Katharina Grosse: This Drove my Mother up the Wall

I saw this exhibition not too long ago, by artist Katharina Grosse, which I thought was pretty memorable. It’s called ‘ This Drove my Mother up the Wall’ at the South London Gallery, and features a room covered in boldly thrown paint on walls and doors.

I loved the rainbow effect of this piece – it’s vibrant, alive, messy but beautiful and while walking around the room, it felt like I was in a colourful wonderland. There’s colourrs on parts of the floor, ceiling and doors as well as the wall, although none of it is organised or structured.

I really love the feel of this piece – it reminds me of chaos but in a cheerful way – rather than being an angry piece or a hostile one, it is enthusiastic, a little like thoughts spilling out which can’t be contained.

I’m looking forward to seeing the artist’s next exhibition which is currently on at the Gagosian Gallery in London, which is another colourful, vibrant piece that is on until the end of the week – I recommend you visit if you get the time!

Leaving The Page Blank*

I have developed a bad habit, over the years, of putting things off, or worse, not finishing them. Not necessarily out of laziness, but out of the idea that ‘One Day’ I’ll magically get a brainwave and do what I’ve been meaning to do. Until then I’ll leave the page blank, or leave the ending of the story unfinished.

Let me explain what I mean.

An example: whenever I get a new sketch book, a new note-book, even a new diary, I’ve always left the first page blank. I have this idea that I’ll be randomly struck by inspiration and be able to use that front page to design a beautiful front cover or write a something amazing and funny (because of course you need a spectacular front page. As a kid, most of my diaries said Keep Out So-and-So in bedazzled glitter). So I have in my possession a few sketch books that I use now and then, with the front page blank because I’m waiting for that unspecific, magical point in the future that I’ll be practiced enough in my skills enough to draw something amazing that I’m happy with. So that the first thing people see if they flip through is that page. Most of my diaries in the past (I say past because in the age of laptops and social media, I no longer keep a diary, I think the last time I wrote in one was about 7 or 8 years ago) have had the front cover black so I can stick something pretty there or draw random doodles or even just my name on the front.

I’m also a really fussy artist and writer. I’m not necessarily great what I do, but I revise what I write A LOT, and I often correct drawings because they don’t ‘feel’ right – I’m sure you can guess that I am my own worst critic and I hate everything I create. This has applied to a few other things in my life, and it has taken me time to realise that it is not down to talent, circumstance, or even things like time or taste – but purely down to mentality and approach. So sometimes I have put off things in my life, thinking I can do them later – learn to drive, save money to travel, take that class I wanted to take, invest in that exercise programme.

Which brings me to the whole point of my post – I’ve come to a realisation over the years that there is never a right moment to fill in that blank page. No epiphany moment of ‘ah-ha!’ which inspires me to write a beautiful story or draw an amazing piece of art – for me it will always involve a little patience, hard work and practise, and a positive attitude. I have often put off doing something or not done something at all because I thought I was terrible – hundreds of discarded storylines which I never followed through because they didn’t sound good when I wrote it, artwork I didn’t complete and even mini projects that I stopped mid-way. Partly due to laziness, but a lot of do with the fact that it wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not this much of a perfectionist in every aspect of my life – I don’t cook a meal then throw it away if it doesn’t look great (if anything I follow a philosophy which prioritises taste over aesthetics, who cares what a dish looks like as long as it tastes good?). Neither do I fall into a mire of depression because a something didn’t go the way I wanted, or because my planned day out/make-up/role at work didn’t go the way it wanted. I think perhaps because writing and drawing is such a personal thing to me which I don’t share with many people, I tend to get a lot more fussy, a lot more self-conscious and easily put-off.

I’m learning though. I try not to let these things get to me. I have always said to my husband that it’s no use waiting for that magical moment where everything will be okay – next week, next month, next year. It will never happen that way. Change your approach, be positive and your can-do attitude will do wonders. Sometimes it’s sensible to know when to give up and not waste your time, and other times it’s important to persevere and keep at it.

I’ll add a few hashtags to sum this post up, because lets face it, who doesn’t love a good hashtag: #existentialproblems #firstworldproblems #stopbeinglazy

Just a few things I started and then gave up mid-way:

  1. Embroidery
  2. Learning to apply eyeshadow
  3. Writing a ‘How-to’ about Instagram blogging
  4. Planning several tea parties
  5. Restoring some vintage shoes I bought
  6. Jogging in the park (that lasted a week)
  7. Drawing my own adult colouring book
  8. Batman: Arkham Asylum the game (I kept dying, my husband still keeps telling me to finish the game)
  9. A trip to document every underground train station and its art
  10. A mission to try every restaurant in London (back in my skinny days!)

There’s more, but I’m sure you get the gist!

*I even put off this post as well. It actually had a different title and was a little different in content until I re-read and re-wrote :/

Happy International Women’s Day…! 2018

Today we celebrate International Women’s Day – a day which honours women’s achievements, their lives and the struggle for equality in this post-modern world. I’ve already heard criticism and grumblings though – some from women saying this day is full of hypocrisy, where companies cash in on a cheesy holiday, before going back to the uncomfortable reality where women aren’t all equal. I’ve also heard some from the men, who feel targeted, pushed out, marginalised and feel that it is unfair (to be honest, there is a International Men’s Day in November, but I’ve never seen it be celebrated.)

One of the reasons why I always like to talk about this day is because I know how much the women in my family have struggled in order for me to have the position, and privilege, that I enjoy today. My paternal grandmother spent her life looking after her husband, then her children, and then her last few years with her sons and grandchildren – but we all saw her as the matriarch, the Queen Bee of the family, and have such fond memories of her. We never knew our maternal grandmother as she died very young, but we have always held her in such high respect – the stories we grew up with about her focused on her being the jewel of her family, a much-wanted daughter and sister. One of the stories I remember being told was about her travelling in her ‘doli’ on her wedding day, and asking to stop so she could pray her salah – this for me was such a humble, awe-inspiring thing to do in the midst of a special day, and a reminder to not get too big for our boots.

And my mother. I could write pages about her. Whenever I read poetry about our roots, our struggles, our blessings, (“Our backs/Tell stories/No books have/The spine to/Hold” – Rupi Kaur), I always think of my mum and what she has taught us while she raised us, as well as what she has endured. My mother married young, and spent her life caring for others, where she never came first – her younger siblings, her husband, her children, her in-laws. I’ve heard a lot of stories from friends, colleagues, bloggers and many more about the relationships they’ve had with their parents, difficult or otherwise which all talk about how they impacted them as adults.

It’s harder to explain the more complex things someone who may not have the same upbringing as us – the emotional-blackmail, the cultural-family politics, the superstitions and the ingrained racism, misogyny and general random weirdness that seems to come part-and-parcel with Asian society. One of the things I was always grateful for was that my mother spared my sisters and I a lot of this headache – she realised the value of letting us be ourselves without forcing us to follow the route she had gone through. We spent our childhood running to the parks, riding bikes, dressing in boy-jeans (well, one of my sisters did anyway), wearing princess dresses (me), devouring books and jumping up and down to Bollywood songs (me again). Our parents were not well off, but my mother spent most of her spare time tailoring, and saved money carefully so that when we needed (or usually just wanted) something frivolous, we always got it.

And shall I tell you about my sisters? One is literally Superwoman – she blogs, works full time, raises five children and still has time for a good natter, to cook, to take her children somewhere fun or find something interesting to do, watch or read. Almost every person I know who also knows her ask me how she does it – I’m a little baffled myself. Then there’s another sister of mine – possibly the most humble person I know, and also the most reliable. I always take her shopping with me (because she lets me be rude to her when she picks out clothes) and she’s always my go-to person for taking photos, organising events or just generally random bits of handy-man advice. And lastly there’s the baker in the family – when we were younger we used to get asked if we twins (we look nothing alike but used to be the same height as kids), and she’s probably one of the few people who loves horror movies way more than I do. I often find that she’ll say something I was thinking, usually the more stupid the more likely! When I was in school, I got told by one of my friends that I talked about my sisters ‘too much’, which I found weird – I always thought I was lucky to have sisters and have always felt sorry for those who don’t.

Having said that, as much as I understand how important it is to recognise and acknowledge the bounds and leaps that women have taken over the years, I feel that it is just as important to understand the issues that women still have. In my workplace I’ve often come across women who have problems, and still have them now. I met a very sweet Afghani women a couple of days ago who broke my heart with her story – she was a teacher in Afghanistan who taught at a girl’s schools, but received many threats for doing so. Her son was abducted, his body found a year later. Her husband was injured in an explosion while driving to work, and she fled the country to Britain in fear of her life. When I went to visit her, her landlord took me aside and quietly asked me to be gentle with her – she had just found out her husband died the day before. Yet when I spoke to her I found her incredibly sweet, thoughtfully asking me if I wanted to sit, to drink anything. I found her strength of character amazing – she was in the middle of grieving yet had time to think of others. There are still countries where women do not have access to basic necessities – clean underwear, sanitary items, clean toilets and even basic rights and freedom. It’s things like this which make us realise how much we take for granted, and how far the world still needs to go before we can consider ourselves equal or fair.

Lastly, I also wanted to share some links for some campaigns and projects that have been brewing recently, in celebration of International Women’s Day:

I’m very proud to say that I know these two wonderful women – Zainab Khan and Maariya Lohar, who with their #trailblazingmuslimwomen campaign put a list of 21 successful women who aimed to make a difference to the world. Their aim, Zainab explained, was motivated by looking at Forbes ‘Under 30’ list and seeing that there weren’t many women of colour, and decided to show the younger generation that there are goals like this which can be reached.

Another campaign close to my heart is run by a close friend who has been showcasing for years a’Modest Fashion Pakistan‘ – the modest lifestyle of Pakistani women, both in Pakistan and around the world. As much as I love Pakistani fashion (and I have a whole blog dedicated to it!), we all agree that the media in Pakistan really doesn’t reflect the ordinary women, and that hijab is not represented as much as it should be. Pakistani fashion in the media is glamorous, exotic, beautiful but not always modest, and it rarely, if never has women in hijabs, and many socialites and bloggers would rather not go for the modest look. Thus the #modestfashionrevolution was born – a campaign to show modest, hijab-wearing Pakistani women around the world, to show beautiful, modest and stylish women who don’t compromise their values.

Finally is The Other Box, a friend’s company which is an award-winning organisation which promotes and supports creative people of colour. It’s a really great initiative, and their latest campaign is with the Skinnydip Sisterhood which showcases 12 amazing women.

This post turned out a little longer than I expected! But I’m glad that I’ve seen so many positive messages out there – one of the things I am glad about it that it gives women a chance to support each other rather than judge and compete with each other. The sad thing is, sometimes our biggest critics are our fellow women, and if International Women’s Day help to combat that then I will always celebrate : )

Glow Trees in Liverpool Street

My sister and I came across these lovelies a few weeks ago in Broadgate, next to Liverpool Street station – beautiful glow trees. The art installation is called Lumen, part of artist David Ogle’s collection called Light Traces, and designed to make us stop from our busy lives and appreciate the environment around us, by enjoying the bursts of colour in the dark after a short winter day.

One of the things that I liked about these pretty trees was how cheerful and calming they look, and how nice it is to walk around and bask in the coloured lights. It’s striking how simple the trees look together, and yet when you look a little closer and see how the different pieces are fixed together, it’s surprising how much more complex it actually is.

This art piece will be up in Broadgate until 22nd February 2018, so if you’re around then take a quick look, it’s a nice place to stop and admire for a little while.

WALALA X PLAY at Now Gallery, Greenwich

I recently visited a very fun art gallery at Now Gallery in Greenwich, featuring WALALA X PLAY – a mirror maze of colours, stripes, polka dots and angles  created by digital print designer Camille Walala, and involves having to walk around, explore and look at the different patterns and colours. I love interactive art exhibits like this, which means we get to participate in such a simple way, and which everyone can enjoy in their own way.

The exhibit is in an interesting Pop Art 3D style, and encourages visitors to look at light, colours, reflections, shapes and playfulness, and is meant to give us a view of the human self, so that as we engage we come away with an experience which is influenced by the art.

If you’re around the area, I’d recommend a visit – it’s free and nice for a quick half hour of fun. The exhibition is on until 24th of September though, so hurry!

 

Sweet Art: A Maynard-Bassett Art Gallery

My sister and I recently went to a pop-up gallery – made of sweets! Sweet Manufacturers Maynard-Bassetts (the Jelly Baby and Wine Gum people) held an art show that we managed to get tickets for, featuring their ‘sweet’ takes on different types of art.

The first one we saw when we walked in was the ‘Mona goes Pop’ art below – a Mona Lisa piece made entirely of square liquorice sweets –  I think this was one of the best pieces we saw too!

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There were art pieces dotted all around the room – such as the poster art with sweet wrappers, the various emojis made of sweets, and the very cool Underground Tube map made of sweets.

The venue was a really relaxed place to walk around – thankfully we missed the crowd by going at lunchtime before it all got busy!

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We also got a chance to be a little creative with the sweets at the DIY table, where there were lots of sweet-animals and sweet-people – I loved all the different things people were making!

We also saw various cute pieces of art scattered around the room – I think my sister and both loved the pink mouse best!

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The pop-up gallery also gave every guest a chance to take a bag of sweets from the Pick’n’Mix section home (most of them weren’t halal, so I gave them to my work colleagues, who were ecstatic!) and also had a machine to try and grab a free bag of sweets too!

It was a really fun art show, and a very generous one on the part of the Maynard-Bassetts company, who organised the event and gave out sweets and drinks for free. I’ll be looking out for more events like this in the summer, and will post them as I attend : )

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Luxurious Glamour at The Wallace Collection

A friend and I recently took a visit to the very beautiful Wallace Collection, which is a museum in the middle of London, in a luxurious town-house, displaying hundreds of French 18th-century painting, furniture and porcelain, as well as armoury and older paintings.

While it might make bring to mind  the slightly more touristy National Portrait Gallery, this Collection is a lot more visually appealing – the rooms are each beautifully displayed with grandeur aplenty, and there’s plenty of things to see.

I loved how all the rooms have their own character, with a separate vivid colour theme for each room so that the furniture, artwork and small trinkets all went together well. Each painting had something to look at, and the beautifully ornate furniture looked amazing – like something from of a historical period-film!

One of the things I also enjoyed was that the museum is relatively quiet – there’s plenty of time to walk around at your own pace, you get to explore the house (although you still can’t touch!), and best of all, you’re allowed to take photos (which a lot of other places don’t allow) – and entry is free too.

At the end of the tour, when you’re done, there’s a charming little restaurant outside to have some tea and relax. I didn’t manage to get a chance to visit the restaurant this time, but I will do the next time I come here to browse (and daydream about being a princess in 17th Century France).

If you’re around central London, I’d recommend a visit, whether it’s just ten minutes or a couple of hours, it’s a visual delight for anyone : )

Bergen & Street Art

Happy Monday-ing (and thank goodness it’s over!) To start the week I thought I’d post some street art – always puts a smile on my face, and makes me keep an eye out for more in the rest of the week!

One of the things I always keep an eye out for (aside from bookshops and libraries!) when I’m in another country is street art, because it’s such a beautiful universal thing which you don’t need to know the language for. Below is some street art which my husband and I found while we were in Bergen, Norway last year, which caught my eye because of some of the messages in the pictures – I think my favourite is the one with a panda and it’s mobile phone though!

The Iris by Rebecca Louise Law

I recently saw this beautiful art piece a few days ago – The Iris by artist by Rebecca Louise Law, and thought it was a really pretty, dreamy take on the idea of being among flowers. I’m a big fan of art installations which involve real flowers, and thought this was pretty amazing – one thousand fresh flowers hanging from copper wires in a formation so that you can walk through them and enter a dreamy flower land.

The purpose of the exhibition is to observe the irises as they dry and become preserved – and bringing to mind the idea of past, present and future as the flowers change over a short time. When I visited the exhibition (which was just a few days ago), the flowers were still colourful and the vines were a little green, but I could already see that they were getting dried and the texture and look of them were different. I would have loved to seen the flowers when they were first hung up in February to see more of the colours and smells, especially as it would have looked more fresh and greener, but they are still very beautiful.

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I really liked how the flowers were set up and hanging so that there was a lovely dreamy, whimsical feel to them. It was actually quite difficult for me to take pictures of them because it’s hard to depict the way they are hung and the look of them – for some reason it doesn’t look like there’s many flowers, but I found that it feels like there’s a lot when I was walking through the vines, and there’s a feeling of being almost submerged in nature.

The exhibition is still up, and will be open until 7th May, so if’ you’re around the area, its worth popping in to have a look. There’s lots of space to walk around, and even cushions to sit on or even lie down on and take in the feel of the art installation. I hope I see more flowery art this summer, especially now that spring has arrived in full force, and will certainly post more if I do.

Plaistow Street Art by Mr Cenzone

I love living in east London, because of all the colourful corners and walls I always come across. I’m a huge fan of street art (as I’m sure you’ve noticed) and can never go past any without stopping to have a good stare.

This is some artwork by Mr Cenz, a London-based street-artist, whose work I found in Plaistow, east London. They were both slightly hidden away and I managed to see both going past by accident (I saw one while was on a bus and came back later after remembering where it was!)

Apparently this one is called ‘The Wish’, and it’s a beautiful dreamy piece which covers the bottom length of a whole building block (took me a while to get the whole piece in one phoyo!). I love the whirls and contouring in this, as well as the black, grey and white tones on top of the colourful, magical background.

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Not far from the above piece is this more sultry looking portrait, a beautiful mix of blues, greens and purples on the side of a shop wall. Again, there’s a beautiful mix of shapes on top of colours, with a very dreamy look to the whole piece that I love.

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I’ll be keeping an eye out for more pieces around east London, especially some from this artist!

You can also check the artist out on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Etsy pages.