EST. 2009

June 18, 2021

This Monochrome Summer

IN JAPANESE ART, BIJIN-GA ARE PICTURES OF BEAUTIFUL WOMEN, usually rendered in woodblock prints predating photography. Many contemporary artists from all over the world put their own spin on the genre, including Japanese illustrator and 1980s icon Ichiro Tsuruta.

Born in 1954 in the Kumamoto Prefecture, Tsuruta majored in graphic design at the Tama Art University in Tokyo. Hyperrealism was the trend at the time and he proceeded to create artwork in the style.

Tsuruta achieved fame in the late 80s when his work sparked a “Cosmetic Renaissance” through advertisements for Japanese cosmetics brand Noevir. Over the next decade, Tsuruta's bijin-ga found themselves on national TV and in Japanese publications, eventually too in international galleries.

With a focus on female beauty, Tsuruta's illustrations naturally feature the face, but also place an emphasis on hands and accessories. As such, I found them fitting inspiration for my own content with British jewellery brand Estella Bartlett.



My take on Tsuruta's fashion portraits:



It's my second summer styling for Estella Bartlett, and what a lovely year it's been, working with delicate pieces in shifting trends. Ichiro Tsuruta's Monochrome Summer, with its bare arms, white accessories, and over-the-shoulder gaze, provides the perfect mood for summertime styles in the city.

Illustrations by Ichiro Tsuruta, tsuruta-bijinga.com Photos by Lady San Pedro. Shop the pieces at estellabartlett.com

May 18, 2021

That Sculpted Space






I WAS ALREADY A FAN OF ABSTRACT SCULPTURE when I visited the Brancusi studio in Paris, but doing so inspired me on a new level. Just a cartwheel away from the Centre Georges Pompidou, the art gallery is an exact recreation of the artist’s atelier, where he lived and worked from 1904 until his death in 1957.

The studio houses a collection of over a thousand items, including 137 sculptures and 87 bases. Among them are the elegant Tête de Narcisse, the highly geometric Colonnes sans Fin, the abstracted golden Leda, a few Mlle Poganys, and a number of Le Coqs.

While the sculptures are notable works on their own, their meticulous arrangement within the studio heightens the experience of them. Brancusi actually stopped creating sculptures towards the end of his life, instead focusing on how the works are grouped in their spaces. He called them “mobile groups” and revised their positions daily, resulting in a studio that served not only as a place of work, but a work of art in its own right.


Brancusi's influence in my own home:



My own flat increasingly reflects Brancusi's influence, through primitive carvings, and vases inspired by abstract sculpture. I don't re-group them daily as Brancusi did with his works, but I reposition them often enough to derive new experiences from their arrangement.

Atelier Brancusi, Paris, centrepompidou.fr Photos by Lady San Pedro.

April 28, 2021

That Strong Staple




DEVELOPED FOR SOLDIERS IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR, the trench coat transcended its original purpose to become a timeless and fashionable wardrobe staple. Cinema reflects the fact, with countless iconic characters wearing the garment through film history.

In Robert Benson's 1979 screen adaptation of Avery Corman's Kramer vs. Kramer, Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman both appear in trench coats at different points in their story of separation. The wardrobe choice feels significant, as the film touches on gender roles and the rights of women, juxtaposed with the rights of fathers, as well as the inherent hostility of custody battles. 

Particularly for Streep's character, Joanna is first seen packing her trench coat rather than wearing it. She is only shown wearing her coat once she returns to town, having regained her lost self esteem. Kramer vs. Kramer almost treats the garment as a symbol of strength, that both characters draw upon through their difficult experience.

I first saw Kramer vs. Kramer in a Screen Art class back in university. I loved it then, and I love it now, for its low-key artistry, touching themes, and brilliant acting. Might I also mention the superb styling.


The trench coat as a staple in my own wardrobe:



This spring, I acquired a new trench coat to see me through the volatile British transition into summer. Though I wear it with much less symbolism than the characters in films do, the piece is ever iconic, and gives the appearance of strength. Strong ladies represent!

Kramer vs. Kramer, 1979. Directed by Robert Benson. Trench coat from whistles.com

March 24, 2021

That New Formula


THIS MONTH MARKS MY LOCKDOWN ANNIVERSARY which means I have been living, playing, and working from home for most of the past 12 months. In London, we are currently on our third lockdown, with restrictions eased in varying degrees last summer, and briefly before Christmas.

It's an uneventful anniversary, and appropriately so. But it is in no way insignificant. A year ago this month, I shared in the collective fear, shock, and panic that overtook the world, expecting the worst, and watching them materialize in the seasons to come. Fortunate enough to stay in good health, I quickly missed the pleasures of the city, the people in my life, and the day-to-day experience of leaving home to co-exist with other individuals. I continue to miss these.

"They always say time changes things but you actually have to change them yourself." riffs pop art pioneer Andy Warhol in his autobiography The Philosophy of Andy Warhol. What has changed since the first lockdown? For me, I've had to redefine things: freedom, success, friendship. Where freedom was previously about mobility and the absence of commitments, it has become the capacity to choose my responses and reactions. Where success was decked out in glamor, it has become centered on physical and mental health. Where friendship was fostered by the sharing of life's experiences, it has become the sharing of life's inexperiences, because well, it's all one big blur sometimes.

On the practical side, I've also redefined what it means to eat well and dress well on the daily. I've swapped out lavish recipes with quick-prep choices, and integrated workout wear with working from home. The new formula comprises ingredients I can throw together, and clothing I can stretch and lounge in, accessorized with on-trend jewellery. I've never been more comfortable.

Whether like me, you are on your lockdown anniversary, or already savoring post-lockdown freedom in your part of the world, know that any time is a good time to redefine aspects of your life. And once you get around to it, I hope it makes you feel more comfortable and free.

Textured Ear Cuff, Hoop Earrings with White CZ, Snake Chain Necklace, and Horseshoe Hinge Necklace from Estella Bartlett. Shop the pieces at https://estellabartlett.com

February 25, 2021

These Figural Feelings

Rokas Aleliunias black and white figural graphic design postersRokas Aleliunias black and white figural graphic design posters
Rokas Aleliunias black and white figural graphic design postersRokas Aleliunias black and white figural graphic design posters

ALTHOUGH THE BASIC EMOTIONS CAN BE REDUCED to just four: happiness, sadness, anger, and fear, scientists have found as many as 27 categories of emotions including very specific ones such as aesthetic appreciation, craving, and entrancement. It goes without saying that lockdowns and pandemic events elicit many of these emotions, in combination and in succession, even more so than pre-pandemic circumstances do. 

How poetic in fact, to recognize the many nuances produced by our neurophysiology.

When I came across Rokas Alelunias' posters, I felt delighted to see my own myriad of emotions visualized, in a style that sparks my own aesthetic appreciation. Here, I speak to the artist about his work; the posters he started making out of boredom, and developing a more personal visual language.


LSP: What motivated you to start designing daily posters?

RA: To be honest; stress and anxiety. I just needed something to do to calm my mind.

LSP: Your posters reflect a few different art styles, what is your inspiration for these styles?

RA: I really love trying and learning new things, and if I see something really interesting I want to emulate, deconstruct the process and ideas behind it. I think at first it was more about doing and learning, but over the years some of the styles transitioned to my own visual language that is more about expressing what I feel and what is meaningful for me, different ideas - different styles. I am really interested in lino-printing, wood printing, cut outs and I usually dwell into Greek mythology, Biblical stories, figures and forms.

LSP: Do you have a favorite artwork that you made?

RA: I don't have the ones I love, but there are some that I hold really dear to me, because of the certain things that happened in my life at that moment. 

LSP: How has the Covid pandemic impacted your creative process? Were there any changes?

RA: It's a little bit harder to find new and interesting ideas, because it's been quite a while since I meet people in real work. Lately, I feel like boiling in my own sup - the same ideas swirling around and nothing new. It's hard to find things that would really inspire me.

LSP: What advice would you give to new artists?

RA: I don't have one, but thinking about, maybe it would be something like. You do you. Be honest to yourself and make decisions that feels right for you. It's definitely a bumpy road ahead, but if you trip you won't regret it.


Diva, Love Sick, Self-love, and Willpower by Rokas Aleliunias. Shop the posters at casualpolarbear.com/posters

January 21, 2021

These London Strangers


FROM THE VERY FIRST SCENE OF A CROWDED LONDON STREET, Jude and Natalie in slow motion, Damian Rice singing a cappella, I was captivated. I was a teenager when I first saw Mike Nichols' Closer, long before I would be living in London, or experiencing the messy, confusing, exhausting, but ultimately exciting nature of adult entanglements.

Based on Patrick Marber's 1997 play of the same name, Closer is a series of dialogues between four characters, whose chance encounters lead them into obsessive and unhealthy relationship patterns with each other. Set in London, the film emphasizes the rarity of romantic closeness, by juxtaposing crowded scenes with moments of intimacy. "Hello, stranger." says Natalie Portman's character when she and Jude Law's character first meet. In a sea of anonymous faces, your stranger stands out.

Closer has always been a favorite film, but even more so these days as I better relate to its themes, and miss the pre-pandemic London that I love. Seeing familiar streets with unmasked commuters, the theatre with its intermission crowds, galleries on opening night with urbanites and roaming wait staff; I feel nostalgia for what used to be "my normal" before quickly becoming "the new normal". And nostalgia for people who used to be "my stranger" before quickly becoming strangers again.

Watch it for: the memorable dialogue, the timeless costume design, Jude Law in the early 2000s. Love it for: the fairly accurate chance encounters, and the messy, confusing, exhausting, but ultimately exciting entanglements they inspire.

Closer, 2004. Directed by Mike Nichols.

December 30, 2020

That Forward Gaze


PREDICTING THE FUTURE HAS FASCINATED writers, artists, scientists and pseudo scientists alike throughout history. The rest of us, we love it too. From actual predictions taking form (like Mark Twain imagining The Internet as early as 1898) to trend-driven forecasts (like which haircuts will be in fashion two seasons from now) the ability to gaze forward gives a comforting heads up to whatever is coming our way.

If only all futures could be predicted. 

The year 2020 is testament to the limitations of the practice. With little warning, we watched predictions lose relevance in all areas of human life. While social media has grown too sophisticated in predicting which ads we need to see at any given point in time, nobody had forecasted banana bread becoming the gastronomic hit of lockdown.

With futures uncertain, how do we face them? I suggest three approaches in ways I know how.


1. Face the future

LIKE A DESIGNER


In a 1972 interview, Charles Eames was asked "What are the boundaries of design?" To which he responded "What are the boundaries of problems?" Design at its core is simply problem-solving after all, and designers rarely settle on a first draft. To design and redesign keeps us actively moving towards a solution.


2. FACE THE FUTURE

LIKE A PERFORMER


Before pursuing design and art direction as a career, I spent many years in theatre, and trained in classical song and dance. One thing I learned on stage is that you can never predict mishaps. They happen when they do. A performer's mastery of the material and their own talent, allows them to improvise to save a scene. The show must go on, so must we. 


3. FACE THE FUTURE

LIKE A ROMANTIC


My nearest and dearest know how much I enjoy romantic extras. All the flowers, wine and books, candlelight; ordinary situations are transformed with romance, lifting even the drabbest of days. I used to imagine what I would do if I were ever imprisoned, and I imagined I would sing, write, and learn languages. In lockdown, I did just that.



There's no fully knowing, only hoping, that 2021 will bring brighter days. Stay safe, stay informed, and most of all, stay adaptable. There is no limit to how many times we can redesign our lives, and there is definitely no limit to how much romance we can fill our lives with.


Happy New Year! Lots of love.
xo


September 27, 2020

These Great Waves


THE NORTHERNMOST OF SEVEN BAYS that make up Broadstairs beach in Kent, Botany Bay is a cinematic experience just two hours from London St. Pancras by train. Golden sand and chalk cliffs take you worlds away from city life, and on a particularly windy day like the day I visited, dramatic waves remind you of just how strong and beautiful nature can be.

Watching waves felt poignant to me this summer, acknowledging that they are in fact calm waters simply disturbed by wind. The stronger the disturbance, the bigger and more magnificent the wave.

Embracing disturbances isn't easy, as they are, by nature, unpleasant and unwelcome occurrences. It's worth remembering to pause and watch the waves they create in our lives and ourselves, to see the great, unexpected, sometimes frightening, and often beautiful surges.

Botany Bay, Broadstairs, Kent

August 20, 2020

That Afternoon in Paris


MY INTRODUCTION TO THE WORK OF AGNES VARDA, Cléo de 5 à 7 didn't just rekindle my love for French New Wave film, but rather reinforced it. Playing out as if in real time, the movie follows two hours in the life of Cléo, as she waits for her medical exam results. Paris sets the scene for her turmoil; at times suppressed, at times expressed with melodramatic flair. 

As a pop singer, Cléo turns to theatrics and triviality to cope with her anxiety. She sings, she shops, she cries. We see a bit more dimension to Cléo though, as Agnes Varda gives her moments of introspection, and reveals her warmth through existing and new relations. 

I think of Paris with some sentimentality these days, having visited the city right before lockdown. It was a beautiful, blissful, and now distant pre-pandemic memory. I'm no pop star but like Cléo in the film, I too employ triviality to deal with challenges. But just like Cléo, and any woman at that, I also turn to connection and introspection to get by.

Even when reality starts to feel like a film narrative, it's good to remember that we can overcome not only our challenges, but also our archetypes.

Cléo de 5 à 7, 1962. Directed by Agnès Varda.
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