Friday, 31 July 2009

Illustrated book of the week - The Street Markets of London



It will come as a surprise to absolutely no-one who reads this blog that we at The Curious Eye are big fans of street markets.  There's nothing we like better than digging around a brocante, a souk or an all-American flea. Local colour, potential bargains, weird objets...What's not to love?


So we were very excited to come across Mary Benedetta's accounts of London street markets of yore. Interestingly, it is illustrated with photographs by Lazlo Moholy-Nagy,  clearly taking time off his day job as hardcore member of the Bauhaus to take a few snaps to make ends meet. (Fun fact: Moholy-Nagy had such a tough time financially throughout the thirties that he even resorted to working on window displays of mens underwear to keep the wolf from the door).


Benedetta's descriptions of the 1936 markets seem both familiar and completely dated - it's interesting to discover how much has changed in the course of a single generation. Back then, Portobello was a small fruit and veg market, Brick Lane was so insignificant it barely gets a mention and the jewel in London's market crown was Caledonian Market - a massive bi-weekly event that Benedetta describes as "famous for silver, antiques, curios, junk-stalls, amusing characters, and every phase of market life".  If only I had a time machine.


Indeed, a lot of the market fare sounds very interesting - even if she doesn't quite appreciate it.


Sounds like the interior design schemes of every design-savvy hipster in Williamsburg and London's East End.

Some of the characters mentioned are certainly amusing, take this for example:


Details may change, but the spirit of the markets stays the same - I can imagine a scene like this still happening in London on any day of the week (factoring in decimalisation, of course)


Too true!

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Give More Ink


Another discovery from Paris, hidden away behind the Bastille I stumbled across the Lazy Dog Gallery. The roads that cross between rue de Charonne and rue de la Roquette are a veritable beehive of creative boutiques and galleries. When I lived in Paris in the early 90s' Objectif Lune,on the rue de Roquette was one of my haunts, and I noted that it is still there but it was a little to early for an aperitif ! The Lazy Dog Gallery specializes in art and graphic design.


This exhibition on until the end of August, presents the work of Swiss outfit Lowrider, they are expert screen printers based in Freiburg, the company,which is apparently famous across Europe for it's screen prints and a line of t shirts, was started by Serge Nidegger who is also an accomplished illustrator. Inspired by street and skate culture, his hand drawn typos resemble the works of old time street sign painters.


The exhibition title comes from the mantra they have in their studio, referring to the raw material used to create these sassy work of art.


Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Born on the Streets - Fondation Cartier, Paris


Paris' Fondation Cartier is renowned for it's exciting contemporary art exhibits, and this new one comes in 3 parts. Firstly on the street, outside walls have been set up for 'local' graffiti artists to make their own contribution, as those shown here were doing during my visit last week. Then, inside on the ground floor and outside in the garden, space is given to contemporary artists working with the ethos of graffiti. Finally, the enormous basement is given over to a retrospective of American graffiti, from the early seventies onwards . For me that part was the most intriguing, perhaps partly because it felt like a trip down memory lane with early Eighties video clips like Blondies' Rapture and Malcolm McLarens' Buffalo Girls, and interviews with the earliest of Manhattans' graffiti artists. Definitely a must see if you're in Paris before 29th November.








Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Say It With Flowers

Here at The Curious Eye, we are usually attracted to the unusual and the obscure. If something is strange or quirky or characterful, we will give it the ultimate compliment and declare it 'bloggable'.

However, today we're talking about something quite commonplace - a decorative touch that nearly everyone has used in their homes at some point. Quite simply, I'm feeling very inspired by cut flowers.


I was very lucky to receive some real beauties in the last few weeks, some stunning gladioli and a gorgeous combination of hydrangea and delphinium, and it's hard to express how much time I've spent gazing at them. There is nothing about them that doesn't fascinate me. The elegance of their forms, the subtlety and strength of their colouring, the way they constantly change as time passes.


Interestingly I think what excites me the most is how they make me appreciate the daylight. The translucence and saturation of the petals makes me hyper-aware of how the light is hitting them and the effect of the different phases of the day, almost like super aesthetic light meters. They can go from being as dark and moody as a Rothko to as vibrant as a stained glass window, just by responding to the changes in the weather.


It's certainly true that the simplest things can be the most beautiful. Flowers may not be our most esoteric subject, but they are definitely one of the most inspiring. With stems like these, flower power will never go out of style,

Monday, 20 July 2009

Illustrated Book of the Week - Exploring England


I discovered this gem of a book in my favorite charity bookshop, the St Helena’s Hospice bookshop in Frinton, Essex. I thought Tunnicliffes’ name rang a bell, and it turns out I knew his work well from my fathers’ membership of the RSPB, he illustrated many covers of their magazine during the 70’s and 80’s.



These woodcut illustrations are quite stylized almost like textile or wallpaper designs. I’m not sure if Tunnicliffe ever did this kind of thing, but I’m sure if he did they would be ripe for re-edition. Take note all you up and coming wallpaper and home furnishing editors !


Saturday, 18 July 2009

The Nordic Bakery - Do The 'Continental'


Whenever I hop across the channel and visit our friends on The Continent, I'm always struck by one thing. Whether it's Amsterdam or Antwerp, Berlin or Barcelona - there never seems to be a shortage of charming, stylish cafés to enjoy. Sophisticated little spaces that allow you to sip a coffee, relax with a newspaper and watch the world go by.


Then I come back to London.

I'm not exactly sure why it's so hard to find a pleasant place for a coffee in Central London. Is it because the rents are so high that independent coffee shops cannot survive? Is it the power of the Starbucks/Costa/Nero mafia that suffocates smaller businesses? Or is it the fact that English social life is so centred on pub culture that coffee shops can't compete? Whatever the reason, finding a civilised spot for a decent cuppa is a tall order in the West End.


Which is why The Nordic Bakery is such a great discovery. The moment that you enter the space in Soho's Golden Square you are immediately struck by something quite delicious.


It's not the excellent design of the café, with its beautiful contrast of dark blue walls and scandinavian inspired woodwork. It's not the fact that instead of a soundtrack of 'lite' tunes, all you can hear is the pleasant hum of polite conversation taking place. It's not the simple and effective graphic design or the delicious looking products on display.


It's the smell. Every day, The Nordic Bakery makes batches of the most scrumptious (and sweet smelling) cinnamon buns. The whole space is filled with the scent of baking and sugar and cinnamon. It's perfectly gorgeous, and mouth-watering.


With its calm atmosphere, beautiful design and all-round deliciousness, The Nordic Bakery is a perfect place to  escape the madness of Soho and enjoy a little continental café style.


Nordic Bakery - 14 Golden Square, London, W1

Monday, 13 July 2009

It's Just a Facade


One of the great things about living in a city as ancient and diverse as London is that you can discover the most magnificent sights in the most obscure places. And sometimes, in the least obscure.


This incredible installation is right in the middle of town - no more than five minutes from Tottenham Court Road - but you would never know it was there if you didn't stumble across it. It's all that remains of the radium wing of the Middlesex Hospital - a magnificent Victorian building that once housed the pioneers of cancer research.


I love the way that the tough industrial geometry of the brackets contrast with the decorative elements of the facade.  The combination is so sculptural, that it's hard to imagine that it was created purely as a practical solution to preserve what is left of a listed building. Even if it's not intentionally aesthetic, the structure reminds me of the work of artists as diverse as Rachel Whiteread and Christo. An extremely beautiful combination of the past and the present.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

The White Shelf


At my friend Carin Scheves' house in Milan, in her kitchen there is a white shelf, which has an evolving selection of white objects, these ones (above and below) Have drawings by Clara Von Zweigbergk on them which she created for a series that Carin styled for Bloom magazine.



Then on my recent visit there were 2 more vases (below) that Carin had created from her vast collection of mini plastic figurines.She had made them as props for the latest Casina catalogue which she had just finished styling



If anyone feels a 'Blue Peter' moment coming on an old bottle, a tube of UHU , a can of white spray paint and a voluminous collection of Kinder egg toys is all you need to recreate these in the comfort of your own home.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Crime of the Century - London Previews


Our new multi-media dance theatre production, Crime of the Century, which explores issues around knifecrime in the UK. The show will preview for 3 nights, Thursday, Friday, Saturday this week, before transfering to Edinburgh for the festival. There are still tickets available. For anyone in London this week it really is a must see !

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Fair Dinkum - Playing The Slots


Our final visit to Carter's Steam Fair is a trip to their penny arcade - a space lovingly devoted to the era before 'Dance Dance Revolution' and 'House of the Dead'.


I'm from a generation that can get misty-eyed about Ms Pac-Man and Space Invaders - but the graphics on these early twentieth century models really eats them alive. Every one's a winner.




And if all the jet planes and space travel are a little too wholesome for you - there is a more adult option.A saucy little something for just a penny.