Steve McQueen – Gravesend

ARTBLOG – GROUNDWORK

Gravesend (2007), a mesmerising film by Steve McQueen, was the second exhibition I recently had the opportunity to be involved with as part of the Groundwork summer programme.

Screened in a specially adapted room within the nearly renovated CAST building in Helston, this film by the acclaimed Steve McQueen is an all-immersive experience. The giant high-quality screen dominates the end of the room and showcases Gravesend perfectly. Reinforced by the booming surround sound, the twenty-five-minute experience demands your full attention as it makes the viewer shudder with the acoustic vibration.

An acclaimed director of feature films such as 12 Years a Slave, Hunger and Shame, Steve McQueen is also a renowned British artist who specialises in the moving image. Steve McQueen’s Turner Prize-winning talent certainly shines through on screen. The editing, pace, colour and sound engage your senses and play with your emotions.

The mining and refining process of Coltan, a black mineral used in vital components of electronics including mobile phones and laptops, is the focus of  Gravesend.  Whilst McQueen’s minute-long second piece in the exhibition, Unexploded (2007) is his celluloid reaction to a crater left by an unexploded bomb in Basra, filmed during his time as a war artist in Iraq.

Both films are FREE to experience until the 3rd June at the CAST building in Helston, Cornwall.

Christina Mackie – Judges II

ARTBLOG – Groundwork

This week marked the opening of Christina Mackie’s intriguing contemporary sculptural installation to the visitors of Godolphin House, Helston

Housed in the magnificent Kings room, the installation has the luxury of commanding the complete space, which has been specially adapted for the exhibition. Part of the Groundwork Art programme for the summer, visitors to Godolphin have the opportunity to absorb Christina’s complex collection of work at their leisure even when the house is not open to the public.

Fired at the same temperatures that rock is transformed into magma, Christina’s sculptural ceramic pieces which dominate the installation are a response to an extinct volcano in New South Wales, Australia. Also combined with the installation both on top and underneath the carefully planned trestle tables are various other elements which invite visitors to explore Christina’s theme. Piles of mineral sand are funnelled and poured between objects and minerals are incorporated into paintings as pigments and as glazes on the ceramic pieces.

Two video works also play out silently underneath the tables.
Fall force, a 3D wireframe animation deals with the theme of time and grinding down and flowing away of human endeavour.

Planet, considers the theme of landscape, earth’s characteristics and forces being as visible in a lump of mineral as in the whole landscape considers the theme of landscape, earth’s characteristics and forces being as visible in a lump of mineral as in the whole landscape, the mechanism of crystals being present in both scales and the beauty of the earth.

Christina Mackie is an internationally celebrated artist, best known for her composite sculptural installations, which unite disparate elements in a state of temporary synthesis. Born in England in the mid-1950’s, she was raised in Canada but resettled back in London in the 1980s.

Her amazing body of work Judges II, has been lent by the Arts Council and brought to Cornish shores by the Groundworks programme with the support of CAST,  Kestle Barton, Tate St Ives and Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange.  The unique setting for this a rarely viewed installation has been kindly provided by The National Trust.

Christina’s piece will be on show in the Kings Room, Goldophin House, Helston, Cornwall until the 24th June.

Comparing costs in the Canary Islands

TRAVEL BLOG

The Canary Islands are a popular destination for British travellers throughout the year. Offering attractive temperatures this collection of seven islands is an ideal escape from the seasonal gloom of the UK winter months. However, the weather isn’t the only attractive feature of this attractive archipelago.

Is island life cheaper?

If you have the opportunity to holiday on these lovely islands and don’t take sign up for an ‘All Inclusive deal’ you will be pleasantly surprised by the lower cost of living. The Canaries have a huge trade deficit and their primary exports are bananas, sugarcane, tomatoes, potatoes and tobacco. So it is astounding that some food and beverage items are actually cheaper than mainland Spain.

How do the essential holiday prices compare?

In the UK an average main course in a restaurant would set you back 12 euros. In Spain, this would be 10€. On a recent trip to Lanzarote, I was fortunate enough to sample some great dishes for 8€ and some outstanding dishes for 15€. However, the biggest saving on my holiday came on wine, beer and coffee. With espressos under 1.50€ and cappuccinos averaging under 2€, a mid-morning stop in a beach cafe was an attractive indulgence.

Even the local wine, which was very drinkable, was a decent 5-7€ a bottle on the supermarket shelves and 10-15€ in the restaurants. Cava was more affordable and just as tasty as Prosecco, averaging 3-5€. Bottled beer was cheaper than mainland Spain at under 2€ and draught beer was significantly cheaper than in the UK pubs. Happy hour deals reduced these prices even further with a double gin and tonic temptingly priced at 4€.

On a more sensible note,  fruit and vegetables in the supermarkets were about average for Europe. As were the basic cooking items such as sugar, salt and cooking oil. The only item we couldn’t find cheaper than the UK was suntan lotion, so make sure you stock up before you go!

 

£1.00 = 1.14€ at the time of writing.

 

Last minute holiday deals – where to find them

TRAVEL BLOG

Booking a last minute holiday a few weeks before departure can be excellent value, but you need to free your mind and be open to options. So do you make a beeline for your trusty high street travel agents, or fire up your laptop?

If you have time to surf for deals, the web is your answer. But before your fingers even touch the keyboard decide on your budget. Then be prepared to be as flexible on dates and destinations as you can. Carrying out a general sweep with online agents such as Kayak, Travel Republic or Last Minute of what is available for your dates is your next step. From this, you will get a feel for the destinations and type of accommodation on offer. At this point, you can effectively start to narrow your search.

Set your sights high. Go for the best quality and the best deals first. Be mindful of what suits you. Self-catered, B&B or all-inclusive. And don’t get distracted!

The big names

All inclusive last minute holidays are perfect if you have a strict budget you want to stick to it while on holiday. They are also great if you want a standard 7-night deal which is all-inclusive.

Many of the big operators offer great prices on large accommodation sites with lots of facilities. But venture out of the norm in search of a 5 or 6-night bespoke last minute holiday and you may soon become frustrated. If you haven’t got time to trawl the web for hours have a quick look at the online sites for Thomas Cook or First choice and pop down to the high street branch.

DIY

If you have a lot of time on your hands and have a clear idea of what you want, putting a package together yourself can save a few pounds. According to Skyscanner’s data, it is a bit of a fallacy that flights will always be more expensive closer to the departure date. Booking four to seven weeks can sometimes bag you the best flight fares. Google flights is a useful source for finding the best flight prices across the airlines for specific flights and destinations without having to visit the individual providers home pages.

Once you have narrowed down your search to a destination, an airline and a date don’t forget to reference the airlines own holiday sites for specific last minute deals. Booking a hotel/flight package with BA or Easyjet with them can sometimes be cheaper.

Then use the big accommodation provider sites like Booking.com or HomeAway to collect ideas of what suits you. Don’t forget to cross-reference prices to find the best deal. Sometimes owners websites offer better deals. Happy hunting!

John Dyer – painting the colours of the world

ART BLOG

The John Dyer retrospective exhibition at Falmouth Art Gallery was the second of the day for me, as I found myself rushing from one side of the county to the other.

The exhibition lovingly curated and exhibited, complete with new coat of flamingo pink on the walls, was a celebration of John’s 50th birthday and a chance to showcase his huge body of work.

On what had been a glorious sunny day, one of John’s pieces was particularly appropriate. A wave of summer Colour, Gyllingvase,  truly reflected the change in vibrancy the recent sunshine had brought to the town. The gallery was awash with colour from other studies by John from Australia, Peru, the Philippines and the almost local Eden project.

Cornish artist John runs a predominantly an online gallery with his colourist painter wife Joanne Short. They work from a spacious Edwardian property in Falmouth. Together with post-impressionist father Ted Dyer, the threesome makes up one of Cornwall’s well-known families of contemporary figurative painters. All their artistic styles are quite diverse, all three members cite this as a benefit as they continue to learn from each other.

The exhibition coincides with the launch of a new book by John, which boasts a  foreword by Alan Titchmarsh and hundreds of his beautiful paintings from all over the world faithfully reproduced on paper.

Ideas from the Attic – Bill Mitchell

ART BLOG

Part of a mini-festival exploring ideas and how they are developed on how, this small exhibition of Bill Mitchell’s Boxes and Collage Books was truly inspiring.

To introduce his work, Sue Hill, artist, theatre-maker, cultural animateur and also Bill Mitchell’s partner in life and work, gave a beautifully moving talk. Amongst a group of admirer and colleagues, I was given a unique insight into how Bill collected and collated the extraordinary contents of his attic. His collections were gathered as physical inspiration for his work and Sue now hopes they can do the same for other artists and writers.

Some of these bizarre and unique objects collected for their obscure ordinariness can be seen in a small two-roomed exhibition at Cornwall College. Unfortunately, the cramped space did not do justice to the inherent artistic quality of the collection. Bill was an artist in every sense and his work really deserves to be shown in a larger more befitting space where his ingenuity and creativity can truly be highlighted.

A designer and theatre-maker Bill Mitchell, who sadly died last year, was one of the greats of landscape theatre in the UK. His groundbreaking work with Kneehigh and Wildworks brought a visual artist’s sensibility to the theatre. His outstandingly creative Wolf’s Child, which was performed in the woods at Trelowarren Estate in Cornwall last July was, unfortunately, his last masterpiece.

 

Travelling light? – beware of weight restrictions

Travel blog

Travelling light is not just about being careful with your money. Speed and weight are an attractive factor for minimising your luggage. However, the goal posts constantly sift and some airline weight restrictions are shockingly low. So doing your homework is essential before you book.

Speed

Flying with only hand luggage with a pre-printed boarding pass gives travellers the freedom to skip the check-in queues. It also saves precious minutes waiting for luggage to drop onto carousel when you land and excludes the chance of lost luggage. The downside to travelling light is joining the rush to jam it into the aircrafts overhead storage lockers.

Weight

Gone are the aching shoulders and backs from loading and unloading the car or taxi. Or struggling up and down stairs at the train station. Hand luggage with wheels allows any traveller to glide effortlessly through the airport like the airline staff. However, with reduced weight comes the unfortunate reality of a restriction in content. Travelling light is perfect for short holidays, hot destinations or somewhere with laundry opportunities. But not so great for those winter holidays to colder climates.

Budget airlines

The budget airlines, Flybe, RyanAir and Easyjet have allowed many travellers to become masters in the art of travelling light.  And their generous weight allowance can allow most travellers to pack adequate clothing for a few weeks.

Shockingly holiday specialists Thomson offers the lowest weight of hand luggage on their flights. A mere 5kg. Thomas Cook is not much better with just 1kg more. Both companies flight prices keep them out of the realm of the budget airlines. And both charge for hold luggage if you book flights independent of their package holidays. Just a little something to watch out for when heading for the sun this summer.

Volunteering – a grounbreaking event

I love being involved in the art world and as many of my followers know I frequently take the opportunity to immerse myself in the Cornish art community.

Recently the excitement surrounding the county’s latest art commissions and sited work has been rippling through many of the events I have attended. So when a call for volunteers was circulated I couldn’t wait to get involved and signed on the dotted line.

Groundwork is a project organised by CAST, and will be bringing internationally celebrated art and artists to Cornwall from May to September this year.

A series of groundbreaking new commissions and acclaimed works by internationally celebrated artists will be featured in unique venues and unusual outdoor sites across West Cornwall.

Run in partnership with Tate St Ives, Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange and Kestle Barton there will be an emphasis on moving image, sound and performance in the planned programme of exhibitions and events.

The focus of Groundwork is an exploration of place as the terrain of past, present and future human activity. The programme aims to develop connections between the visual arts and other specialist fields.

After an informative training session, I am now even more excited to be a part of this groundbreaking series of installations. My rota for the coming months will be arriving soon, after which I am looking forward to posting my personal experiences of being a part of such an important art based programme, so watch this space…

Geneva – a great destination anytime of the year

TRAVEL BLOG

Surrounded by mountains the historic city of Geneva is a fantastic destination for a holiday at any time of the year.

Culture

Perfectly petite the historical centre of Geneva just takes a few hours to explore on foot. Its stunning architecture oozes flavours of both France and Germany. And the cobbled streets are lined with tempting cafes, restaurants and boutiques.  However, to really get a feeling of this vast city, make a beeline for the Cathedral of St Pierre, which offers stunning views from its tower.

Lake

It’s hard to ignore the largest lake in Central Europe which divides the city. It is perfect for swimming on hot stuffy days. Sightseeing from a boat. Or just walking beside. The mountain vistas on offer are spectacular. Lac Leman, is bordered by some beautiful cities. Lausanne, Montreux and the stunning medieval village of Yvoire are just a few worthy of a mention and a visit.

Wine

Only 2% of Swiss wine is exported from its 15,000 hectares of vineyards. Most of which are produced within the cantons of Geneva. Unusually red grape varieties don’t dominate here.  Which allows the subtle delicate white wines, which rarely leave the region, to be the cream of the crop.

The unique wines from the nearby Jura, are grown at an altitude of up to 400m. The speciality wines include Crémant du Jura. A sparkling tipple made from unripe Chardonnay grapes and Vin Jaune. This late harvest wine is created from Savagnin grapes. Left to ripen as much as possible, they are fermented for up to 6 years to create an intense flavour.

Cheese

You can’t review a corner of France or Switzerland without mentioning cheese. Gruyère, Mont d’Or, Comté, are all created from the high pasture flora of the Jura by some very special cows. Each cheese oozes a flavoursome character of its own and holds a definitive place on any local menu.

Bon Appétit!

Mont Jura – a quick and easy ski fix

TRAVEL BLOG

As a gateway for ski fanatics, Geneva is a cheap and easy destination served by some of the UK’s major budget airlines (Easyjet, Flybe, and Jet2 ). It is the perfect portal for a quick ski fix and most of my snow junky friends book flights in advance, watch the snow levels and head for the well-known resorts in France, Italy or Switzerland. With short transfer times of just over an hour, perfect for maximising slope time, I normally do the same. However, on my last trip I had the opportunity to discover some unknown little resorts within a fifteen-minute drive of GVA.

Nearby little gems

Small and relatively unknown to English skiers is the little gem of Lélex – Crozet. As one of the largest downhill ski areas of the Monts Jura resorts, it is suitable for all levels of skiers. It makes a perfect day resort for seasoned skiers or a great weekend destination for families.

The 30km of slopes can be reached easily via gondola from Crozet, on the French side of Geneva. With its summit at 1650m, this petite ski resort doesn’t suffer from blistering cold temperatures or windswept pistes. What it does offer are cheaper day passes, delightful tree-lined runs and quick, easy access to the slopes. Its potentially low elevation is alarming to some. But the resort boasts a high ratio snow cannons to service its 26 runs. It is this attention to detail which guarantees snow coverage in cold conditions and enables the resort to still thrive in lean snow years.

Slightly farther afield from Geneva is the Col de Faucille and access to the ski resort of Mijoux. Nestling above the charming historic town of Gex and just thirty minutes from GVA, it boasts 12 downhill runs. It also offers some great cross country, tree-lined walking trails and stunning views of the Northern Alps.

The third but smallest of the Mont Jura resorts is the Menthières ski area. A hefty 15 km from Bellegarde and fifty minutes from GVA it is not a solution for a quick easy ski. However, it is full of atmosphere and offers up to 10 downhill ski runs and some nordic skiing so is worthy of a mention.

Snow record

Unfortunately, snowfall in the area has been sketchy over the last couple of years. However, this season the snow depths have been incredible. So if you are short of holiday leave and low on funds but need an end of season quick fix, one of these small resorts could the answer to your dilemma.