Saturday, 6 February 2016

Girl Power and London's Art Scene

Remember back in the mid-90's when the Spice Girls had just hit the charts and you couldn't go anywhere without hearing the slogan 'girl power'? Well 20 years later London's art scene seems to have cottoned on, and this time there isn't a union jack mini-dress in sight, just some fabulous female artists well and truly kicking butt!

Upfront I should mention that I  am no art expert. In fact before moving to London I would have said I had limited, if any interest in art. However the truly great thing about this city is that slowly but surely it expands your horizons by gently taking you by the hand and introducing you to one new experience after another - some you will vow never to do again, but others will make you realise interests that you never knew you had. If London is Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory, I am it's Charlie - still a bit of a wide-eyed outsider but loving the chance to sample everything on offer.

And so it is that I have come to discover a new love of art and photography. In fact one of my favourite places in the city is now the Saatchi Gallery in Sloane Square and one of the high-points of  my cultural calendar is inevitably the Travel Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Royal Geographic Society. So while in all honesty, I still don't know much about art, I now know what I like, and surely that's all that is important.

So anyway, back on topic,  here's my round-up of some fantastic art to experience right now in the city. Some of these exhibitions close very soon so if this little taster proves tempting, you'll need to move quickly.

Champagne Life Exhibition - Saatchi Gallery

Saatchi's newest exhibition is dedicated to us girls, featuring the work of 14 female artists from around the world. The show has received it's fair share of criticism because of its focus on just one gender, but given that the art world, like the real world, is one were fellas still very much rule the roost, an exhibition which starts to redress the balance whilst also showcasing some truly fantastic art is surely something to be celebrated.

The exhibition includes a stuffed horse on a deflated turquoise ball, a stunning portrait of an old lady in charcoal and granite whose face told a thousand stories and a giant bobbin which made you feel like you had been shrunk to the size of a Borrower.

A personal favourite of mine was the sculptures of the two cows and the Lion Man made in chicken wire and clay by Stephanie Quayle. I know Stephanie through one of my best friends so it was incredibly exciting to see her work in person for the first time.

The exhibition runs until early March do make the visit as you will get to see some fantastic and fun art.

Annie Leibovitz: Women Exhibition - Wapping Power Station

Whenever you think of portrait photography, Annie Leibovitz surely comes to mind - she has photographed everyone from royalty to rock stars and seems to have a way of capturing the essence of any person in a single shot, providing an intimate snapshot into their life. Images such as the magazine cover of a heavily pregnant, naked Demi Moore and her photo of John Lennon and Yoko Ono hours before he was killed will be forever part of the public consciousness.

I have to be honest, at first I wasn't quite sure what to make of the venue (a disused hydraulic power station) and the exhibition itself. The main exhibition area is dominated by three big screens, two of which show a slideshow of Leibovitz's photographs. Standing round those big screens I struggled to feel any connection to the work and was starting to think "What's all the fuss about?" But then I went and looked at the individual portraits of everyone from political activist Aung San Suu Kyi to primatologist Jane Goodall to sport star and celebrity Caitlyn Jenner, and was floored by Leibovitz's ability to show these woman as strong, beautiful, complex and vulnerable all at the same time. Here are a couple of my favorites -

And as I went back to the rolling images on the big screens I started to see them in a new light as the massive celebration of women from every walk of life - artists, musicians, businesswoman, politicians, writers, philanthropists and other remarkable women. Ultimately Leibovitz has catalogued 15 years of lives, hopes dreams and achievements of women from across the world and for such a big topic, perhaps this vast, cavernous spaces is actually spot on.

The Annie Leibovitz Exhibition closes tomorrow so get down there now if you are keen!

Want to try it yourself.....
Slightly off the original theme but if all this talk of art makes you want to unleash your inner artistic genius, there are lots of great art classes around the city for you to sample. One new art social event that has hit the scene is Pop Up Painting. In the basement of a bar, with a glass of bubbly in one hand and a paintbrush in the other you'll be given all the materials and guidance to recreate a masterpiece. Prosecco, music and an environment that encourages chat with your fellow painters, provide all the ingredients for a relaxing and fun evening. Below is the result of my recent attempt at Jack Vettriano's 'The Singing Butler and the original as a point of comparison. Proof perhaps that artistic ability is not improved through the addition of alcohol?

Priced at anything between £25 - £35 depending on the location I think this experience is quite expensive for what it offers, but if you enjoy the painting and want to do it more regularly why not throw a paint party at home with some friends. My friend has a mountain of art supplies (apparently Lidl is a great place for affordable art supplies) and we recently spent a great Sunday afternoon crafting, chatting, eating and drinking wine. The result, is I hope you agree, a not altogether awful version of Edvard Munch's 'The Scream' (see my version and original below).

So whether you know your Monet from your Manet or not, don't despair, as London has plenty to make both the seasoned pro and novice art lover alike smile.

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  1. haha! Betsy you made Chris and I laugh about your two paintings ! Your re genius and hilarious. You should not give up on your painting career I think its great !!

    1. Ah you are too kind! I won't give up the day job just yet though :)

    2. I think they are good efforts - practise, practise, practise! Great post though - will have to go and check out the exhibition!

    3. You saved the second version. It was all going a bit pear shaped until you intervened with a bit of artistic guidance.

  2. I could see myself getting in to more Art too if I lived in London, there is so much to see and do and I think you can only really get in to it if you visit the city frequently or live there, it's nice to see someone who has a good eye for art :)

    Meme xx

    New Post:
    A Day In The Life Of London

    1. Hi MeMe. Just saw this comment. Yep I agree that London has some fantastic art but the great thing is that it's pretty much the same all year round so even if you only get a chance to visit once in a blue moon there is likely to be a gallery with something that you like.



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