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Monthly Archives: October 2013

Pop-up exhibition in Dartford as part of a project to highlight and inspire creativity in the area. Show us your artistic positivity – we all have it! – and let’s prove that there’s far more to Dartford than anyone realises. If you’re anywhere nearby please, please come and visit, blog about it, spread the word and most importantly, get involved!

REVIVAL Exhibition
Private View
7 November 2013
6pm – 9pm
Mon-Fri: 9am-5pm
& Thurs until 9pm
Open until 22 November 2013

Dartford Creative presents a showcase of contemporary graphic design, art and illustration by emerging artists, with a live performance by Gentlemen Duke!

Dartford Creative is an initiative to get creativity buzzing in the High Street. To find out more, check out the Facebook and website and get in touch with: nancy@icontheatre.org.uk / dartfordcreative@gmail.com

The Bizniz Point at Crown House has some parking available (to the left of the centre by the mini roundabout) and in the evenings there is lots of free parking in the town centre.

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An old friend, sitting high on some comforting moral ground, once said to me that tattoos are now so ten a penny that it is more of an original act to not get inked than to tread that historically well-worn path of pleasure and pain. Although this is probably statistically incorrect, the point addressed an interesting truth in that we are part of the first generation where the concept of body as canvas is more or less mainstream. I found out years later that the same friend had eventually scrambled down from his ivory tower and happily succumbed to the temptation. The truth is, it is both compellingly tempting and delectably addictive.

I in fact spent last Friday morning having an old and ill-advised tattoo covered with a rather spectacular abstract design by Flaming Art Tattoo in my nearby Crayford. Technically this is my 3rd tattoo, although I am left now with only 2, my initial choice a Celtic triangle design on my right shoulderblade dating from 3 days after my 18th birthday (11 distant years ago); it’s attraction was part rebellious indignation at parental disapproval, but mostly just an instinctive connection with the idea that skin can be as much a canvas as vellum, wood, paper, board etc. I had already started to develop, at this young age, feelings which would continue and expand; passionate beliefs I still hold today and which run throughout everything I say and do.

Listening to a radio programme yesterday I was reminded of this as I realised that the question which blighted my whole university experience is still grinding on and is likely to do so for as far as I can foresee. ‘What is Art?’ To me the definition is clear, it is indefinable. In the same way people will continue to ask ‘What is Love?’, which I suppose is an attempt to search for guidance, to know which decisions to make, which artworks to buy, which ones to like. But, despite claims to the contrary, to know the history of art does not mean you are able, or qualified, to designate between good Art and bad Art; of this, as a graduate of the subject, I feel certain. Many people disagree, Grayson Perry spoke in Start the Week recently of what he considers to fit these categories (although he did detail in his first Reith lecture yesterday an interesting view that the quality of artworks is judged via a natural distillatory process whilst they move through the art world) but I have always been strongly of the opinion that Art itself is both everywhere and everything. To classify Art only as within the man-made sphere is to me a shocking oversight of the absolute beauty of nature. We FEEL it. Not only nature in the traditional sense; flowers, plants, living creatures, geology, but also in circumstance, coincidence, the way things look and are seen. Every day, even in the seemingly most dull situations or moments; light shining through trees, reflections on windows, line formations in buildings, landscapes, the way a gum mark and a puddle on paving can create an interesting composition. But conflicting definitions of art continue and tattooing in particular, like graffit art, has always been considered a ‘low art’ amongst the contemptible Brian Sewells of this world, if they would deign to consider it Art at all. Rejected by the high-brow crowd as being the domain of prisoners and sailors, it was always written off as being for a class of people deemed unqualified to know what art is. As technology speeds ahead and tattoos become increasingly beautiful and complex, I hope these people are beginning to eat their words.

Anyway, entering my local (but extremely well-renowned) tattoo studio on Friday morning at 11am, I hastily produced from my handbag a large sleeve bursting with example images. Not entirely sure what it was that I wanted, this was my last chance at a design on this very painful spot; an entirely necessary cover up of the result from a disastrous spur of the moment decision, of which the story goes something like this:

Towards the end of a debauched hen weekend in Ibiza in 2010 (need I really say more?) a friend, the hen, stated boldly that she was planning to get a tattoo on her foot proclaiming ‘I *heart* Ibiza’. Having already planned to acquire another design myself at some point in the near future, I went foolishly with the spirit of the moment and decided to immortalise the signature experience of the holiday (a distinctly raucous evening at Pacha nightclub) through imprinting the club logo, a pair of cherries, on my ankle. Not only was this a terrible, terrible decision on all fronts, but add to it that 1. Said friend sensibly bottled out at the last minute, leaving me to venture forward on pride alone and 2. The inevitable language barrier culminated in me being utterly certain that the tattooist sternly instructed me to keep it entirely dry. He didn’t, of course, a fact which became all too clear in a moment of horror two weeks later when the huge scab which my tattoo had become, suddenly made a swift exit. Rather ironically, I was away on another hen do, this time in Brighton. As we all leaned in to see what was left, my strangled cries of ‘MY TATTOO FELL OFF!’ rang echoing through the corridors of the premier inn, followed swiftly by bursts of cackling and roaring laughter from my companions. The result of this debacle has been quite at home on my ankle for the past 3 years, but thankfully, no more.

After a mere 20 mins of discussion with my esteemed tattoo artist Martin and another 10 mins of his instinctive freehand drawing, I was shown an outline sketch of his proposal. Very nice, I thought, but seeing it without colour or shading makes it pretty difficult to judge the final result. You are entirely dependent on the vision of your artist, the imagery which is forming in their mind’s eye; it’s a highly pressured and skilled role which they step into bravely. They don’t get to spend weeks doing studies or  have the option to start again if they don’t like how it seems to be going. One chance to get it spot on; now that’s skill.

The final result (after 3hrs of just about bearable pain) was exactly what I wanted; an abstract composition combining my favourite colours, the hummingbird (national symbol of Trinidad, the home of my father’s family line), monochrome vintage flowers and the symbol of peace, an achievable yet still mostly uncharted territory in which I believe passionately. Although there are many morals to this story, the most obvious being do not get nightclub logos permanently printed onto your body, the most important, I think, is to respect the art of tattoo, it’s beauty, skill and intricacy; it’s veterans of craft producing unique works of art, to whom I will be forever grateful and utterly in awe of.

My tattoo was envisaged, designed and produced by Martin Ellis at Flaming Art Tattoo in Crayford.

BEFORE - The infamous cherries

BEFORE – The infamous cherries

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AFTER

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Initial stencil

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The Artist’s Palette

DSC_1512Like me, you have probably never, or perhaps only recently, heard of Lens; a little provincial pocket of France thrust recently and violently into the tourist consciousness, yet still beautifully unaccustomed to its latest role as the home of the newest Louvre outpost designed by SANAA (a recession-respecting snip at a mere €140m), and the main reason for us arriving into nearby Lille last Friday morning for our annual office trip.

Working for an architectural firm means that thankfully office trips don’t mean cheap, vacuous weekend benders to Newcastle, but generally are programmed around an initial visit to a building/site/area of architectural interest. This is of course supplanted by an obligatory messy Euro-trash evening in a sweaty disco, before back to the cultural appreciation the following day, it taking a little more time to focus on exhibition guide text at that point.

Lille struck me instantly as far less industrial than I had probably unjustly and certainly unfoundedly, imagined it would be. Although an established eurostar terminal, it may be that it is more regularly used as I have used it in the past, as a changeover point to get to Brussels or Germany. It was certainly sans the mountains of tat which swarm over the streets of most tourist areas, threatening to engulf guided tours under lethal tsunamis of flag-emblazoned crockery. As I was served a beer at 11am with extreme nonchalance and without even a disapproving glint sweeping across the eye, I decided I liked it already.

The journey to the Louvre-Lens consisted of a 40 min train ride, during which a large number of grown adults (myself included) repeatedly exclaimed our amazement and happiness that the train was double-decker, a situation which I’m sure endeared us to our fellow French passengers and was undoubtedly compounded by the intermittent squeals of excitement and roars of laughter about the newly invented and utterly fabulous ‘shouty shouty tradey card game’ (patent pending). We enjoyed it, anyway.

Lens itself is a pretty little town, the insertion into its outskirts of an internationally important museum collection reminding me of the recent Tate Turner Contemporary constructed at Margate. Indeed an applaudable attempt to drive valuable visitor traffic to a place which currently has little. Would we have gone there otherwise? We arrived at the building after a very European 7 min walk (more like 15) and a touching welcome to France shouted from a window consisting of ‘fuck you bitch’ in redeemingly good English. A long, low and understated metal shed rose suddenly from behind some strange landscaped mounds in the immediate vicinity which were reminiscent of tellytubby land. They must’ve spent €120m on the inside, then. Well, yes and no. Aside from my facetiousness, you can see from the plans that the basement occupies the same long, low space as the building itself, providing extensive (and expensive) archive space for the Louvre’s immeasurable collection. It has also been carefully designed and specified (apart from the roof, which I’m told, in terms that a non-architect can understand is, well, not very good). We were not able to see the touring exhibition space as the Rubens show had finished only days before, much to my joy, viewing one of his waxy grimacing spectacles in the permanent collection was quite enough.

The main exhibition hall is beautiful and distinct, its vast expanse clearly influenced by Tate Modern’s momentous and celebrated Turbine Hall with a rather new take on museum curation; pieces displayed on individual floor panels and plinths, in chronological order and measurable by the timeline etched into the metal of the right hand wall.

DSC_1549 The attached pod area, or ‘garden pavilion’ is tacked onto the back of the main hall with the intention, I imagine, of bringing the visitor back into the here and now after the artificial lighting and whistlestop history tour of the shed. It achieves this effect sharply, vast floor to ceiling windows sucking in light greedily, scattering light-saber beams around the space through translucent floor to ceiling blinds. Shadows of light and dark pierce the (generally unpopular) scuffed floor surface like swords of good and evil, in the kind of detail drama that makes a photographer’s dream.

DSC_1573 After a thorough exploration the general verdict was positive; although perhaps a little too ‘in vogue’ for my taste, the brushed metal shed vibe starting to feel slightly nauseatingly trendy, it did feel coherent, well-designed and was a pleasure to experience. But it was Lille and Lens which ended up being the real winners, both turning out to be places I would visit again after initially being places I would never have chosen to go. We still haven’t managed to discover why a town so far inland appears to have seafood as its staple restaurant offering, but a quest to find out gives me a good excuse to go back!

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