The BiG

Mental health illnesses are often developed at a young age (prior 16), but diagnosed much later. Bringing children of all ages to art galleries should be treated as both educational and health beneficial.

NG's MHAAT

"When watching television or listening to the radio, do you have the feeling that you receive personal messages?" is one of the questions in a routine mental health assessments, of which I plenty in a professional quality.

If I was having a mental health assessment today my answer would have been "Not the radio, nor the telly it's the National Gallery that sends me personal messages ". For this is how I feel lately - the National Gallery is making LAAF Special, bespoke tailored, Events.

After Gauguin Portraits last week (Paul Gauguin is LAAF's patron saint); now it's the National Gallery's Mental Health Awareness Audio Tour. What's the personal in NG's MHAAT?

Well, each of LAAF'a visitations into a museum is a part of LAAF's PMHWT or Personal Mental Health Wellbeing Tour. Nowadays less concisely so than 20 years ago; nevertheless to the same effect. Furthermore this is how I have been introduced to art, much longer than 20 years ago. By a friend of my mother suffering with strong psychotic episodes during which she would be institutionalised; while self-medicating in the rest of the time with massive amount of museum and gallery tours to which she would take me with her.

And I absolutely adored Rossi for this. Introducing me to art in this intensive fashion I mean. The only problem being that Sofia at that time (and now for the matter) wouldn't provide sufficient amount of art to medicate severe conditions. As a child I obviously wasn't aware that self-medicating was what Rossi was doing with her compulsive art consumption.

I only realised it later when I started doing the same - self-medicating on art. It's only that Paris allowed it. I mean, Paris, just like London fortunately, has sufficient amount of art available to keep stable people like me. Had I remained in Sofia, I would have certainly self-medicated with drugs and alcohol.

(This is a secret message coded specially for me)

Hospitals are my other passion. And that from an early age.

Like my first runner from home at the age of 5 was to go to the local... that's it - hospital. Where I was seen by a specialist, no GPs at that time; listen to very attentively; then prescribed an urgent return home. Despite of which I still ended up with serious problems with my mother.

Thus after many professional metamorphosis, all corresponding to this or that facet of my personality, upon my arrival in this country I completely unexpectedly, yet smoothly and immediately started working in hospitals! For this is the best part of the job which is now mine, I work not in one, but in all hospitals. Else to say, now I have extensive and intensive tours in both museums and galleries and hospitals and GP practices. How could it be better? I mean really.

But here it is, it gets even better, some of the hospitals are galleries too. ( Moorfield Eye Hospital; Chelsea & Westminster and Royal Free Hospitals should be mentioned). For the beneficial effect of art on people suffering from diseases has been proven. What is less talked about is the beneficial, of preventive character, effect of art on carers and medical professionals.

Ideally, all hospital with increase the number of art pieces on display in corridors, waiting and consultation rooms. This for the benefit of all. And local health centres will develop art collections, landing an art piece a month to people suffering with chronic mental health or restricted movement illnesses and their careers; on the same principle of libraries.

Other people who need preventative mental health art care are the people running from war zones. And while in Germany this has been an element from the state integration programs in the last few years; here this could be done by ngos and charities.

The National Gallery’s Mental Health Awareness Audio Tour

has been developed by researchers from King’s College London ( where they have a beautiful chapel where operas are performed at times but no art on display; apart from a little bit of colour towards Rays of Sunshine paediatric ward), the McPin Foundation and a group of young people (including some affected by mental health issues, age 16-25, from different backgrounds and ethnicities), alongside members of the Gallery’s Young Producers programme. It had been sponsored by Medical Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation, and the British Academy.

The tour takes us to ten stops - pieces of art or spaces in the gallery, relating the stops to ten myths or misconceptions of mental health issues. Giving the visitor a new perspective to both subject and gallery.

Thus, everything that I heard and saw in this tour was new to me. Which is really exciting and refreshing.

One amongst the very many things I learned is the fact that hearing voices or having visions is common for 1/3 of humanity. Like hearing the voices of the characters when reading a book. And yes, this audio tours speaks with a very young voice.

Other good elements about the tour are: it is easy to download on a smartphone - one should not forget one’s head set. NG’s free wi-fi is strong. The tour is free and short.

Usually I like to take my time. Ideally I would have spent more than an hour on the tour. But I had to rush. For work. At two appointments. At St Pancras Hospital. For psychiatric medicine. Mind you, they have quasi zero art there...

Happy World Mental Health Day!

10 October 2019

For more check UK Research and Innovation's new blog here


NPG Friday Lates

I am sure no reminder is needed, but I'll still gladly do it: The best place in town come Friday night is the National Portrait Gallery.

NPG has always been my favourite gallery in town. I think of the Portrait Gallery as of the "dolly" in the company of grander ladies. Sat next to Auntie National Gallery; not far from La Grande Dame Tate Britain; cross the river from La Garce Tate Modern and more central than Nanny V&A NPG is a dolly. Une poupée quoi.

A dolly that come Friday evening turns from un petit bijou to a magically expandable jewelry box. And now more than ever so. For there are there many gems at once: the permanent exposition, the Portrait Award and Cindy Shrman, the live DJs, the drawing in the gallery, the drinks in the grand foyer, the books in the bookshop, the arty presents in the gallery shop and the unique view towards Nelson's Column and the Big Ben from the under the roof restaurant.

On each of those books could be written but will try to keep it short:

The permanent exhibition is as permanent as a forest. The trees stand still but the view is permanently changing. Now the 1st floors "Southern Wing" (as I imagine it is called) features a new display of portraits of film directors, rock'n'roll stars and other entertainment and politics' celebrities.

The Portrait Award finalists this year looks to me better and sharper than some previous years. I am not sure if this is due to the smaller selection presented in a space differently arranged; or the selected works are simply and really better. This year, three of my favourite portraits hang on the same wall. Of them I will mention only a portrait I nicknamed 'Repin's portrait of Repin'. Not only the painting looks like Repin's but also the person depicted looks like him. Strangely Frances Bell has named this excellent portrait of her friend Edd, not 'Repin' but 'Rumination'. (Here I would like to open a bracket and recomend a fine Finish film titled Tuntematon mestari, English title One Last Deal, 2018. It is about an elderly art dealer who dreams for one last big deal before selling his gallery and retiring. He falls upon an unsigned portrait which he believe if of ...that's it! Repin. (Strangely the portrait used in the film looks disturbingly similar to the now infamous Salvator Mundi)

Cindy Sherman about whom ignorasimus me have never previously heard, challenged me at first. With the entry in the first exhibition whole I felt strong rejection bubbling in my chest : "How could she be so self-obsessed as to represent only herself?" Then reluctance to go further in the exhibition rooms: "What now, am I expected to be looking to her face alone through a whole exhibition?". This challenge lasted just as long as necessary for me to see myself as conservative and judgemental. Four minutes later I was already realising that: 1. Cindy Sherman plays. 2. She plays with the only thing she really has - herself. 3. She've shortened the habitual journey through which the viewer goes in search of the artist's face and personality, both embedded in the fabric of the work. 4. Her real name is Cindy Empathy Sherman as through some unbelievable degree of mimicry she is able to incarnate an uncountable number of women characters. She depicts and presents thousands of faces using and manipulating nobody but her own self. Which possibly makes of her the most ethical of all artists? 5. She is a real alchemist and psychonaut.

The live DJs are "bien a leur place" at the NPG. Ideally we would have some string quartet here and a DJ there but that might be reserved for when we go to heaven. I also congratulate the NPG for the good choice of DJs and also for their intentional strive to achieve diversity. An intentional, proactive strive to reach a diverse audience is what every gallery needs. Chapeau 💕 Art Diversity Engaged Position should be every gallery's moto.

People drowning in the gallery? There is hardly something more therapeutically soothing than watching people drawing in the gallery. Luckily, there are still plenty of them around all gallery floors. May be in slightly lower numbers than previously when the gallery was providing all drawing materials.

The books in the bookshop ? There is a ton of books waiting to be read under a DJ accompaniment - quel bonheur! That must be circle two of paradise.

The shop? Ah the shop the shop... In the shop they now have this cet of ribbon&pearls necklace and bracelet in graffiti-grey and black ... at the cite of which I have to exercise will power not to neigh like a horese and clap my hands.

The view from the under the roof restaurant is like in a Disney movie. I sit there with a strawberry bellini in my left hand and a rabbit shang in my right hand and expect to see if not a dragon flying around the Big Ben at least Merry Poppins umbrelluting down from the grey rainy sky, descending to keep Nelson company.

...ah, and talking about food and grey sky... New to this particular spot in town, upon my arrival at Trafalgar Square last Friday, 19 July, I spot a Hare Krishna cart marked with "Love your vegan food" banner parked just at the corner where NG meets NPG. Thus, just before my entry in the gallery I am handed a big, biodegradable! plate of warm curcuma lentils. So I sit with a plate shining like the sun in bright yellow under a grey drizzling sky. I catch myself thinking:

In nowadays British Empire, just like in the Ancient Roman before, two things only the people anxiously desire — bread and circuses. Art and food.

A little bit later the precious energy of art and food kicks in taking me higher and higher, away from the week's manic stress and depression. Enter weekend.

For Portrait Award until 20 October

For the Cindy Sherman until 15 September

My three favourite paintings next to each other starting with 'Repin' aka Rumination by Frances Bell


Nearly Brexit-Free

Martin Parr Self-Portraits

A fantastic eye-washing, heart-warming, soul-opening and nearly Brexit-free Martin Parr at National Portrait Gallery.

Carried away by the Brexit folly I wasn't aware how much my soul was squeezed and tormented until I entered the NPG rooms brightened by Parr's photography.

At the sight of the series Oneness and Dance Floor I was close to tears. And the tears remained there clinging at the edge of my eye through Celebrities, Portraits and Self-portraits.

Parr's lence briskly reminded me how is good, generous and fun life is.

My English friends often hint to me, discretely, as an Indian elephant in a Venetian glass store, as goes a Bulgarian saying, that it would be more interesting if I review small galleries and unknown artists; they send me announces for small exhibitions in distant galleries. And to be honest I go. To most of them. But then to write about them seems as a little bit, to put it discretely, too much to ask from me.

And also, honestly, why would I encourage people to go to Bermondsey Project Space to see a sad "1/3 MeelPress Portuguese Contemporary Artists Curated by João Silvério" instead of NPG where they could see a happy and humane Parr?

Bermondsey as whole though is an excellent good-weather walk with its many galleries, Glass and Fashion museums, bars and restaurants and the London glassblowing studio.

In bad stormy weather though always bet on The National Portraiy Gallert.

Martin Parr is at NPG until 27 May

6 April 2019


Jess Darling at Tate Britain

Jesse Darling, The Lion and Bateman in the garden (temporary relief) 2018

Jesse Darling, Our Lady Bateman of the empty centre (temporary relief) 2018

Jess Darling at Tate Britain

About Jesse Darling I won't speak with own words.

 

About her I will quote Nadia Choucha writing about Duchamp in her book Surrealism & the Occult:

 

"Duchamp's 'Fountain' represents an act of iconoclasm, attacking the notion of art as a precious icon, to be venerated and removed from life in the artificial environment of the gallery. It also gives art a sense of anarchic wit. Humour is one of the most natural, direct and spontaneous forms of communication, which may be one of the reasons that Duchamp applied it to art, to make it more immediate and accessible."

 

Well, about Jess Darling same same, I would say.

 

Thank you Jesse Darling, your art made my day 💕💕💕

Thank you Nadia Choucha, your book made talking about Jesse Darling so easy💖💖💖

Thank you Marcel Duchamp you showed Jesse Darling the way 🖤🖤🖤

Thank you everybody. Thank you for the 🐟🐠🐡

 

I was actually at Tate Britain to spy on their Christmas decoration setting.

The faithful reader doubtlessly remembers that last year it was precisely Tate Britain that wan LAAF's beast Christmas Decoration Award with funny white animals around its facade.

 

Who cares to spy on Kim Kardashian when one could spy on Tate Britain?!? Honestly.


The new Islamic Art Rooms at the British Museum

One thousand and one days and one thousand and one nights I was about to mourn the sanctions imposed on Iran; flooding LAAF with endless Hafiz poems and countless Farshchian paintings, when...Lo, a museum saved the day again!

 

The new Islamic Art Rooms at the British Museum (3rd floor, South-East corner) opened doors on 18th of October this year.

 

The collection is brilliant, though miniscule. What absolutely enchanted me, are the inscriptions in a relevant language, Arabic, Farsi, next to the pieces.

 

At last, at last Farsi and Arabic inscriptions next to Persian and Arabic artefacts.

 

Thank you, thank you, British Museum. There is hope.

 

There is hope in the temples of humanity - the museums and the galleries.

If what you see in the new Islamic Art Rooms is not enough to cheer you up and distract you from the last battle of the War of Civilisations and the misery of the ever shortening autumnal day; the nearest drinking ditch is London Cocktail Bar, where I am not too keen to send you unless there are at least six of you, all under twenty. Alternatively, а few yards further down Shaftesbury Avenue is the Freud bar, where you might possibly find the mixed and shaken, temporary, liquid remedy to all international and local-climate problems.

 

5 November 2018


Chalice of Gods by Thomas Cole, National Gallery

Chalice of Porn, Martini of God

Whatever religion or politics might tell you, life is never about one thing and truth does not abide in one - god or party.

Certainly, truth is not to be found at the bottom of one only stemware.

One, in nature, automatically generates two then multiplies.

Thus, YOU WILL FIRST GO to the National Gallery AND SEE The Chalice of Gods by Thomas Cole and SECOND, YOU WILL GO AND DRINK Porn Star Martini at Topolski, Concert Hall Approach.

You will need 90 min as in: 40 min for Cole, 10 min travel, 40 min for two Porn.

You may take your children to Cole, but don't drink your first Porn elsewhere, and certainly not in "children friendly" establishments where it features in the menu disguised as Rock (!!!) Star Martini. It's less creamy when under cover.

Porn Star Martini, arrives with a tumbler of prosecco, and we could call it Giant and Midget.

 

25 August 2018


NPG's Michael Jackosn on the Wall

The best way to spend all your summer Friday early evenings is, yet again, The National Portrait Gallery.

 

With an exceptionally good Michael Jackson On The Wall exhibition and live DJs, the NPG has once more created a great Late Opening happening.

 

In case you go there just for the drinks and the DJs, or to see how the paintings of the permanent collection have shuffled, don't forget to make a donation, so it can continue getting better and better.

 

Michael Jackson on the Wall, NPG

RA 250 Summer Exhibition

RA's Summer Exhibition, the Far East and the curious incident with the blogger's event.

Unlike our grown up brothers, the journalists from the official media, we bloggers were invited to RA's Summer exhibition more than a month after the opening, or half way through the exhibition's life - (curious to have a blog that would talk about things halfway gone and post pictures of objects already one hundred times seen).

Unlike our grown up brothers, the journalists from official media, we bloggers were given a talk; in case we don't know where to look, what to think, and what to write. (To be honest as an ex-university lecturer I always appreciate a good talk, and RA expert Grace Adam’s talks are always good; but did we really need to be fed with the old chestnut of Turner, Constable and the red buoy?).

 

Unlike our grown up brothers, the journalists from official media, we bloggers were given a free drink. (A big advantage considering the massive queues at the exhibition bars).

 

Now, combining all these factors:

1. Delayed access (in favour of official media)

2. Anti free-market non-equal conditions (see the favouritism described in point 1)

3. Lecturing and patronising (a wishful dictation of content)

4. Bribery and soliciting drunkenness (free wine)

 

Based on first-hand evidence combined with the evidence of some key exhibits: 1. The Bear rug (Russia's national totem) 2. The portrait of  Kim Jong-un (North Korea's Supreme Leader) 3. The massive red disk (simultaneously representing Japan's Red Sun and China's Red Ocean flags) at the entrance: this Red Disk towards which the statue of Sir Joshua Reynolds is dreamingly looking by the entrance on the other, I can conclude that celebrating its 250th anniversary the Royal Academy has looked for inspiration far towards the East, drawing know-how from even older, stiffer and more reactionary entities than itself, such as the ones mentioned above in brackets.

 

As to (curator) Grayson Perry's eternal question "What is good taste? What is bad taste?", I will say "I don't know, but the deck chairs and the banging music at RA's front yard makes me think of a family (three children and a dog) barbecue in Barking. Come Friday evening I wouldn't be there.

 

With LAAF being natural born pacifist and mediator, it has a word of advice for both sides involved in this situation:

RA, for more on how to deal with the free press read LAAF's material on the 2017  Russian Film Festival in London (spoiler: bloggers trapped in basements, given passes that don’t open any doors and certainly do not lead to the main event they though they were invited to attend; and provided with endless amounts of alcohol including strange blue fiz).

Bloggers, post your materials exactly as many days after the bloggers event as there is between the opening of the exhibition and the bloggers event (if at all. In this particular case it would be 4 days after the closure of the Summer Exhibition). Thus you will be as useful for your hosts as they are for you. It is called reciprocity, it is mandatory for all relationship and it is a ground  for l o v e.

 

10 July 2018