An Ode to Retail

It has been a tough year, not least for our retailers. I’ve been thinking of them. I always do at this time of year. Most of my working life has been in retail, be it on the shop floor or in the boardroom. How strange our shops have been shut … like the stages and cinemas, the theatre of high street retail temporarily closed. I have missed them, almost grieved their absence.

Shops are extraordinary things. They inspire and delight. For many years retailers have sought to add panache and ‘experience’ to fight off the onslaught of the juggernaut of online competition. But in these dark times, shops provide something more vital — a human interaction, a moment of being cared for and looked after.

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On Face as Mask and Self-Portraits

Since mid-March 2020, I’ve been seeing a lot more of my own face than normal. Yes, you’ve guessed it, like many other people, I’ve found myself on a merry go-round of video calls as a result of Covid-19. I’ve used video chat to keep in touch with friends and family, to keep working on art projects across borders and most recently to complete an 8-week online art course. And it’s exhausting. I’m no fan of screen-time at the best of times – yes, I’m one of those strange refuseniks who still doesn’t use Netflix! But beyond the eye-strain and tense undertone of blue screen light, I realised there was something particularly emotionally exhausting about the new prevalence of videochat. And mostly that was my face …

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Making Art Public: 50 Years of Kaldor Public Art Projects

Thinking about the term ‘public art’, the immediate connotations that spring to my mind are: (i) big things (ii) outdoors and (iii) as I’m a Brit, The Angel of the North by Antony Gormley. Thinking a bit further, I wonder about all the statues commemorating various men (mainly) and women (occasionally) standing in our towns and cities. Pondering a bit more, I recall some wonderful works I’ve seen dotted around Folkestone, Kent, the lasting legacy of their inspiring triennials.

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Six NZ Artists to Know

Earlier this year I spent some time in New Zealand and visited Wellington, Dunedin, Invercargill and Queenstown. I had been to New Zealand once before, but had never particularly read up on the NZ art scene or history. While I was there, I visited a number of galleries and it was interesting to see which artists’ names kept cropping up. Whose work is repeatedly collected and shown in public galleries? And which artists’ works stood out to me, as a non-native, with little knowledge of the NZ art world.

Here’s my list of NZ artists I came to know and a little more about them.

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On ‘Stunning’

Why do I have such strong feelings feelings about this word? Well, I suppose my strong feelings are about its relentless use in everyday parlance. And a usage, which seems ignorant of the word’s origins and its inherent power dynamic. I’m pretty sure that’s why it grates for me, let me expand more on that …

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Singapore: Art amongst the high-rises

Singapore is more known for its financial industry than its art scene. A jungle of hi-rises, 5-star hotels with rooftop swimming pools and vast quantities of air conditioned shopping centres. The population seems to be composed of armies of neatly dressed office-workers – both expat and locals. Young people here study under one of the most intensely pressured education systems and a supporting cast of foreign domestic workers is shipped in, to keep everything running smoothly.

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On Censorship

Until you bump into the hard edges of censorship, it can be difficult to believe it’s really there, happening. But blunt refusals and denials without explanation rapidly dispel the illusion. For me 2019 was the year I started to feel some of these edges. The edges of the space that I’m permitted to exist within, in society today. The idea that my female body was somehow offensive to society. Obscene. Indecent. Deserving of censorship.

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