Category Archives: Art

Pictures at an Exhibition 2

Part Two: as a Chinese jar

So, a bit more about 12 Henrietta Street and why I called this post Pictures from an Exhibition. Two weeks after shooting there I was back to see an exhibition called ‘as a Chinese jar’ by a young artist Roisin Power Hackett. The title comes from a line of a poem by TS Eliot, Burnt Norton.

“Only by the form, the pattern,
Can words or music reach
The stillness, as a Chinese jar still
Moves perpetually in its stillness.”

On her website Power Hackett says “These lines speak of the patterns on a Chinese jar and how they repeatedly seem to move, despite being fixed motifs. This can be taken as an example of the rhythms and energy in life and the world”.

TS Eliot photographed by Cecil Beaton

TS Eliot photographed by Cecil Beaton 1956

Further: ”In her paintings and performance Róisín questions peoples’ relationships with their surroundings, depicting an abundance of intricately patterned wallpapers or rugs and blurring the edges between the person, their clothes and their environment…

She portrays historical characters, both real and fictitious, as well as her peers. Her characters blend into their backgrounds, absorbed and influenced by their respective societal norms, they either almost disappear or fight to be seen and heard”.


‘Similitude – A Portrait of Emma’, oil on wallpaper

Similitude – A Portrait of Emma, oil on wallpaper

“In ‘as a Chinese jar’, Róisín focuses on the power relations between the genders as well as between the rich and the poor. Her work highlights how women are regularly oppressed, pressured into submission and made to fade into the wallpaper”.


As a Chinese jar, oil on wallpaper

As a Chinese jar, oil on wallpaper

This would suggest to me a visual equivalent of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s claustrophobic feminist gothic The Yellow Wallpaper.


The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman


The Red Room – actually more a madder rose if you want to be precise – is high-ceilinged and was slanted with sunlight.

In the centre of the room red wool hung from two chains attached to the ceiling, and attached to the wool were red booklets of Power Hackett’s poetry and a green label that said “Read Me”.


Read Me

Read Me


The artist was sitting in a corner of the room, partially covered by a repeat pattern fabric that also wallpapered one wall from dado rail to floor.

Most of the paintings are oil on wallpaper, although the wallpaper isn’t always apparent. Many were very lovely. Ironically, however, they work better as decorative pieces than as polemic. I’ll admit I didn’t see the performance part of the exhibition (Unless the artist’s monosyllabic presence was performance?) so perhaps I don’t have the full story, but I got no sense of struggle or silenced voices from the works.


Similitude – A Portrait of Shawnagh, oil on wallpaper

Similitude – A Portrait of Shawnagh, oil on wallpaper


The more contemporary portaits in particular seemed almost jolly, as if everything is fine now and the feminists have won.

Should this matter? Is it not enough to see lovely paintings in a lovely room? Well, given that Power Hackett’s intentions are so noble, yes it does matter.

Roisin Power Hackett is a very promising artist, and here is a highly resonant way in to women’s lives past and present.

Are women complicit in their own silencing? Where do domestic or private interiors fit in to all this? Are they the female voice given form or the method by which we gild our own cages?

I’d be really eager to see her develop her themes; to go really deep and let her paintings howl. In the words of TS Eliot again: “So the darkness shall be light, and the stillness the dancing”.

I wish I didn't know that this is a painting of Anna Karenina from the 2012 film directed by Joe Wright

I wish I didn’t know that this is a painting of Anna Karenina from the 2012 film directed by Joe Wright

12 Henrietta Street was open to the public as part of the Open House weekend.


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Filed under Art, Fabric, Feminism, Wallpaper

The Grass is Greener

I start a new job tomorrow. It’s a six week project but may turn into a full-time actual job. This is tremendously exciting, so I wonder why am I day dreaming about this: An embroidered depiction of unemployment by Melissa Calderon.



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Filed under Art, Embroidery, Unemployment

Cross Stitch & Digression

My new toy these days is Cross Stitch, which I’ve found to be as addictive as Angry Birds except instead of ending up with RSI you end up with RSI and a thing!

In these stitchin’ and bitchin’ days I find it odd how difficult it is to find a cross-stitched thing I’d actually want though. Possibly there is a community of cross stitchin’ punks out there, and please leave a comment if you know of any.

To date I’ve found these, which are great but for the fact that they don’t give you the right amount of thread in the kits – I’ve way too much green, nowhere near enough grey and they didn’t  put in any thread for the sky. Also in retrospect it might have been a tad ambitious to take this on as my first ever project given that the image isn’t printed on the fabric – you have to count each coloured stitch. Each stitch is about 1 millimetre across. So when I say they’re great…

Anyway. A bit about Battersea Power Station, now half-owned by the Irish people, via NAMA the National Assets Management Agency.

photo by Reuters

I lived in London briefly in the ‘90’s and would see the power station most days on my way into work. I was very fond of it. I vaguely remeber seeing the Pink Floyd album Animals at home, my sister was a fan, but I think I responded more to the aesthetic of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s great brick cathedral, described as “A Temple of Power”.

Funnily enough, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott also designed the iconic K2 red telephone box. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, To design one London landmark may be regarded as luck, to design two looks like talent.

Photo by Steven Dalton, from the 1996 Thames and Hudson book, London Minimum by Herbert Ypma.

Work started on Battersea Power Station in 1929, with Sir Giles Gilbert Scott brought in a little later to assuage public worries that the station, which occupies a 15 acre (61,000m sq) site, would be an eyesore. In fact it has had an enduring popularity.

In 1975 the A station was closed, following falling ouput and rising costs. (There are two connected stations; B was built shortly after the second world war)

Michael Heseltine declared it a heritage site in 1980 with a Grade 11 listing which denotes buildings that are of ‘special interest, warranting every effort to preserve them’.

In 2007 the listing was upgraded to Grade 11* a listing given to ‘particularly important buildings of more than special interest’.

As my cross stitching took shape (and it’s been a looong time coming) it started to remind me of Charles Sheeler. Sheeler was an American photographer and painter whose methods and subject matter hymned the Machine Age. His best known photographic work is his River Rouge Ford plant series.

Criss-Crossed Conveyors, River Rouge Plant, Ford Motor Company, 1927 Charles Sheeler

He achieved an equivalent photographic quality in his paintings and even his abstracts had a sort of machine-like precision.

Charles Sheeler, “On a Shaker Theme #2” (1956) From Hyper Allergic Labs Tumblr site

His subject matter should not be seen as one-dimensional however. Yes he depicted an urban and exurban world of work, often empty of people, but it is “Work” rather than ”Industry” that is glorified by Sheeler. In addition to his factories and foundries he painted and photographed Amish barns; between 1926 and 1934 he produced a series of interiors that depict his home in South Salem, New York filled with Shaker furniture and simple ceramics.

Here are some images of Sheeler’s to remind us all of a time when “The makers of things” as Barack Obama had it, and the places in which they worked were accorded a dignity forgotten for a while, but hopefully experiencing a renaissance.

Classic Landscape, Oil on Canvas, 1931
Side of White Barn, Bucks County, Gelatin Silver Print, 1915
American Interior, Oil on Canvas, 1934

Click here to see the work I do for my soul and not for “The Man” (man).

Classic Landscape, White Barn and American Interior from Area of Design


Filed under Architecture, Art, Cross Stitch