Poussin and the Dance – National Gallery Review

Painting movement in art has always been a conundrum for artists and art critics, as it requires instilling an illusion of movement to an art form that is, by nature, motionless. However, ‘France’s greatest painter’, Nicolas Poussin spent his early years perfecting his depictions of dance and movement in paintings through an intense study of Renaissance, ancient art, sketches and wax figurines. The exhibition is currently showing at the beautiful and historical National Gallery and I strongly recommend taking a detour to check out the permanent (and free!) exposition, whose iconic paintings one must see at least once in their life.

Poussin, a key artist of the Baroque movement, was born in Normandy in 1594 and studied in Paris. Despite his very French upbringing, he had always been fascinated by Rome, a city rich in Renaissance and ancient art, which he studied and analysed religiously to reproduce their vibrant colours and perfect proportions. He was mesmerised by ancient artifacts such as ‘The Borghese Vase’ and the beautiful ‘Dancers of Villa Borghese’, which you will find displayed all throughout the exposition. ‘He was a bit of a nerd for Ancient Rome, really’, affectionately jokes the curator of the event.

The exhibition casts a totally new light on the artist, whose Baroque religious and symbolically charged art has given him a certain reputation in art history for being cold and rigid. Although this statement is true for most of his work, these early paintings from his younger years unveil a new side of the painter of joyous and colourful decadence, intricate bodies, twisted movements, nudity and immoral abandon. Interestingly, these paintings were never considered scandalous, and some were even commissioned by the Cardinal of Richelieu. Poussin strategically depicted scenes charged with religious symbols, historical mythological references and Renaissance techniques, which gave his paintings an erudite and cultural aspect that hid the fact that the scenes represented are, in fact, orgies that are far from aligned with Catholic morality.

Another interesting aspect of Poussins artwork is his use of wax figurines to study movement, and although he is not the only artist to have used this technique, it is recognised that he used it more than any artist at that time. He moved with extreme fluidity from 3D figurines to 2D sketches, which explains the realism and the seeming elasticity of the bodies and movements in his paintings. The reconstructions of the figurines all throughout the exhibition and the multitude of chalk sketches will give you an interesting insight ‘behind the scenes’ of the paintings exposed.

The paintings are a delight to admire, as the movements of the bodies constitute a studied choreography that will guide your eyes through what is depicted on the canvas as they follow the movement. My personal favourite painting was, with no surprise, ‘A Dance to the music of time’, where Poussin depicts four figures dancing in a circle, representing the cyclicality of life and seasons. I cannot recommend the exposition enough to any lover of Poussin, Renaissance and mythology, or simply to anyone who appreciates beauty in art.

Reviewed by Céline Galletti- Celine is a volunteer writer for Abundant Art. Originally from France and Italy, she follows her passion for writing and art by studying Comparative Literature at UCL, London. As an international student living in London, she is determined to fully experience and understand the citys vibrant arts scene, and be a part of its creative storm.

 

 

 

 

Dance Umbrella Festival 2021 at Waterman’s Art Centre Review

This October, the Dance Umbrella company presented Dance Umbrella Festival 2021, a hybrid event combining online events and in-person shows from a range of international talented artists, performed in different venues in London.  It epitomised how the art world has managed to adapt and overcome the challenges of the global pandemic, which seemed insurmountable just a few months ago.

Produced by Rob Jones, the festival celebrates modern dance and diversity whilst nurturing a mentality of growth, innovation and the power of motion. I had the opportunity to watch the double bill performed at the Waterman’s Art Centre, starring Kesha Raithatha in Traces and Dani Harris-Walters in Happy Fathers Day. Both performances are polar opposites both in form and tone, but tell similar stories of internal conflicts, growth and celebrations of the body.

The first performance is a very intimate dance, performed by one single dancer, retelling a personal yet universal story of regeneration and purgation from incidents such as loss and abandonment, which dancer and choreographer Kesha Raithatha drew from her own personal experience. The purpose of the dance is to have the feeling of being told a story, which represents a key element of the traditional Indian Kathak dance. However, Rathatha refuses to be held down by any structure or tradition of dancing as her style is timeless, formless and emancipated from everything. Elements like her layered costume and the light are incorporated in the choreography and she constantly interacts with them. The overall effect is otherworldly and ethereal, as we witness the evolution a body being emancipated from its trauma to gain a state of weightlessness and peace.

We are then pulled out of this reflective dimension by a drastic change of tone with Danni Harris-Walter’s performance in Happy Father’s Day. As for Raithatha’s dance, it is almost impossible to pin down the genre of the piece: the story is told through a fluid succession of stand-up, sketches, oral narration, hip-hop and rap. This patchwork of genres allows for an energetic and humorous performance that retraces the story of young spermatozoa, from birth to his fusion with an ovule. Described by Harris-Walters as “the unconventional lesson of puberty you wish you had in high school”, the story is also an endearing narration of personal growth and self-discovery. For the young performer, the keyword for his show is relatability, not only through humour and references to pop-culture, but also through the expression of universal themes that will speak to anyone in the public.

Look out for next year’s festival at https://www.danceumbrella.co.uk, and keep up to date with Watermans art centre’s program at https://www.watermans.org.uk.

Reviewed by Céline Galletti- Celine is a volunteer writer for Abundant Art. Originally from France and Italy, she follows her passion for writing and art by studying Comparative Literature at UCL, London. As an international student living in London, she is determined to fully experience and understand the citys vibrant arts scene, and be a part of its creative storm.

Natural Reserve Exhibition at Kew Gardens Review

‘If I had to identify one broad theme in my work, I would say human nature. The human being is at the centre, with his or her relationship to the natural world.’ Zadok Ben-David

Last week, I attended the press view of the Natural Reserve exhibition in Kew Gardens and got swept up in the wonder of nature. Internationally renowned artist Zadok Ben-David has brought his award-winning work to Kew Gardens – a very big deal for both abstract sculptor and Kew Gardens. Centred on themes of tragedy and hope, the exhibition explores the ever-increasing fragility of our natural world and forces us to think about the relationship between humanity and the natural world.

The exhibition includes Ben-David’s exploration of themes linked to human nature and evolution. This is exhibited with a series of animal and human etchings through the evolutionary process in glass boxes along the walls. Some of the boxes with mirrors echo the same theme as the ‘Blackfield’ installation with their black fronts and colourful backs.

The exhibition includes a stunning 360-degree installation, Blackfield, made up of more than 17,000 steel-etched, hand-painted flowers and trees which cover the gallery floor. Depending on which end you look at the installation, one side appears as a black vision of a burnt forest and the other side has a variety of different coloured flowers, each hand-painted and meticulously positioned on a bed of sand. I felt like I was going from Winter to Spring in a few steps. The miniature silhouettes are based on over 900 different species of plants, but look like a field of wildflowers in the country if you step back from it a little.

Conversation Peace is a video installation featuring images of nature taken from the artist’s recent installations of trees, butterflies, insects and flowers and tells a story of how a peaceful land can easily deteriorate into a futile war. While I admired the installation, I later realised that the man next to me was in fact the artist himself who was later interviewed on camera. Being in the same room as the artist himself and observing his most original installations was a unique experience and it will stay with me for some time.

This landmark exhibition offers groundbreaking perspectives on the natural world and is on from 16 Oct 2021 – 27 March 2022 at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art.

Book tickets here: https://www.kew.org/kew-gardens/whats-on/zadok-ben-david-natural-reserve

Reviewed by Julia Nelson who does marketing and operations for  Abundant Art.

Savage but funny – The Beauty Queen of Leenane Review

Firstly, if you’re not from Ireland or the UK and English isn’t your first language, be prepared that for the first couple of minutes of the play you won’t be able to understand anything…This is exactly what happened to me, but once my ears (and brain) adjusted to the character’s strong Irish accents, I could relax and enjoy the Beauty Queen of Leenane – a savage but funny play. 

Set in Leenane, Ireland in 1995 (pre the Good Friday Agreement and before the vote on marriage equality or bodily autonomy) the play mirrors the characters’ personal circumstances with the political state of the country. It shows an Ireland that is in transition but trapped in this gut feeling of real independence that is almost impossible to achieve.

Portrayed as a parallel to the main character’s fate – the co-dependent mother-daughter relationship between Maureen (Orla Fitzgerald) and Mag (Ingrid Craigie) shows that the characters’ lives are defined by violence, anger, sadness and frustration.

While Maureen, a middle-aged virgin craving intimacy and love, gets more and more frustrated with her life and tries to escape from her duties of caring for her scheming, needy mother; Mag, on the other hand, fuels her daughter’s unhappiness by manipulating her relationships and wants Maureen completely for herself.

Building up to an emotional explosion, especially after Mag manipulates Maureen’s love life when her daughter meets a man called Pato, this play does not offer us a happy ending. Instead, the characters continue to be trapped between their situation and aspiration. And even after Mag dies from the brutal attacks by her daughter; Maureen’s life does not improve since her loved one has run off with a different woman.

Exploring co-dependent relationships as well as topics such as boredom, frustration and loneliness, the Beauty Queen of Leeanne ends with Maureen alone in the house, resembling her mother’s picture and fate when she sits down on the rocking chair as the curtain closes.

Martin McDonagh’s script, which critics believe to be “as vital as its rage”, has been adapted by director Rachel O’Riordan for the Lyric Hammersmith and joined by a cast of Ireland’s best talent: Adam Best, Ingrid Craigie, Orla Fitzgerald and Kwaku Fortune. The set design invites the viewer into the mother and daughter’s cold-looking living room and kitchen with big windows exacerbating the darkness in and outside the characters’ lives.

Tickets are available at: https://lyric.co.uk/shows/the-beauty-queen-of-leenane/.

Orla Fitzgerald as Maureen in The Beauty Queen of Leenane. Photograph: Helen Maybanks

Reviewed by Giulia Ciccolella – Giulia is interning with Abundant Art during October and supports the organisation writing reviews and helping with marketing and PR. Giulia is German-Italian and graduated with a BA in Media & Communications with first-class honours from Goldsmiths, University of London. She has been living in the UK for over three years and is excited to explore London’s art scene further while learning more about the work of Abundant Art.

Tapestries of migrant stories – Frieze Gallery at No.9 Cork Street

This month, Frieze No.9 Cork Street presents the solo exhibition of ‘I Dare Not Appear’ by Christopher Myers until the 23rd of October. The project brings together the textile artworks of the American artist with personal letters written by Sarah Forbes Bonetta, a young Egbado girl gifted to Queen Victoria in 1850, to tell a story of race, identity and otherness.

Myers’s colourful tapestries, although depicting Bonetta’s life, are extremely personal, as they capture the artist’s feelings as an African-American man. He explores how the presence of Black people in Western culture is always regarded as something that only started existing in 1619 during the first slave trades, ignoring the centuries of preceding African culture that had already been exchanged through cultural exposure and trades.

Sarah Forbes Bonetta was a young girl bequeathed to Queen Victoria as a tribute by King Ghezo of Dahomey of Egbado, a tribe of South-West Nigeria (now called Yewa). Sarah was considered a gift, a beautiful and bright child that would be raised as the Queen’s goddaughter. In true Victorian English fashion, she was seen as a soul that had been “saved” by being blessed with proper education and civilisation, a colonial utopic dream of civilising the entire world to the mould of England. For Myers, the story of Forbes Bonetta is far from being an isolated case belonging to a distant past: it’s part of a tapestry, continuous and unbroken, of diasporic anxiety that still exists today.

The creative marriage of visual and written media, epistolary writings and tapestry, allows us to put an image to the words of Sarah Forbes Bonetta and words to the images of Christopher Myers. Two individuals separated by space, time and circumstance, of different ages, nationalities and sex, intertwine their experiences and complete each other’s work to express their stories of outcasted beings. Myers talks of a feeling of being “stuck in between”, of not belonging to a culture. It is this feeling that you can perceive in Bonetta’s mundane letters, when for example she gets worried about not having an appropriate dress for an event, as dresses are her disguise. This is her desperate attempt to fit in a universe that is not hers.

I recommend visiting the exhibition, as well as the many other galleries in Mayfair, St James’ and Soho here:  https://www.galleriesnow.net/exhibitions/ london/

Reviewed by Céline Galletti- Celine is a volunteer writer for Abundant Art. Originally from France and Italy, she follows her passion for writing and art by studying Comparative Literature at UCL, London. As an international student living in London, she is determined to fully experience and understand the city’s vibrant arts scene, and be a part of its creative storm.

No Time To Die – Cineworld Greenwich VIP Experience

This Autumn, get ready for the big return of the world’s most renowned British secret agent, who will once again come to the big screen for one last, long-expected movie. Cary Joji Fukunaga’s “No Time to Die” will be the last apparition of Daniel Craig as the charismatic agent, an emotional and spectacular goodbye to the role that he has covered for the last twenty years. We embark on agent 007’s last adventure against a new villain, Lyutsifer Safin, who threatens to use a biological weapon to eradicate entire human ethnicities from the face of the earth. An adventure where Bond will have to juggle between action, love, a quest for identity and a little girl’s past. 

As proven by its continuous breaking records, the expectations around the movie were enormous, but once again James Bond managed to deliver. The fans will be delighted by the appearances of classical characters like Bond’s arch-nemesis Blofeld, Q the assistant and M, the exasperated boss. Without forgetting the Aston Martin, the glass of Aston Martini, yet another Bond girl and the iconic catchphrase “Bond. James, Bond”. However, this movie is refreshingly original and amusingly self-conscious, which can only be a good thing for a character that hasn’t changed since its first apparition in the 1950s. James Bond is stripped of his title of Agent 007 and is replaced by a new, younger agent, and the love interest Madeleine is not an accessory to the plot, but almost the main character who opens and finishes the movie. There’s also another hilarious femme fatale, who you see on her first week at her job and is terribly nervous and insecure, despite her fighting skills and her revealing dress.

The scenography is, as it often is the case in the James Bond saga, one of the most remarkable things of the movie. It makes use of memorable and extremely aesthetic shots that could have their place in a museum. In true James Bond tradition, the locations are also stunning, as the events take place in Matera in Italy, Jamaica and Cuba. Without forgetting London of course, the Bond movies will always take advantage of their surroundings, be it for creative action sequences or rememberable shots. The score from Hans Zimmer is also remarkable and Billie Eilish’s “No Time To Die” will send shivers down your spine. 

If you are planning to watch the movie, I recommend that you try the VIP experience that Cineworld has to offer. I felt like an international spy and was treated to dine in an exclusive lounge decorated to the taste of 007 with an exclusive buffet, unlimited snacks and comfortable reclinable seats. I recommend coming at least half an hour before the screening to get the most of the experience.

Although the movie might not replace classics like Casino Royale and Skyfall, (or Octopussy and On Her Majesty’s secret service for older fans), it will not fail to ravish hearts and is a perfect curtain call for the iconic 007 agent. 

Get your tickets to watch the movie at Cineworld here:  https://www.cineworld.co.uk/#/

Reviewed by Céline Galletti- Celine is a volunteer writer for Abundant Art. Originally from France and Italy, she follows her passion for writing and art by studying Comparative Literature at UCL, London. As an international student living in London, she is determined to fully experience and understand the city’s vibrant arts scene, and be a part of its creative storm.

Going the Distance – Digital Comedy Review

‘Going the Distance’, ​​the digital comedy by Henry Filloux-Bennett and Yasmeen Khan, does what it promises – it brings theatre into your bedroom and makes you laugh out loud.

Set in March 2020, when theatres across the country (and the globe) went dark, Going the Distance talks about the struggles of keeping small community theatres open – an issue faced by many long before the pandemic started.

Consequently, in order to save their local venue, the Matchborough Theatre community – with Sara Crowe, Nicole Evans, Shobna Gulati and many more acclaimed actors starring – use all their forces to put on a fundraising production of the Wizard, a show inspired by (but not exactly like) the Wizard of Oz.

Asking critical questions about what changes are needed for theatres to be more inclusive and to survive, Going The Distance has a critical eye on theatre itself and practices self-reflection while addressing topics that are more relevant than ever before.

By claiming that “theatre is for everyone”, it portrays the art as an inclusive, accessible way of bringing people together, no matter their background, and stresses the importance of the connections made via storytelling.

Finally, like a love letter to itself, the digital comedy argues that theatre is home and does not shy away from giving important life lessons, bringing up real emotions, and stressing the sense of belonging one feels being part of the theatre community.

With an extension announced, this extraordinary production, which mixes theatre with film and even captures some of the scenes on Zoom as a reminder of the good old lockdown spirit, will be available to watch until October 31st.

Although watching it alone in my room with lots of things to potentially distract me from the show, I felt immersed in the story, moved by the actors’ performances and motivated to become part of the fictional Matchborough Theatre community trying to save their local venue. 

All in all, I absolutely loved Going the Distance because it touched my heart and made me laugh out loud multiple times. I had the feeling of being in an actual theatre hall with the only difference being my outfit (God, I wish we could wear PJs in public) and crowds of people joining me in my laughter.

Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased at goingthedistanceplay.comBookers will receive a screening link that will allow access to their booked performance date for a 48-hour period. Tickets are priced at £15 which will include both a link to the production as well as a digital programme. Audio description and closed captioning will be made available for the production during its run.

Reviewed by Giulia Ciccolella – Giulia is interning with Abundant Art during October and supports the organisation writing reviews and helping with marketing and PR. Giulia is German-Italian and graduated with a BA in Media & Communications with first-class honours from Goldsmiths, University of London. She has been living in the UK for over three years and is excited to explore London’s art scene further while learning more about the work of Abundant Art.

 

The Other Art Fair’s Private View Review

It’s art fair season again so we popped into the private view of the 50th edition of The Other Art Fair at the Truman Brewery in lively Shoreditch. Showcasing the best emerging and independent artist’s work handpicked by industry experts Saatchi Art, the art was eclectic and eye-catching.

As a person naturally drawn to words, Diego Art badass girls selection and Allan Watson’s artworks caught my eye and I enjoyed chatting to Kerwin Blackburn about his colourful and fun paintings. Art lovers and collectors crowded around the special Parkinson UK exhibition, which focused on brain sculptures, created by established artists Tracey Emin and Gavin Turk – I would have taken a closer look but it was too busy!

Another highlight was English actor, artist, comedian, musician, presenter and writer Noel Fielding’s paintings and despite not being there himself (sigh) his paintings did a great job at standing out. A man of many talents, he’s an inspiration. All the artists and exhibitors were really friendly and keen to engage and discuss their work, which made it a sociable evening. Meeting the artists in person as you browse is lovely.

As David Bowie once said ‘owning art is stable nourishment and can change the way you feel in the mornings’. He was so right. Fei Alexeli’s Cactus and Universe (see image above) amongst others spoke to me, which is exactly what art should do shouldn’t it? This one reminded me just how much sexual attraction is nature plus I love the powerful and provocative colours.

Written by Julia Nelson who does marketing and operations for Abundant Art.

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Honey Cigar – ICA Review

Kamir Ainouz’s directorial debut Honey Cigar is a sensual, captivating coming-of-age drama set in France and Algeria in 1993. It focuses on a young woman’s experience of discovering her own body while dealing with abusive men, family pressures, and political issues during the Algerian Civil War.

Selma, played by Zoé Adjani, is 17 years old and lives in France with her Algerian family. She was born and raised in Paris but feels connected to her Algerian heritage and longs for the moment to be reunited with her home country.

While at school, her desire and curiosity take over and Selma starts to explore her own body. She meets classmate Julien and is immediately attracted to him, although his first remarks to her are rather sexist. Nevertheless, they become friends, eventually sleep with each other, but end their story before it even properly begins.

The young woman’s teenage life consists of drinking, smoking, and coming home late which results in fights with her parents. She actively opposes the idea of an arranged marriage but finds herself at dinners with sons of family friends who, according to her parents, could potentially become Selma’s future husbands.

Luka, a banker and one of her ‘potential’ husbands, invites Selma to a job interview and a dinner and this ends with him cruelly raping her in his hotel room. This shocking plotline is unfortunately not developed further and so we can only imagine how Selma feels since she is not able to talk to anyone about this terrible moment. Ultimately, it seems she has to push her trauma aside since she accepted the internship and the film ends on the day before she is supposed to start working.

With the camera close to Selma at all times, one can identify with the young woman and feel her pain. Moreover, the screenplay depicts her wish to escape and the shots only widen when she is back in Algeria for a holiday with her family.

Finally, the film portrays an unfortunately all too common and relatable experience of being a young woman. It criticises the deeply misogynistic concept of ‘deflowering’ a woman, but on the other hand, shows how Selma’s sexual experiences with men are never on her terms.

The relatively open ending of the film and the fact that we don’t know if Selma will ever speak up about her trauma made me feel unsatisfied. Nevertheless, I could have continued to watch the film because it felt so raw and relatable, almost as if I was watching my own or one of my friend’s experiences.

Touching upon topics such as growing up as a woman and discovering one’s pleasure in a patriarchal society, connecting with one’s heritage and the political context in Algeria in 1993 – Honey Cigar is a must-watch since it offers so much to reflect about.

Honey Cigars is exclusively showing at the ICA in London. Get your tickets via https://www.ica.art/films/ica-exclusive-honey-cigar.

Reviewed by Giulia Ciccolella – Giulia is interning with Abundant Art during October and supports the organisation writing reviews and helping with marketing and PR. Giulia is German-Italian and graduated with a BA in Media & Communications with first-class honours from Goldsmiths, University of London. She has been living in the UK for over three years and is excited to explore London’s art scene further while learning more about the work of Abundant Art.

Is God Is, a new colourful blood-tainted drama at The Royal Court Theatre

The Royal court theatre is currently being taken by storm by Ola Ince’s and Aleshea Harris’s fiery play “Is God Is”, winner of the Relentless Award and Obie Award for playwriting. Follow the blood-trail of twins Anaia (Adelayo Adedayo) and Racine (Tamara Laurence) as they avenge their new-found mother from their father (Mark Monero), who tried to burn them alive twenty years before. Get ready for an extremely intense emotional rollercoaster that will bring you from laughter to shock, in a crescendo of violence and nail-biting narrative. 

The play is a pastiche of a multitude of different genres but can generally be defined as a Spaghetti Western, or rather a satire of it, by its overall aesthetic and themes. It is also rich in divine allusions and Biblical references, especially when it comes to the figure of the mother, the horrific divinity, called “God” by her daughters, whose blood-thirsty “divine will” acts like an invisible hand that guides the whole story of the play. Cecilia Noble’s performance as the monstrous mother will send chills down your spine, and the scene where she recalls the day that her husband set her on fire is the most violent part of the play. Orality has also a strong role to play in the story, as every character introduces themselves in the third person in long monologues where they describe themselves and their intentions, adding a particular storytelling aspect to the story.

The most interesting feature of the play is the mise-en-scene, as a defile of colourful and creative stage settings takes place before the amazed eyes of the public, all adorned with a different chapter heading for each scene. The quick-witted humour, the colourfulness of the scenes, and the humorous characters bring joyful energy on stage, and the contagious cheerful energy of the twins is definitely what carries the entire play. 

 However, be warned before you enter the theatre: the play is cartoonishly violent, as the twins end up killing most of what encounters their path. The violence will seem confusingly unnecessary at times and will make the main characters lose much of their likeability, as the spectator progressively stops understanding what or who he is rooting for anymore. Likable characters are killed off with a certain indifference and misplaced humour as if we were supposed to go along with it. This endless killing does however benefit the character development of the twins, as we assist at the progressive perversion to the violence of Racine and Anaia’s emancipation from her demons. 

If you are looking for a fun and thrill-inducing experience with a bittersweet taste, then Is God Is is the play to watch this Autumn.

Get your tickets at: https://royalcourttheatre.com/whats-on/isgodis/

Reviewed by Céline Galletti- Celine is a volunteer writer for Abundant Art. Originally from France and Italy, she follows her passion for writing and art by studying Comparative Literature at UCL, London. As an international student living in London, she is determined to fully experience and understand the city’s vibrant arts scene, and be a part of its creative storm.