ON POETRY, WRITING AND RANDOM CULTURAL MATTERS

Sunday, 31 May 2015

The Sunken Chip

Be warned, I am not given to writing restaurant reviews, but about twice a year I have the over-whelming desire to each fish and chips. Before being overtaken by Chicken Tikka Massala, it was our national dish. Funnily enough, it is not the national dish of France.

Until now I've had to put up with Belgian chips, all very good and you can even buy them by the kilo at the chip shop near the Pantheon, but no battered fish, not anywhere. French fires are not the same, not in the slightest. 

Hello, The Sunken Chip. To my knowledge, it is the only place in Paris where you can get real fish and chips in a real (bar the fat filled air) fish and chip shop. Although in this one you can sit down and it doesn't have the stainless steel counter and they don't cook before your eyes, but still.

Friday night and that longing comes over me, so off we go. There is a choice of fish, but sadly no plaice, they never have that, and surprisingly no cod (whaaat? that's the basic one)  The haddock was excellent though, the chips perfect - not a soggy tattie in sight, and the mushy peas were minted and fresh. Home made mayonnaise? Yum. 

On the downside, the ketchup was not Heinz - criminal, and they had run out of Magners and Newcie brown - unforgivable.

But if you want battered sausage and picked eggs washed down with R Whites or Iron Bru, hithee to the Canal Saint Martin. Licks lips, wipes grease from chin.

Sur Les Murs

Skates on - this closes in less than two weeks and it has anti-social opening hours in the Credit Mutuel building in rue des Francs Bourgeois, 3eme. It is literally a two minute walk from my house, yet I only managed to get around to it yesterday. Amazing how I don't have an hour or so to spare sometimes.

The issue with mounting an exhibition of Street Art is that you can't. By definition its meant to be in the street, where the walls, pavements, and street furniture are the gallery space or co-opted as part of the work. So what you end up with if you try to bring the whole thing indoors is smaller works on paper, wood, canvas by some of Paris' best known street artists of the last fifty years.

OK, if that is what has to be done for reasons of space, but it loses the grandeur of scale, the danger of executing the work and frankly the surprise of discovering a piece of art as you otherwise busy about the city.

That said, as survey and documentation, it's fine. If you want to match up the names and faces to work you might recognise, off you go. It's a small exhibit and it's free, so no excuse really.  Here you will find work by Blek Le Rat, Mesanger, Ox, Popay, Space Invader, Jeff Aeorsol and Mis, Tic, amongst others. But there's no theme or organising principle, it's a classic mixed or group show.

There's two reasonably priced books to acquire, so you can take things home on an even smaller scale, and a film of the installation of various works at Le Mur, which is a licensed, curated space on rue Oberkamp in the 11eme. With work that changes second Saturday, it's worth checking that out too.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Savage Beauty - Alexander McQueen at the V&A

I have run out of superlatives. For once I was speechless. This show is an absolute must-see, even if like me you are not exactly a fashionista, but admire well made things.

McQueen transcended the cat walk to make clothes that are all theatre and more and beyond. There were just too many marvels for me to talk about. It literally took my breath away and I didn't know where to look next.

I wanted to swish off in so many of these dresses it was very, very hard to leave in the clothes I came in. And with my teenage Goth daughter and huge McQueen fan in tow, I had an absolute ball. Do not hesitate for one moment.

Tracey's Bed and other things at Tate Britain

So there it is again, the sheets are still filthy dirty, the litter, used condoms, tampons and other detritus are still, well, there. Her slippers are still naff and the pair of tights is still slung on top of the duvet. But honestly, what was the fuss all about? It's strange looking at something that caused such a furore at the time. I liked it's iconoclasm when it was first put on show in 1999. I like it still. If you've never seen Tracey Emin's My Bed it in all it's glory, off you go to the permanent collection. Enjoy people's reactions.

But while you are there, think seriously and twice about going to the other current exhibitions. I was pretty underwhelmed by Sculpture Victorious because it is so much of a mishmash: partly about the Great Exhibition, party about sculpture in 1800s, but a bit all over the shop for me. It never does for me to enter an exhibition into a first room of sculpture of a monarch, Queen Victoria in this case. I'm Welsh. We don't do the royal family.

However I was astounded to learn that something like 6,000 elephants were slaughtered for their ivory every year to meet British demand alone in the mid-nineteenth century. The only good things to my jaded eye were a Byrne-Jones I have never before spied of Perseus and the Graeae (part-painting part-metal work, not exactly a sculpture), the Eric Gills and my favourite python-wrestling hero by Leighton.

Salt and Silver sounded promising, being as it is about early photography (salt paper prints) and the works are to be admired for technical achievement, but the subject matter is rather predictable and frankly dull, with one exception. The photographs from the Crimean War are worth a good look. I was especially taken with one of a cantiniere, who despite being in a campaign had time to lace her corset and pull in her perilously tiny waist.

The third exhibition, and yes, I did spent the best part of a day there, is also of photography  - Nick Waplinton's collaboration with Alexander McQueen, no doubt timed to coincide with the block busting show at the V&A. I am a big fan of huge glossy prints and the space to enjoy them, but I was more than a little bemused by the fashion shot, plate, costume  juxtposed (sic) by pictures of rubbish, literally and in close up, by which I mean plastic, broken glass, black bin liners and the like, all in sordid detail. It seemed a bit graduate show to me, but hey, make up your own mind.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Marlene Dumas at Tate Modern

Just a week left to rush to the South bank to see this one. Dark, disturbing, a challenge to your sense of what makes a portrait, this huge retrospective, the first in Europe, is not to be missed.

For the portraits of the famous, it is worth the price of admission alone. Go, go, go. Stop reading this and go.

Dumas crafts from photographs not life and transforms her subjects into something quite other.

Favourite things are the children - more scary than innocent, the Magdelena series, which includes the haunting portrait of Naomi Campbell, and her twists on conflict in the Middle East.

The one I wanted to slip into my bag and take home was Girl with a Skull - I could weave stories from it for days. If you want to see Amy Winehouse in blue, this is where you'll find her. Full of images and not a burden at all. Breathtaking. Hurry.