And the Present Is :

The best present, Christmas or other, might be a book that sheds light on art, craft, the international situation and more.

Offering Surrealism and the Occult by Nadia Chucha to oneself ore to another, would be offering an immersive, highly informative journey, into art and magic, space, time and other dimensions.

It is like offering 8 in 1 airplane ticket (1 flight 8 destinations). 1 kick 8 goals. 1 mouthful 8 dishes etc.

I know, magical and surreal, isn't it?

As a bonus and en guise of a page marker you could add a ticket for Mantegna and Bellini exhibition at the National Gallery, as Chucha often mentions the big impact that the Renaissance masters had on the Surrealist. For the reader of Surrealism & the Occult the Mantegna and Bellini exhibition would provide an excellent illustration to many of Chucha's points made in the book.

I personally felt very lucky that the exhibition was on just at the time when I was reading Surrealism &  the Occult. While looking at my crystal ball I can see that at the time (date unknown) when Nadia Chucha launches her second book dedicated on the Surrealist Tarot Deck, a massive Surrealist exhibition will take place either in London or in Edinburgh.


"I have been overwhelmed with interest in my book in the past couple of years and it seems to have reached a wide, international readership so I have decided to return to surrealism and am currently researching a book about the surrealist tarot. Many surrealists designed their own tarot packs and there was also the collective pack of cards, the Jeu de Marseille, which a number of them designed while waiting to escape into exile during World War 2. The tarot is an interesting topic because it is tied in with the surrealist view of chance and opens up interesting concepts around fate and divination, yet nobody has written a book about this." Nadia Choucha


The full interview "Surreal and Occult Arts in the Time of Austerity" with Nadia Choucha is on LAAF's sub-page Books.


How Big is your Christmas Present and Could You Let It Go?

Nosferatu by Julie Goldsmith


“He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her.” John 8:7


While I was still living in France, a friend came to visit. During her stay our days in Paris went like this: museum or gallery in the morning, shopping in the afternoon.


Thus ten day in a row.


The story behind the endless shopping goes like this: M would buy something for herself, then buy a gift for her son, then for her husband, after which she would say "I am buying this fine bracelet for my mother", "I am buying this precious brooch for my mother in law", "I am buying this unique wine bottle holder for my father in law", "I am buying this lovely dress for my sister in law”, and so on.


In the evening when we got home, pleasantly tired from walks, museums, talks, wine and lunches, but above all from M's shopping, M would take out the day's catch, spread it around the lounge and, looking at the bracelet bought for her mother, say "Hmm hmm, this is rather nice. I think I should keep it".


Then she would look at the precious brooch bought for her mother-in-law, put it to her chest and look at herself in the mirror and say "Ah, now when I think about it, this brooch would perfectly suit my green dress. I think I should keep it”. Then she would marvel at the unique wine bottle holder bought for the father in law and say "Now when I think about it, I remember that my mother in law gave my father in law a quite similar wine bottle holder. I think I should keep it for our serving table". Finally she would take the lovely dress meant for her sister in law, put it on and say "This dress suits my sandals. I think I should keep it".


And so, day after day the same piece of theatre would nightmarishly repeat itself: M would buy presents for her mother, husband, son and in-laws and later decide to keep them for herself.


Eventually M left for home with about 50 gifts well arranged in a new suitcase especially bought for the purpose.


By the time she went away, I was so mind blown by M's present-distribution logic that upon her departure I took a deep breath and then stopped talking to her for about a year. Hence, I don't know which of the presents eventually reached their initially designated recipient, if any did.


A few years later, here I am assisting with the installation of Nico & Vittorio's stall at the pocket art fair at the Crows Nest Gallery when during the process my little eyes spy something rather marvellous next door. It is half a wall covered with magnificent ceramic plates of all sizes and shapes, in all the dark tones of the blue spectrum. On each plate is represented a 'creature with a tooth', or other fairy being.


There are unicorns, Amanita muscarias, anubises and other magical folk. I get hypnotised by the image of a vampire princess emerging from a lake of green and Persian blue . Next to her, through the oval of a plate a beauty in red looks at me through the light spring-green of forest leaves, while a black muzzle with long ears stares at her.


While I scream pointing at one or another of the fairyland-gate-plates hanging on the wall (which is my usual reaction when I like something), I hear the voice of A aka Vittorio coming from a distance "I like the Nosferatu. He looks so vulnerable" and then I see the Nosferatu. Actually the three of them: the Nosferatu scarily gazing at a cross, the Nosferatu curiously staring at a pentagram, and the Nosferatu hesitating between a cross and a pentagram.


Next thing, I am pointing at the Cross&Pentagram Nosferatu saying "I will buy this for Lottie (which would have been my niece-in-law were I third time married). Her mother collects signed pottery, floral and fruits. It is about time for Lottie to start collecting signed pottery too. And then this is Nosferatu. A vampire. Every teenager is into vampires. Julie Goldsmith is a wonderful beginning for a life-long mystical creatures pottery collection".


Saying this I grab the Cross&Pentagram Nosferatu, take it home. Hang it on the wall, point at it and tell it menacingly : "You are never getting out of here Nosferatu! You're never leaving this house" and end with a sinister laughter "HA HA HA HA" (You know, the sort of laughter with the  many, meaningful exclamation marks at the end).


And no Hohohoho for you Lottie. At least not from me. Nor from Julie Goldsmith.


The moral of the story?


An art and craft piece is the best gift you could possibly receive.


An art and craft piece is the best gift you could possibly give as long as you can let it go.


More on Julie Goldsmith (Kindred Studios) www.imstagram.com/juliegoldsmith/

Julie Goldsmith also has the Best Christmas Present: Syrian Madonna

Syrian Madonna, Julie Goldsmith

As we all well agreed, the best Christmas present is:


a) a piece of art or craft


b) the internationally responsible piece of art and craft.


Today when the artefacts of Syria are being handed over to a non physical existence; this little Syrian Madonna could be a little firefly of hope hanging on your wall.



The Best Pre-Christmas Cocktail

Prairie oyster

LAAF kind of feels like not sharing this with anybody, the place is already notorious and packed enough as it is, but nobles oblige:


The Prairie oyster at the Bar with No Name 


Tomato Yolk, Horseradish Vodka, Oloroso Sherry, Shallots, Pepper Sauce, Celery Salt, Oyster Leaf  is now officially LAAF's N1 Best Pre-Christmas cocktail.


N2 Best Pre-Christmas cocktail is Silver Gypsy still at the Bar with No Name.




LAAF's first Christmas Present

This is LAAF having just received its first Internationally responsible - Ukraine friendly Christmas present, given by Svetlana Kuznetsova, LAAF's Russian art specialist at the London premier of Gogol. A Terrible Vengence, Russian Film Week (press screening, Mayfair Hotel) (Find more on the present itself on 'Svetlana Kuznetsova' s subpage, see Artists here)



More on this film on Russian Film Week subpage (see 2017-2018)

The best Christmas present is:

Untiteled, Concrete and Sex, Kiev 2013, by Sasha Kurmaz

One, art or craft piece.

Two, the internationally responsible Christmas present and more specifically the Ukraine friendly Christmas present.


Where to find  Internationally responsible, Ukraine friendly presents?


a) Check LAAF's entry "Heartbreakingly humble prices of all products - craft and food, at the Ukrainian Cultural Centre" at Ukrainian Crafts subpage (see Artists).


b) Outsources some Ukrainian art by yourself and keep LAAF posted.


16 January – 10 February 2019, Eames Fine Art Gallery

We have agreed by now that a piece of art or craft is the best Christmas present one could get or give.


What about, a Christmas card saying "Darling, you will get your Christmas present by the end of January once Eric Gill's Grafic opens"? I guess you wouldn't mind that, would you?


Being absolutely mad about Eric Gill, LAAF thinks this is a brilliant idea, further more Eames Fine Ary Gallery promises " This exhibition will show a collection of small Gill prints ranging in prices from around £100 to £500. Engraving lends itself well to Gill’s bold lines and deft combination of curves and edges. His human figures bend and flow with effortless movement that belies the rigid wood or metal into which they were originally carved. "


Nothing better that that I reckon have you once opted for the Internationally Irresponsible version of an Art or Craft Christmas present

Martin Creed, the choreographer of randomness presents 'Toast' at Hauser & Wirth.

Martin Creed at Hauser & Wirth.

T t t t to forget to try

T t t t  to try to forget


Delicate and gracious, dressed in a paint-stained suit, with salt and pepper hair in old fashioned, a la auntie Violette hairdo, fine pale feet in charming paint-stained little sandals, Martin Creed moves amongst his work, performers and spectators, a living picture himself, covering the presents with layer upon layer of sound, vision, movement and thoughts.


An eccentric elderly actress, a beautiful singer, and few young female singers with Santa's dwarfs bonnets add to the visual and sonar landscape. Or is it a live life/nature vive (as the opposite of still-life/nature morte)?


Deeply philosophical, 'Toast' uses minimalistic and symbolic means and forms to immerse the viewer in a sort of dynamic meditation: paintings, objects, videos, live performances, all swirl around, choreographed in the moment by Martin Creed, different each time. 'Toast' might be taken for breakfast or lunch, as a quasi organic responsibly sourced source of good energy and mood; or in the evening, before dinner as a recipe for lucid, paradoxical dreams.


A priceless exhibition is there for all to see for free, free and very very very funny.




ا ا ا ا انسى تحاول

ح ح ح ح حاول تنسى


ممشوق القامة وأنيس، مرتديا قاطا ملطخ بوصوم اصباغ ملونة ، شعره الرصاصي مرفوع في تصريحة نسائية من أيام زمان، محتذي على أقدامه النحيفة صنادل جلد رقيق والصنادل ملطخة بالأصباغ، يسير "مارتين كرييد" ذهابا وإيابا بين أعماله الفنية ومريديه وجمهوره ، كانه هو نفسه، عبارة على لوحة حية ، راميا على جمهوره طبقة فوق طبقة من أصوات ومنظور وحركة وأفكار.


وتظيف الممثلة العجيبة، المتقدمة في سنها وذات الصوت الجذاب، مصحوبة بمطربات شابات مرتديات قبعات شتوية ملونة ملائمة لممارسة التزحلق على الجليد، اكثر من مما هي لصالة عرض فني.


يعبر معرض-برفورمرس "توست" (نخب) عن فلسفة عميقة بوسائل وأدوات بسيطة بحيث ينغمر المشاهد في نوع من المشاهدةالنشطة، حيث تمضي لوحات واغراض وفيديوهات ومغنيات تلف وتدور في اجواء المعرض، بحركة يصممها "مارتين كريد" في حين الأداء نفسه ، ولا يشبه أداء (برفورمس) الأداء التالي أو اي أداء يليه.


يمكن تناول "توست" (نخب) الصبح كفطور أو الظهر كغذاء بدلا عن وجبات الطعام العادية لكونه مصدر شبه عضوي لطاقة حيوية ومزاج جيد. ويمكن تناوله العصر بعد القهوة او المساء قبل العشاء كوصفة لجلب الأحلام الغريبة الشفافة.


تعرض قاعة "هاوسر & ويرث" (الواقعة في شارع "سافيل روو" الموازي لشارع "ريجنت ستريت") عرض لا يقدر بثمن، عرض مضحك جدا جدا ، عرض مجاني. عرضا لن تتركه يفوتك

Jesse Darling, Epistemologies (Shamed Cabinet? 2018

The hottest hot



At the Big here

Find her




Mahmoud Farshchian

I Know The Way You Can Get by Hafiz

I know the way you can get When you have not had a drink of Love:


Your face hardens,

Your sweet muscles cramp.

Children become concerned

About a strange look that appears in your eyes

Which even begins to worry your own mirror And nose.


Squirrels and birds sense your sadness

And call an important conference in a tall tree.

They decide which secret code to chant

To help your mind and soul.


Even angels fear that brand of madness

That arrays itself against the world

And throws sharp stones and spears into

The innocent

And into one's self.


O I know the way you can get If you have not been drinking Love:


You might rip apart

Every sentence your friends and teachers say,

Looking for hidden clauses.


You might weigh every word on a scale

Like a dead fish.


You might pull out a ruler to measure From every angle in your darkness

The beautiful dimensions of a heart you once Trusted.


I know the way you can get If you have not had a drink from Love's Hands.


That is why all the Great Ones speak of The vital need

To keep remembering God,

So you will come to know and see Him

As being so Playful And Wanting,

Just Wanting to help.


That is why Hafiz says:

Bring your cup near me.

For all I care about Is quenching your thirst for freedom!


All a Sane man can ever care about Is giving Love!

Art of unknow origin and description somewhere in the House of Commons

It is not our personal stories that make us human; it's our ability to create excellence and art

Last Thursday two memorable events marked my day causing a disturbance that needs to be put in words and frame. It went like this:

In the morning I was at the House of Commons attending the session on Afghanistan of the South Asia and the Middle East Forum, upon the kind invitation of its extraordinary chairman Mr Khalid Nadeem (Thank you, thank you thank you, dear Khalid for the opened door 💕. For isn't it what great people do? Open doors, let in and go towards others, constructing an inclusive and creative space?).

Many good people spoke there on Afghanistan from different perspectives. Men and women talked about Afghanistan interior security, Daash in Afghanistan, Afghanistan's economy, agriculture, differences, Afghanistan and the world etc etc. As most cordial, simple and humane stroke me Lord Dubs, speaking on the issue of Afghan migrants. Which made me wonder do they call him Lord because he's wise and good, or is he wise and good because they call him Lord? Hmm, yes, yes the egg or the hen... Despite all his wisdom and goodness Lord Dubs couldn't answer my question on the basis of what criteria Afghanistan is considered a safe (!!??!!! Right? I know...) country. Instead of an answer Lord Dubs said "Speak to your MP" (?!?! You are an MP right? Why should I speak to another MP?!? . While Sir Barney White Spunner, Former Lieutenant General on the Defence Strategy in Afghanistan said an even simpler "I don't know" (?!?! Who then consults the government on whether Afghanistan is or isn't a safe country?). I can reassure you: no other question went more unanswered than mine. And I would also like to reassure P: Darling there are windows dirtier than ours! Those of the House of Commons!

Anyhow, there I am at La Bohemme in the afternoon and I am just about to have my well deserved lunch, (in addition to the afternoon music, La Boheme has now an excellent crunchy duck breast with crunchy chips on the menu), when I read the following in one of the newspapers they keep at the bar: "Moscow profited from its refusal to boycott a Saudi Arabian conference yesterday, securing ..the promise of lucrative contracts, including a Hermitage museum franchise. Mikhail Piotrovsky, director of the St Petersburg Museum ...addressed the conference alone after Tad Smith, chief executive of Sotheby's, withdrew from the conference last week". (The Times, 25 Oct 2018)

Curious. Extremely curious I find this phrase "Moscow profited from its refusal to boycott".

Here is a question for you: who had ever profited from a boycott? What did England profit from the boycott of say artistic exchange with the Middle Eastern countries with dictatorial regimes in the nineties and the new millennium? These regimes - Mubarak's, Gathafi's, Bashar's etc., that were good enough to do arms and gas deals with, but not good enough for artists and cultural institutions to attend their theatre and music festivals? What did the English artistic milieu profit from its absence this year at the 25th edition of Cairo International Festival for Contemporary and Experimental Theatre for example? Or, apart from increasing alienation from the other culture, what was this country's profit from the absence of its artists at all previous 24 editions of the festival? This huge festival that strives to present the best and newest in the theatre from all Arabic speaking countries and beyond.

I am looking at this year's program and marveling: 13 September, Smell of War (Iraq) Al-Salam Theatre. Is it the same cast that performed in 2010, when I saw the Iraqi post invasion version of Brecht's The Caucasion Chalk Circle? Is it the same company of extraordinary actors all above 60, who's play was so good in their version of this extraordinary text that by the first act I was in tears. By the end of the play the whole huge hall was sobbing. I stare at the festival's page and the painful questions from back then come to me Whom will these excellent actors transmit their art to? They who have started their carriers in a relatively stable and prosperous Iraq, can still not retire as there is nobody to replace them. Further in the festival's 2018 program there is a pleiade of Arabic companies Syria (how interesting to see), Kuwait, UAE, Tunis, Algeria, Egypt; and also others like Switzerland, France, Italy, Poland, even China and Russia, of course, why would they miss? For this is how it usually is, the only one missing is the absent one. Did I miss to see the list of British artists cancelling their tours in the States because of the election of Trump? No, right? Because we know that at least half, if not most of the Americans have nothing to do with Trump. So why do we think that all Egyptians had to do with Mubarak; are at present doing with either the Generals or the Muslim Brotherhood; and in a word are aliens that either only obey and pray or flood squares and rape women?

Art is usually militant and engaged. Yet, its means and ways are, different from those of business and politics. No matter how much business and politics influence, penetrate, submit, conquer and corrupt it; art always finds new gaps and ways; always sets itself free.

Therefore, here, I find a radical mistake in the concept. We defeat dictatorial regimes by art. More art. More and more art. The absence of art strengthenes regimes. We defeat dictatorial regimes by communicating with their people, not by ignoring them.

In the context of a dictatorial regime, each album with reproductions of Caravaggio is a window open towards a blue sky; each musical record is a fresh breeze in the stuffy cell.The Sex Pistols and Iron Maiden have contributed more for the fall of the Berlin Wall than any English politician.

Now, what do I understand from Sotheby's chief executive's withdrawal from the conference last week? I understand that Mr Tad Smith doesn't find the conditions in the Saudi Kingdom attractive enough as for Sotheby's to run their business there. Fair enough.

How would I insist to read Mr Mikhail Piotrovsky's presence in the Saudi Kingdom, despite knowing that it doesn't mean this? "Oh, sod the tyrant; we have worse. Art will save us all".

There is a subquestion here: Why Russia delegates the director of their majour museum, while Britain delegates an art dealer; be it the representative of the biggest art dealing institution?

Art empowers people. I am happy that the Saudi women, men and children will have a franchise of the Hermitage. I would like them to have a franchise of the National Portrait Gallery too. And of Musee d'Orsay. Art empowers people. Art makes people better. Maybe if the Saudis have plenty of art they will stop being overweight and suffer from respiratory and heart diseases and will suddenly stop seeing Yemen on a good day as their private brothel; on a bad day as their private boxing bag.

The absence of Mr Tad Smith in the Saudi Kingdom is a business, not an art loss. The systematic absence of interactions of the native English-speaking artist with their colleagues in the Middle East has only one effect: the increase of the "War of civilizations".The last half a century of exclusively arms, drugs and gas deals contacts have only led to an increasing demonisation of the other in the eyes of the general public of both sides.

And while we know exactly where England stands in regards to Freedom of Sprach; we absolutely don't know where it stands in regards to Freedom of Arts. Judging by the events mentioned, there isn't English art where there isn't English Establishment.

In conclusion, I will write to the honourable Mr Khalid Nadeem and politely suggest that hereon at the sittings of the South Asia & Middle East Forum one of the presentations to be on the art activities of the particular country; and the forms of humane (not war and business) exchange between Britain and the country in question. So that we may not forget that people have a bright, human side to which we should appeal and with which we should communicate.


This article is in readable English thanks to the amiable edit of Illiana S-S and Antony B

"Sometimes when I translate for an Iraqi... the Swedish social worker will ask: Are you with me or with them" integrated text, The Translator from the series How Iraqi Are You? By Hayv Kahraman, Jameel Prize 5 finalist, V&A