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Celia Lyttelton

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The Manorbier Castle Chronicles

Posted: 25/11/2012 23:13

This week has been an art marathon. I went to the new Pace Soho to look at Keith Coventry's 'JUNK', Macdonald- meets-Malevich canvases, cool Suprematist compositions, that have a disarming subliminal effect on one, until further scrutiny reveal reconfigurations of the burger joints' logo, each with a price tag of £40,000. Coventry never fails to make brilliant art that highlights the utter vacuity of our collapsing consumer and capitalist society in the most under stated manner without ever being didactic.

Hungry for more I went on an east end gallery and studio crawl, beginning at the totemic Trellick Goldfinger tower in west London all the way to its twin tower in furthest East London, Canning town, overlooking the now defunct Olympic stadia.

The east end compared to jaded 'rotting hill' is a breath of fresh, albeit polluted air; here people make things rather than consume. It is more vibrant, dynamic, idiosyncratic, it is the oldest part of London, has beautiful architecture and is almost devoid of franchised chain stores; instead there are artisan shops, boutiques and speak easy bars with raffish men spilling out of them in velvet monogrammed slippers. I, for one loath Portobello Road now, which is being taken over by hideous 'All Saints' with row upon row of sewing machines in their windows, (a travesty, because no one has a sewing machine in this area; people just buy-one- wash -garments, then to be binned,) Starbucks and Kurt Geiger shoe shops. Every drop of character is being squeezed dry by avaricious property developers, however Golborne Road, a melting pot of cultures, fish stalls and pots of bean soup remains hip and happening.

I was expecting to find Coventry's Shoreditch loft, a Le Corbusier 'machine for living in', but surprisingly it is like a 17th coffee house furnished with heavy Jacobean oak furniture and Flemish tapestries; I could almost smell snuff and, hear Boswell and Dr Johnson expounding on the evils of slavery and scattering literary aphorisms.

To Hoxton Square, where a few studios still remain and the mighty white Cube, showing Harland Miller's outsize book jackets with marbleised paint effects with imaginary titles such as 'The next Life is on You'

Then my companion, Luke White, the photographer drove us deeper into the grimier, grungier, edgier east end, down London Road to see Gavin Turk's studio. A veritable power-house of creativity, he and assistants were making silk screens of burnt out vans from last year's riots, casting doors into solid bronze ones and a self portrait of Gavin as Gypsy Lee in her fortune box.

Gavin's wife Deborah inveigled us to the outer limits where the edge of the city is encroached by the docklands in Canning town, to a warehouse, which is the centre of her operations for 'The House of Fairy Tales'. The mission statement, being 'Education through imagination'. It is hugely inspiring for children as this artist led project creates magical, parallel worlds where learning is play and play is directed learning. 'The House of Fairy Tales' tour the country with circuses, theatre workshops, (and a Shakespeare contraption of spinning wheels of characters and plots and plays, so that children can match them up,) art classes, magical mystery tours, trails and there is even the 'Playpaper', editions are printed, edited and written by young fledgling journalists. Honestly Deborah Curtis should be the Education minister. If there is a 'House of Fairy Tales' coming to a town near you; then go, forget Lego and Disney land. House of Fairy Tales should be a paradigm for all primary and prep schools through out the land.

At the weekend I went to Norwich to see the Christopher Wood and Cedric Morris exhibition. Christopher's paintings are melancholic, while Cedric is an alchemist in colour; his striking portraits and stunning still lives have a luminous quality.

I stayed in a Georgian mansion close to the Catholic Cathedral belonging to a Roman prince, which he had kindly lent to my friend, where the bathrooms, with copper baths were as big as bedrooms, the bedrooms bigger, complete with four posters, while the t.v plasma screens were almost as large as the tapestries.

On my way back on the coach to London, with my friend's daughter, who had bought a wardrobe-full of vintage clothes, I glanced the catalogue and found illustrated, a post card of Manorbier, that Cedric had written to his long time lover, Arthur Lett Haines, of Precipe bay, our favourite bathing place. In my book all roads lead to Manorbier.

 
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