Tuesday 19 February 2013

Yinka Shonibare: Globe Head Ballerina

In 2012 the Royal Opera House commissioned this work of art by the artist Yinka Shonibare best known for his Ship in a Bottle on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square. I am ashamed to say that despite several visits to Covent Garden and the Opera House I have missed it. It is located on the Russell Street side of the building and is positioned quite high up.

Since its instillation the sculpture has received mixed reviews from the public which is understandable. The concept is a little confusing as there are so many different things going on simultaneously. It is inspired by a photograph of Margot Fonteyn but the figure is based upon the ballerina Melissa Hamilton.

 Melissa Hamilton photographed by Andrej Uspenski

 It is supposed to evoke childhood memories of those musical jewellery boxes which I think it does marvelously giving it a lovely modern twist. 
 I used to have one just like this
Although the inclusion of the admittedly slightly bizarre Victorian globe as the dancers head and the vividly colored African-inspired fabrics for the costume does seem strange.

However when examined within the context of Yinka Shonibare's work some light can be shed upon this complex web of inspirations. Yinka Shonibare was born in London, grew up in Nigeria and studied in England and now works in the East End of London. Unsurprisingly his work often focuses upon the issues of colonialism, identity, globalisation, race and class to name but a few. 

Ballet is and always has been tied up with all of these issues. It is to this day considered to be a realm reserved for the upper classes. Yet as Degas' work famously shows it involved some the poorest members of society the 'Petit rats' the young dancers who had to seek rich protectors. Furthermore nowadays you can buy seats at the Royal Opera House to see the ballet from as little as £3 considerably less then the cinema which no one would consider upper class. 

Degas, Dancers in Blue 1895 Musee d'Orsay Paris

Suddenly the inclusion of a Victorian globe seems appropriate as Ballet is so strongly linked with this era. But in the Victorian period it was only foreign European ballet troupes that performed in London. There was not a school of British Ballet until the 1920's. This illuminates how complex identity can be and Shonibare's work forces us to examine how these identities are constructed.

Personally I love it and having discovered it's existence can not help but walk the long way to Covent garden every time to see it again. I think it is so appealing not only because it forces you to question what you think you know but also because visually the work is impressive. Scratch that it's beautiful particularly at night when the lighting works to marvelous effect. So next time you are passing don't forget to look up.

I can't wait to see more work from this artist and will be heading to his solo exhibition at the Stephen Friedman Gallery as soon as I can after it opens on the 16th March.

For more information on Yinka Shonibare's work click here and enjoy.

Sunday 17 February 2013

The Big Egg Hunt 2013: Day 6

Today was my final day volunteering for Action for Children and indeed the Big Egg Hunt's last day in London. 

The Beatles, Lady Gaga, One Direction, Kylie, Temper Trap, The Maccabee's have all been on tour and now the world famous eggs will be joining this illustrious group. As of today the Big Egg Hunt tour of England has begun. 

The cities lucky enough to receive a live show are Birmingham (19th - 25th Feb), Liverpool (27th - 5th), Manchester (7th - 13th) and Glasgow (15th - 20th).
The eggs are now being packed up in preparation for their short journey to Birmingham. But don't panic if you didn't get down to Covent Garden in time to see them as they will be returning to London on the 22nd March and will be staying until the 1st April.

 The eggs tucked up safely for their trip

So this week volunteering has taught me a couple of things. Firstly people, even in the hectic city of London, really do want to talk and engage with each other even if we sometimes need a little push to do it. Secondly that if you hold one of the delicious Lindt Lindors or the Lindt chocolate eggs in your hand for a little while before you eat it the inside will melt perfectly. Although it does take some self-restraint to wait.

Thirdly and perhaps most importantly volunteering for such a worthwhile charity is possibly the most rewarding thing that I have ever done. I genuinely had a ball doing it, meeting some fantastic and very generous individuals. I hope to do many more things like it in the future maybe even when the egg hunt returns on the 22nd and I wholeheartedly suggest that if you can spare the time and energy you consider it. I'm sure even a half day shift would be appreciated.

Today's Egg of the Day:

Cassie Howard's egg is very typical of her work. Her paintings usually show people or objects painted isolated from their context on a blank background. This egg, with it's cluster off people facing away from the viewer, is perfect for it's position within the covent garden piazza. It is placed next to the large crowds that group around the magicians at magic corner so when you stand in front of the egg you see the backs of the painted group and when you turn around you see the live equivalent.

Check out her website to see more of her work.

Have a look at the weeks story Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5