released in 2015, and they've only played a few gigs as they also all have other side projects on the go too, and it's well worth a listen if any of their past work floats your boat.

The band in full flow...

Live however is where they really shine.

We first caught them last year at Under The Bridge at Stamford Bridge and were blown away so booked tickets for this gig as soon as it was announced.

Steve White's drumming is phenomenal, he even gets a drum solo which is well deserved, while Deighton and Michella complement each other very well, both very animated and they really nail every song. They manage to make a three piece sound like a far bigger band.

They played basically the whole album, plus a new song which is available on a download only EP.

Deighton's stage chat was also great, highly amusing but appreciative.

They haven't unfortunately got any other gigs lined up at the moment, but when they do they're a must see!

That's it for this week, and we're having next week off to tie the knot and finally become Mr and Mrs Culture, so until then, get inspired!

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