Art: Natalia Goncharova

Natalia Goncharova

The first retrospective of the (take a deep breath) female Russian avant-garde artist, painter, costume designer, writer, illustrator, and set designer Natalia Goncharova is being held in the UK at the Tate Modern and will be available until the 8 September 2019.

When embarking on this art journey and blog around two years ago, I had no idea what my preference would be or what would interest me. It has been a journey of self-discovery and a lot of learning along the way. Though very early on, I knew that I would make the effort to celebrate and learn about the works of female artists. Living in London has meant that I have been able to enjoy the increase in exhibitions to celebrate the works of solo women artists, such as Lee Bul, Dorothea Tanning, Diane Arbus and Lee Krasner just to name a few and may it long continue! For those interested in female artists, I recommend following @thegreatwomenartists on Instagram, where Katy Hessel does an amazing job of introducing up and coming women artists as well as historical figures.

Natalia Goncharova

Born in 1881, Natalia Goncharova grew up in the Tula province, some 200 miles away from Moscow. She was born to a family of “impoverished aristocrats” who made their fortune through textiles, and as a result, this meant that she was familiar with all the stages of textile production, in addition to, nature and farming life. This influenced a lot of her later work through the design of costumes and fashion, as well as her paintings of traditional Russian dress and life.

In Imperial Russia, life and society were dictated by rigid class structures, though Goncharova did not fit into these accepted categories. She was a founding member of both the Jack of Diamonds (1909–1911), Moscow’s first radical independent exhibiting group, the more radical Donkey’s Tail (1912–1913), and with Larionov (her life-long partner) invented Rayonism (1912–1914), see more on this below. She was also a member of the German-based art movement known as Der Blaue Reiter.

Her work greatly influenced the avant-garde in Russia and she was not afraid of being controversial. In 1910, her first solo exhibition was denounced by the press as “disgusting depravation.” Russia, clearly, was not ready for her. At her exhibition, where she displayed the first time her depiction of female nudes ultimately led to the confiscation of her two female nudes and her ‘God(dess) of Fertility painting by the police. This led to her being on trial for violating a law relating to the public display of ‘corrupting’ images but was acquitted. These are currently displayed at the Tate Exhibition.

Goncharova’s experimentation with self-fashioning succeeded in provoking a reaction and brought her considerable attention. Her first retrospective exhibition in 1913 confirmed her as one of the most successful and radical artists, where over 12,000 people visited the exhibition. She was a force to be reckoned with and broke down the barriers of what society deemed what a woman should and should not do. 

“As an aristocrat’s daughter, a radical artist and a woman she always stood apart” – Tate Modern Exhibition Guide

Key Pieces

The exhibition is displayed roughly in chronological order and the key influences on her art during that time. Below are a few key pieces in each room to illustrate how she is a pioneer of “everythingism”.

  • Countryside: Peasant Woman from Tula Province (1910) is a beautiful example of Goncharova’s eye for detail and realism, in particular, textiles which continued to be explored and developed throughout her life. The bold lines contrast with the intricate pattern on the traditional costume making it a very striking portrait.
  • Moscow: Peasants Picking Apples (1911) marks a change in Goncharova’s painting style. Influenced by European painting, realism made way for old colours and minimal and flattened surfaces. On the opposite wall, there is Queen Isabeau (1909) by Picasso, the similarity is clear. I am not actually a fan of this painting as it looks like something that would be included in a children’s book but recognise it is a key piece in her repertoire and emphasises her ability to adopt many different styles.
  • 1913 Exhibition: Gardening (1908) is one of my favourite pieces, where the limited palette reminds me of the French Impressionist style. Goncharova expresses a particular interest in work completed by women, such as them washing linen or harvesting, have a look-out for others in this room.
  • Fashion: From the accounts of people who met Goncharova testify to her unique approach to self-presentation, including painting her face and wearing extravagant outfits. Fashion designer Nadezhda Lamanova commissioned Goncharova to create works for her fashion house, where she chose to use a striking colour palette in Design with birds and flowers. Study for textile design (1925–8)
  • War: In 1914, Goncharova and Larionov arrived in Paris, however, by August it was the outbreak of the First World War. In this room, it displays her series of Mystical Images of War. This was the first time she used lithography to produce these hauntingly beautiful black and white prints. The White Eagle, Maiden on the Beast and Angels and Aeroplanes are just a few of my favourites
  • Art and Religion: central to the development of Russian art is devotional religious paintings, however, this was an exclusively male practice. Goncharova entered a challenging territory when she applied her own approach using simplified forms. Many at the time thought it was inappropriate and yet were acknowledged at the time to being some of her strongest works. My favourite was Christ the Saviour (1910-11)
  •  Modernism: this is the room that introduces the new movement that she created with Larinov Rayonism, look out for the colourful and electric painting Dynamo Machine (1913)
  • Paris: In 1919, Goncharova moved to a flat in Paris where she would remain for the rest of her life. Having a studio enabled her to return to large scale works, including the beautiful Spanish Woman with a Fan (1925-9) and Spring (1927-8) which is stretched over a frame creating a free-standing screen.
  • Theatre: the final room brings together Goncharova’s sketches, costumes and set designs from several ballet productions. The costumes in this room are splendid and not to be missed, my favourite being The Firebird which is one of the most enduring productions in the Ballet Russes repertoire.

Rayonism

Rayonism, or rayism, was based on the effect of light on landscape or cityscapes. Goncharova and Larionov developed a new modern style to express energy and movement. It is a subset of Russian Futurism and the movement was inspired by scientific understanding of the material world through x-rays and radioactivity, as well as, the fourth dimension.

Extraordinary Pioneer of Everythingism

The exhibition celebrated an extraordinary woman who defied conventions and had her own voice during a time when many others wanted to silence her. Highly recommended, 3.5 out of 5 pineapples. As always, I would love to hear what you think so please do leave a comment below!

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

 

Travel: Da Nang, Vietnam (Part 2)

Following on from my blog post last Thursday, this is the next instalment to my trip to Vietnam. It should be noted that travelling at the end of June to Vietnam means that you have to battle with intense heat and humidity; the second day of the tour we were in 40 Celcius Degree heat! I recommend sunscreen, a hat and a lot of water…or just don’t visit in summer; According to the locals, the best weather is in October/November.

Cham Museum

I actually visited the Cham Museum on Day 1 of the tour as it is located in Hải Châu District, Đà Nẵng, central Vietnam, near the Han River. This building was first built under French Rule in 1919, since then it has been expanded and now holds the world’s largest collection of Cham Sculpture. Champa was an Indian civilisation between the period 500 to 1000 AD that built and flourished in Central and South Vietnam. I was unaware that Vietnam had such a rich history, and there are many archaeological sites throughout this region. Their legacy remains through brick temples and intricate sculptures carved from sandstone, mainly of the god Shiva and Asian animals. The museum is worth visiting for those who are interested in the history of the Champa people and worth going to add further colour when visiting sites such as Mỹ Sơn (see below). Though note to all visitors, there is no air conditioning in the building so I would advise bringing a fan in the summer months to cool yourself.

Mỹ Sơn

Mỹ Sơn is located near the village of Duy Phú, in the administrative district of Duy Xuyên in Quảng Nam Province in Central Vietnam, 69 km southwest of Da Nang. It is a cluster of Hindu Temples in Vietnam and was considered the most sacred in the Champa culture. Located in the mountains and surrounded by lush forest, it is one of the most picturesque places I have visited. I recommend starting your visit here early in the morning before larger tour groups start their tours.

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The first excavations were conducted by Henri Parmentier and Charles Carpeaux (1903-04) and each cluster of buildings were artistically labelled Cluster A, B and so on. Evidence suggests that the first buildings were constructed between the 4th and 5th Century, however, currently, the oldest that remains is from the 7th Century, with the newest built in the 13th Century. Unfortunately, a lot of the buildings have been lost during the American War from bombing. Whilst you are there look out for the discarded bombshells and craters on the site.

Despite the destruction, temples, meditation rooms and even the library remain intact for visitors to observe and admire. It is a wonderful place to visit and I recommend it to be on anyone’s Vietnam itinerary.

Hội An

This beautifully preserved Southeast Asian trading port dating from the 15th to 19th Century and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999. The streets are lined trees and hanging from them a kaleidoscope of lanterns. We visited during the day before the hustle and bustle of the night time markets. The main street was quiet and peaceful. In the heat of the afternoon sun, the residents sheltered in the shade playing card games and ignored us as we walked past. This allowed us time to admire the colourful historical buildings undisturbed.

The town reflects a fusion of indigenous and foreign cultures (principally Chinese and Japanese with later European influences). The Chinese influences were clear as a lot of the streets within the town reminded me of Chinese period dramas which I use to watch with my grandmother, the heavy wooden doors and intricately tiled roofs. One stop on the tour was the Old House of Tan Ky and this brought back memories of my grandmother sister’s home in China in the 90s before the growth of China reached the town. It was surprisingly nostalgic even though I was in Vietnam. The family still resides in the building and is an example of 18th merchant’s home.  Note the beautifully carved chairs as you walk into the building.

A great example of Japanese influences in Hoi An is the infamous Japanese Covered Bridge dating also back to the 18th Century. The bridge features two monkey sculptures at the entrance of the bridge, and as you cross, the other end stands two dog sculptures representing the start and beginning of when the bridge was completed. There is a Taoist temple in the middle the bridge and as you walk on the left, note the markings of the heights of the floods over the decades.

Hội An is ultimately designed for tourists, with many restaurants and shops, I would recommend shopping at the Central market but note you will have to bargain. Rule of thumb is you should deduct two-thirds of the asking price. Though note that you are supporting the local economy and people, don’t be like my mother where she was arguing £2 with the shopkeeper and making him very upset and told us to go away (I went back with the negotiated price + the disputed £2)… Located with the Central market are food stalls and juice stands. On the outer edges, towards the river, there are a lot of fresh fruit stalls and you can see the locals buying their food shopping, on the sides, there are souvenir stalls and baskets.

Whilst we were there, our tour guide was kind enough to ask his wife to wait in line for what he says is the best Banh Mi in Vietnam – Bánh Mì Phượng. I later found out is the one that Anthony Bourdain tried. Honestly, it is AMAZING (we ate it so quickly I didn’t get a chance to take a photo of it). It is not very large, so don’t do what I did and shared it with my sister – it is worth having one for yourself!

I wished that I was able to stay later to experience the night markets even though it has been noted it is a bit of a tourist trap. Hội An is beautiful and worth any diversion for a visit.

That is what I wanted to share with you on my trip to Vietnam, I hope you enjoyed the blog post. Have you been to Vietnam, if I go back what would you recommend? As always, I look forward to your comments!

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

 

 

Travel: Da Nang, Vietnam (Part 1)

As promised, I am going to share my summer holiday trip to Da Nang, Vietnam. It is my first time visiting the country and I would have loved to do a long trip but because of other commitments, I was unable to and settled for just a short stay in Da Nang. However, from my first impression, the history, culture, nature and food is worth another visit! This post has been split into two parts just so I could give each place enough attention 🙂 so here goes Part 1!

Where we stayed

Da Nang is located in central Vietnam and the main reason we ended up there was because I wanted to stay at a Banyan Tree resort. Probably not a criterion that one would consider when deciding a family holiday but I wanted a bit of luxury and a place I knew I would be able to relax. My parents had visited the region previously and spoke highly of it. Asking other friends and colleagues who have visited Vietnam before, I was comforted that many said it was one of the prettiest regions in the country. With that in mind, we went ahead with our stay at Banyan Tree Lăng Cô; which is part of the Laguna Lăng Cô resort.

Honestly, it is one of the best resorts I have ever stayed at. I am a big fan of the Banyan Tree group, and as usual, the service was impeccable and we had a “villa host” take care of us and all our needs throughout our the stay. I mean we had her Whatapp number so we could ping her a message!

From Da Nang airport, the hotel provides a complimentary shuttle service from the airport (at scheduled times) and it is c. 60-90 minute drive to the hotel. Originally we had booked a two bedroom villa for the 4 of us but was upgraded to the three bedroom villa with the best view of the resort. It was HUGE (260 sq meters) and with our own private infinity pool. It was paradise and, quite frankly, there was no reason to leave the room! Unlike me, my dad left the villa to play golf in the late afternoon sun; so for those who are keen golfers, you can play an 18-hole, par-71 championship course designed by Sir Nick Faldo. He said it was amazing and a really well maintained and designed course (if you take his word for it).

I really recommend this wonderful resort for those who are looking for something special and luxurious. I would go back again to take advantage of the many activities that are available at the resort and because it is conveniently located in central Vietnam with various UNESCO World Heritage Sites, there is no excuse not to go back!

Where we visited

As you are aware now, I am not one to just sit by the pool all day (much to the dismay of my parents and sister). I can’t truly say that I have been to a country if I have not at least learnt and seen a bit of history and culture. Given that I love Vietnamese cuisine, I couldn’t wait to get out and try some street food as well (more in Part 2).

Marble Mountains

Unfortunately, given the relatively remote location of the resort, for ease of planning, I used the tour service organised the hotel for our day trips. They ended up being a private tour which is always special as I could ask as many questions I wanted! Our first stop was the infamous Marble Mountains which are a group of the five limestone and marble hills in Ngu Hanh Son District, each representing a basic element: Kim (metal), Thuy (water), Moc (wood), Hoa (fire) and Tho (earth).

At the foot of the hills is the Non Nuoc village where generations of family skillfully carve statues from marble (now imported from other places in the country as it is not possible to mine in the area). Though I found the shops more of a tourist trap, the temple at the top of the Thuy Son (the water mountain) is worth the elevator up and the very long climb down. For those who have bad knees, I would not recommend the climb down, my sister (who had knee surgery a year ago) and mother really struggled. I believe it is possible to take the elevator down but it is a large circle round; so do let your tour guide know if you have difficulties or if you are organising the walk yourself, you have been warned!

Thuy Son is a popular destination with many visitors, and it is not surprising. At the top of the mountain, you are greeted with this spectacular view of the valley.

What is most surprising and unexpected were the peaceful temples located in the caves and crevasses of the mountain. It is not something that I had experienced before, wandering around the caves whilst bats rested above our heads. Remember to bring your camera as every turn was a surprise. The caves were also a respite from the scorching summer heat!

Linh Ung Pagoda

Our next stop on the tour was another Buddist temple, the Linh Ung Pagoda which is considered as one of the largest in Da Nang City located in the Son Tra Peninsula on the top of a mountain. This meant it provided one of the best views of Da Nang City. The most striking feature of the temple is the tallest Lady Buddha statue in Vietnam overlooking the peninsula. Even for those who are not religious, the architecture and gardens of the temple are worth a visit.

Da Nang City

We arrived back into Da Nang City in the late afternoon, to stop at Da Nang Cathedral. Coming from Europe, I would consider it more of a small church than a majestic Cathedral, however, it is on the map for tourists because it is pink and very Wes Anderson-esque. To the locals, it is warmingly known as the “Rooster” because of the weathervane that sits on top of the church. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived, we were unable to go inside as it was time for Mass. It is worth stopping by to admire the French architecture and a reminder of the colonial past of Vietnam.

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I hope you enjoyed this instalment on the Pineapple Chicken Blog, can’t wait to share more on my trip to Da Nang!

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

 

 

Thought of the Day: Comfort Zone

Comfort Zone (1)

It has been a while since I have posted, I have taken some much-needed recovery during my summer holiday with my family. I will provide an update on my trip to Vietnam and Japan in future posts which I can’t wait to share that with you all! It was a great holiday, though I can’t say that is always the case with my family, see my previous post on Vienna. This time I visited places I have never been to before and really tried to relax. Despite this, I was struggling with guilt as I wanted to spend a lot of time on my blog and work towards my “5-year plan” or “whatever I should plan because I am an adult”.

I tried listening to my body but my mind kept wandering and ended up spending time thinking what is my next topic for the blog should be. I have decided to tackle the difficult topic of comfort zones, it is something that has been on my mind and would love to hear your thoughts about the topic too.

What is a comfort zone?

My comfort zone is something that is very routine and depending on my mental health it could be considered monotonous. It is waking up the same time for work, going to work which I am quite comfortable in doing, then coming home chilling on the sofa watching TV or scrolling through Instagram for the next materialistic item to lust for. It is cushy, chilled and can be considered boring. Yet it is safe so why should I not be happy with this?

There is a lot of literature on this topic and a majority believe that leaving your own comfort zone is necessary for success. Every management book and self-help book would preach this. Yet why should this be the case? Why do we need to stretch ourselves, why is status quo not okay? It can be frustrating when you see diagrams like the below:

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In particular the one below – “where the magic happens” – unless it is my acceptance letter for Hogwarts, I find the illustrations unhelpful. Yet I couldn’t help thinking during my holiday that I have been in my comfort zone; bordering on lazy. Now, this should not be an issue if I am happy with where I am. It is okay to be comfortable and lazy. However, when I ask myself whether I am content with life, I can’t honestly say that I am. This may not be applicable to you and it is really awesome if you have found your equilibrium. For myself and probably others, we have to consider what can we do to change this. The school of thinking is that our optimal performance should be when we feel a little bit stressed – “optimal anxiety“. It seems a little sadistic but you know it is true!

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Stretch Zone

In order to be in a space of “optimal anxiety”, I need to put myself in what others have called the “stretch zone”. This is where you feel pressured but not so much that you have a debilitating anxiety attack, which I have had also experienced in the past. Finding the right amount of pressure is a constant flux, sometimes it can get too much and you need to relax a bit (what I call recovery); but other times, you need to ramp it up – the so-called “kick up the butt”.

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There are different ways of doing this:

  • Moving the goal posts – have you gotten that new promotion? have you beaten a personal best at the gym? Celebrate what you have achieved, however, you need to think what is the next step – it may not be a huge step but it should be planned out. Break down your goals into baby steps means that you can smash and move the goal post daily.
  • Be curious & learn – for me, this is the most important thing to keep me happy. Continuous learning is my raison d’etre, I love reading and experiencing new things. This is probably why I love travelling so much. I would encourage you to do the same for whatever you are interested in. By learning and being curious, you know what will find what is out there and break away from monotony.
  • Scare yourself once a day – what have you been putting off? Is it asking for that new opportunity you have been researching? Or having that difficult conversation with your manager/friend? I assure you that it will definitely be uncomfortable but I encourage you to go for it! You got this! If you need some ideas to break yourself out of your comfort zone, here is a list of things you could potentially do to ignite that fire within you!

Are fears holding you back?

It is easier said than done to leave your comfort zone and take the leap of faith into the stretch zone. It is scary and our fears hold us back. Jari Roomer summarises this succinctly in this article and I have highlighted some key takeaways below.

Four types of fears

  • Fear of Rejection – one of the biggest fears for most people. It can make you feel inadequate and lower self-esteem and confidence. We are biologically programmed to be social creatures and this is why acceptance by others is so important. The easiest way to be accepted is not to stand out – be part of the herd. However, don’t abandon your self-development because others aren’t doing it. Grab that opportunity because you owe it to yourself. Use this to elevate others rather than hold yourself back.
  • Fear of Failure – this is pretty self-explanatory, this is the fear that makes us procrastinate. This is one of my greatest fears and this explains my chronic procrastination but remember, not doing anything is the biggest failure than “failing” at your goals. This is a great disservice to yourself, go for it because you will always learn more from doing something that sitting in the back seat. As my boyfriend always like to say “Live & Learn”.
  • Fear of Success – this might be surprising to some, but success can be scary because you are in unchartered territory. Personally, I think this should be renamed to “Fear of the Unknown“. The unknown is scary; have you turned down that great opportunity because you are safe where you are. Would people reject you (fear of rejection)? Are you afraid of new responsibilities? Do you fear success because you don’t actually feel worthy or capable of handling success?
  • Fear of Ridicule – This is closely aligned to Fear of Rejection, it is subtle, but are you afraid of what people will think of you? Would they think your business idea is stupid and think it will fail? Would they laugh at your failures? Do you think you look ridiculous in your new “influencer” photos? Do you fear that no one would watch your YouTube videos? In order to succeed, a lot of self-improvement books advise that you need to be comfortable and willing to look stupid for a while. Those who stand out because they are willing to take the initiative, try out new ideas, follow unexplored paths or create a better life for themselves, will always be ridiculed by someone. 

Overcoming the Fears

It is easy to identify the type of fear we might have, but it is not always as easy to overcome them. This is is why the comfort zone is so comforting! This is a challenge to my readers and myself to try and overcome one of your/our fears this week; I would love to hear how you get on. Remember: it is never as scary as it looks.

Here are a few tips and thoughts that I think are useful to consider:

  • You are not alone, fear is human nature.
  • Identify and write down your fears and then consider how to tackle them one by one. Remember only to stretch yourself – take that baby step towards it, it is not necessary to push yourself so hard that you enter the “panic zone”.
  • Identify and write down the realistic worst case scenario – is it really that bad? Knowing what you is the most you can lose/fail will always give you the upper hand.
  • Replace fear with gratitude. Instead of thinking that your business idea will fail, be grateful you have this awesome idea and your entrepreneurial spirit! Gratitude is a powerful tool.
  • Rocking chair test – what do you want to be remembered by when you are 80 or 90 years old, are you going to let fear hold you back? You can change the world if you want to.
  • Success doesn’t demand a price. Every step forward pays a dividend. Take that first step, even though it is scary because every little helps (Tesco Slogan is surprisingly useful).
  • If at first, you don’t succeed, you’ll know you’re aiming high enough.

Best of luck everyone!

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

 

 

 

Art: Food – Bigger than the Plate

The latest immersive and interactive exhibition at V&A museum explores our current and future relationship with food, available until 20th October 2019, it brings together different innovators, communities and organisations to consider what collective choices will lead a more sustainable and delicious food future.

It is a topic that is close to my heart, food sustainability is a key concern of our times and rightly so. One has to consider how we will feed the world in the future where population growth is expected to reach close to 10 billion people by 2050  and without damaging our world even further. The V&A tastefully explores this question and gives us hope that there are people out there doing their best to change the world.

Key Highlights

The exhibition is split into 5 key components, starting with composting and navigated all the way to eating; representing the natural food cycle. I have highlighted my favourite pieces and new ideas from the exhibition below.

Composting

Compost is the organic matter that has been decomposed in a process called composting. This process recycles various organic materials otherwise regarded as waste products and produces a soil conditioner (the compost).

The exhibition starts off with the consideration that if you are a consumer, you are also a producer. If you eat, you produce waste – not just the fundamental human poop but also the by-products that come with food production.  It is a lot of waste and our usual reaction is just to get rid off it, it is “undesirable” and ends up in landfill or our oceans. It breaks the cycle of nutrients. This is exactly why we need to familiarise ourselves with the natural cycle of reproduction, growth and decay which returns organic waste to the soil to provide nutrients for future growth. Luckily there are a lot of smart people who have started to think outside the box!

  • Loowatt (2019) – Closes the loop on human waste, they have developed a waterless flush toilet and manages the collection, transfer and treatment of faecal sludge. Waste is converted to energy and fertiliser. An innovative and sustainable way to manage human waste across the globe.
  • Urban Mushroom (2019) – Oyster mushrooms growing on a bed of used coffee beans from the visitors of the V&A museum. This was an extraordinary way to recycle used coffee grounds which normally just end up in the landfill. Is this the future of farming in our cities?

Farming

Farming is the fundamental way to grow our food, however, there is a disconnect between us and how food ends up on the table. With the rise of human convenience, everything is packaged and beautifully displayed in our supermarkets; often from far-flung and exotic places. Recently I bought green grapes that came all the way from Brazil, and I had to stop and think – wait .. is this right? Should I not just eat produce that is in season? By being removed from the process and the slick machine of globalisation has meant that produce is available all year round – do we stop and think – how was this grown? where did it come from?

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Key highlights for this section of the exhibition is the beautiful wall art by Fallen Fruit, which was inspired by depictions of fruit from the V&A collection.

Having lived in Hong Kong for two years, I was surprised and humbled to see that there is a small food revolution occurring and is being displayed back in London, my home town. HK Farm is a collective of artists, designers and farmers who grow food locally on rooftops and questions the values of the contemporary city in the process. Being able to grow and produce food right in the heart of one of the world’s greatest concrete jungle was refreshing to see.

I would also recommend everyone to take time to sit down and watch a video montage on European food production Our Daily Bread by Geyrhalter and Widerhofer (2005). It is not an easy watch, but necessary.

Trading

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How do we get our food? How is it transferred to us? How many hands does it need to pass before we get to consume it? This section of the exhibition explores the globalisation machine and how it is easy to hide the environmental and social costs of food production.

  • Ester Hernandez: Sun Mad (2008) – This iconic poster (above) is by the Chicana (American – Mexican) artist Ester Hernandez, it was created to draw public attention on the human cost of the grape harvest, including the harmful effects of pesticides on pickers. In 2008 as displayed above, it was updated to include an “ICE” bracelet to signify the fate of many immigrants farmworkers working in the US.
  • Johanna Seelemann: Banana Story (2018) – This was another enlightening video on the world’s most popular fruit. It challenges the simplistic narrative of the “Made in” label. The video is a story of one banana who travels 8800km, crossing multiple national borders and 33 hands before landing on the shelves of a consumer.

Cooking

Evolution of cooking by Ferran Adrià was explored in this part of the exhibition, the head chef of El Bulli from 1987 until 2011, changed the way restaurants cook and serve food around the globe. His cooking extends beyond cooking and explores the deep history, in what he considers the fundamental part of human evolution. The drawings reflect his understanding and analysis of the development of cooking in human history.

Eating

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Eating – my favourite part of the cycle and comes to the end of the exhibition. The most memorable display is “Self Made” by Christina Agapakis & Sissel Tolaas (2013)  and it is definitely not for the squeamish! Some of our tastiest food is made with the help of microbes. Cultured from some famous individuals such as Heston Blumenthal’s, their bacteria was used to produce cheese forming a “microbial portrait”. The project was to challenge our perceived notion of bacteria and develop understandings of the microbiome and its role in how our bodies function. Grim, but a must see.

A wonderful display and truly enlightening experience. I did come away feeling that I should reconsider becoming a full vegetarian though! As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on the exhibition and your thoughts of food in general.

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

 

Art: Sorolla – The Master of Light

No painter before or since has painted Mediterranean sunlight like Joaquín Sorolla

In 1908, Sorolla was considered as one of the greatest living artists and his works has finally returned back to London a century after his exhibition at the Grafton Galleries in Mayfair. The National Gallery has curated 58 spectacular pieces of work, many of which are from private collections, spanning his whole career. It is a rare opportunity to see them all together in the beautiful Sainsbury Wing and I cannot recommend the exhibition enough!

Sorolla, The Master of Light

Sorolla was born in Valencia and his talent and determination to be an artist developed through his work retouching plates for a photographer. His talent led him to be admitted to the Academy of San Carlos in Valencia at aged 15. His further studies in master painting led him to Rome and Paris. Very early on, Sorolla’s strategy was to send large scale paintings on dark and troubling social themes to major exhibitions in Spain and abroad, where he sought and gained recognition. No subject seemed to restrict Sorolla’s paintings, he also painted his family, portraiture and landscapes, my favourite which are explored further below. 

Sorolla painted a variant of impressionism, which can be considered the first distinctly modern movement in painting. Developed in Paris in the 1860s, it spread throughout Europe. The style focuses on colour and light, which Sorolla was particularly infamous for. In 1906, Sorolla exhibited for the first time at the Galerie Georges Petit in Paris, one of the main impressionist galleries. The Master of Light, interestingly, did not capture the British audience at that time but his works were particularly revered in the US. In 1908, Sorolla met philanthropist and collector Archer Milton Huntington, who made him a member of The Hispanic Society of America in New York City. This led to one of his largest commissioned works, which took 7 years to complete the 14 paintings known as Vision of Spain which adorn the walls of the gallery of the Hispanic Society.

Sorolla suffered from a stroke in 1920 which meant that he was no longer able to paint and died three years later at home with his family by his side. Unfortunately, after his death, his work went out of fashion and Impressionism was replaced by personal expression and avant-garde movements such as Dada, Surrealism and Expressionism. It is only in recent years where there have been a series of exhibitions in Spain, Germany, France and the US has reignited his popularity.

Social Painting

Since 1884, Sorolla had set his sights on the coveted first-class medals in Madrid’s Expoicion Nacional de Bellas Artes that was held to stimulate national artistic production and it was an opportunity for Spanish young artists to be recognised. During this tumultuous time, there was a shift in paintings of classical subjects to the dramatic changes that Spain was undergoing. Sorolla’s most famous social paintings include Another Marguerite! (1892) and Sad Inheritance (1899). My favourite paintings were And They Still Say Fish is Expensive! (1894) and Sewing the Sail (1896). Though contrasting in mood, the thoughtful depiction of emotions and light is truly captivating; the size of the paintings and the use of colour and light can only be appreciated in person.

https://images.app.goo.gl/E1ksGw2An3iPPZXq9

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Family

Evident through his paintings, Sorolla loved his family and the portraits of his children and his wife are some of his greatest works. Though the female model was not identified in Female Nude (1902) it has been suspected that it was wife, Clotilde. Inspired by Sorolla’s visit to London and seeing The Rokeby Venus displayed in the National Gallery, he captures the beauty of the female form and the luscious silk and lace fabric on which she laid. Other notable paintings include My Children (1904)Mother (1895-1900)Clotilde in a Black Dress (1906)Maria Painting at El Pardo (1907); and Joaquin Sorolla Garcia (1917)

https://images.app.goo.gl/cpyEZVoebmWmWSPm8

Beach & Landscapes

Sorolla grew up by the sea and after 1900 he created a large body of work outside capturing the pleasures of families and intimate scenes of the beach. These paintings brightened the exhibition as if capturing a sliver of the sun in each and was a breath of fresh air (it was also a stark contrast to the terrible summer we are having in London). Notable pieces included Young Fisherman, Valencia (1904); Running along the Beach, Valencia (1908)The Smugglers (1919) but my favourite was After the Bath, the Pink Robe (1916)

https://images.app.goo.gl/iAy31k5hbXGYZBfq6

Dynamic, vibrant and vivid; Sorolla was a true Master of Light. Obviously, this exhibition is awarded 5 out of 5 pineapples. I would love to hear your opinion of his work and whether any of you have seen any of it before? What are your favourite pieces? Have a sun-filled Sunday!

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

P.S. For those are interested in learning more, the curator wrote a wonderful article here

Art: Lee Krasner – Living Colour

A phenomenal pioneer of Abstract Expressionism who has been overshadowed by her more famous husband, Jackson Pollock, finally gets her time to shine. It has taken more than 50 years for her works to return to Europe in the latest exhibition at the Barbican. Lee Krasner: Living Colour presents her artwork throughout her life and provides an intimate insight into an extraordinary woman. The power of her art is evident throughout the exhibition reflecting her vivacious character. The major retrospective of her work is a rare opportunity to see some of her work all once space, in place better than the wonderful Brutalist vaults of the Barbican.

This is so good that you would not think it is done by a woman – Hofmann

Lee Krasner: Her Life

Though the exhibition was not presented chronologically ordered, I feel that her life story is the best way to showcase her art. In the below, I have selected a few of my favourite pieces from each decade to give a glimpse of the gems you will find at this exhibition.

The 1920s – Born in Brooklyn 1908, Krasner knew she would be an artist by the age of 14; which I think is amazing as I wasn’t sure of anything myself at that age. Her determination meant that she applied to the only school in New York to offer an art course for girls – Washington Irving High. One of the earliest artwork displayed was a self-portrait drawn having after graduated from Women’s Art School at Cooper Union. This small, easily overlooked, drawing is not as colourful as the others on display but what I believe to represent her changing identity, where she moved from her birth name of Lena to the more androgynous Lee.

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/486924
Self Portrait, c.1929-30

The 1930s – The Wall Street Crash in October 1929 marked the beginning of the Great Depression. It forced Lee to leave the National Academy and enrol on a teacher’s course at the City College of New York because the tuition was free. During this time, she was completing life drawing courses with Job Goodman who focused on classical methods of drawings – think Renaissance Masters. Her life drawings were one of my favourite series of her work because of the remarkable detail captured of the human body, and the use of line and shadow.

Studies from the Nude, 1933
Studies from the Nude, 1933

The 1940s – This was a particularly tough time for Lee because in 1945 she moved to Springs, Long Island after her father’s death the year before, which rendered her unable to paint anything more than “grey slabs”; despite her marriage to Pollock in 1945 as well. Surrounded by nature and the change of scenery, there was a transformation in her and the “Little Images” were created. It was in 1947 when Lee created my next favourite piece where she turned two old wagon wheels from the farm into mosaic tables. Using bits of costume jewellery and any random colourful knick knacks, she created this charming piece.

Mosaic Table, 1947
Mosaic Table, 1947

The 1950s – After the “Little Images”, Lee held her first solo exhibition at the Betty Parsons Gallery in October 1951. It was the start of her large contemporary pieces, however, like many other contemporary artists at the time, the painting had failed to sell. Ripping them up (as you do) and painting black and white drawings and shredding those as well, the shreds became the beginnings of a series of collages. This technique, reworking and destroying previous works, is seen throughout her later years as an artist. It was the Summer of 1956 when she painted a series of paintings unlike any other. By this time, Pollock’s alcoholism was acute and it was on the 12 August when she received that fateful call with the news that Pollock died in a car crash killing himself, a friend of his lover and only his lover as the sole survivor. The warped pink of the flesh and abstract eye or face is a shocking contrast to her earlier work. I personally found it almost too painful to look at.

The 1960s – Lee took over Pollock’s studio after his death, she was a pragmatic woman and recognised that it was the largest space she had with natural light. This was the beginnings of her large artwork, unrestricted in space, her pieces fill the lower floor of the exhibition space. In the period when she was suffering from chronic insomnia, she worked in the dark, but because she only works with colour in the natural light, Lee opted for a restricted palette of white and umber (a dark brown). These pieces differ again from her previous style – another rebirth. It is as if she let loose to let her energy and emotions spill and rupture onto the canvas. This period of darkness was relatively short lived as by the early 1960s, colour bursts back into her paintings but Lee continues with a limited palette. She embraces her inner Matisse and nothing seemed to have held her back.

with colour one obtains an energy that seems to stem from witchcraft. – Matisse

The 1970s – Another decade, another change. Lee refused to have a “signature image”, she was a formidable force that is ever evolving. The change was stark, moving away from the energetic and dynamic strokes of the 60s to the hard edge and calculated forms of the 70s. She continues to extensively use colour but in a very different way. She paints a piece entitled Palingenesis during this time, which is the Greek word for re-birth. As noted above, this been a fundamental and consistent theme throughout her decades as an artist.

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Olympic, 1974

Obviously, this exhibition is awarded 5 out of 5 pineapples! An exceptional exhibition for an extraordinary female artist in her own right. No longer does she need to be remembered as the wife of Jackson Pollock, but as Lee Krasner – a rebirth. As always, I would love from you and your thoughts, so leave a comment below!

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x