Hello to everyone who has been following this blog for many years - I'm still blogging, I'm just moving over to https://www.claireheffer.com/blog - please continue to follow and let me take this opportunity to thank everyone who has been kind enough to visit over the years. May the lists continue...

Sunday 24 January 2016



As is usual for our lady dates we only had one destination in mind when we set out and that was to end up at The Briton Academy for around 8 o’clock.

We decided our first location while on the train into Liverpool Street. The Saatchi Gallery was displaying an exhibition called Champagne Life. The show is entirely formed of Women artists. Is this a sign that Saatchi is a Feminist? No. It’s a sign that he’s not a feminist. He bought a bunch of work by women artist, that’s true but then he separated them from the men and put them in a show together. Why? There’s never going to be a men only show. It makes us read into things so much more. When a man shows a sculpture of a body he is showing the self, the human body, humans in general, we don’t think he is talking specifically about the male self, it is always in reference to mankind, when a woman displays a female body it is always seen to reference the woman’s role or female body image, or even worse, women in perspective to men. Never seen as just a human. This is why feminism needs to exist but even so feminists fail at this role of equality, even in calling themselves feminists they are setting them selves up for failure. For this reason I am not a feminist, I believe that everyone should be equal, I’m not fighting for the rights of women or the rights of the poor or social or racial minorities, I’m fighting for everyone, no one should be prejudged for anything, on any level, everyone should be judged on their thoughts and actions and artists should be judged on their skills and merits.

Specifically looking at the exhibition itself (and sorry about my feminist rant – a subject which I’m still not done with by the way) my favourite piece was Maha Malluh’s Food for Thought – Al-Muallaqat. A huge expanse of cooking pots, their tops stuck to the wall with their burnt bottoms creating a pattern of different sized circles. The extra element added by the patina and patterns created by the use of these pans over the fire gave the piece an even more interesting view. My thoughts looking at this was marred by the fact that if a man created this then no thoughts would be directed to the kitchen or cooking, primarily seen as the woman’s place and being produced by a woman artist I heard a lot of reference to a woman cooking. I liked the stories that these objects tell, the huge pots make you wonder what meals were cooked in there and for how many people and your mind turns to the amount of preparation required to fill a pot that big. Then it made me think of how despite the fact that women are expected to be the ones that cook, there are less profession female chefs than male.

Another favourite of mine was Jelena Bulajic’s beautiful portraits. Large-scale paintings of aged faces with intricately drawn wrinkles and sags immediately draw you in closer. These paintings thankfully do not conjure up thoughts of gender but rather age, and also skill. We are looking into human faces in these pieces and they are faces with stories that you are interested to delve deeper into.

I don’t know if it is controversial to say that the work of Seung Ah Paik could easily have been created by a man. Her large large-scale intricate drawings of parts of her body gave me the impression of someone as an observer of the flesh rather than the owner of it. You are aware of the great amount of time taken to create the individual lines of the skin, it seems like in a few cases in this exhibition time and patience is an overarching theme (especially seen in the thread sculptures of Alice Anderson.) Could one say that this is a talent possessed by the majority of women, or have women developed a knack for tedious and repetitive work or have proved persistent in the pursuit of their causes? One could read these feminist arguments into much of this exhibition but I think they would only be doing this because it’s a female only show. This debate, the feminist cause, and the minefield that surrounds it is evident in the review featured on Time Out’s website. This reviewer, being male, decided it was best to stay out of the discussion altogether, ‘In fact, a beautifully underplayed bolshiness can be found in the best work on display. But to buy into the idea that, collectively, ‘Champagne Life’ has much to say about gender in 2016 is to fall for the idea that these artists, aged from their twenties to their fifties, working across continents and media as diverse as painting, taxidermy and clay, should have anything in common with each other. Because they are women. And this (male) critic ain’t going there.’ This is a trap that many people fall into, of course artists working across continents and in different medias have something in common, they are all human, they are all creators and creating, they are all thinkers, they all have emotions, they are all artists. The fact is, that if this was a mixed exhibition or both male and female artists this comment of them having things in common would not come up, unless maybe they were all from the same part of the world, but people don’t even mention this phrase when talking about people working in the same movement. Not that many of the movements from the past actually included that many women. I think we’re starting to correct that now. I mean in the YBAs, one of my favourite art detachments despite the fact that women were still the minority (and this will possibly always be the case) I believe they were on equal footing with the men and afforded the same opportunities.

Ok, enough about art and feminism. Let’s get back to the Lady Date.
For the next stop we needed food, and as per tradition we were looking for a pizza. I had seen online that there was a nice little pub reasonably close by that did pizza and cocktails so we headed that way going to Victoria station to look in HEMA (http://www.hemashop.com) on the way.

The Chelsea Pensioner was the name of the pub, a quirky quiet little place a long walk down Fulham Road. The football was on the TV, there were a couple playing pool in the corner, the heating was cranked up and there were unusual décor all around. The pizza was almost certainly a frozen one and so not remarkable in any way, plus we asked for the meat one but they had apparently run out so we had to have the plain margherita. The cheesy chips saved the day. The cocktails on the menu were the standard Mojitos and things so we skipped those but they were cheap so if you’re looking for somewhere cozy and inexpensive I would recommend it, the food was reasonably priced too.

Next we wanted to go for a real cocktail, something unique and we got exactly what we wanted at Evans and Peel Detective Agency.

It would be impossible to find this place if you didn’t know what you were looking for, the only entrance to the place is a door (see photo) with the name of the detective agency on. I’m sure there are people who walk by this everyday without knowing what this place is, or possibly even thinking it really is a detective agency. There is a buzzer to press outside,  I said we hadn’t booked but if it was possible to come in. He said he was with a client at the moment and to give him a minute. We stood outside with people looking at us suspiciously. Then the door opened which lead down some stairs into a single room. The room was decked out like a 1920s detective agency with notes on the walls and a desk that the man in the cardigan and bow tie sat behind. He asked what he could help us with and took our name and number. Having no idea this would happen I was a little dumbstruck but whatever you do *DO NOT say you’re there for cocktails* (despite the fact that you can hear cocktails being shaken and music playing somewhere behind the walls) you have to conduct a story for a detective agency to help with – Rebecca as ever quick thinking said I had lost my little boy Frank (the name of my cat) and we needed help finding him, that I had split with the boy’s father and he may have taken him. Once we had made up sufficient details the detective said that he could help us and opened a bookcase which lead into the speakeasy. It was so much fun and that’s before you even get inside!. I had The Yuzual Suspect which was a mix of vodka, lychee, hibiscus, almond, egg white and yuzu (which I have since found out is a Japanese citrus fruit) it was as light and fluffy as it suggested and was a delicious delicious cocktail. Rebecca had a Cherry Poppin’ which was, despite the fact that I’m not a huge cherry fan, really very tasty and refreshing, but also quite alcoholic. The atmosphere is friendly and the décor is spot on, they even play jazz/swing versions of modern songs like Barbie Girl and Stacey’s Mom. Find their website here http://www.evansandpeel.com)

Drinks drunk we then made our way to Brixton to see the Maccabees at the Brixton Academy. We got there in time to see the end of the Support act’s set. The act supporting The Maccabees for the last time on this tour was called The Big Moon. The Big Moon are a London-based all-girl four-piece. They have a brilliant sense of humour. I had only heard one of their songs before (find it here – it’s really good and the video has a really sweet quality about it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQCY-7_SY6Y) They played a heavier version of Madonna’s Beautiful Stranger which was a lot of fun but some of their other songs although very skilled musically was a little bland for me.

The Maccabees arrived on stage a little after 9. They were so full of energy and the lead singer (Orlando Weeks) was so full of passion and love for the fans. They played a couple of songs from each of their four albums, which I think shows true appreciation of the fans that have stuck with them for so long. I was there at the start at the super-packed Café de Paris gig just at the time of their first album around ten years ago. Latchmere was my favourite then and a highlight of the night and I can say the same for last night too. They also played X-ray from their first album, which was also touching for the fans. They ended with an encore of Toothpaste Kisses followed by Pelican, which delighted everyone. The Maccabees have continued their high quality, moving, expressive, guitar heavy, energetic style enduring through all these years and their four albums, improving musically and as a band and becoming more grown up, almost growing with the fans. You could tell the ones, the younger ones who had not experienced the first album but rejoiced at songs from the second and some younger fans who came in at the third and fourth but the same is true of them all, The Maccabees bring them joy, emotion and some great music to jump up and down to. Here’s another review of this most recent tour. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/music/what-to-listen-to/the-maccabees-brixton-academy-review-time-they-headlined-glaston/)

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