Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Fire in the Mountain III

Rosie and I at last year's Fire in the Mountain – I wear: jumper, vintage; necklace; Topshop; Rosie Sleightholme wears: jumper, vintage | Photo: Mina Bihi

And so it has begun. The glorious festival season is under way. I have just returned from Evolution Festival in Newcastle where, amidst crowds of beautiful creatures of the north, I saw the fabulous AlunaGeorge, Bastille, Jake Bugg and Modestep among others.

And now we head west, to the heart of Wales, for Fire in the Mountain III. I shall be performing with the lovely Rosie Sleightholme - please visit her website HERE - on Saturday at Owl's World Stage, and on both sides of our set I will take in the beauty of the Welsh mountains, dance like a hippy with one hand in the air (the other clutching a hearty cider, no doubt) and take in the therapeutic sounds of the true folk artists of our country.

Last year I loved the festival because... you can bathe in the cool river in the morning; you can sweat out your mess in a natural sauna; + you can take part in feel-good holistic classes. The food available is home-cooked goodness served at specified meal times – think communal dining around a camp fire – and the drink is strong and locally-produced. And there is a great mix of music to watch, walk to and shake to. Watch this space for how it all looks.

Until then, peace out.

Visit: + for the festival:

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Music: Stevie-Jo Dooley, The Canteen

Refreshingly original singer-songwriter Stevie-Jo Dooley plays the upright bass and electrifies with her penetrating and confident lyrics. When I headed down Nine Tree Hill to The Canteen on Stokes Croft last night, I wasn't expecting to discover brand new music to get excited about.

But there she was. Stevie-Jo Dooley with her high, piercing vocals and understated performing style waiting to seduce an unassuming crowd. And seduced we were. The 18-year-old in front of us was older than her years, picking the bass with skill (she has training from the junior department of Guildhall School of Music and Drama and National Youth Jazz Collective) and singing with real conviction.

She had a confident and sweet demeanour on stage, and was simply sensational to watch. I couldn't take my eyes off her and her band whilst they performed. Dooley's songs are clever and very interesting. Immortal particularly stood out for brilliant lyrics and eccentricity and I loved Words for the pure conviction it has. Dummies is wonderfully witty too.

Abused, we Cry / Our rights have been denied / We’re left empty inside / Confused, It’s like / Our creators would endeavour  / To exploit their very errors [Dummies]

The band were very tight – backing vocalists Ellie Frank and Beth Stenning grounded Dooley's high-pitched fluctuations with steady, clever harmonies, and Oliver Davies provided controlled rhythm on the kit. These kids clearly work hard.

I care for those I care for therefore I am not a criminal / I like looking in puddles and seeing the clouds muddle / These unlawful habits must be my subliminal [Oblivious Skin]

To see somebody performing so confidently, and so originally, at so young an age is rare. Stevie-Jo Dooley is extremely talented and her music is unique. It echoes Kate Bush, perhaps, but apart from that it is defined by itself. It comes from a unique place. The unsettling lyrics, strong sentiments and eccentric mannerisms are beyond her years. She is one to watch.

Photo: Stevie-Jo Dooley

Buy Stevie-Jo's brand new EP Immortal HERE.

Monday, 20 May 2013

The Playlist: Daughter

An album that softly documents and perfectly romanticises the bittersweet experience of lost love holds a place close to my heart these days. One such album is the gorgeous debut from Daughter, released back in March. The London-based indie folk trio formed around the solo work of Elena Tonra in 2010 and has released three EPs since then.

And now they give us If You Leave, the full studio album released on 4AD. Tonra's guitar and vocals are accompanied delicately and cleverly by guitarist Igor Haefeli and percussionist Remi Aquilella. My favourite tracks are Winter for subtlety and atmosphere, Youth for the brilliant lyrics, and Still, because Tonra's conviction is so strong and her intentions so powerful. It's real anguish you can feel.

+ They recently covered Daft Punk in BBC Radio 1's Live Lounge. So cool.

Give Daughter a listen. Stunning stuff.

Elena Tonra | Photo: Daughter/promotional

Elena Tonra | Photo: Daughter/promotional


Sunday, 19 May 2013

Summer in February: Art in Lamorna 1910 - 1914

Below Carn Barges (Cliffs Below Lamorna), oil on canvas | Robert Morson Hughes

I have escaped to the country (if only very briefly...) and today enjoyed a visit to Penlee House Gallery in Penzance. It is a particular favourite of my family and I, having been opened and supported in its early days by our relative, the painter R.T. Pentreath. Currently showing is a brilliant exhibition of art and ephemera linked to the book and soon to be released film Summer in February

In the early years of the twentieth century the Newlyn School art set shifted to Lamorna, a location that landscape painter Samuel John Birch became particularly associated with. Soon a collective of artists and models gathered there, including Alfred Munnings, his wife Edith Florence Carter-Wood, Charles Naper and Laura Knight.

It is the secret love between Edith Florence and the visiting Gilbert Evans that is contained in Jonathan Smith's novel, and their canvasses in this exhibition reflect the feelings, beauty and idealism of the place and that time. Is there a more vivid and wildly stunning location for falling in love than south west Cornwall? I became very nostalgic and proud of my homeland looking at the work. My heart will always be here with this formidable and astonishingly beautiful coastline.

Highlights for me were Edith Florence Munnings's watercolour The Moor, Harold Knight's refined portraiture, Charles Naper's stunning seascapes and Geoffrey Sneyd Garnier's exquisite aquatint print of Lamorna Cove.

It was wonderful to see male and female artists exhibited equally – side by side with no fuss. It is a refreshingly inclusive exhibition, curated with care and sensitivity. I highly recommend a visit to Penlee House Gallery for this fantastic set of paintings if you happen to be in the South West this summer. It is a generous collection of so many beautiful works. I haven't yet read Smith's novel, but after meeting the art, certainly plan to soon. And below is a taster of the film, in cinemas 14th June.

The Rain It Raineth Every Day, oil on canvass | Norman Garstin
Self-Portrait, oil on canvas | Dod Procter
Portrait of Florence Carter-Wood, oil on canvas | Harold Knight 
The Flower, oil on canvas | Laura Knight

Dinner Time (Ambrose Rouffignac in the Sail Loft, Newlyn), oil in canvas | Henry Scott Tuke

Self and Nude, oil on canvas | Laura Knight
Clifftop Thrift, oil on canvas | Charles Naper

Gulls in Newlyn Harbour, oil on canvas | Frank Gascoigne Heath

Summer in February: Art in Lamorna 1910 - 1914 shows until 8th June.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

you pretty thing

I have extended my blog into the realms of Tumblr...

'you pretty thing' contains thoughts and feelings presented silently and in an entirely visual form. Think of it as a stream of consciousness conveyed through my own photographs, images from online sources and recent news stories, and through inspiring posts from fellow Tumblr users.

Visit my new photo-blog HERE.

Aesop East Hampton by NADAAA | Photo:

Monday, 13 May 2013

Art: Jutta Koether – Seasons and Sacraments, Arnolfini

Jutta Koether is a master of paint. Her large canvasses are entire worlds of generously applied bright colours and appealing shapes that create other-worldly scenarios. The current exhibition showing at Arnolfini is of new and recent works that Koether has created in response to the artist Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665).

The opening room of the exhibition is sparsely curated to say the least. For me, the paintings looked rather lost on the high grey walls. But I liked that. It gave me time to enjoy my favourite piece in the room – an untitled mixed-media reworking of a lifestyle magazine shot of Queen Elizabeth riding past Balmoral Castle. Koether's paint adds a line of bang-up-to-date dialogue to a scene steeped in tradition. The canvasses on the wall surround a central totem of found items from Bristol.

The next gallery houses The Seasons (based on Poussin's The Four Seasons) depicting spring, summer, autumn and winter with brilliant energy and a charming familiarity; the excited brightness of summer is almost warm enough to feel in Seasons II and that feeling of looking outwards into a darkened world in midwinter is perfectly shown in Seasons IV. They are exhibited rather high on the walls – I would have liked to have been a little closer to the paint.

Along with The Seasons, other highlights for me are the eclectic sculptures under strikingly smooth clear liquid acrylic surfaces in The Seven Sacraments. I enjoyed the exquisite detail of these, and the contrast they offered to the large canvasses.

And those canvasses... Jutta Koether's canvasses are captivating. I love her use of circular shapes and her confident application of zig-zagged paint. This exhibition is definitely worth a visit.

The Seasons I | acrylic and oil on canvas, 2012

The Seasons II | acrylic and oil on canvas, 2012
The Seasons III | acrylic and oil on canvas, 2012

The Seasons IV | acrylic and oil on canvas, 2012

untitled | mixed media

Confirmation | liquid acrylic; acrylic on canvas; glass, 2013 | Photo: Ruth Clark
The Seven Sacraments | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

Jutta Koether: Seasons and Sacraments shows at Arnolfini, Bristol until 7th July.

Friday, 10 May 2013

The Playlist: Woodkid

I have been listening to the richly-orchestrated and irresistibly heroic tracks from Woodkid's debut album, 'The Golden Age'. He incorporates full orchestral passages into his edgy neofolk tracks. There is no shortage of trumpet fanfare, luscious sting laments and driving snare riffs. Yes, it certainly verges on overly-sentimental, and pompous, but remains cool in the roughcast vocals. I like the contrast.

Woodkid is the stage name of Yoann Lemoine, the French music video director and graphic designer who has worked on videos for Katy Perry (Teenage Dream), Lana Del Rey (Born To Die) and Taylor Swift (Back To December). He certainly has credentials, and this album is carefully written and produced with much more depth than a lot of music that is being pumped out.

I recommend the opening track The Golden Age for sheer memorability, Stabat Mater for its clever incorporation of choral extracts and Boat Song for lovely piano riffs upon which ernest lyrics can float easily.

Woodkid | Photo: Woodkid/promotional

Woodkid | Photo: Woodkid/promotional


Thursday, 9 May 2013

Araki and Cupid: the power of sex in art

Lady Gaga | Photo: Nobuyoshi Araki

Michael Hoppen Gallery is currently showing the photography of Nobuyoshi Araki. His series of Lady Gaga in bondage (see above) may be familiar, or his portraits of Bjork for her remix album Telegram, if his other works aren't. Alongside his charming incidental shots of everyday life (including of his cat, Chiro), the Japanese photographer is renowned for provoking strong hostility with controversial and sexually explicit photographs. This series promises nothing less with its focus on Kinbaku – the Japanese art of bondage. If any work blurs the lines between artistic nudity and purely pornographic imagery, his does. Indeed, many would go as far as saying that looking at the photos is no different from perusing the latest issue of Hustler

The pictures are undoubtedly explicit, but, for me, there is no denying that they inhabit a certain beauty. In my opinion what distinguishes them as art is simply that they are intended as art. This clear intention is often what makes the difference. I strongly believe in functionality and – like the contrasts between music designed for dancing and that perfect for a warm summer's day with a book – art approached with an open mind can easily be appreciated in light of the artist's original purpose. Perhaps I will hear murmurs that I am being naive here, or that one man's art is another man's perversion. And that is true. But my point is that art is rarely designed to be overlooked and go without commentary. Art externalises something that is felt internally, and the more personal that is, the more unusual (and therefore striking) it is and the more people it will challenge. And nothing is more personal than sex. Sexual expression to some may be the ultimate personal expression, and therefore the ultimate art. The fact that Araki's photographs express somebody else's body does not necessarily mean they are not an extremely personal representation of his own sexual curiosities. And ultimately, like many artists, he is simply challenging certain social paradigms by championing strong imagery and unashamed provocation.

The same goes for film. I recently downloaded a film from iTunes for relaxed Sunday evening viewing, and as it unfolded I found myself thinking 'did I just download a porno?'. The nudity is beautifully shot, yes, but it is nudity in its entirety. I saw enough skin, transparent plot directions and passionate sexual activity to question its purpose.

However, there were other aspects – many as subtle as to be beyond conscious thought – that definitely made it art, rather than porn. The soundtrack, for one, is artistic. The original score was written by a contemporary composer whose music I have come across before – Jocelyn Pook, whose film composition resumé is varied and extensive. The characters' movements, along with the camera speeds, are carefully considered and as other–worldly as they should be in a film made for artistic purposes. And there are elements that interrupt the realism of the narrative – most notably a scene of over-dramatised pathos in which one of the characters is pierced through the heart by a coarse wooden arrow; the arrow of Cupid. Such a cinematic feat keeps it in the realms of art. So before you loose faith in my morality, it can be defined as a European romantic erotic art film... I checked.

Chiro, Araki's feline muse | Photo: Nobuyoshi Araki

Photo: Nobuyoshi Araki

Photo: Nobuyoshi Araki

Photo: Nobuyoshi Araki

Photo: Nobuyoshi Araki

Photo: Nobuyoshi Araki

Photo: Nobuyoshi Araki

Nobuyoshi Araki shows at Michael Hoppen Gallery until 8th June.
For more information visit:

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Bank Holiday Bliss

Hello! It is May and it finally feels like summer.

The bank holiday weekend passed under the blissful haze of warm spring sun. A lovely friend of mine flew over from Paris to stay for a couple of days and together we took in the sights, sounds and sun of Bristol. I enjoyed showing her the best parts of what is becoming my favourite little southern city and discovered some hidden secrets along the way. It is amazing what the careful glare of the sun can reveal...

Here is what it looked like through an Instagram-tinted lens.

Welcome To Bristol | Photo: Rosie Pentreath
Street artist Stik's long-legged beings stare down at us from a tower that overlooks Nelson Street | Photo: Rosie Pentreath
Street art on Stokes Croft | Photo: Pauline Bradley
The face of art | Photo: Pauline Bradley 
Exploring the street art. I am wearing: blazer by Zara; t-shirt by Zara; Jeans by H&M; Belt, charity shop; watch by Anthropologie; sunglasses, Wayfarer by Ray-Ban; bag from St Ives Leather Craft, Cornwall | Photo: Pauline Bradley

Through the keyhole | Photo: Pauline Bradley

Photo: Pauline Bradley
This stunning church is located in the centre of Old City. Despite working very close by – and passing it probably no less than three times a week – I had never seen it before. What a beautiful sunlight discovery | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

The golden unicorns overlooking College Green were another sunlight discovery – a previously overlooked feature of one of my favourite communal spaces in Bristol | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

College Green | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

People from all walks of live meet and greet on College Green | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

The cheesy (but iconic?) self-shoot | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

The robin who came to tea. We sat in the back garden of Bosten Tea Party, Park Street and enjoyed seeing song birds flitting around for the odd dropped morsel | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

Another beautiful religious facade discovered and properly appreciated in the sunlight | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

The blossom on the trees is breathtaking at this time of year – spring is here | Photo: Rosie Pentreath

Before any purists out there comment on the rather liberal use of the Instagram edit here, may I point out that using the quick-editing app was a strong theme of the weekend and it suited the languorous, rose-tinted time we were all having.

Follow me on Instagram HERE. And take a look at my 'real' photography HERE.