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It is better to be beautiful than to be good, but it is better to be good than to be ugly.

–         Great words from a great man.

Holding back from writing a blog comprised entirely of Oscar Wilde quotations (very tempting), I’m going to sidestep towards an upcoming show to raise a few questions. The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement in Britain 1860-1900 at the V & A is going to delve into an unexpectedly unconventional ethos. Art For Art’s Sake? Or Art For Beauty’s Sake? The latter, I feel, would be the case in point here. Under the figureheads of such artists and creatives as Gabriel Dante Rossetti, William Morris and, of course, poster boy Oscar Wilde, beauty became fashionable in the high Victorian period. Sounds obvious, and not exactly newsworthy, but the late 19th Century really was a high point for vice over virtue. It would be wrong to say that opulence was a completely new thing – just look at the Elizabethan or Medieval periods for proof – but it was used for a different purpose, that is, no purpose. Before the Victorians, decadence was often a glorification of the religious and spiritual, in iconography, ceremonies or lavish cathedrals. Decadence in the high Victorian era – not only in fashion and jewellery but also architecture and interiors – overshadowed the grim reality of life just simply because. As the V& A exhibition will showcase, there was no place in the Aesthetic Movement for any lowly chimney sweep or maid. This was a time for the house proud to let rip, and indulge in the fanciest designs in town. Before our times of rebellion and idiosyncrasy – our Raindance Film Festivals, Edinburgh Festival Fringes, Anti Design Festivals…. – let us not forget that there was a time when  perfection was everything.

But let the porcelain skin and rosebud lips not fool you – there’s a big HOWEVER here. Two words: Dorian Gray. It’s often noted that the death of Oscar Wilde was the death of the Aesthetic Movement. True, to a certain extent. But surely anyone who reads Wilde will know his distrust of surface beauty? Quotations from his novels, short stories, essays and articles are everywhere, and we all love them:

“A man’s face is his autobiography. A woman’s face is her work of fiction.”

“All art is quite useless.”

“Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known.”

“Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.”

“Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.”

“I can resist everything except temptation.”

….and yes, I could go on. The point is, when we read them, we have a little chuckle to ourselves. Because they’re ironic comments on society’s ridiculousness. You’re not supposed to take them at face value. Oscar Wilde’s tragedy was his obsession with a decadence which he very well knew was full of vice. He wrote about it again and again.

Let me tell you, in brief, the story of The Young King:

Once upon a time, there was a Young King. A veritable Adonis in appearance, nothing pleased him more than to simply gaze – at his own appearance in the looking glass, his coronation robe of tissued gold, his ruby-encrusted crown, his rich tapestries representing the Triumph of Beauty….and then back again to his reflection, the polished mirror held up by a laughing Narcissus made of green bronze. One night, following his coronation, the Young King had a dream. He came, in his dream, upon three scenes: a pearl diver, killed by exhaustion as he returns on the ship with the pearl for his own sceptre; gaunt weavers with sunken cheeks, at the looms in a darkened room, working on his own golden robe; hoards of men searching for rubies for his own crown, while Death and Avarice watch over. When the Young King awoke, and his servants prepare to put his robe on his back, he refused, remembering his dream. And the courtiers were amazed, and some of them laughed, for they thought that he was jesting. “There is Blood in the heart of the ruby, and Death in the heart of the pearl,” he said…..this is Wilde’s own commentary, his thoughts despite his contrary lifestyle choices.

And then, of course, there’s Dorian Gray, who sold his soul, and every bit of good in him, for everlasting youth and beauty. We know what happened next.

So it’s interesting to think of beauty in art. Oscar Wilde, in the height of the Aesthetic Movement, expressed (often ruefully) how “All art is quite useless,” because all art, in their eyes, should be beautiful and only beautiful. Nowadays, we’re supposed to engage in art beyond its surface impression – look into the concept behind, experience the process, question it and let it make us question ourselves. Beauty is pretty much bottom in the pecking order in the list of priorities. Strangely, anything ‘beautiful’ now is labelled craft, and often thought lesser because of it. Now, we prefer ugly. One example: the 2009 Turner Prize winner, a gorgeous gilt decorative wall by Richard Wright, intricately patterned in traditional and decadent style. People were mildly surprised – and why? Because it was so beautiful they couldn’t imagine it could possibly have sufficient conceptual depth to be a Turner Prize winner. In-keeping with the Wildean ethos, beautiful and good became, for a moment, mutually exclusive – they (the Victorian Aesthetes) chose the beauty (“It is better to be beautiful than to be good….”)….I guess we like to think we choose the good. And to prove this point further, we also like to value ugliness.

This October, for example, The Future Can Wait, an edgy alternative to Frieze, will be taking place in the eerie basement of Shoreditch Town Hall, in trendy East London. Its disturbing works, from performance and video to site specific installation and painting, all share a definitively un-pretty aesthetic. The grotesque and the sinister, dispelling the glossy allure of the traditional art fair, all come to the forefront in this year’s line-up of 30 artists, including The Future Can Wait stalwarts Tessa Farmer, Sam and Luke Jackson, Gavin Nolan and John Stark, as well as newcomers Dale Adcock, James Howard, Jasper Joffe, Nika Neelova and Wendy Mayer. Check it out for a taste of something different this Autumn.

Over in Piccadilly, the ominous and eerie will again reign supreme in Maurizio Anzeri’s exhibition The Garden Party, which will be set in Q, a new gallery space converted from an old-fashioned bookshop, dusty shelves in tact. Maurizio’s sculptures, made of synthetic hair, are menacing yet weirdly alluring, creating the kind of garden party to have the Victorian Aesthetes up in arms.

If the creatives of the late 19th Century were the Cult of Beauty, what does that make us now? The Cult of Ugly? Does that make us more ethical human beings? I fear not. Though an unshakable fan of Oscar Wilde and all his writings (well, most), there is one thing I have to disagree with him on: beauty and morality are not mutually exclusive. Neither are ugliness and sin. Nor are sin and morality, even. I’m afraid you just have to look past the surface, and, sometimes, step out of your comfort zone. Never judge a book by its cover, and never judge an artwork by its exterior. Even if it’s an ugly one.

Images:

Lady Lileth, Dante Gabriel Rossetti

The Picture of Dorian Gray

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (c) Stark

(c) Maurizio Anzeri

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Curiouser and curiouser…..as I type, I am looking around my desk for things that are no larger than my head. Not for the purpose of some brain-circumference-related ego boost, I assure you – I’ve got something much better lined up.

Between the 12th and the 19th October this year (most probably the 12th – I’m really very excited about this one), I’ll be heading down to the Wellcome Collection with my ‘thing.’ Artist Keith Wilson, creating and anthropology of the here and now, is inviting the public (that’s you) to donate an object (any object, rare or mundane, as long as it’s 1) no bigger than your head, 2) not wet, 3) not explosive and 4) not containing any human remains) to be part of a temporary exhibition at the Wellcome Collection, titled, aptly, Things.

It has to be said, collectors can get a bad name – across the spectrum from stamps and miniature eggs to McDonalds toys and Spice Girls memorabilia, there’s an assumed owner behind the scenes….one who is weirdly obsessive and unnervingly introvert. But there’s a different kind of obsession that Keith Wilson talks about in conjunction with this exhibition – a fixation with other people’s things. This isn’t some form of kleptomania, but instead an intrigue concerning stories, connotations, and links between an object and a thought, and what happens once an object is taken out of its natural context. If I take this beautiful cup and saucer in front of me, which is filled with wax and made into a candle, from my desk and give it to be placed in the Wellcome Collection, it could be put in a glass case beside a trainer, a ring, or a book on English hedgerows. Who’s to say where that teacup came from, or why it became a candle? It will be removed from its contextual anchor and completely reconsidered, most probably inaccurately, but that’s no bad thing in this case.

When contributors come and deposit their chosen object, behind the scenes each object will be catalogued, photographed and labelled, allocated a specific date out of 365 days in 2011 and placed on public display in a system of metal shelving and museum display cabinets. On the 19th October, people can reclaim their loaned objects or leave them as gifts. Those objects that have been gifted, rather than loaned, will be kept by the artist, and may become part of a future artwork, ‘Calendar’, to be shown as part of The British Art Show in 2011.

Things is a pioneering project reflecting Henry Wellcome’s own position as an entrepreneur, philanthropist and compulsive collector, and it’s something everyone – and (almost) everything – can be part of. I can think of only one question: why not?

Top image: Periodic Table (c) Keith Wilson

Bottom image: Skull Mask, Bhutan (c) Rama Knight (from the Wellcome Collection’s Medicine Man gallery)

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If you’re chatting loudly enough for me to hear, as far as I’m concerned, it’s not a private conversation.

The Bugged initiative, a new project in celebration of eavesdropping, has got me very excited indeed. On the 1st July, writers (in the loosest sense imaginable….meaning anyone who can hold a pen….meaning YOU) are being asked collect snippets of conversation you’ve heard during the day and pen them as either poetry, prose, or script – poems of up to 60 lines, stories up to 1,000 words, flash fiction up to 150 words, scripts up to five minutes long.

The judges are National Poetry Day director and Glastonbury festival website poet-in-residence, Jo Bell, and novelist and playwright David Calcuttthe, and they’ll be selecting the best to be posted on the Bugged blog, and the very best to be published in October in a printed anthology.

Think of the yawnsome hours spent in sweaty tube carriages, noisy buses and stuffy waiting rooms – languish no longer….pick up the pen and write! Some people are naturally inquisitive/ ear-sensitive/ nosy, some people are natural writers…..in this project it is advantageous to have both venerable qualities – but if you’re not in this camp, there’s a great collaboration to be made, I’m sure of it.

Things to remember:

1. “Your life story would not make a good book. Don’t even try.” Fran Leibowitz advises you not to pen your own life…try someone else’s instead.

2. As Daphne Du Maurier once said, “Writers should be read, but neither seen nor heard.” Try not to piss anyone off tooooo much. Discretion is the magic word.

3. Submissions open July 2nd, and close August 15th. Keep an eye out (and an ear) right here.

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From early Renaissance scenes of the Last Supper to Dali’s Lobster Telephone and Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup cans, food has always been on the canvas, as well as the mind. It’s time for the relationship between the palette and the palate to be brought to the table.

Historically, art can tell us how the cavemen ate, what the Romans drank and why gout was such a fashionable (i.e. unavoidable) disease among the Edwardian elite. Culturally, art reveals just how creative dining has always been – haute cuisine is no new phenomenon.

Through ancient history, people prided themselves on creating dishes as appealing to the eye as to the tastebuds (admittedly often far more). And this was evident in the art of the day – a showcase of the edibles à la mode, left for all to ogle for years to come. Call it still-life, call it whatever you will, the focus was often the realistic depiction of the plate, and historians will always be thankful for precisely that. Before film or photography, painting and sculpture were the ways to visually record life, from a scientific experiment to a lavish feast. So, wanting to be remembered for their epic shindigs, wealthy party hosts became wealthy art patrons.

One thing that comes to mind when the words “food” and “art” flash before me is the idea of movements and fashions. Even in the last few decades, we’ve see the coming in and going out (and sometimes the resurfacing) of trends such as Prawn Cocktail and Pina Colada, Art Deco and Kitsch. The idea of ‘fashionable food’ makes the chef as much of an artiste as the designer or artist, subject to (or responsible for) the whims of the dining/ gallery-going public. Heston Blumenthal, for one, can probably take a lot of credit for the recent return of the Soda Stream, following his marvellous transformation of the cheap ’80s white wine, Blue Nun, through carbonation, into a faux champers.

Last night I had the pleasure of an 8-course taster menu at Pearl, the swanky restaurant headed up by chef extraordinaire Jun Tanaka. I make no hesitation in saying that the dishes were gorgeous to eat, but more notable was how intriguingly complex and genius they were in both visual and taste composition. An amuse bouche of heritage tomato jelly, with a tomato crisp, a light cheese foam and basil sorbet was amusing to both the bouche and the brain to decipher….and that was just the beginning of the savoury exhibition. At the San Francisco Museum of Art Café you can get Mondrian Pound Cake – why get out your paintbrush to imitate the artist when you can get out your wooden spoon instead?

Heston and Jun, along with Michel Roux, Michel Roux Jnr., Raymond Blanc, Jamie Oliver, Delia Smith, Marco Pierre White…..are who we think of as modern day celebrity chefs, but they comes from a long line of kitchen superstars. Food as aesthetic creation is no new thing.

The only difference is the thousands of TV channels, iPods, 4oDs and iPlayers now constantly putting it into the popular consciousness.

Martino da Como was, in the 15th Century, the first “celebrity chef.” Martino’s elevation to the “Prince of Cooks” made his Liber de Arte Coquinaria one of the bench marks of early European gastronomical literature (a.k.a. cookbooks). Later, in the height of the French Revolution, Marie-Antoine Carême surpassed this “Prince,” becoming known as “The King of Chefs.” Carême was an early pioneer of the elaborate style of cooking known as haute cuisine, the “high art” of French cooking: a grandiose style favoured by both international royalty and the nouveau riche of Paris.

…..Now, for fear of this becoming a history lesson, there is one indefinable, intangible thing that both a painting and a pâtisserie have the power excite in equal measure, with no consideration of fads or fashions: desire. Did you know that Dali’s Lobster Phone has an alternative name? Aphrodisiac Telephone. This says a lot for food-as-subject in general. Think neo-Classicist or pre-Raphaelite…gorgeous women lying around surrounded by platters, men with grapes dangling above their open mouths. In the painting and in the feast, it was all about having the cake. And eating it too.
Moving on a few centuries, desire in food art takes new forms. Andy Warhol’s Soup Cans epitomize precisely what I’m getting at. Desire becomes commodity in the age of consumption, but it is still the same thing, if only in a new, plastic-wrapped new form. Ralph Goings’ painting A-1 Sauce appears just as a few condiments bottles on a table. Not a conventionally romantic image, I’ll grant you, but eye-catching and thought-provoking. Just as modern art must question, prompt and intrigue, so must modern cuisine. And food in art, also, is as prevalent today as it always was, but serves a new purpose – to communicate an opinion, expose a truth or ridicule the ridiculous, rather than showcase the artist’s technical skill.
The imitation of the real in framed, elevated art is like the description in a menu of a dish you can’t quite afford – it just makes you want it more. Along with the human form, the serene landscape and the battle victory, the image of the edible is yet another object of desire. It’s all a question of taste.

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The number 108 doesn’t really have a ring to it… but throw in a cosy village scene fused with top class cuisine and you have the makings for something very memorable indeed.

Only five minutes walk from the hubbub/ hell (delete as appropriate) of Oxford Street, nestled in the heart of Marylebone Village, 108 Marylebone Lane makes the stress of city life a distant memory for a couple of hours. As the sounds of car horns and crowds of tourists fade out, the local feel becomes more and more apparent. 108 Marylebone Lane likes to source as much as possible of the produce and goods it uses from within Marylebone Village itself. Easy to source locally when you’re based in the middle of rural Hampshire, Warwickshire or Yorkshire (and many others of the Shires, for that matter), not so easy in the centre of the capital. The restaurant gets much of its meat from The Ginger Pig, just off Marylebone High Street, and nearby Biggles, where the ”Biggles Venison Sausages” come from, as it happens. The Rococo Chocolate Brownie (just gorgeous) is made from chocolate bought at- you guessed it- Rococo, handily located just a hop, skip and a jump away on Marylebone High Street, and cheeses come from La Fromagerie, arguably one of the best cheese shops in England. Acting as a platform for local businesses and producers to showcase their wares, 108 Marylebone Lane absolutely revels in being the sum of all its (quality) parts.

The venue itself, with its contemporary interior, is divided into two sections – both beautiful, but each with a completely different tone. The bar is strikingly modern with its shiny red ceiling lamps. On the other side of the room, the arrangement of the tables in the large restaurant area offers little corners in which to enjoy food and conversation without the feeling of being in a huge, daunting venue. At the risk of sounding middle-aged, the general feel to the place was really rather pleasant.

Now, turning to the good stuff.  I began with the asparagus (what with it being in season and all), with pickled wild mushroom, quails eggs and truffle dressing, while Miss F opted for the stilton and leek tartlet. The asparagus itself was perfectly blanched, and the truffle dressing was apparent but pleasingly subtle. The quails eggs, hard boiled, would probably have been preferable poached or soft boiled (I’m a big sucker for a gooey yolk – it takes me back to my childhood), but cooked as they were they were able to hold the accompaniments well. Miss F finished the tart with gusto – the single bite I was permitted was incredibly rich; however, I did enjoy the palate teaser of the initial tang of the cheese to the final hum of the leek. We both opted for mains of fish; I the fillets of bream with potato puree and sautéed leek, Miss F, the less purist, saltimbocca of roast monkfish and mozzarella, which came with potato and fennel confit, baked aubergine and wild rocket pesto. The plate sizes, firstly, were just right (especially if you’re going to brave a starter of stilton and leek tart). Though torn by a variety of choices, including the Biggles sausages and the pork belly, the arrogant simplicity of the bream was a sure winner, with the fish perfectly cooked and the side-dishes inventive and intriguing.

Following two courses, only Gluttony and her sister Greed (Miss F and myself, incase you didn’t recognise us) could have managed a couple of desserts on top. However, word on the street is the Rococo Brownie is not to be missed (a rumour with legs, it turns out). Now I must admit that I hate rum in desserts, with a passion! (Rum’n’raisin ice cream = my worst nightmare) In light of this information, you’d think that a banana, rum and chocolate brownie would be a recipe for disaster but I decided to give it a go. My, oh my, what a treat! Spoiling ourselves further with the white chocolate cup and Bailey’s mousse, served with a delightful warm orange madeleine, really was the zenith of indulgence. If we are to believe that proof really is in the pudding then this gem of a place certainly gets my vote. Then again, the proof could have been in the starter or the main and my judgement would have been the same.

108 Marylebone Lane is a little jewel of a find on this one of London’s busiest and bustling shopping streets.  The restaurant’s insistence on keeping things local is such a refreshing change from the rise and rise of global gastronomy on offer in London’s high-end restaurant scene. This place has reverted to village life and prefers to keep it simple and fresh. And that is precisely why I like it.

www.108marylebonelane.co.uk

108 Marylebone Lane
Marylebone, UK W1U 2
020 7969 3900

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Photography’s arrival originally meant that the privilege of having your portrait painting was no longer reserved for the commissioning nobility. It was all about reporting simple fact. But the rapid popularisation of photography to capture life had two significant implications. The first relates to the art of painting, which, beaten in speed and price by the photograph, turned to conceptual abstraction and symbolists, in movements spearheaded by the likes of Monet and Seurat, and then Picasso and Braque. The second relates to photography itself, as we see in the Tate Modern’s major summer show this year, Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera. What the camera could do which painting could not was capture a moment instantly, and discreetly – the photographer was driven, then, to explore this difference, and expand it. This makes for some intriguing voyeurism. Featuring snapshots from all walks of life, from the iconic to the anonymous, the exhibition reveals how there really can be no way of escaping the watching eye – or at least the camera in front of it.

One thing to note is that the show is, well, pretty huge. Sprawling through 14 rooms, it needs a good morning or afternoon to fully absorb. Adding to this is the fact that the pictures are in general small, often tiny. It’s not exactly a one-painting-per-wall situation – it’s a visual archive.

Often the unavoidable case with large exhibitions, the pigeon-holing of images into rooms, with names like “The Unseen Photographer,” “Voyeurism and Desire” and “Celebrity and the Public Gaze” seemed a little forced. But it did serve to draw attention to the question of the purpose of the image. The issue of the show is largely whether what is really photojournalism, or the handiwork of paparazzi, can be seen as art. In its fundamental intentions to adorn front pages perhaps not. The images of Elizabeth Taylor and Robert Burton taken by Felice Quinto, hailed as the world’s first paparazzo, were hardly “intentional art,” just as those of Princess Diana on holiday with Dodi Al Fayed prior to their deaths were not. But as a comment on today’s society – its unshakable concern with celebrity, spectatorship, surveillance and voyeurism (why else would there be a need for Heat, Hello or OK?) – is the purely documentary transformed into art? A photo may not have been born as art, but it may be transcribed as art – which probably says a lot more about us, now, than them, then. It’s rare to find a contemporary artist these days who is not making a statement, however subtle or restrained – that is what the market calls for.

Some of the comments made through Tate Modern’s show are shocking – lurid scenes captured by Mitch Epstein and Yoshiyuki come to the forefront, alongside Merry Alpern’s Dirty Windows series and Jordan Crandall’s unnerving film art.  The guilty pleasure of celeb-watching, demonstrated in images of stars from Marilyn Monroe in that famous white dress to a tearful Paris Hilton on her way to court, is extended to include a strange intrigue into gritty reportage. A man about to leap from a building, the same man mid-fall, the view of an execution chamber from the family viewing room, a woman being simultaneously groped by four men, a teenaged boy snorting drugs from a dirty bathroom….it’s all there, shot, framed and put on display for the viewing public until October. You may need a few trips to take it all in.

Having said that, there were some real gems that stood out. Among the Henri Cartier Bressons, Helmut Newtons, Man Rays, Lee Millers, Walker Evanses and Robert Franks (the exhibition does seem to cover everything it should cover) are new and fresh images by contemporary photographers printing on larger scales and using imaginative methods. In the first room, Walker Evans’s Subway Passengers, taken of unsuspecting subjects on the New York underground in the 1930s, are juxtaposed with Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s Heads, photographed in the same city 70 years later, and yet blown up into adversely vast proportions. Here comes an interesting fact: when one of diCorcia’s unwitting subjects took legal action against the photographer, a landmark ruling came down, asserting the precedence of the artist’s right to self-expression over the subject’s right to their own image. In essence, the image was literally ‘captured’ – trapped and no longer belonging to its original owner. As did the widespread support of the I’m a Photographer not a Terrorist! campaign and the gathering in Trafalgar Square, this ruling was yet another sign of public re-evaluation of photography, now widely considered a legitimate art form.

Another contemporary piece, Oliver Lutz’s installation piece The Lynching of Leo Frank, was one of exhibition highlights, implicating the viewer not simply as spectator, but as part of the scene. Positioned within the frame, we are forced to imagine ourselves as part of the throng witnessing the 1915 hanging of Leo Frank, a Jewish man accused of murder but now regarded innocent. The work reminded me of another young artist, Reynir Hutber, whose Catlin Art Prize winning piece, Stay Behind the Line (a piece of video/performance art using looped video footage) allows the viewer to engage with a curled up figure in the room, when in fact the installation space is empty. Similarly in Lutz’s piece at Exposed, the encounter (determined by the audience’s interaction) prompts the question of responsibility – what part do we really play as the spectator?

In my eyes, this was one of two stars in the show. The other was the Minox Model B from 1958, a miniature camera in a size comparable to the niftiest designs today. This was something to wonder at, as were the old Leicas and Kodaks, glistening authoritatively in their weighty metal casing. Other artefacts from the 40s and 50s included mens shoes hiding cameras in their heels and miniature cameras designed to fit inside walking sticks and shirt pockets. Very James Bond. If James Bond were a photographer.

I could go on and on for hours – so you really should go see it. There will be things that excite, intrigue and offend, that cross lines of privacy and propriety. The images will provoke you and prompt you to think – which is what, after all, if we are to call photography a contemporary art, it should do.

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Somewhere between asleep and awake, in the moments where story time ends and dreams crystallise…..that is where you will find the worlds of Anni Leppälä and Susanna Majuri. Apparently everything Nordic is in Vogue these days- de rigeur, a la mode – but these images defy trends.

Both women, recent graduates from the prestigious Helsinki School of Art and Design, have been causing a stir with their thoughtful and provoking photographic narratives. Leppälä has just been voted Artist of the Year in Finland; Majuri was winner of the Gras Savoye Award at Les Recontres d’Arles in 2005. Both are currently on display at Purdy Hicks Gallery at Bankside, and I really do think you should all go and see the exhibition. I don’t often get this carried away.

As much as I try to find some suitably abrupt truism to fit the images, it’s Majuri who puts it best: “I want to narrate feelings like in novels.” Not meaning to bracket the two artists together- their processes and theologies are quite different –this is one thought where they agree.

By capturing the moment, and by interrogating it, Anni Leppälä’s work exposes what is lost by the photograph: moments, those precise objects meaning to be preserved. Stilling time, she explores the relationship between the past and the present, often using children as her subject to convey what are both temporal instances and potential geneses of stories. In Reading (2010), the girl’s red hair covering her face as she reads allows the viewer to question – what is she reading, what is her expression, and what is she thinking? The same goes in Light (2009) and Yearly Growth (2009).

When I look at Susanna Majuri’s work, it’s a little less playful, a little more muted. Something unnerving hits deeper than the impression its characters give out through the pre-Raphaelite poses, the pseudo-Victorian dress and the Classical settings. Yes, on the face of it, I see the drenched florals of a girl’s dress in Vesiputous (Waterfall) (2009) as a reminder of J.W. Waterhouse’s The Lady of Shalott and even more so John Everett Millias’ Ophelia. But what strikes within is somewhere in-between that feeling you get in Hardy’s Jude the Obscure (click here if you haven’t read it, though you really shouldn’t ruin the ending for yourself) and the one surrounding Cathy’s final moments of madness in Wuthering Heights. Little Father Time and Wuthering (“Withering”) Heights seem aptly named in this context. Even figures embracing together under the pools seem dissolved in utter isolation. The painterly light Majuri sheds on her subjects is at once tranquilising and disturbing, her figures ethereal yet completely suffocated.

Side-by-side, there is a juxtaposition between the works of the two artists which can be understood in reading their statements for the Helsinki School:

Majuri: “I throw myself into a fictive reality in the shootings. My heart beats wildly when I can feel the presence of surprises.”

Leppälä: “…when you try to conserve or protect a moment by stopping it, by photographing it, you inevitably lose it at the same time.”

And yet the final lines of each sing a similar hymn:

Majuri: “The language is a map and draws around us, unknown and familiar. I believe in a single image. It breaths strong.”

Leppälä: “How to stop a feeling, a memory? By binding it to visible objects, facades of material things, attaching it to a room’s walls, the surface of photographs. Like translucent skin with unforeseen memories beneath.” Here you can see what they both find so exciting in the stillness: the possibility of a narrative, which speaks directly to the viewer.

Finding a link in their faceless subjects – Leppälä’s children shrouding their faces with thick red hair, hands, ears of wheat; Majuri’s figures stilled beneath rushing waters – both interrogate the moment. What is found is both loss and promise.

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