While the horses for (main) courses saga runs amok across Britain, Lavender’s Blue decided it was time to cross the channel to brunch in Brussels. This may sound like the best idea since Patty Hearst thought she’d call by a San Fran bank armed with a semiautomatic, but bear with. Crazy has a new? Not yet. Destination known: Scheltema, a seafood restaurant. In the lexicon of dining spaces, this is the Belgian capital’s answer to J Sheekey. Every cloud, and all that.
Understated frontage along Rue des Dominicains, a five minute stroll from Grand Place, belies its pedigree, the silver lining. More art nouveau than nouveau riche, Scheltema has been a favoured dining spot of the Almanach de Gotha and the like for the last 30 years. La belle époque never ended – it’s forever la fin de la siècle in this discreet part of Ilôt Sacré district.
Beyond the awnings and morning yawnings, the interior is an indulgence of rich wooden panelling, polished brass railings, leather seating and rows of green shaded hanging lamps reflected in oval mirrors. Towards the rear of the restaurant, Thierry and Christian, the ebullient chefs, create a buzz in the open kitchen overlooked by diners. The service is equally energetic and fun.
The menu combines classic dishes with dancingly delicate dashes of individuality. Highlights include shrimp croquettes with fried parsley (€14); pan sautéed scampi with garlic (€20); and crisp Nobashi shrimps, sesame oil and butter (€19). Washed down with pinot gris Mader d’Alsace, 2011 (€32). De rigeur. Rrrrr. The day has truly begun. Coffee is served with a box of Biscuits Belges Artisanaux.
Artist Suresh Dutt’s conceptual framework integrates drawing with sculpture. A translation of the two dimensional onto multiple three dimensional planes, so to speak. He applies and deconstructs geometric forms and grid structures into space and onto surfaces. Immersive sculptures are devised that explode into an unknown yet certain dimension.
Suresh prescribes a pragmatic approach to his creative endeavours. He provides efficient solutions which resolve the relationship between two and three dimensions. This analysis reaches a fait accompli – in the present – with his recent major work.
Winning the First@108 Public Award in 2011 enabled Suresh to create a sculpture outside the conventional confines of a white cube gallery space. The stereotypical artistic context with its three dimensional limitations is replaced by an exposed public space and all its embroiled complexities. To add a further layer to this contextual complexity, the sculpture was commissioned to inhabit two urban, but very distinct, built environments. The first (temporary) setting was in front of an Edwardian villa on Old Brompton Road, South Kensington. The second (permanent) setting is Montgomery Square in Canary Wharf.
An ornate red brick traditional enclosed backdrop in West London; a geometric mirrored contemporary exposed backdrop in East London. Suresh’s chromatic response is ingeniously simple. Paint it blue. An apparent simplicity of form – line drawn, no less (no more) – belies the intensity of his thought process. An hypothesis is presented to the viewer. He explains,
“When we view an object in space, we are able to gauge the scale of that object by using visual information surrounding that object and previously learned knowledge. We scale the object in relation to other objects the size of which we already know and comprehend. This information and understanding is essential when we draw a three dimensional object or convert an object into an image.”
Suresh contemplates that the visual effect of foreshortening can be used to create the illusion of depth on a two dimensional surface. This allows the drawing of the object to retain the same scale as the actual three dimensional object. He enthuses, “I wanted to construct a physical representation of foreshortening in three dimensional space through the drawing of a cube. The cube is the most easily perceived and recognised geometric structure.”
This desire stems from a concern about the way a person’s perception can be altered. An unorthodox paradox emerges. A parallel lined world arises. The starting point for him is something that is universally understood.
Immersed in art theory, Suresh applies anamorphosis, the principle method of manipulating perspective. Anamorphosis is a distorted projection or perspective which requires the viewer to use special devices or to occupy a specific vantage point to reconstitute an image. Lines and shapes create an alternating perspective. It becomes impossible to retain the two and three dimensional aspects together in one view.
Suresh manipulates spatial perception to great effect in this sculpture. The viewer is left disorientated in self made illusions. It exclaims, “We know nothing about space!” Euclidian geometry and the assumption of space are questioned. Even the tense of the sculpture’s name, Drawing Cube Blue, exudes uncertainty in the dimension of time.
An equally brilliant and academic accompanying solo exhibition in the Salon Gallery of Dora House explores light and perception through reflection. Suresh’s ongoing fascination with the structure of the cube inspires the creation of objects of unsettling ambiguity. Visible yet invisible, physical but intangible, they exist where volume and surface collide.
His work will soon occupy a third type of space. Frenetic urbanity superseded by bucolic countryside, brownfield to greenfield, further afield a leftfield variation of Drawing Cube Blue will form part of a country house estate collection. Watch this space. Although Suresh may make us question if it is a space. Or even his field.
There are the golden postcodes of Belgravia, Chelsea, Kensington, Knightsbridge and Mayfair. Then there is the platinum Knightsbridge address of Basil Street, sandwiched between Harrods and Harvey Nics. Bronze torches light the winter’s night. Silver railings cordon off a red carpet. Welcome to The Lansbury. Beware, the bling ends at the front door (except perhaps for beetroot macaroons at the launch party).
Developer Finchatton’s latest offering is a slender sliver of a corner apartment block rising six (visible) storeys. Walls hewn from sandstone form a deeply incised but relatively unadorned skin. What a welcome relief (no pun) from the brick Accordia-lite which has come to dominate domestic architecture in the capital. Shallow rectangular projecting bays provide a nod to nearby mansion blocks. The Lansbury’s architecture has a restrained permanence, the antithesis of pop up culture. It doesn’t compete for attention with its chunkier period neighbours. Period. Instead it commands material consideration (stop the puns!) through quality and subtlety.
“Our style is very considered,” says Andrew Dunn, one half of Finchatton’s founders. “It’s not blingy and bright and flashy. The Lansbury embodies our core values: utmost quality and attention to detail, contemporary design with reference to heritage and longevity, and exceptional servicing.” Co founder Alex Michelin adds, “Everything’s custom made and bespoke. We designed every single piece.” As it turns out, even the napkins.
The look is art deco influenced. The ethic is arts and crafts inspired. The art is intrinsic to the whole. “It’s a slightly different organic sensibility,” says Jiin Kim-Inoue, Finchatton’s Head of Design. “Harmonious, inviting, an almost lived in look… The rooms shouldn’t be loud, not with such an incredible view.” Across the road, golden illuminated letters shout “Harrods!” “We’ve used fibres such as wool, cashmere and horsehair, combining them with metals and other natural materials to create cleverly textured surroundings. Walnut and polished sycamore work with bronze, brass and steel. Nero Argento marble and crystal sit alongside buffalo horn and shagreen.”
Monochromatic Mondrianic mirror mouldings, television surrounds and bookcases complemented by infusions of jewel tones: amethyst, garnet, sapphire. Book matched black marble bathrooms and vein matched white marble bathrooms. Herringbone, hessian, pinstripe, check. Check. Soft calf leather banister rails sewn on site. Stingray leather covered desks. The haves and the have lots are demanding.
The upper level of the 280 square metre duplex penthouse opens onto a roof terrace, an airy eyrie. Seating is arranged round a glass floor which doubles as the kitchen ceiling below. Spying on the chef has never been so easy. Later in the evening, a purchaser will pay a cool £1 million over the asking price for the penthouse. The communal elevator descends past three 170 square metre lateral apartments and a 130 square metre duplex apartment before reaching the ground floor triplex. This apartment dramatically drops two storeys below ground. Only in London would subterranean living be a high. One lower ground floor bedroom overlooks a three storey void; the other, a living wall in a light well. A cinema, gym and temperature controlled wine cellar – must haves – occupy the lowest level.
The Lansbury is timeless yet capable of registering the passage of time. The concise correlation between outer order and inner sanctum is a deeply felt subliminal recognition. Finchatton establishes a layered yet cohesive language through an association of material and space, a sense of balance, an understanding of the uplifting effects that space and light have on the human spirit.
As John Bennett wrote, “Wherever men have lived and moved and their being, hoped, feared, succeeded, failed, loved, laughed, been happy, lost, mourned, died, were beloved or detested, there remains forever a something, intangible and tenuous as thought, a sentience very like a soul, which abides forever in the speechless walls.”