Starting out a gallery junket at every Londoner’s favourite Victorian public convenience turned café ( the Attendant in lovely Fitzrovia, incorporating porcelain remnants of its erstwhile employment, urinals now positioned as a row of stylish seating, along with original tiling and pipe work), it was just a few steps to the first stop at the intimate Josh Lilley gallery, founded in 2009 in a bi-level former tailor’s storehouse. On display is Annie Lapin’s HOW TO BURY YOUR STUFF, a series of, as is described in press material, abstract landscape paintings.West End 2 Strong geometric blocks are interrupted by the most serene squalls of squiggles and soft storms of brushstrokes teasing the canvas, which do surprisingly manage to resolve into what appear to be canyons and passageways inspired by Southwest United States environments. Lapin rarely varies her palette of earth tones, but within what could be a limited range discovers endless variations and depths. You’re left with a feeling of enveloping peace. The show runs through 8 April. More info:

Next up is Apostolos Georgiou’s SAME OLD FUCKING STORY at Rodeo, and although comprising a mere four pieces, a visit is well worthwhile to the bright top-floor space at this Charing Cross gallery. Each male figure appears to be locked into an exhausted state of self-imposed solitude (the only painting to incorporate two figures illustrates an uneasy, perhaps unhealthy, intimacy between the figures, with one urinating on the other, whether by accident or intent not explicitly established). Upon inspection of the comprehensive monograph provided for perusal, when women appear in his work they don’t fare much better. There’s a whiff of the Nietzschean about the images, traps and abysses aplenty. The use of pastel colours to render such nihilistic imagery saves the works from alienating the viewer, providing a very intriguing dissonance. Runs through 30 April; more info @

I confess I often visit David Zwirner in Mayfair even when the artist on exhibit doesn’t especially interest me, just to spend time in this magnificent 18th century Georgian townhouse, imagining it as my personal residence!West End 3 Currently, it’s host to early collage works by Tom Wesselmann, who went on to great acclaim with larger works in the Pop Art age. These decidedly more intimately scaled pieces use such materials as postcard, fabric and sticker cut-outs, as well as leaves and bits of wood, incorporated into interior space scenes, usually with a repeating female figure at leisure, or in some cases still life studies. The images are bright and boldly coloured assemblages, and impart very positive and healthy sentiments-his preoccupation with womanly form feels genuinely admiring rather than leering. His work would eventually drift into depictions of consumer objects, food and flowers, his canvas enlarging along with his ambition. The show has just closed, but I would strongly recommend you attend the next exhibition in this stunning space. More info:

Betty Woodman’s THEATRE OF THE DOMESTIC at the ICA is her first UK solo exhibition, an artist who has been active since the 50’s, now established as the premier exemplar in the field of ceramics.West End 4 Several examples of her large-scale vase creations are on display on the ground floor space, and they are very impressive. She has founded new techniques of lacquer painting on earthenware, which makes her sculptural pieces really pop with colourful felicitousness. Her more recent drawings also resonate with similar bright fields of ink, graphite and the rare substance terra sigillata, described as a slip glaze used on ancient ceramics. Through 10 April  Admission is, astonishingly, £1, or free on Tuesday. More info:

The day ended with a quick visit to the Richard Saltoun gallery to view the pitiless and merciless exhibition THE FINAL PROJECT by Jo Spence, a relentless chronicle of her (ultimately lost) struggle with leukaemia. The work is immersive and skillful, full of compelling image-layering, but after a day of such open and harmonic energy depiction, this was a rude slap in the face, and would have benefitted from placement earlier in the day, after which the succeeding shows would have acted as a balm. This show has now closed, but info regarding the gallery may be found at:





Opening in 2014 on the grounds of Granary Square in King’s Cross, this is the U.K.’s only museum solely devoted to the medium of illustration, founded by Britain’s premier exponent of the craft, Sir Quentin Blake, also the subject of its inaugural show. The building which houses the museum was constructed in 1850 by Lewis Cubitt  and was the central office for the Goods Yard complex, now a stunning redevelopment project of upscale restaurants as well as the new home for world renowned arts college Central Saint Martins. The museum covers all areas of illustration from fashion to advertising to book cover to comics to animation to picture books. The current show is an urgent overview of the contribution of female illustrators and authors in the field of graphic content, and the curators manage to unearth examples across an impressive span of time, inclusive from the late 1800’s to this very year. Soberingly, many an early practitioner had to sign work under a form of gender neutrality (sabotage, really) in order for material to be published, although there are many an example of women openly pushing against the pressure to conform to traditional and acceptable female styles and issues (romance, domesticity) as the 20th century progressed, until the 1960s forever detonated restrictions, allowing the first flowerings of feminist themes and empowerment. This spirit carries through to contemporary times in more repressive societies, such as the samizdat publications of a womens’ collective from India in defiance of the patriarchy and its crimes. There is a proud heritage of radicalism and counterculturalism in the field of comics, a simple pairing of word and image to sharp effect.HOI 2 The breadth of theme is striking, from humour to fantasy to political engagement to sexuality to memoir to critique, with beautiful and immediate examples of penciled and inked pages straight from the artist’s canvasses, encompassing a startling array of art and narrative techniques. Along the bottom of each wall unit is a shelf of the graphic novels from which the pages are taken, so a viewer may peruse the final product (and, indeed, you may depart with a new reading list). The show is generous to and respectful of the contributions of women to this particular field, and fully represents and showcases voices that will no longer be marginalised. From the evidence on display, women have never not been present in the history of comics creation-this exhibition is a fine tribute to that fact. The show runs through 15 May; admission price is £7.70 for adults with gift aid.

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RESTAURANT german gym 1

This building just next to St. Pancras station, recently opened as a full-service restaurant, has had quite a colourful history. Built between the years 1864-5, it was the first purpose-built gymnasium in London, entirely funded by the city’s German community to the cost of £6,000. Indoor competitions for the first Olympic Games were held in the space in 1866, and every year thereafter until relocating to White City in 1908. It was the venue for several sporting events until falling out of use pre-war, employed variously in intervening years as office, storage and exhibition space (which provided my first encounter with the place). The dimensions are stunningly spacious-10,000 square feet, 57 ft floor to ceiling height, the integrity of which has been respected in the new owner’s refurbishment, along with the timber roof trusses and original iron hooks.german gym 2 The restaurant has been modeled on the grand cafes and brasseries of Europe-in fact, the ground floor restaurant has been christened the Grand Café . The menu has a Bavarian influence in honour of the building’s heritage. Breakfasts are quite affordable and filling-I’ve never seen such vividly orange yolks on fried eggs as on my plate (just what are they feeding the henfolk?), atop very silky rosti potatoes nearly of the texture of bread rolls. I can’t wait to return for afternoon tea or an evening meal. There’s a very elegant and beautiful mezzanine level with much more luxe seating and separate bar-it’s very classy without being fussy, a nice alternative to the Victorian splendour and exorbitance of the Booking Office just inside the St. Pancras hotel. This is yet another jewel of the evolving King’s Cross development. german 3

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This latest concoction by the brothers Coen finds the duo in a rather jovial mood, especially following on the heels of the bleak and affecting “Inside Llewyn Davis” with its nearly mythic structure and downbeat narrative arc. In comparison, this feels like a trifle, although a trifle of great bon-homie and elan, more of an excuse to string together a series of energetic set pieces in homage to Hollywood genres, from westerns to drawing room comedies to Biblical epics to delirious musicals (represented by a felicitous, Gene Kelly- like Channing Tatum and Scarlett Johansson’s soaring tribute to Esther Williams’s diving gymnastics). Josh Brolin provides the sympathetic human centre around which a constellation of antic contract players and industry figures spin, a studio head and fixer who attempts to keep his charges one step ahead of controversy and scandal. There’s an extended comic riff in the form of an elocution lesson between Ralph Fiennes’s uptight British director and Alden Ehrenreich’s out-of-his-depth cowboy star recruited for a sophisticated Noel Coward romantic comedy that will rightly assume the status of classic exchange. The film is ultimately a collection of sharp sequences rather than progressive narrative, and the Coens use a cabal of communist writers and producers for comic effect, which some critics have found a bit negligent given the great and terrible cost of the House Un-American Activities Committee’s interference in Hollywood.


I have to confess being a bit disappointed in this undoubtedly atmospheric, eerie 17th-century set experiment in suspense given its enormous acclaim and profile from last year’s festival circuit. Debut director Robert Eggers certainly delivers a credible period environment on very limited means, and his fiercely committed cast successfully sell dialogue spoken in an archaic vernacular (which could easily slide into pantomime in less sure hands) in this study of the effects of both religious fervor and emerging sexuality on a Puritan family exiled to the remote edge of a dark and troubling forest. Especially in regards to its teen female lead (a wholly compelling Anya Taylor-Joy), I find the ideology confused and problematic-the film seems to be caught between the oblique and explicit in its view of her arc, skirting very close to reductively condemning her sexual flowering as a destructive force, a tired reflex that seems out of place in an otherwise sophisticated  feature. I find the drift of the film into more obvious genre territory in the final act distressing, and whether or not its closing image is meant to be taken as symbolic emancipation is entirely compromised and complicated by the actions which immediately precede it. As a first film, though, this announces a prodigious, extravagant talent, with many memorable sequences of severe disquiet.


The painstaking stop-motion animation of this unequivocally adult study of dangerous malaise and disappointment lends the human characters a tenderness and poignancy that live-action would need to work overtime to communicate. Middle-aged married man and self-help author Michael arrives exhaustedly at an anonymous hotel to give a motivational speech to a group of customer service conventioneers, and it’s clear that he suffers from a deep and abiding estrangement from all social interaction. Everyone he encounters speaks in the same voice, a great aural indication of his inability to distinguish any longer an individuality in other people, until he encounters the sweet and seemingly fragile Lisa, with whom he has a fleeting, possibly liberating affair. There’s a startling scene where we suddenly become aware to what troubling degree Michael is the source of his own alienation-until that moment, we’ve sympathized with the character in a general way, as a victim of an uncaring, purposeless universe. He is left bereft at a homecoming celebration, his son gifted with a hilariously inappropriate present. The film generously grants Lisa, a much warmer, optimistic character the final moment, suggesting the opportunities and prospects available to the more emotionally accessible and openhearted.


Cooly exploiting the fears and anxieties of a young professional couple expecting their first child, this debut feature is a slick and unnerving venture, which doubles as a study in estate porn, its leafy north London street of Georgian property as seductive and pretty as any of its four lead characters. The pleasant, slightly shabby existence of Kate and Justin is interrupted by the impossibly glamourous and powerful new downstairs neighbours, perfectly coiffed and composed, seemingly incapable of being ruffled, even though themselves expectant parents. Events take a dark and disturbing turn as the film progresses, Kate and Justin’s existence descending into a stew of sleep-deprivation and frayed nerves, and the film’s strength is in keeping the audience off-guard, uncertain of the motivations or credibility of each character. It may be a bit unclear as to how or why Kate and Justin may be the chosen targets of their possibly nefarious neighbours, but the story hurtles along so ferociously and compellingly, and the intrigue is so sustained, that questions fall by the wayside. There are echoes of “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle” in the material, but it’s also gloriously its own-and I truly admire that the film builds to a remarkable and unrepentant diabolical conclusion that is a refreshing slap in the face.




FAST FOOD simit 1

At Bond Street station last weekend, I discovered this Turkish fast-casual challenge to the ubiquity of Eat and Pret A Manger, a company established in the Anatolian region in 2002, now on an international campaign of expansion. There are two units alone in this Tube concourse, and one other in Piccadilly. The vision is initially arrested by the fulsome displays of delicacies offered, anything from the namesake simits (a Turkish equivalent of the bagel) to baguette sandwiches to sweets, all served in a bright and cheerful and bustling environment. It’s a pleasant alternative to the usual franchises-the black olive and feta cheese simit I sampled (you can have them cold or hot), although lacking a bit in cheese proportion, was flavourful. A cinnamon cookie had a hearty, healthy texture, a bit bemusing at first, but I soon found its taste rhythm. Kahve Dunyasi is the other Turkish establishment in central London, also on Piccadilly, a more elaborate and sleeker full-service restaurant/café. If you don’t have the opportunity to visit the Turkish community environs of Haringey or the Dalston Kingsland/Stoke Newington corridor for full immersion in Turkish culinary culture, these modern, mass market versions will serve very nicely. simit 2

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In 2012, after forty years of operation and continuous development at their original location on Great Newport Street, this influential gallery (the first in the world to be solely devoted to the medium of photography) moved into the site of an erstwhile warehouse on Ramillies Street in Soho, expanding both space and scope. Three of the five floors are now devoted to exhibitions, one to educational programmes and digital media, along with a print sales room and sleek ground floor café. photog 1

I wish I could say that the photographs of New York streets and denizens included in this first major retrospective of iconoclast Saul Leiter (whose reputation is now undergoing a volcanic reevaluation) were remarkably haunting and resonant, but I found them quite impassive. Boldly working with colour long before it was accepted in the field, and always composing with a concentrated, precise eye for angle and perspective (he had a lifelong preoccupation with the possibilities of reflective surfaces), the images never seem to surmount their clean professionalism, never pass into poetry or lyricism. In later years, he found fame in the field of fashion photography, but quickly tired of its conventions. Originally, he moved to New York to pursue painting, a discipline he kept in parallel practice with his photography, and it’s the traces of that medium here that most captivates, in vivid watercolour splashes in sketchbooks, and an experimental series of nude shots of women friends and collaborators over which he traces in paint. In comparison, though, to the evocatively burnished shots of haggard Depression era citizens and towns of Walker Evans and the candid, unrefined, tenderly stolen shots of melancholia and isolation of Chicago urbanites and the streets which they inhabit captured by Vivian Meier’s camera lens, the photos here lack charge and bite. photog 2

The show runs until 3 April

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EVENT floral 1

Just off to the side of the hulking shadow of Selfridge’s lies this lovely little square, with its boutique-lined tributaries of passageways, an oasis from the melee and heave of its behemoth of a neighbour. This weekend, in celebration of the advent of Spring, finds a floral installation composed of 1200 fresh flowers suspended in vertical sheets above the square, a colourful rain of buds and stems sweeping across the grounds.floral 2 It’s a bit less impressive than the fevered image my imagination had constructed, which had a net strung across the length of the area as if a heavy floral cloud had come to rest over the space. The reality is much more modest, and possibly a bit more civilized, but nonetheless elegant. The restaurants have special botanic-themed menus and drinks available throughout the weekend, and many of the shops have contributed botanic-themed window displays.floral 3 There will be a masterclass given in the traditional art of flower pressing, and a booth will be onsite for photos and selfies of a floral nature. This weekend, a jazz band will be playing live in the square as accompaniment to the activities. If you’ve never experienced St. Christopher’s Place, this weekend may provide a vivid introduction.

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