Whether or not is was due to a close look at 2016’s inaugural organisational and logistical issues (attempting to control the flow of two million spectators along the major roadways of central London), the 2018 edition of the London Lumiere festival was a much less fraught and frustrating experience (although I suspect the inclement weather was the greatest contributing factor for the much more muted response). It also helped enormously that there were fewer small-scale installations (no pieces situated in window units or along narrow passageways, impossible to be viewed properly) and a firm resolution to expand the parameters of the event into the surrounding neighbourhoods of Fitzrovia and Bloomsbury, easing the strain on the Piccadilly and Mayfair corridor, as well as staging a more extensive programme in King’s Cross than previously, and even leaping across the river to the Southbank (a trippy triangular walkway reacted sonically and visually to the public’s passage through it).The two most outstanding works were both located in this latter area: Daan Roosegaarde’s Waterlicht, which immersed crowds gathered in Granery Square in an overhead virtual flood of dry ice and coloured light, meant to evoke thoughts of climate change and ensuing chaos, but which I suspect was mostly enjoyed as pure sensation (the wind wreaked exquisite dramatic havoc with the waves) ; and Architecture Social Club’s (with Max Cooper) Aether, a true product of the collaboration between science and art, a raised box figure of metal coils onto which were projected a computational scheme of geometrical laser light patterns, in sequence with a bespoke and hypnotic orchestrated soundtrack, struck at a most primal level of emotion. Remi Bebawi’s Entre les Rangs invited an audience to stroll through a field of shimmering, reflective flower constructions in constant colour change, and Tilt’s Lampounette, a series of oversize office desk lamps, playfully commented on the emerging tech identity of King’s Cross. In central London, elegant, detailed light projections animated the facades of Regent Street buildings (a pair of Matisse lovers in a choreographed sway of heady romance decorated the courtyard of the Royal Academy), a pulsing orb of psychedelia adorned the Oxford Circus crossway, flamingoes promenaded through the streets of Chinatown, Leicester Square morphed into an hallucinatory garden of wild flora and fauna, St James’s Square wound its trees in an awe-inspiring spectrum of luminescent string, resonant raindrops crashed with visual fury onto the ground beneath a grove of saplings in Fitzrovia, light flicked along a spiral of wire in a Mayfair park, like an evanescent rage of fireflies, a silver bird surveyed Berkeley Square. The scale of the pieces overall seemed less grand than the first go-round, quieter somehow, and the route more surmountable and easily negotiated. 

Over at the Winter Lights event at Canary Wharf, a sedateness ruled, a more contemplative mood evoked. A “singing garden” of flashing light was wed to a dulcet soundtrack, a prismatic bauble invited small groups inside to bathe in its reflected pools of colour, a revolving circle of light over a plaza fountain cast tender shadows of itself in the water, rows of spinning platforms (at first glance appearing to levitate) moved in wave-like motions, suggesting transmissions of light and sound to distant planets, translucent pods with spinning motors whirled like particularly excited water drops, and animated squiggles at the base of a wall indicated a virtual pond side. The most impressive piece called for an individual interaction (via an EEG headset) with a tunnel of LED tubes which react with each participant’s personal brain waves and thought patterns, creating an unique light and sound show. Quite a few of the works were interactive in nature, and a fair amount located indoors in the lower levels of the new Crossrail station, content to be more traditional wall-mounted pieces. After the necessary grand efforts of London Lumiere, this more intimately arranged show was the perfect contrast. 

Both events have now concluded, but here are the links to the websites, for study and an overview:



Being more visually active pieces, I mostly shot video footage, all of which can be viewed on the Instagram account. In most cases, a mere image cannot provide a true or resonant account of the experience.








A walk through Central London in pursuit of this year’s participating Condo galleries resulted in two sweet instances of serendipity, as in the course of combing the area, I and my friend Nora very pleasurably happened upon two as yet personally undiscovered spaces, both of which yielded great artistic rewards. Fitzrovia’s Rosenfeld Porcini’s (established in 2011, a fact of which I am duly ashamed, no excuse for my ignorance could suffice) current show, Combining Materials, offers some stunning pieces, collaborations of seemingly contrary materials that combine to form bold new aesthetic paradigms. My head is still spinning in regards to the precision and concentration in whatever processes Brazilian artist Tulio Pinto undertook to create his astounding sculptures that balance, in confounding harmony, the brute and the fragile, clear blown glass tenderly, ably supporting the bearish brunt of steel girders and granite slabs, indented but not broken. That this particular series is titled Complicity speaks to associations of possible dysfunction and enablement, but the work also asserts a core strength in both participating materials, a carefully negotiated equilibrium. Keita Miyazaki’s installations consist of rusted scraps of jettisoned car engines welded together, the ends of which have quite improbably been fitted with effusive buds of colourful paper blossoms and sewn felt, a visual opposition that results in much bemusement, a guerilla-like tactic to salvage and repurpose even the most terminal matter. The striking, choked assemblages of wood, metal and paper crafted by Leonardo Drew project violently outward from the walls, weighted and fraught, not quite composed, full of thrilling turbulence, quite a world away from his serene 42A, akin to an organic cabinet of curiosities. Inkjet printed photographs, malleably manipulated onto vinyl or acrylic to stretch and drip across copper bars and concrete, reconciles seemingly antagonistic elements in Felicity Hammond’s Stone Effects series. All of the work is intensely physical, a rebuke to the traditional hierarchy of mastering one material, instead preparing the way for the possibilities and potentials of incongruence. Combining Materials continues through 10 February


Over at Victoria Miro’s lush Mayfair space (established 2013-although a frequent visitor to the Wharf Road space, this was my first experience at this second Miro London home) , the feminine spirit is in full flush in the colour-saturated, boldly imagined landscapes and environs of Jules de Balincourt’s They Cast Long Shadows. In If Trees Spoke and We Listened, majestically scaled women oversee a forest, titanically arboreal, portals of strength and endurance and history, benevolently shepherding the flocks below; Troubled Eden, despite its title, speaks of expansive worlds within its central figure, hands confidently perched on hips, direct of gaze; Moving Through Mountains again suggests the female form in the weave and curve of cliff, enshrouded, generously protective of the group in tight vertical journey up the centre of the frame. Twilight scenes of gathered collectives intimate alliance against an unease and uncertainty just outside the parameters, a bulwark against threat of apocalypse. The characters in Island People have left the mainland perhaps to establish, for even a moment, an Edenic corrective to the vexations and worries that predominate on shore. De Balincourt scratches his oils directly over untreated wood panels, unnoticeable until very close, which lends the paintings both their earthiness and their enveloping warmth, their magnanimous personality, free of doctrine and pedantry. They Cast Long Shadows continues through 24 March 






The pieces gathered for this show, all of which are grounded in the ethos of duende (a heightened excitation of expression, a gesture of spirit as embodied in the magical elf-like or goblin creature from which the word derives) shares a charged synergy with its venue, located on the lower level of a derelict, abandoned section of Croydon’s  Whitgift shopping arcade, an attempt by local artists to revive and recharge a moribund space. Any suggestion or rumination upon the death impulse in the curated work is far afield from the sober or sedate: it is determinably, kinetically present, throbbing, tearing and fulsome, announcing itself with rude colour and vigour. David Harrison’s folkloric, sexually forthright phantasmagorias evoke liquid sepulchral netherworlds bubbling up, colonising the surface, with rhythms of repeated patterns and objects providing formal visual balance. His magnificently trashy glory hole masks, perched on plinths just inside the entrance, are the work of  a supremely sublime provocateur. Ben Westley Clarke’s Mare Street is modern Hogarth, an askew avenue scene illustrating a dense nest of vice, corruption, indolence, debauchery-but also seething life (including  curious London tourist Vincent Van Gogh, if I’m not hallucinating, nattily urinating on the pavement).In Vanessa Mitter’s  Painting by Memory, a hollow-eyed, corpse like figure is in the process of being reclaimed (in aesthetic floral exaltation) by the earth. Interior dream worlds break through the canvas in Melissa Kime’s Gone Baby Gone, troubling a surface already queasy with unsettling entanglements and uncertain stabilities, insistent that the unconscious, with all its keening anxieties, is continually present.  Measure by Measure, by Grant Foster, looks beyond mortal concerns, addressing the dire circumstance of stamping out a life of word, heralding a death of expression-the sinister tropes of censorship (paging Fahrenheit 451). Babette Semmer’s Cecilia stares out at the viewer with a composed, slightly daring gaze, flanked by disembodied industrial broom head and sports shoes-not until you notice the disarmingly shaded feet is there any cause for alarm or disquiet, something of rot intimated (in her other entries to this exhibition, women struggle mightily to wrest control over precarious circumstances, and one gentleman has gloriously stage-managed his final repose). The night I attended, three performance art pieces were included, of which Jack Catling’s Mechanism was a short, sharp visual literalisation of the phrase“moth to the flame”, but also possibly spoke to a particular male sadness surrounding the ebb and exhaustion of the libido (as a cluster of moths was released climatically from the region of his groin), and co-curator Vanessa Mitter’s Pieta (the Italian word for pity, generally used to describe a sculpture or picture of the Virgin Mary holding the dead Christ on her lap or in her arms) was a tour-de-force that somehow managed to contain both a sense of self-erasure and self-empowerment simultaneously, as her body became canvas for eggs, flour, butter, a baking exercise exploded. Although there were motes of masochism, there was mostly a sense of play, the ingredients used those of nourishment and provision-it reminded me of 1980s American performance artist Karen Finley’s work, only less overtly confrontational. Frivolous only in name, the works here reward studied reflection. Croydon may not be on the immediate radar, but it’s worth a journey (by train, by Tube) to experience both vibrant show and space-while there, pop over to Boxpark for a meal before the commute home (much more of a spacious food hall feel than the concise Shoreditch original).


For clips of Vanessa’s performance piece, please visit this blog’s Instagram

* January may be dry in regards to alcohol consumption, but this certainly does not apply to the cultural agenda. Both Winter Lights (around Canary Wharf) and London Lumiere (in several neighbourhoods and areas around Central London for just four nights) open this week, as does the annual Condo gallery programme, with the Vault Festival (of underground theatre and performance) close at heel, and the London Mime Festival already in progress, continuing through early February. I will be reporting from many of these events in the coming weeks, but please have a look at their official websites to plan ventures of your own. Enjoy!















Formerly the site of an annual plein-air art show (run by Bold Tendencies), and home to the enduring top-floor bar sensation Frank’s Cafe (with its incomparable backdrop of the City horizon), this heretofore mostly disused car park just behind the Peckhamplex cinema is now, officially, ongoing affordable residence for business start-ups in the creative fields (fashion, design, music, film, all arts mediums, offering such facilities as dark rooms and sound rehearsal units), as well as social gathering spot for food and drinks. Five floors are designated studios and offices; the top two floors have been leased to street food vendors and one full-service restaurant (along with a spa-like yoga workspace and salon, with other businesses forthcoming). The accommodations are spacious, seating is casual (picnic tables and artfully arranged wooden bench constructions), and the bar area is rife with greenery, warm bare bulbs, accented with funky tropical print wallpaper and a mirrorball, trendy credentials all in place. The organisers are planning for a full calendar of events, including talks, forums, exhibitions, dj sets, all with an eye towards the local community, working with charities and community social support networks. Already one ramp space is generously given over to a graphic designer who has papered over the walls with a series of posters in bold typeface, each a slogan in a steadily spiralling story of empowerment and awareness, a declaration of intent.I sampled a good portion of the available brunch dishes at veggie/vegan restaurant Wild Flower, and it was with great palatable joy that I received each explosively piquant bite- the chefs provide some very novel and imaginative combinations of ingredients, a mix of raw and cooked product. A roasted (beautifully charred, in some cases) cauliflower plate with Bramley apple purée and crunchy walnuts and pickled onions was a coalescent marvel of competing flavours, a see-saw of the sweet and tangy; coconut dal was a nice balance of the sweet haze of squash and heat of sambal offset by a creamy-cool smear of yoghurt; and a small bowl of swede fondue, whirled into a paste, with pickled vegetables for dipping, and crusty pretzel rolls to sweep up the final crumbs, properly warmed the senses. There are also traditional egg choices for those who may not want to venture too far afield. The room is warmly lit, offers canteen seating, and there is plenty of natural light from a run of windows on one side of the space, affording a busy, nicely distracting view of the train line and Peckham’s other arts hub, the venerable Bussey building (and now sibling), itself a hive of cultural enterprise and food services. Along with Hackney, Peckham is presently London’s most in-vogue area, the first stop for creative colonisation.

Visit my Instagram feed for a video walk down the multi-coloured stairwell!







Ingrid Goes West 

Despite the overarching comic tone (albeit with sharp caustic and aggrieved inflections), this study of a troubled young woman’s journey cross country (nursing an enormous vacuum in her soul) to inveigle her way into the perceived glamourous life of an Instagram socialite is possibly the most despairing film on this year-end list. The innate likability of star Aubrey Plaza keeps a viewer invested in a character who spirals into some truly alienating, diabolical behaviour, a miasma of abhorrent selfishness, inconsideration and physical violence (directed at both self and others). It posits a world which feeds on personal insecurity and shame, a currency of images against which an individual defines value and worth. The strength of the film is in indicating its internet sensation herself may be nothing more than a beguiling composite of other people’s ideas and suggestions, a carefully crafted cribbing to project an interesting facade (at heart inauthentic). Online social culture, with its immediacy and  disingenuousness, and an increasing generational inability to reflect adroitly, can exacerbate anxieties and paranoia in already compromised people. The film’s scariest moment arrives when Ingrid’s most personally destructive action results in the most desired state-rather than an instant of sudden clarity or epiphany at just how far her life has spun out of control, instead you witness Ingrid’s stunning lack of care or interest in self-harm, only that she has inadvertently achieved a goal that she foolishly believes will make her whole and valid. And that is all. You laugh, but choke in appalled disbelief.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer 

The images pristine and antiseptic, the atmosphere austere, the tone acerbic and acidic, there is something unnervingly unearthly beating beneath the surface of Yorgos Lanthimos’s new film, which unspools in the fashion of a parable (informed by Euripides’s Iphigenia). Lanthimos shares with other acclaimed European contemporary directors (most prominently Michael Haneke and Ulrich Seidl) a pitiless, unvarnished gaze, an egregiously honed flair for showcasing humans enmeshed in exquisitely  awkward agonies of (mostly) their own making, and presenting a universe designed to ultimately extinguish and crush all follies of humankind, displaying a merciless fetish for the cruel turn of fate. All of this, with a misanthropic wit (perhaps less so of Seidl as he has progressed through his career). Lanthimos suggests that the bourgeoisie family at the heart of this tale must be punished for perceived arrogances of privilege, a gauzed existence-we see supremely self-possessed cardiac surgeon Steven (Colin Farrell) strangely solicitous to a teenage boy, offering gifts and visits, their dialogue freighted with tension and uneasiness, extortionate undercurrents. Barry Keoghan plays the boy, who we come to understand is the son of a man who died under Steven’s care, possibly while he was drunk, as slightly ethereal-and dangerous. He is an implacable force, a rancid agent of retribution, come to collect. Sometime at the mid-point, any sense of realism is relinquished, and the film hurtles off into the mythic realm, and firmly remains there. Family members succumb to paralysis without any physical cause, and Steven and his wife (Nicole Kidman) must face an annihilating decision. Even as he shades off into symbol, Keoghan rivets with a seething charisma, a malevolence borne of unforgiveness and profound anger. It’s not an easy watch, and some of the later scenes may try the limits of an individual’s taste (the level of intensity could be considered repugnant ), but Lanthimos certainly, and gleefully, goes to extreme places, throwing restraint aside, and I appreciate the gesture, ostentatious as it may be, although some may dismiss it as facile satire.


More than just a distaff version of Eminem’s 8 Mile, Geremy Jasper’s debut film chronicling the first steps of an aspiring rapper, defying convention in a multitude of ways-female, white, ample in size-is rich in attitude and energy, energising an otherwise traditionally structured narrative. Jasper brings a sure feel for lower-middle class New Jersey environments and locations (car parks, convenience shops, dingy clubs, cluttered homes) and a verve for the cultural and ethnic melange of the population of the town. Australian actress Danielle MacDonald is a force of nature in the title role, indefatigable, determined, self-possessed, as she navigates around several spheres of discrimination and defeat (especially detailed and complicated is the fraught relationship with her mother, love and resentment hopelessly entangled). Patti’s mother, once in pursuit of a musical career herself, abandoned her dream when she became pregnant with her daughter, so there’s an understandable ambivalence in her response to Patti’s ambitions. As embodied by comedienne-singer Bridget Everett, she’s a formidable presence, hard-bitten and worn. Not all of the characters quite work (a virulently antiestablishment metal-punk associate who lives, improbably, in a park shed which resembles a set piece out of the Saw films), and there are more than enough  montage sequences (the Rocky effect), but an admirable coarse candour and dynamically written characters help enormously to distinguish the material beyond the familiar elements. The conclusion isn’t so much that Patti will triumph and go on to a famous career, in the feel-good way of all underdog stories, but that she reaches a moment that proves something profound to herself, that she can see an objective through to achievement, even if manifested on a small stage in a local club.

Personal Shopper 

Mysterious, ambiguous, haunting-all these words apply to Olivier Assayas’s piercing exploration of the psychic drift of the title character (played superbly, fearlessly by Kristen Stuart, who remains an effortlessly charismatic and idiosyncratic physical presence on screen, with a profoundly still and concentrated emotional register), unmoored by the recent death of her sibling. Travelling to and from exotic locations in pursuit of accessories and wardrobes for her celebrity fashionista client allows for much time to contemplate and reflect, each journey itself a limbo of alienated time and space, a realm in which to lose a sense of self and direction. Assayas uses the disembodied nature of modern communication devices brilliantly, exploiting them for their uses as foci for aggression and anxiety (the sequence in which Stewart receives a series of stacked threatening texts from an unknown source, the unfurling lines filling the screen with the force of a fist, is truly terrifying, a moment worthy of Hitchcock). Maintained throughout the film is the exquisite feeling of suspension, Stewart held in a state between dream and reality-perhaps able to commune with spirits as a medium, she has a series of encounters with phenomenon (one spectre, intentions uncertain, draws close to her in her brother’s house, a wondrous and dreadful CGI image that crackles with frisson). Near the end, there is a masterful scene which rewards vigilance: Stewart, foregrounded, with an astonishing movement in the background, nearly imperceptible, but awe-striking in its quiet menace. With its final moment, Stewart, now as afield as she has ever been, speaks into the void, and perhaps hears herself answer-she may be the ghost haunting herself.


On the evidence of this outrageously nervy and bold effort, Alice Lowe may have been the stealth agent in Ben Wheatley’s best film to date, Sightseers (she co-wrote the screenplay), keeping the proceedings in focus and preempting Wheatley’s more abstract tendencies, his waywardness with arcana. Lowe, who was pregnant when she wrote and shot this audacious stew of kitchen-sink horror and anarchic comedy, stars as an expectant mother whose baby, from the womb, begins to issue death notices to particularly loathsome and arrogant persons with whom the mother-to-be engages. Some critics have found fault with the broad caricatures of the victims, but the cartoonish dimensions are in keeping with the woozy, amphetamine drive of the narrative (perhaps the obnoxiousness of the people is a clear exaggeration of the lead’s heightened emotional state). Quite beyond the murders (many of which are predicated on the behaviour exhibited towards the character as a pregnant woman), the film is actually a poignant exploration of the uneasiness and alarm of the state of carrying a life inside of the body, the threats to sense of self as you are expected to surrender wholly to an unseen entity growing inside you. Lowe locates reserves of fear and exhaustion and power in her character, and bravely confronts the sanctimoniously predominant sentimental notions of the state of pregnancy as divine and dignified-rather, as seen here, it’s messy, traumatic and visceral. Lowe likens her state to “a hostile takeover”. It’s a bit scrappy and unrefined as cinema, but Lowe has a singular sensibility and wonderfully malicious wit, and her film is alive with delicious and grimy spite-perhaps a bit too gruesome for those with a more discreet taste, but very palatable for adventurous consumers.