'our creation is that guru; the duration of our lives is that guru; our trials, illnesses and calamaties is that guru. There is a guru that is nearby and a guru that is beyond the beyond. I humbly make my offering to the guru, the beautiful remover of ignorance, the enlightenment principle that is within me and surrounds me at all times.'
Guru Stotram

Monday, 30 January 2012

It's 8 January. I've just received a text message from my best friend. She's 37. Message reads: “need to revise new years rslns, snogged 22 yr old. #resolutionfail #lockupyoursons #cougarloose.”

It is for this very reason - well not this very reason but reasons not a million miles away - that I last year made the resolution never to make another resolution. This is the first resolution I've kept my whole life and it feels goooood!

Averagely, new years resolutions last nine days. Our staggeringly unimaginative Daily Mail influenced promises to lose weight, save money, exercise more and drink less are collectively ditched less than two weeks into a 52 week year. Not only that but the same staggeringly unimaginative promises are ditched year after year.

And what is the result of this? Certainly we are no healthier, thinner or richer. But now we feel guilty about it whereas before it was just a fact of life. Year on year we feel worse about ourselves and still nothing changes.

This guilt adds to the January blues we were already suffering, having also this week had to re-start the torturous habit of dragging ourselves out of bed in what might as well be the middle of the night to make coffee for a man who doesn't realise The Office is supposed to be a comedy.

Come mid January we're watching svelte, affluent self-help tossers beam at us from the great heights of ITV's breakfast schedule that there's never been a better time to change ourselves for the better. Outcome: we're so depressed we've started comfort eating the Special K.

Well arses to that. Here's my suggestion. Rather than trying to change things we have little or no control over – face it people, we prove it to ourselves every single year – I suggest we instead work on what we can change, namely our attitudes.

Why must I believe the thought that my thunder thighs are bad? Beyonce has thunder thighs and it hasn't done her any harm. In Rubens day they were fighting over birds with thighs like tree trunks and that day will come again. Why must I believe that giving myself shin splints pounding up and down the pavements of West London is for my own benefit? Why believe that eating greenery all day long is the way to health and happiness? I'm not a sheep for God's sake.

And there's the rub. I am not a sheep! I do not need to internalise everything I'm told about what's good and what's bad when the truth is none of it could matter less. My self-esteem does not need to append itself on a sliding scale ratio to the quantity of broccoli I can consume in one day.

So, let's abandon guilt, abandon slavish, lazy thinking, abandon the need to look exactly like everyone else and behave exactly like everyone else and instead be delighted to be the wobbly, sometimes pissed, occasionally broke, perfectly imperfect beings that we are.

If the worst thing my mate's ever done is to take a leaf out of Sam Taylor Wood's Little Book of Boyfriends then really, I don't think there's too much for her to worry about.

Friday, 20 January 2012

“The wound is the place where the light enters you.” Rumi

Between 1971 and 1979 Idi Amin's tyrannical despotism over Uganda killed an estimated 500,000 people. In addition many hundreds of thousands were forced to flee the country as refugees. At the age of eleven, British artist Zarina Bhimji was one of them.

“My sister and I had to suddenly flee leaving behind everything except two dresses and a cardigan. During the civil war in Uganda we had stayed indoors with curtains closed. I witnessed violence, shooting and death by Amin's military. We arrived in England not speaking any English."

Astonishingly, from these, to me, unimaginably horrific experiences, Zarina has crafted photographs and film installations of ravishing poetic beauty. It is deeply humbling to see the darkest and most violently abhorrent aspects of human nature transformed into something of exquisite grace through such profound and soulful investigation.

Zarina has travelled extensively across India, Zanzibar and East Africa, immersing herself in their ways and undertaking intense research into their overlapping histories. And yet the final works, film and photographs, exorcised of the human figure and of linear narrative, present surprisingly universal and seemingly apolitical journeys into the shared human experiences of love and loss.

The jewel in the crown of The Whitechapel's recently opened exhibition Zarina Bhimji is Yellow Patch (2011). Shot on location in India on 35mm, Yellow Patch was inspired by trade and migration across the Indian Ocean and is the second and latest film from the artist who was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2007. Loaded with the wisdom of wabi sabi, the melancholic but cathartic allure of decay, of lives lived and others still living, the film is overlaid with a powerfully elemental and haunting sound track: the echo of disembodied voices - crying, chanting, praying - thunder and driving rain, fires raging and crackling and birdsong, the voice of nature's daily life, startlingly but inevitably unperturbed by the catastrophe of humanity's annihilating bent.

Cool interiors, throbbing against the pungent equatorial heat, derelict and deserted, plaster crumbling from once grand, lofty ceilings, sunlight streaming in through wide open dark wood doors, delicately crafted furniture covered in the dust of colonies fallen to ruin, antlers from some long dead beast, lying, broken on the floor. The only movement, a spider's web snagged and swaying on a gentle breeze.

The absence of the human form leaves space for the viewer's own interpretations and projections, inviting us to open our hearts to the unknown, to traces and flickers of memory from personal tragedies, perhaps recalling what might have been as well as what was.

Disinterested by the grandiose, the sweeping epic drama of retrospectively overlaid stories, Zarina focuses instead upon the truth ensnared in the intimate detail, overlooked or ignored by the less discerning observer.

As well as Yellow Patch, also showing at The Whitechapel is Out of Blue, Zarina's first film, commissioned in 2002 by Documenta 11 and shot on Super 16, along with a selection of photographs, film stills and light boxes spanning the last twenty-five years. This is an exhibition you must see. It is an exhibition for the romantic, for the traveller, for those open to the beauty of pain and transformation. It is an exhibition for anyone who has ever loved and lost.

Written for and reproduced here by kind permission of Spoonfed

Thursday, 19 January 2012

David Hockney: A Bigger Picture
Royal Academy, London
21 January to 9 April 2012

David Hockney's Landscapes: The Forest for the Trees
THERE'S something profoundly enchanting about the English landscape. Ancient rolling hills receding to infinity. Gnarly trees like sagacious, wizened old men, weathering time as they silently witness history. Seductive, ariot and vivacious, full of light and life. David Hockney captures some of this in his new show at the Royal Academy. Some of it he misses.

Presenting over 150 works inspired by the Yorkshire countryside, "A Bigger Picture" is just that. Like his nemesis Damien Hirst, David Hockney enjoys scale. He likes to paint a very large landscape. So much so one feels it would be churlish ....

Click here to read my review for The Economist

Monday, 16 January 2012

Damian Hirst: The Complete Spot Paintings 1986 - 2011
all Gagosian Galleries

London: Davies Street, W1 and Britannia Street, WC1
to 18 Feb 2012

Damien Hirst and the art market
Seeing spots, seeing red, but in the black

T-SHIRTS with spots, mugs with spots, plates with spots, skateboards, key rings, credit-card holders, clocks, deck chairs, tea towels, tote bags, cufflinks and even iron-on spots. Damien Hirst's latest extravaganza—25 years of spot paintings on view simultaneously at all 11 Gagosian galleries around the world—is at once far more and far less than an exhibition of artwork by Mr Hirst....

click here to read my review for the Economist