Exhibition: Ross Watson @ The Gallery, London

The big bonus of working in Shoreditch is that I get to pop out to exhibitions in my lunch break. Today I visited The Gallery at 50 Redchurch Street to see the new Ross Watson exhibition.

I have to confess, the main reason I wanted to visit this exhibition was to see one picture – the crowning glory of the exhibition:

Ross Watson

Stephen Fry (after Vermeer, 1670)

The wonderful Stephen Fry is, of course, the star of this picture. The ‘King of Twitter‘ (with 4,822,845 followers at the time of writing), sits clutching his iPad with an intriguing expression on his face. Has he been interrupted while composing a Tweet? Or is he thinking about the scene behind him, in which a young girl receives a letter she most probably had to wait weeks for. In this spectacular picture, Watson makes a comment on today’s technology, and the way in which we are now communicating. Fry, in his eyes alone, adds his own thoughts.

If this had been the only good picture in the exhibition I wouldn’t have minded but, as it turned out, they were all absolutely gorgeous! Here’s a selection:

Ross Watson

Untitled 18/09 (after van Ruisdael, 1670)

Ross Watson

Untitled 19/09 (after Caravaggio, 1596; featuring Marco Da Silva)

Ross Watson

Ross Watson

Untitled 04/11

Ross Watson

Untitled #05/11

I do heartily recommend checking out the exhibition for yourself though, if you’re in the area, as the pictures look even better in real life.

Ross Watson was born in Brisbane, Australia in 1962. He has exhibited in many solo and group exhibitions since 1984, including important surveys of Australian and international contemporary art at the National Gallery of Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria, and in the Toronto and Melbourne International Art Fairs.

Ross Watson’s exhibition, which is in aid of the Terrence Higgins Trust, is open until 7th October 2012, 11am – 7pm (closed Monday). For more about the artist, please visit: www.rosswatson.com.

Ross Watson

The artist, Ross Watson, who kindly let me waffle at him about how much I liked his work. Thank you.

Brainwashed in London

Although I had the chance to check out Mr Brainwash‘s London show on Wednesday night, the official opening wasn’t until today. I heard on Saturday that the exhibition was opening at 2pm today, and that the first 250 people would receive signed prints. When I went on Wednesday, people didn’t start queuing until about an hour before, so this morning I got up and spent a lazy morning, thinking I would aim to get down to New Oxford Street at about 1pm. However… I was browsing Facebook while having my breakfast, when I noticed a picture on Mr Brainwash’s Facebook page showing that people were already lining up! It was only 9.40am…

I hesitated, but then figured I didn’t want to miss my chance and decided to get moving. I got to New Oxford Street at about 11.30 – two and a half hours before the doors were due to open.

Mr Brainwash

The Old Sorting Office, New Oxford Street

As I was leaving my house there was an almighty clap of thunder and it started to pour down. By the time I got to New Oxford Street it was raining really heavily and the weather was quite grim. I couldn’t believe people would really be waiting outside the Old Sorting Office in that weather, but they were, and they went right round the building! I followed the queue round and finally found the end, where I waited patiently, read, and chatted with the girls in front of me.

Just before 2pm Mr Brainwash came round to check out the queue:

Mr Brainwash

Mr Brainwash

He then Tweeted that there were at least 1,000 people in the queue!

I had no idea if I was in the first 250 or not, but people kept counting and saying 182, 210, 266… It seemed like the number of people in front of us was going up, and I really hoped the waiting was going to pay off.

Finally, at about 3.20pm, I got in… and I was number 237! Each person got given a Mr Brainwash spray can, which they could later exchange for a print (once Mr Brainwash had finished signing them all!).

Mr Brainwash

Mr Brainwash

I absolutely LOVE my print, and it was well worth waiting about four hours for! People are already selling them on ebay, but mine’s not going anywhere.

There were more pieces on display today than there were on Wednesday night, and the lighting was a bit better so I took a couple of hundred photos in the end. I don’t care what anyone says – I love Mr Brainwash’s work! Here are my top ten pieces, in no particular order:

Mr Brainwash

David Bowie

Mr Brainwash

David Bowie

Mr Brainwash

Starbucks spray can

Mr Brainwash

Salvador Dali meets McDonald’s

Mr Brainwash

Follow your dreams…

Mr Brainwash

Mr Brainwash’s Banksy

Mr Brainwash

Art for Dummies – a take on Banksy’s famous ‘man throwing flowers’

Mr Brainwash

Life-size London taxi souvenier

Mr Brainwash

This is a clever twist on a classic painting by Edward Hopper (thanks ypldn for reminding me of the artist’s name!)

Mr Brainwash


Mr Brainwash was around the whole time, signing posters and postcards (and pretty much anything you put in front of him), but I just couldn’t bear to queue any more.

Mr Brainwash

Mr Brainwash

I hadn’t eaten, and they’d taken my water off me at the door (they also asked if I had any pens in my bag when I was searched at the door, but luckily they didn’t spot the ones I had stashed at the bottom – hey, I’m a writer!), so after a good look around I decided to call it a day. I think I’ll go back for another round when it’s a bit quieter though, as the exhibition is on until the end of August. You can see my photos from today here, and photos from Wednesday night here.

For more information about Mr Brainwash and his London exhibition, please visit: www.mrbrainwash.com.

Rave Art: Mr Brainwash & David Guetta know how to party

If Andy Warhol is the king of pop art, I’d like to declare Mr Brainwash the king of ‘rave art’. I know this will be an unpopular opinion, but I really like what Mr Brainwash is doing, and his new exhibition at the Old Sorting Office in London is unmissable.

I was lucky enough to get a ticket for the opening night of the show – a collaborative event by Mr Brainwash and musician David Guetta. I had no idea what to expect. Was it going to be an exhibition and a simple private view with a bit of music in the background as I wandered around with a free glass of wine? Or was it going to be a full-on rave in a warehouse?

I’m still not sure what it was but, whatever it was, it was incredible (and my ears took a whole day to recover).

The entire ground floor was filled with huge Mr Brainwash artworks, ranging from “life-size” Star Wars figures made out of tyres to huge spray cans that looked like Campbell’s soup.

May the art be with you

Tomato Spray

As I entered the exhibition when the doors opened at 8pm, the first striking piece was a massive set of Olympic rings, made out of paint cans and stuck on the wall. Standing by the rings were men dressed up as members of the Queen’s Guard, and further along were more people dressed as Stormtroopers. Everyone was clutching Burn energy drinks, and judging by the dancing I saw from one of the soldiers later on, I expect they had quite a few! (The event was supported by Burn.)

Olympic Rings



Club music was playing, and before long the DJ switched and Nicky Romero came on. People started to pay attention to the stage, but everyone was clearly waiting for Mr Brainwash’s co-star for the night, David Guetta, to take his place.

Nicky Romero

Nicky Romero

It was after 9pm when David Guetta came on – I lost track of time a bit actually, and it might have even been closer to 10pm – but he played right through until after midnight, when the event was supposed to end, playing just one more, and just one more – the crowd was relentless, and even I (not used to clubbing or staying out past 11pm) could have kept going.

David Guetta

David Guetta

Having been born at the beginning of the 1980s I was too young to appreciate ’80s pop and still slightly too young for the early ’90s rave scene. Instead I got stuck with the late ’90s and early 2000s – not the best period of music history. If I could choose to be 18 at a different time, I would almost definitely go for 1992 – the heart of the rave scene. On Wednesday night I felt I had come the closest to attending a real rave that I probably ever would. Even though the event was all aboveboard and commercially sponsored, I couldn’t help getting a rush of excitement and imaging I was doing something really underground. Not everyone got in – I heard there were around 1,700 people waiting to get in around 9pm and they were operating a one-in-one-out door policy – and I felt like I had been chosen to take part in something really special.

David Guetta, The Queen, Prince Philip & Mr Brainwash!

The whole event was filmed for David Guetta’s latest music video which I’ll be keeping an eye out for. I’m not sure when it will be released, but I do hope I might catch a glimpse of myself and my friends (we were at the front all night). Mr Brainwash was, of course, also filming and taking a lot of photographs. I actually saw him on the street before the event and took my picture with him.

Me & Mr Brainwash

Me & Mr Brainwash

I get irritated when people so easily dismiss Mr Brainwash’s work and say it’s rubbish. Often, the reasoning is based on the fact that he doesn’t produce a lot of the work himself (he has an army of people who do all the actual design and making – he’s just the ideas man), but I could name a lot of other artists who have teams working with them in the exact same way he does – Andy Warhol certainly did. The other thing people always say is that his work shows no originality, and that his ideas are clichéd, but that doesn’t bother me. His work is a bit clichéd I guess, but I like his messages – “life is beautiful”, “follow your dreams” and “you’re never too young to dream big”.

You're never too young to dream big...

For me, right now, this art is relevant. Mr Brainwash is telling us not to take our lives so seriously and to have a bit of fun while pursuing our dreams – what’s wrong with that? As for his images of famous people, such as the massive Kate Moss picture on the side of the Old Sorting Office , what’s not to like:

Mr Brainwash on the corner of New Oxford Street and Museum Street, London

Or a bit of David Bowie:

David Bowie

Or Obama dressed as Superman:

Superman Obama

Mr Brainwash’s work may not be the most original or groundbreaking art of all time, but it certainly gets your attention, if only due to the enormous scale of many of the pieces.

Mr Brainwash - David Guetta

This Artlyst review is worth a read, calling Mr Brainwash’s work “so bad it’s good” and “kitsch multiplied by twenty”. Whatever you think of Mr Brainwash and his art, I think you’d be a fool to miss this much-hyped exhibition, open from 5th – 31st August at the Old Sorting Office,  21-31 New Oxford Street, London WC1 (you can’t miss it – the whole outside of the building is covered in his work!)

Life is Beautiful

And, when you’re feeling cynical and judgemental about what Mr Brainwash is doing, just try to keep one phrase in mind: life is beautiful…

Elephant heart

Britain’s got talent, but…

I admit that for the last 7 weeks or so Britain’s Got Talent has been my guilty pleasure. I’ve cheered on the good acts, laughed at the terrible acts, and cried at the ones that tugged on my heart strings). It’s amazing to see how much talent there is in this country (and how many nutters there are too).

Tonight was the final and, if you haven’t seen it yet, I warn you now that this post does contain spoilers.

The show tonight contained 11 thoroughly entertaining acts. In my opinion, some deserved to win more than others, but they did all deserved a place in the final. The finalists were:

When the results were announced, the top three were Only Boys Aloud, Ashleigh and Pudsey, and Jonathan and Charlotte. I thought it was a real shame the Loveable Rogues didn’t make it into the top three, as I really enjoyed their music and thought it was great that they were brave enough to play something original. I would go out and buy their album tomorrow. Here’s their song “Lovesick”:

Only Boys Aloud were probably the finalists who would have made the best use of the £500,000 prize money, as their choir master clearly had ideas for the future. Sadly it was announced that they were in third place.

This meant that the top two acts were Ashleigh and Pudsey:

And Jonathan and Charlotte:

The winner was voted by the viewing public, and I knew that the chosen act would reflect the interests of the nation. Both acts were entertaining, but for me the clear winners were Jonathan and Charlotte. I mean, just listen to those voices!

Unfortunately, the great British public is a nation of animal lovers… and the dog won. Yes, Great Britain voted for Ashleigh and Pudsey, and now this is one rich pooch.

Don’t get me wrong, the act was very entertaining and that is one talented dog, but was it really the best act in all of Britain? No. It’s hard to choose one winner because there was so much variety in the show. It’s not just a singing contest, or a dance contest. But, clearly, Britain has gone a bit soft in the head to choose a dancing dog as the winning act.

I feel cheated, but at least Jonathan and Charlotte will hopefully have gained some confidence by coming second, and I’m sure they will go on to great things!  You see, Britain’s certainly got talent, even though the voting public seem to enjoy “lighter” entertainment.

Born brilliant?

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what makes people great. More specifically, I’ve been thinking about what makes one person so much better than another (or be perceived to be so much better).

In my job, I have a lot of contact with utterly brilliant people; people who are at the top of their professional field, or young individuals with more potential than my entire year-group had at school. But what makes these people the best? Is it their upbringing? Is it because they went to the best schools, didn’t have to work as a till-monkey in between university classes, and had rich parents who took them abroad multiple times a year? Or is it just that they were born that way?

Of course, this line of thought could lead to the question of what classifies one person as better than another anyway. What I mean by “better” is that some people seem to have the whole package (and then some), while others don’t even know how to open the package. Some people are able to hold intelligent conversations on a wide variety of topics in multiple languages, while others can barely string a sentence together with correct grammar in what is supposed to be their native language. Some people have incredible lives planned out before they even graduate, others leave school at sixteen and end up stacking shelves in a supermarket.

Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with stacking shelves in a supermarket or working in a shop. I’ve certainly done my fair share of menial jobs, and I’m well aware that without people doing these jobs the rest of society would break down. I’m also not classing myself as one of these “brilliant” people. Far from it – I’m in awe of some of the people I come into contact with (and utterly jealous of some of the young ones who don’t know how lucky they are). I realise that a fully functioning society requires people of all levels of intellect and ability – I just want to know what makes them that way.

Another related thought I’ve been having this week is to do with appearance and the impression we make. Say you were hiring at your company and had two candidates to choose from. Both have straight A*s throughout their entire academic careers. Candidate A went to either Oxford or Cambridge University, and arrives wearing a crisp dark suit. His hair is slicked back, clean, short and he speaks with perfect “BBC pronunciation”. Candidate B went to a perfectly good university which wasn’t Oxbridge. He arrives wearing a crisp dark suit, has long hair in a ponytail and his ear pierced. He speaks with a northern accent. On paper, these two men are practically identical. Which one would you hire?

Of course, body language and personality would come into the decision, but my money’s on Candidate A. Candidate A has, perhaps,  been more fortunate in his upbringing and been offered different opportunities to Candidate B. However, they are both very intelligent young men who deserve a chance in life. I would actually rather hire Candidate B because his appearance and background show a little more personality, but I think I’m in the minority.

So, these “brilliant” people… are they born that way, or is it a combination of upbringing, education and the way they present themselves? Would Candidate B be one of these “brilliant” people, if only he had gone to a different university or cut his hair? Of course, it’s not as simple as that.

I’ll continue to ponder. Do you have any thoughts on this?

Einstein - Brilliant, but his hair was kinda long...

(Image source)

Don’t rain on my parade…

Brits are funny creatures. I went along to the New Year’s Day Parade in London today and about halfway through it started to rain. When I say ‘rain’, what I really mean is that the heavens opened and it chucked it down with almighty force until there were rivers running down the streets. Just another day in London.

A lot of tourists took one look at the puddles forming on the ground and made a dash for it under their ‘I love London’ Union Flag umbrellas. But we Brits, for the most part, stuck it out – brolly or no brolly.

I had an umbrella, but I still got really wet and cold to the point of shivering. It rained so hard that it actually soaked through my leather boots and made my tights soggy. So why did I stay? One reason is that I needed some new photos for my daily photo blog, Picturing England. But the main reason I stayed is that I felt it would be wrong to leave. Those poor people at the end of the parade, especially the marching bands and cheerleaders from America deserved my support.

And it wasn’t all bad. An old guy on a bike took pity on me hiding under my flowery brolly and gave me a Quality Street chocolate (strawberry – my favourite) and a kiss on the cheek to wish me a Happy New Year. He understood my British resolve to stand and watch the parade no matter what, and he understood that it would all be made a little bit more bearable with a little sugar. Thank you, kind stranger.

London's New Year's Day Parade 2012

(Perhaps it’s not just us brits – these American cheerleaders managed to stay surprisingly perky despite the rain.)