Art Design People

Lucinda Mudge + Take What You Want

Art Attack

Lucinda Mudge Contemporary South African Artist @ Lavender's Blue

“It’s such a lovely part of the world,” says the artist Lucinda Mudge over a long lunch in the Guggenheim Bilbao where she’s now exhibiting. “We live in a natural dune forest in Keurboomstrand outside Plettenberg Bay. We designed and built our own house. We are surrounded by trees and dense indigenous bush. It is an extremely attractive place to live.” That’s the beautiful side of living in rural South Africa. But there’s a darker, more sinister side. “When my husband is abroad working, and it’s just me and the children, I’m aware of how isolated we are and how susceptible to burglary or violent crime. I go through this checklist before I go to bed: lock the doors, turn on my walkie talkie as there’s poor cell reception, keep the landline near the bed, and so on.”

Beams.On. © Lucinda Mudge @ Lavender's Blue

This dichotomy directly translates into Lucinda’s art. Take ‘Doors.Locked’, one of 26 ceramic vases from her show ‘The White Tiger and Other Stories’ at Knysna Art Gallery. On one side it’s a beautiful black and gold object “decorated with the sort of thing a magpie would collect”. She laughs, “I make glitzy vases. They’re quite bling!” But the other side menacingly has her security checklist inscribed into the clay and painted with a honey glaze. ‘I Will Kill You And Then I Will Eat You’ reads another piece. “I incorporate headlines and quotes from local news stories into my vases.” She sees what she hears. She makes what she sees. Duality of experience. “I like playing off the two.” Beauty | Ugliness. Reticence | Confrontation. Abstract | Message.

Like all the best ideas, Lavender’s Blue for one, the inspiration for Ms Mudge’s vases has roots in Battersea, south London. “My husband and I moved to London straight after getting married in South Africa,” she relates. “I managed to secure a contract as a photographer to Ralph Lauren and I worked for him on a freelance basis for the four years we lived in Battersea. I joined an evening class in pottery – next door to Edmund de Waal but I never met him – and it was there that I learned about using slip as a means to decorate.” Lucinda had previously studied fine art at the University of Cape Town.

“I was not exhibiting in London,” Lucinda recalls. “In retrospect I can see I was internalising a lot, and absorbing a wealth of information. My time in London helped me to see more clearly when we returned to live in South Africa again. I saw inequality in a new and ugly way. I think that when one lives in a country where generally speaking people are pretty well looked after, such as the UK, it is hard to conceive the reality of the lives of underprivileged people elsewhere in the world.” Aut Visum Aut Non.

Lucinda Mudge You Had It Coming © Lucinda Mudge @ Lavender's Blue

No doubt her vase ‘If I Ever Had to Run For My Life I Would Probably Die’ has a story to tell. Hard hitting stuff, yes, but much of it’s delivered with humour. Her piece ‘How Glorious To Be Filthy Stinking Rich’ features a middle finger provocatively pointing upwards. There’s an underlying satire – jokes with a jag. As lunch draws to a close late afternoon, Lucinda confides she did experience the dreaded home invasion only recently. “I was upstairs when I heard someone prowling around below inside the house. Filled with trepidation, I ran to the top of the stairs and came face to face with the intruder. It was a baboon! They’re scared of male humans but not females, so I growled in a deep voice and did my best male impression!” The baboon, a beautiful but potentially dangerous creature, fled. Life in Keurboomstrand continues for the artist Lucinda Mudge, ever vigilant, ever observing, ever commenting through her rather wonderful art.

I Told You Not To Call Me Baby! © Lucinda Mudge @ Lavender's Blue


Bilbao + The Hermitage

Winter Refuge

Bilbao Hermitage © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

No, not that Hermitage.

Architecture Art Design People

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao + Making Africa A Continent of Contemporary Design

Seeing is Believing

Bilbao © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Bilbao. The museum with a city attached. And what a museum! The moated mountain of metal that is the Guggenheim. Looking (hyphen optional) shipshape. It’s approached by foot along Abandoibarra (the riverside walk) under Louise Bourgeois’s arachnid sculpture Maman that resembles for all the world – Starck on steroids – an inflated Juicy Salif Lemon Squeezer. Art or design?

Bilbao Basque Country © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

While the museum’s regenerating ‘effect’, a left bank titanium quarter, inspired a rash of grimly unsuccessful cultural projects (nobody mention Sheffield’s National Centre for Popular Music), imitators failed to register the added ingredients to Bilbao’s mix. Not one but a multiplicity of super-architect projects (Calatrava, Foster, Hadid, StarckStern plus Isozaki’s two fingered 22 storey cloud bothering salute), a 15th century historic quarter, dramatic scenery, sunshine (mostly), great cuisine and good looking locals all complement the world’s most photographed museum. It’s hard to disagree with Victor Hugo, “Everyone who has visited the Basque Country longs to return; it is a blessed land.”

Isozaki Gate Bilbao © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

‘Making Africa – A Continent of Contemporary Design’ is the latest exhibition at the Guggenheim Bilbao. It’s curated by Petra Joos at the Guggenheim and Amelie Klein of Vitra Design Museum. The exhibition seeks to illustrate how design is steering change in Africa and presents the main protagonists of this new design epoch. Its context is globalisation through technology, especially the internet. “A part of this development is a new and open understanding of what design is,” explains Mateo Kries, Director of Vitra Design Museum. “It’s no longer limited to the creation of furniture, products, typography or fashion, but is very closely interwoven with the fields of photography, art, architecture and even urbanism.” He believes while this change is happening around the world today, it most clearly manifests itself in Africa.

View from Guggenheim Bilbao © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Mateo’s counterpart Juan Ignacio Vidarte at the Guggenheim concurs, “It is in the intersection of innumerable creative fields… that design holds a position as the focal point for multidisciplinary work. ‘Making Africa’ successfully portrays the image of a continent that is beginning to move at this very moment.” ‘C-Stunners, 2012’, eyewear sculptures by the Kenyan artist Cyrus Kabiru in the show’s Prologue section, are a metaphor for what’s to come. Who’s examining who? “We’re mutually examining ourselves,” responds Amelie. “The exhibition isn’t a totalising vision. Rather, a supplementary vision. Not an exhaustive dialogue – a starting point for our thoughts. One possible way, another way, of looking at the continent.” The exhibition cleverly conveys the diversity and complexity of Africa. After all, this is a landmass with a population of one billion.

Barceló Bilbao Nervión © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao Skyline © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Guggenheim Bilbao Atrium © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Guggenheim Bilbao Staircase © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

C-Stunners 2012 by Cyrus Kabiru © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Lucinda Mudge_edited-1

Western misconceptions are diminished. Laughter replaces misery. “Something I got obsessed with is people dancing to Pharrell William’s video ‘Happy’!” smiles Amelie. “I really watched those videos, I dunno, for nights and nights in a row! There are dozens from Africa. Yet in our Westernised minds the continent is always struggling.” She selected the work of young South African photographer Jody Brand which depicts not only African street style but party life and in doing so, reflects a changing society. Jody’s images show there’s much more than struggle to Africa.

Scary Beautiful 2012 by Leanie van der Vyver © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Like Mateo, Amelie believes “the continent is at the forefront of global technological change”. She continues, “Modernism was the result of change in Europe 100 years ago. What will we see coming out of this change?” The politics of representation are never far away. Who’s allowed to speak about Africa? The curators engaged in an intense three year long preparation to qualify. Their exhibition includes 75 recorded interviews with artists and designers. “In reality of course,” concedes Amelie, “there are millions and billions of different Africas. How can we speak about one Africa? From Cairo to Cape Town, there’s a lot in that!”

Guggenheim Bilbao Exhibition © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

‘Making Africa’ attempts to answer many questions but the curators want visitors to go away asking new questions. And preferably seeing Africa in a new way or ways. “You will see art in this design show,” warns Amelie, “but I’ve used every single piece to make comment on design. That’s the thread that keeps everything together. I can make an argument for every single object on a key design issue.” One such issue is social and political commentary. Leanie van der Vyver’s ‘Scary Beautiful, 2012’ is a design statement – or is it art? – on cruelty in women’s fashion. Think ribcage crushing corsets or neck elongating braces. Leanie worked with shoe designer René van der Berg to create a pair of impossibly tall reversed high heels. Despite limiting the wearer’s mobility and controlling her silhouette to the extreme, the shoes are actually wearable. Seguing her fashion interest into design work, Leanie asks the viewer to look anew at (not so) everyday apparel and what it represents.

Making Africa © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The 120 contributing young makers and thinkers are a savvy and politically astute lot. They are a critical generation not afraid to speak out, freer, perhaps, of the burden of colonialism. ‘Making Africa’ doesn’t shy away from the darker side of the continent. South African artist Lucinda Mudge isn’t one to pull punches. Her hard hitting vases display home truths. “I use headlines from local crime story reports,” she says. ‘I Will Kill You and Then I Will Eat You’ is emblazoned on the side of one of her vases. The other side, slogan free, is beautifully decorated in gold. Violence and beauty. One artist, duality of voice. Nothing is simply black or white. It’s a comment on not looking, on looking the other way. There’s more than one way to view a situation, a design, an artwork, she’s saying. And a continent.

Making Africa Guggenheim Bilbao © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Basque Country is famous for its nationalistic stance, but hosting ‘Making Africa – A Continent of Contemporary Design’ demonstrates its global outlook. The exhibition explores what’s beyond modernism, while liberating visitors from Western myopia. Africa. The continent with a vision attached.

Guggenheim Bilbao Making Africa Artists © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Architecture Design Hotels

Bilbao + Night

Imagine Dragons

Bilbao Udaletxeko Zubia By Night © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Twilight’s gone. While the city sleeps, we explore its streets like curious cats. The reflection of golden illumination from street lamps relieves the velvety darkness of the River Nervión. We prowl riverside along Paseo de Uribitart. Ascending Villarías Kalea, shop windows display goods but nobody’s browsing. On the far side of the river, in the mediaeval Casco Viejo, the scent of bread escapes from bakeries. The bells of the Cathedral of Santiago don’t peal. We slink past the Dog’s Fountain on Txakur Kalea. A lone jogger runs by. Dawn’s begun.

Bilbao Statue By Night © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Bilbao Shop By Night © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Bilbao Ayuntamiento de Bilbao Oficina de Información General By Night © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Bilbao Dog Fountain By Night © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Architecture Design Developers

Bilbao + Winter Gardens

Reinventing the Past | Gogglebox | People in Class Houses

WInter Gardens Bilbao Style © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

They’re flavour of the year with London planning authorities. Developers take heed! Winter gardens. That is, inset or projecting balconies encased by glass openings that offer users the chance to enjoy them all year round. Quite so. Bilbao, needless to say, does them best.

Architecture Art People Restaurants

Bistró Bilbao Guggenheim + Vitra Design Museum Curator Amelie Klein

Design Heart

River Nervión Bilbao © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The view is distracting – locals basking in the sun along the River Nervión. Where are we? Bilbao Guggenheim Museum. The food is even more distracting – Michelin star quality Basque gastronomic delights. Round the coast, San Sebastián boasts more Michelin starred restaurants than anywhere outside the 94 departments. But Amelie Klein in full throttle is a major distraction. Design. Boom. Her favourite subject. Well it should be. She’s curator of the Vitra Design Museum. A buslady’s holiday it is, then. On sensory overtime, we’re all ears. But first the lunch at the Guggenheim:

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao Restaurant View © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

  • Cocktail aperitif (Coctel aperitivo)
  • Vegetables, sautéed potatoes and greenbeam cream (Verduras, patatitas salteadas y crema de vainas)
  • Baby squid on crunchy noodles, red onion and green pepper (Chipirón, sobre fideuá crujiente, cebolla roja y pimiento verde)
  • Raspberry ice cream, citrus fruit yoghurt and crispy stones (Helado de frambuesa, yogur de cítricos y peidras crocantes)
  • Homemade bread, coffee and petit fours (Pan artesano café y petit fours)
  • Red wine (Tres Ducacdos DO Rioja)
  • White wine (Viña 65 DO Rueda)
  • Mineral water (Agua mineral)

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Talking of distractions, Parisian songstress Taali M bursts into song. “I’m gonna stand on the shoulders of giants.” Where were we? Ah yes, the food. All sublime – except perhaps we’ll skip on the vinegar tinged nougat canapés next time. “We have to rethink what design is,” Amelie informs us. “It’s important for design to take responsibility for society, for people, and not for the market. Is it art? Is it design? I don’t care! Design and art should be making bold statements about the future. Where do I come from? Where am I going? Who am I? If artists don’t make bold statements, if not them, who? Otherwise we will be stuck where we are. Period.” Taali M: “Stand tall and rise above it all.”

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao Restaurant Squid © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Amelie keeps going, “Design is more than chairs! It’s analogue and dialogue. We must speak about communication, systems, complexity – design is more than just objects. Critical design enhances change as it could or should be in the 21st century.” We agree modernism has gone. What awaits? Existential concerns aside, it’s 25 degrees outside. Hot, distractingly so, even in Spain, for late autumn. Where will we go? “Stand tall so tall I’ll be tall,” ends statuesque six foot beauty Taali M to applause.

Parisian Singer Taali M © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Architects Architecture Design Luxury

Bilbao + Santiago Calatrava

Basque in Sunshine

Bilbao Airport by Santiago Calatrava © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Ongietorri. To be frank, it’s all Gehry’s fault really. He’s to blame. One evening we’re in Sexy Fish admiring his crocodiles, the next we’re in the No.1 Lounge at Gatwick North Terminal. Off to see the superarchitect’s museum and then some. Bilbao bound for a solstice centred sunny sabbatical. Chocs away. Lavender’s Blue has gone green, white and red. Gero arte.

Bilbao Airport © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley