= The Crawford Arts Review: September 2016

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Jewellery as Art

Boutique modern jewellery shops usually come about from one person's passion for their subject. They tend to be special places. I am going to focus on four I know in London.

You will go there for a special occasion, yours or someone else's. You will buy. Fascinating, eclectic, shops where it's almost impossible to leave without making a purchase.

The first is online although the makers are based in London. onewemadeearlier.com 

The online store specialises in contemporary accessories, the brainchild of husband and wife team Emma and Rob Orchardson. With backgrounds in fine art and design, their work combines a playful sense of fun, with a striking geometric simplicity.

Art jewellery shops include Maggie Owen London in WC1, the Sir John Soane's Museum shop in WC2 and @work in SW1.


Maggie Owen of the eponymous Maggie Owen London.

Maggie is well known to Bloomsbury. Indeed she is the subject of a feature in the local quarterly Bloomsbury journal. Be prepared to be totally seduced by her wares.

The Sir John Soane's Museum shop is filled with the unusual.

Its selection always favours the trends popular in the 19th century and many reference architectural details found in the museum, formerly the home of Sir John Soane who was Professor of Architecture of the RA. Sir John was an important collector of art and antiquities. The Museum is free to visit; check website for opening times.

@work specialises in contemporary jewellery

The shop offers an eclectic and edgy mixture drawn from far and wide, often including unusual materials such as textiles or toy parts. You'll find it on the corner of Ponsonby Terrace and John Islip Street. The shop also holds making workshops, including how men and women can make their own wedding or other rings.




Maggie Owen London
13 Rugby Street
London WC1

Sir John Soane's Museum
13 Lincoln's Inn Fields
London WC2

35 Ponsonby Terrace
London SW1

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Dorothea Tanning Flower Paintings at Alison Jacques until Saturday 1 October

Flower paintings and some of their preparatory sketches at Berners Street. Stem, leaf and petal forms that are the stuff of dreams wet and dry, being subtexed with sexual forms and, well, orifices. Dorothea Tanning was 86 when she started them. 86 years young by the looks of it. She lived to be 101.
Siderium Exaltatum (Starry Venusweed), 1997
Oil on canvas
97 x 130 cm, 38 1/4 x 51 1/8 ins unframed
99 x 132 cm, 39 x 52 ins framed
Copyright The Destina Foundation, New York
published with kind permission
In Zephirium apochripholiae (not pictured) the artist seems, since this is a flower acting as the anus, to graphically reinvent the French term pets de nonne.
She painted 12 in all, one for each month of the year. She then sat down with the same number of her poet friends, including James Merrill, Adrienne Rich and John Ashbery, and together they made a book of paintings and poems Another Language of Flowers (George Braziller Inc, 2002). Since these were imaginary flowers, they then composed fictitious Latin names for them, some quite hilarious.

So we have Flagrantis speculum veneris, Convolutus alchemelia and the beautiful Siderium Exaltatum (pictured), which translates as Starry Venusweed. Here the artist really shows her command of colour, introducing painted light into the bell of the second Venusweed.

Photograph of Dorothea Tanning
Copyright pinterest.com
with thanks
Alison Jacques
16-18 Berners Street
London W1
Tue-Fri 10-6; Sat 11-5

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Skip the line tickets for the Van Gogh Museum - on until Sunday 25 September

The Guardian on Monday published its review of Kanye West's Famous sculpture ("So Kanye West has become a Famous artist overnight. Props to him"). We can take the word 'props' to infer all due respect. The rest of the review is rather more scathing. I disagree so here I venture to publish my own take on the work.

Serendipitous observation (observation being the key word) plays a large part in life. We notice things, and when we notice something in particular, maybe out of the corner of our eye, that can become a seed, and from that can grow an idea - and, if we're lucky, a practical result.

All arts (& indeed sciences) depend firstly on observation; good observation.

If we're very, very lucky, the result of observation, in terms of artistic or literary practice, will move others as the original observation moved us. I like to think that is what happened here. The original work, the seed, was US artist Vincent Desiderio's 2008 painting Sleep, a 2.4 x  7.3 metre (8 x 24 foot) work in oils. According to what one is told, Mr West saw it and had the idea, via his work on a video, for a sculpture. Where and when he saw the painting I've no idea. It could have been in the artist's studio (the work took over a year to complete even after it was first exhibited in New York). Alternatively, this may be a sophisticated way of name dropping because the ftinished work now hangs in a private Connecticut collection.

The photograph below shows the work Mr West has rendered as a sculpture, a room-sized bedful of famous people ranging from Donald Trump to Rihanna.
Kim Kardashian West at the "Famous" exhibition
at Blum & Poe in Los Angeles last week. 

picture © Rachel Murray/Getty Images
published 31 August 2016 New York Times

Why? Well, I take it he was moved by the original painting. Because people asleep, whether living or in painted form, young or old, share one outstanding characteristic. They look vulnerable, the mask of sleep melting away all of the masks they may have worn during waking hours.

Indeed, I recall something a surgeon once told me: that people asleep under anaesthetic all look the same - 'they look "beautiful"', he said (pause for an 'ah' and maybe a wry smile).

Certainly the sculpted figures look beautiful. West's people are mannequins - the result of his having the financial resources to commission these plastic likenesses. In addition, the commission has involved the makers using animatronics so that the figures appear to be breathing.

As they rest on their pillows, the observer will see what the artist saw originally - that vulnerability

So there is a punchline here, something that's universal. All humans, however 'famous', share this. The artist has included himself and his wife in the line up so the work becomes even more personal: 'look at us' it seems to say; 'we are on sleeping terms with all these celebrities'.

Note: sadly, the work can no longer be seen. It was exhibited for 48 hours at a private event put on by the Blum and Poe gallery in Los Angeles (address below). From now on, it will only be seen by buyers, be they private, corporate or institutional. The asking price is $4 million (£2,978,895). And on that note, it might be interesting if a body such as our own Tate Modern were to take an interest. The UK and the USA could even effect an arts swap: one of theirs for one of ours.
Blum & Poe
2727 S La Cienega Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90034
United States
For the Gallery pic of the work, go to