Category Archives: happenings.

looking north for summer.

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Instead of sipping some sad, hand-extracted cabbage juice, January should be spent rejoicing about all the good things to come and planning the summer ahead. Thus we look north to Finland: The Tapio Wirkkala Rut Bryk Foundation continues to celebrate the separate works of husband and wife Wirkkala and Bryk as part of their 2015/2016 centenary programme.

Internationally renowned designer and sculptor Wirkkala (1915-1985) may be the more recognisable name than Bryk (1916-1999), but Rut’s artistic work was just as powerful as her husband’s. Having studied Graphic Design, she joined Arabia  in 1942 and stayed with the company for over 50 years. As a highly skilled ceramics artist her early works depicted folkloric motifs. Her patterns would also at times emerge on tableware designed by Wirkkala for Rosenthal. In her later abstract works, she explored, as the V&A London noted, ‘in totally disciplined manner, opposing positive and negative forces and the contrasting effects of light and shade, surface and depth’, resulting in ceramic reliefs of intense beauty and startling impact.From May until September 2016, the Espoo Museum of Modern Art (EMMA), Finland,  will be celebrating Rut Bryk’s life and work with a dedicated exhibition. Owl’s House London’s Finnish correspondent will be sure to visit and report back.

Whilst most of the events celebrating Wirkkala’s centenary in 2015 have passed, in 2016, the STILL / LIFE – Tapio Wirkkala Retrospective will be touring through Lapland. This Northern part of Finland was Wirkkala’s spiritual home and refuge from ‘European abundance with all it’s side-effects and it’s sweaty smell of egoism and ambition’. The exhibition, curated by designer Harri Koskinen, consists of two parts: LIFE, concentrating on the work and life of Wirkkala and STILL, which explore Wirkkala’s identity as a sculptor and shows his exceptional handiwork skills – he had ‘thinking hands’. The exhibition can be seen at Sámi Museum Siida in Inari throughout the summer months and at the Kaustinen Folk Art Centre in the autumn of 2016, before moving on to EMMA in 2017.

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1. Three Engraved Vases by Tapio Wirkkala for Iittala, 1950s
2. Glass Vase, 1948 by Tapio Wirkkala
3. Porcelain Paper Bag Vases, Tapio Wirkkala, 1979
4. Rosenthal Pollo Vases, Studio Line, Tapio Wirkkala,1970s
All, 1st Dibs

Post by Päivi Kotro-Brenner. Instagram @mepaivi

The Espoo Museum of Modern Art is a local bus ride away from Helsinki. Lapland, well, that’ll be a night train. Travel info: visitfinland.com

 

a journey of delight : calder at tate modern.

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‘There’s something totally joyous and unpretentious about the work which communicates to people,’ she added. ‘He’s one of the few artists who can sit in both camps: the public and the elite world.’ Farah Nayeri, NY Times

For those who have not lost their childish fascination with colours and shapes, movement and balance, Calder’s work remains a delight and inspiration. There is little darkness in his work, only a restless, fascinated mind, immersed in a journey of delight.

Calder plays it straight. Calder’s work is exactly what it appears to be. The strength of his work is this directness, without subtext; a refreshing lack of hidden meaning. We see Calder’s delicate mercury sculpture sitting with the vast canvas of Guernica in the background; Picasso’s dark genius and Calder’s lightness working brilliantly together. Picasso’s primary themes are those of humanity; Calder’s are of nature; he plays with lines, mass, force and momentum.

Calder emerged in an era when art was still catching up with the discoveries of 19th Century science and the technology of the 20th – not least the moving image. Calder’s work brings movement centre stage into art in a way that surpasses other artists often unsatisfactory attempts of that era to incorporate time (I’m thinking of cubism). Apart, of course, from the most successful new art form of the 20th Century, the movie itself.

Human visual aesthetics is derived from a highly developed appreciation of the body in both movement and poise. Calder’s unflinching preoccupation with mechanics; his exploration of the fine line between balance and movement, his testing of how far a rod or sinew can be stretched and still hold, resonates with what we naturally find beautiful and satisfying.

Calder does all this, and brings it into delicate and playful fusion with the rawness of his materials, the formal language of late Matisse and a touch of the surreality of Miro. I’m going back for more.

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You can read Farah Nayeri’s article, here:

Alexander Calder: Performing Sculpture, Tate Modern, until 3 April, 2016

Guest post by Jeremy Walker, architect and cardboard sculptor (HeathWalker Studio). Photos: owl’s house london using iPhone 6.

lightscape.

A review of James Turrell at Houghton Hall

The role of an artist is to show us the world in a new light. To open our eyes to what we already see.

Turrell is a connoisseur of light and as a pilot is intimate with the sky in all its variance. Here in Norfolk he reveals the subtlety and variety of our maritime sky, the moisture in the air softening the light in a way that would never be seen in Arizona.

Turrell believes our eyes are most suited to seeing at dusk when there is very little light. St Elmo’s Breath is his most ephemeral piece at Houghton and reveals to us that we can see much more than we ever thought possible. The effect is so subtle that at first it is hard to believe you are really seeing anything, but gradually the photons start to accumulate and a silken carpet of red light reveals the space to us.

The poetic rationalism of his work has a strong resonance with the Palladian architecture of Houghton. Models of his work inside a crater in Pasadena reveal platonic volumes hollowed out from the earth which frame the nebulous phenomena of the sky so we might see them afresh.

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James Turrell at Houghton Hall until 24th October 2015.

Guest review by Jeremy Walker, HeathWalker Studio, with thanks. Photographs, owl’s house london.

a very modern hotel.

Futurist, modernist, dynamic: the gull-winged TWA terminal at JFK airport is the epitome of mid-century design. Evoking a bird in flight, it is also a force in concrete construction. It was certainly a major influence on me during my architectural studies, as I poured over the images of this and other iconic modernist imagery by architectural photographer Ezra Stoller.

The TWA terminal was the last project by Finnish born architect Eero Saarinen (completed in 1962), who said of it:

All the curves, all the spaces and elements right down to the shape of the signs, display boards, railings and check-in desks were to be of a matching nature. We wanted passengers passing through the building to experience a fully-designed environment, in which each part arises from another and everything belongs to the same formal world.

It is this all inclusive design that gives the building its streamlined, organic quality; everything is considered, everything belongs (I particularly adore the sunken, built-in seating). It is perhaps this that became the building’s downfall; it was unable to adapt and expand.

The terminal is about to undergo a complete refurbishment as a hotel and museum. The photographer Max Touhey was given access to document the building alongside a team of surveyors using 3-D laser scanners. Touhey made 700 photographs, a few hundred of which were bracketed (several exposures of each shot are used to ensure the light is correct), or used in a time lapse video.

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TWA terminal, Eero Saarinen. Photographs by Max Touhey. Via wired.com; lattimes.com; somewhereiwouldliketolive.com

happy weekend.

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LFA Pavilion by Hall McKnight architects, Lewis Cubitt Square. Photography: Ed Reeve

The annual London Festival of Architecture has begun: a celebration of architectural experimentation, thinking and practice, with lectures, exhibitions, student shows and tours. This year’s theme is Work in Progress, and for the first time, a new initiative is launched, a Focus Country. Ireland is the focus, with two pavilions – including this beautiful yellow one – in Kings Cross’ new public space, the Lewis Cubitt Square.

London Festival of Architecture, June 1- 30 2015, various venues around London. More, here, and a useful round up, architecturaldigest.com.

Happy weekend.

mid century east.

Yesterday’s Mid Century East show at Erno Goldfinger’s marvellous Haggerston school was the usual trove of fabulous modernist finds. Apart from the pieces, what I love about the show is how everyone who attends is passionate about design. Dealers love what they do and love to talk about their wares. And, of course, the pieces themselves always come with a fascinating provenance.

A brief walk-through below, featuring just a few favourite pieces and their dealers; some known, others new.

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Mar-Den had the wonderful, on-end, angled brick wall as a backdrop in which to display, in the beautifully proportioned double-height space of the hall.

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Pink Flamingoes specialise in American design, and showed Eames classics in fabulous colours.

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Beton Brut specialise in architect-led design from post-War France, Italy, Netherlands and Scandinavia. I’m yet to visit their new showroom in East London but they have a very seductive  website in the meantime.

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Saunders Fine Art always tempt with their modern British and European art and also collectables.

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My favourite of the show was a pair of lounge chairs from the ‘50s, with a wonderful back-story, having been languishing with their original owners in the south of France until now. From The Kula.

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Lovely accessories at Fragile Design

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1934, named for Gerrit Rietveld’s ‘crate furniture’ series in 1934, has a tightly curated collection of simple, functional pieces.

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Gorgeous Vittorio Nobili Medea Chairs (and a few knock-out light fittings) at
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Dd you go? Any favourites? More mid-century show round-ups, here and here.

All images owl’s house london taken on my iPhone 5.

happy weekend.

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Christo
The Floating Piers (Project for Lake Iseo, Italy)
Collage 2014 in two parts. Pencil, charcoal, pastel, wax crayon, fabric, enamel paint, cut-out photographs by Wolfgang Volz and map
Photo: André Grossmann

He’s back, and I’m thrilled, being a huge fan. The Floating Piers is Christo’s first work since the death of his wife and collaborator Jeanne-Claude in 2009 (they were also born on the same day in 1935).

For 16 days in June 2016, Christo will reimagine Italy’s Lake Iseo. The work will consist of swathes of shimmering yellow fabric, carried by a modular dock system of polyethylene cubes floating on the surface of the water. The walkways will continue on land, connecting the mainland to the island of San Paolo. More, here

Other works by Christo and Jeanne-Claude include Surrounded Islands and, possibly his best known work, Wrapped Reichstag, completed in 1995. Happy weekend.