Stanley Chow, David Hockney and new spaces for art

On Friday 3rd February, the opportunity to purchase an authentic Hockey was available to everyone who could head to a newsagent, or supermarket and get their hands on a copy of The Sun newspaper, while large screens in public spaces featuring the artist’s name have been installed across Britain to promote his exhibition at the Tate Britain Gallery in London.

The Sun, a tabloid newspaper that publicly took the side of the conservative party, the government that subsequentially reduced funding to the arts by 36% according to Arts Council England, and is commonly known for celebrity gossip columns alongside topless Page 3 pictures, is a world apart from the Tate Britain, arguably one of the most well-known galleries across Europe, if not the world. Nevertheless, Hockney has chosen to unite the two by exhibiting his work in both. In the Tate it is a collection of his works spanning his career, while he redesigned The Sun logo for a one-off edition.

Various commentators, including Tess Thakara from Artsy, saw David Hockney’s contribution as an expression of support for the controversial publication that was particularly guilty of describing migrants in terms such as ‘swarms’. Although I am not a fan of the paper myself and feel that there are a lot of problems with its content, I do find the featuring to Hockey’s work on the front cover to be symptomatic of a promising trend in art, the showcasing of it in public spheres outside traditional spaces such as galleries.

Although galleries such as the Tate are open to the public, I’m sure that most people reading this can think of a few examples of people they know who would avoid a gallery because they don’t think it’s their sort of place. As one of the UK’s most popular papers, there is also a good chance that some of these people also read the publication.

In this case, Hockney’s contribution is an example of bringing art into a public space that those who would not consider themselves art fans (and those who do) consume.

With the boom in pop-ups and collaborations of illustrators and artists with clothing companies, there appears to be more opportunities for people to take in art in non-typical spaces.

Overall, I feel that this is a good things and may introduce people to artists that they then track down in traditional spaces (I’ve certainly done this with illustrators who have worked with the clothing brand Monki whose items I’ve bought). However, there is a fine line to be drawn between making art available in non-traditional settings and art been consumed only by those who can afford it, if co-opted into more commercial settings. This does not seem to be the risk the David Hockney’s work with The Sun, as a wide variety of the public can afford the price of a paper, but could be deemed to be so with a pop-up exhibition of Stanley Chow’s work that I saw over the Lunar New Year festive period.

Stanley Chow’s work is perfect for a pop-up, especially in Manchester where it was exhibited. It’s bright, graphic and incorporates much loved city references and landmarks like Beetham Tower, and a modernist building known to locals as The Toast Rack. His pieces are very appealing and reminded me of vintage postcards, and I am always a fan of his eye-catching portraits.

However, this pop-up took place in Harvey Nichols, and as I was there with my free glass of Prosecco, I couldn’t help wondering if this art could have been bought to more people.

Targeting shoppers is indeed a good tactic for reaching a more general audience, who may stumble across the gallery while browsing the store and enjoy looking at the art (maybe joining me in becoming a fan of it). But, Harvey Nichols is an exclusive store, drawing in a more wealthy clientele than other shops, meaning that many may not even enter the store let alone find out about the exhibition inside, making it more reminiscent of traditional gallery spaces that some may assume are ‘not for them’.

By briefly comparing the differing placements of Hockney’s and Chow’s work it’s easy to see some of the problems that arise when looking for non-traditional spaces to exhibit work.

Issues such as finding a place where a cross-section of people can experience the art, how closely art should be tied to commercialism, and if companies that are aligned with new spaces for art are seen as problematic by traditional art crowds and the general public.

Saying this, I do hope that more art makes in into our day-to-day lives, as I don’t feel that taking in great pieces should just be reserved for special trips to famous galleries and sometimes art can have an even greater impact when stumbled across unexpectedly.


The role of a buyer: ‘Temporary Custodians’ by Maurice Carlin

If you have been anywhere near a news website recently, you may have noticed a lot of noise transpiring from the arts and entertainment world, regarding Ivanka Trump; in particular her art collection.

Ivanka is a prolific contemporary art collector, posing in front of her purchases on social media posts, including while promoting her father’s presidential campaign and transition. Due to being concerned about her role in the transition team, and her father’s policies, artists are reaching out to ask her to remove their art off her walls, with Richard Price going so far as to declare his piece as fake.

So what does this news story have to do with Maurice Carlin’s temporary exhibition at HOME Manchester?

carlin blog 1.jpg

It raises questions about the role of the art buyer. Should their behaviours align with the artist’s own values? I don’t think many artists would have intended for their work to be part of pro-Trump messaging. And what responsibilities do those who own art have? Should their purchase mean more than just decoration?

Carlin’s work, which is a series of a hundred unique relief prints of the floor of Manchester art and entertainment space Islington Mill, puts the role of the buyer in the spotlight, as anyone who purchases a print also becomes a ‘Temporary Custodian’. As much as I would have loved to have joined their ranks by purchasing one of these colourful prints, with added bursts of vibrancy in between floor tile reliefs, at £1000 each, a piece was well beyond my price range!


As well as receiving a piece of the mill frozen in time, the Temporary Custodians become part of a community that will decide what happens to the complete artwork in the future, where it will go and who it will be shown to. Each choice will no doubt be laden with implications for the work’s meaning, explicitly giving the buyers the responsibility for a work that artists responding to Ivanka Trump through their action suggest she has.

Whether an artist, a buyer or a viewer has responsibility for forming a work’s meaning is a debate that has raged for centuries across disciplines of visual art, literature, theatre and many other forms of expression. However, I find Carlin’s overt addressing of the issue by deliberately giving meaning-forging powers to his buyers to be refreshing. It probes assumptions about what makes an art piece interactive, and although the exhibition of these pieces was temporary, it has the lasting effect of making me consider the meanings that I may be adding to the (much cheaper) art in my own home.

Women of Words Portraits – No. 1 Aphra Behn

To celebrate the women that have shaped literature over history, I have begun working on a Women of Words Portrait series, where I want to create ten portraits that incorporate the very medium that they worked in.

First up is Aphra Behn (circa 1640-1689) who was one of the first English women to earn a living with her writing, while her novel, Oroonoko (1688) is considered one of the earliest examples of the novel form in English literature.

I based this picture off a portrait of Aphra Behn by George Scharf (1873).


My January Resolutions 2017

Happy 2017! If you’re anything like me you’ve probably spent a lot of the day tired, and blurry eyed thinking about the year to come.

Although, a lot of people set goals for the year at this time, I find it more useful to set more manageable monthly goals. Mainly because I find that I’m more likely to stick to shorter term goals that are about doing specific things, rather than vaguer aims like ‘being healthier’ and ‘exercising more’. 

So for this month I’m aiming to:

  • Eat evening meals at the dining table instead of in front of the TV.
  • Text my brother who lives abroad at least once a week (this really means updating my phone apps so we can actually stay in touch)! 
  • Keep updating this blog at least once a week. 
  • Update my CV. 
  • Find a new exercise class to attend every week.
  • Drink more water. 
  • Start writing a bullet journal.
  • Learn to meditate (and download a meditation app).
  • Complete a ’30 Days of Yoga’ video series.
  • Sort out my email inbox and unsubscribe from unnecessary newsletters.
  • Try Veganary (or at least cut down on eating animal products).
  • Develop and stick to a skincare routine. 

Fingers crossed I’ll stick to them, and I look forward to making these small changes that will help me be more organised, healthy and mindful.

Seeking refreshment with Pantone’s Colour of the Year 2017

After a tumultuous year of Brexit, celebrity deaths and American political shockers, it’s no surprise that a lot of us are looking ahead to the New Year with hopes of something brighter, including the folks at Pantone. 

I’m always interested in Pantone’s Colour of the Year, as I love their work and products, and have even stayed in the Pantone hotel in Brussels! Plus, I feel that whenever something is labelled as a ‘x of the Year’, whether it is a film, book, song or something else completely, it signifies a lot about that time period. 

For their Colour of the Year 2017, Pantone have selected Greenary or 15-0343 which they describe as ‘a refreshing and revitalising shade…symbolic of new beginnings’. 

In my opinion, the overt optimism behind this colour makes it perfect  for ending a gloomy year. And the choice of a colour so closely associated nature makes a bold statement about what should be a predominant focus in 2017 in a political time when climate change feels like it is off many institutions’ agendas.

To get on board with the Colour of the Year 2017, I’ve bought together some of the (very few) items that I own that resemble this vibrant shade: 

I look forward to seeing more of  this bright shade in the New Year! 

My Top 5 Christmas TV Adverts

‘Tis the season for goodwill and gifting, with many companies hoping to capitalise on the giving season with their biggest TV campaigns of the year.

As a huge advertising nerd, this means that I spend a good chunk of time in December watching the ads (and often providing a running commentary/critique, much to the dismay of any friends and family unlucky enough to be around me during an ad break). 

So, after a few weeks of soaking in 2016’s offering, here’s my list of five Christmas adverts that have caught my attention this year.


(Picture: Alzheimer’s Research UK)

Santa Forgot – Alzheimer’s Research UK (Aardman)

A Christmas advert about Alzheimer’s Disease could have very easily been the most morbidly depressing this on our screens during the holiday season. However, Aardman have managed to create something that It both endearing and thought provoking, as it depicts Santa developing the disease, and gradually forgetting to deliver Christmas presents at all.

Unsurprisingly, considering that it was created by the same studio who bought the world family favourites such as Wallace and Gromit, the animation is really impressive and reflects a children’s story book aesthetic, while using colour and imagery to bring to life symptoms that are hard to describe. The advert also benefits from the vocal talents of Steven Fry, who is a perfect fit for a story about Santa, considering how many audiobooks he is known for voicing.

I think attributing the disease to a much loved character, was an excellent way of making the need for research understandable and accessible to a wide variety of ages, and make it stand out by deviating from the stereotypical aesthetic of charity adverts.


(Picture: Allegro)

Angielski – Allegro (Barzo)

Another potential tear jerker here. In this advert a grandpa is shown to be using Allegro to order English language learning materials, culminating in a trip to England to visit his family and introduce himself using his new language skills to his infant granddaughter.

This ad told a touching story  of family across country boundaries, that is pertinent to Poland, a there are numerous young people who relocate to England and raise their families here. However, there was also a lot of humour used that bought the advert back from the sickeningly sweet chasm that all too many fall into – a grandpa threatening a rubber duck with foul language, and confessing his love to people on a train in an effort to practice English as much as possible, is bound to raise a few giggles.


(Picture: H&M from

Come Together – H&M (Wes Anderson)

Now I’m a fan of Wes Anderson movies so am a little biased with this gorgeous advert. My first thoughts when watching it were how fantastic it was to have mint greens and frosty blue hues to break up the barrage of gold and red on television at this time of year, and then, how on earth it  was linked to H&M?

However, with recent collaborations with the likes of Kenzo and Balmain showcasing statement looks associated with these brands in H&M, utilising Wes Anderson’s unique style to create a Christmas advert is entirely on brand for a company where each new collaboration is increasingly anticipated by consumers.

I loved the camera movement in this piece which tracks between carriages making the viewer feel like they too are travelling alongside the characters, and even though there was a well-known director responsible for this advert, it didn’t feel overly glossary or expensive.


(Picture: Burberry)

The Tale of Thomas Burberry – Burberry (Asif Kapadia) 

While H&M’s advert has a more indie feel to it, Burbery showcases a Christmas advert that is all Hollywood with an all-star cast including Domhall Gleeson, Dominic West and Sienna Miller.

It is very cinematic, slick and pretty to look at, and shows off a lot of Burbeery garments throughout. But what I really liked was that it chose to draw upon the history of the brand itself, focusing on the life of the founder and drawing upon historical events such as Ernest Shakleton’s artic exhibition which he wore Burberry for.

Although Thomss is the protagonist, the fabric of the garments could be seen as another star of the show, as all the events highlight the tradition and prestige of the brand along with the hardiness and quality of the fabric. This really emphasises the brand  identity and is very appropriate for a luxury clothing company.


(Picture: M&S)

Christmas with Love – M&S (RKCR/Y&R) 

Initially, I wasn’t overly impressed by the M&S campaign, until I saw a small crowd of women in one of their stores looking at the Mrs Claus red dress. I couldn’t help thinking that the character embodied some element of how M&S’ key demographic see themselves: people that can rush in an save a Christmas Day in a time of disaster, restoring calm and  order (seeing as a lot of Mums shop at M&S this is perspective is probably quite true).

Fun and festive, this campaign reinvents the Santa Claus story in an interesting way that transforms the character of Mrs Claus, putting someone with similarities to target demographics right at the heart of the ad. Plus, the products featured all being bright red against a winters background is a nice eye-catching touch.

Not TV honourable mention…Seven Sins of Christmas – Miu Miu 

Sins and Christmas are normally seen as poles apart (it is the season for good cheer after all), but Miu Miu put them together in a very stylish way. Using pretty pastel shades, the seven deadly sins have been reimagined as actions involving the company’s perfume, such as gifting everyone the same scent representing sloth. These cute videos have been popping up all over my social media news feeds and I look forward to watching the whole seven.