Thursday, 23 June 2016

Yayoi Kusama's Pumpkin Sculptures & Mirror Rooms

In a field of pumpkins Yayoi Kusama

Ever heard of Yayoi Kusama? No? See, me either. Though I don't really follow the art scene, I do read a lot of blogs and spend time on Instagram. Eventually, I came across the Japanese artists' mirror rooms of pumpkins. "That looks awesome" was my first thought, followed by "I have to go there" (since I love a good piece of art, fashion or exhibition). 

Some research later I found out that this amazing setting is the key exhibit of Yayoi Kusama's "Pumpkin, Pictures and Mirror Room" exhibition which is currently held at the Victoria Miro Gallery in London. As the gallery is (unfortunately) closed on a Monday and during the week I'm at work, a visit to the exhibition seemed to be THE perfect activity for a Saturday morning.

Getting out of bed on a Saturday at the usual early hour of 7am was hard. I have to admit I panicked a bit when I saw that the exhibition was only on until the end of July. Well, you may think that it is still soooo much time to the end of July, but June literally flew by like this for me *snaps finger* and as I've said, I'm usually busy in the day with work, so for me to see the exhibition was a "Now or Never" moment, screw Saturday morning!

The Victoria Miro Gallery is only a short walk away from Old Street Station and it is a beautiful old wharf building made of bricks - a wonderful space to showcase art! As the Yayoi Kusama exhibition is free, long queues and waiting times are forecasted. We must have been lucky and arrived at the right time, as we only waited ten minutes to get in.

Upon arrival we were given a leaflet with all the main exhibits of "Pumpkin, Paintings and Mirror Room" and our first stop was the magnificent Waterfront Garden in the back of the Gallery. Here, we admired an art installation called "Narcissus Garden" - 873 shiny stainless steel spheres with a diameter of 30cm swam peacefully on the surface of a small pond. The lush green of the surrounding trees and plants and the tranquil little fountain in the middle made this place truly magical. 

Narcissus Garden Waterfront Garden Victoria Miro Yayoi Kusama

We queued for the first mirror room "Where The Lights In My Heart Go", a pitch-black box with small holes to look outside. Inside, it made you feel like you were in space surrounded by stars but upon a closer look, you would see the pond and the queue outside. With a popular exhibition such as the Yayoi Kusama, it is understandable that visitors are only allowed for approximately 20 seconds in each mirror room. This is to ensure, that these incredible exhibits can be admired and appreciated by everyone plus it cuts down waiting times tremendously. 

In total, there are three mirror rooms displayed which have all been designed particularly for this exhibition at Victoria Miro. The other two “Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins” and “Chandelier of Grief” place the viewer within a universe of varying proliferating reflections and play with the viewer's imagination.

We moved on to the second level of the gallery where paintings of the artist were displayed. The paintings feature mostly Kusama's signature pattern, the "polka dot" and I slowly remembered, that she had collaborated with Louis Vuitton a few years back with a massive window display of her artwork showcased at Selfridges on Oxford Street. Be aware of the staircase that leads up to the second floor!

stairs at the Victoria Miro Gallery
Pumpkin painting acryl on canvas by Yayoi Kusama
The Seeting Sun painting Yayoi Kusama

"New paintings displayed alongside these immersive rooms continue an enduring preoccupation with multiplying polka dots and dense scalloped ‘infinity net’ patterns –Kusama’s obsessive repetition of these forms on canvas, which she has described as a form of active self-obliteration, responds to hallucinations first experienced in childhood. The pumpkin, another motif that she has returned to throughout her career, is also present in the form of new mirror polished sculptures."  Press Release Victoria Miro.

pumpkin mirror polished bronze sculpture Yayoi Kusama
Yayoi Kusama pumpkin sculpture close up
Pumpkin sculpture by Yayoi Kusama mirror polished bronze
Signature of Yayoi Kusama pumpkin sculpture

My personal highlights of the entire tour were the pumpkin sculptures and the mirror room which makes you feel like you're standing in the middle of a pumpkin field. The mirror rooms are fairly small but because of the way they are laid out and the play of reflections you feel like you're in a much bigger space. At no point did I feel claustrophobic - on the contrary, the rooms are so peaceful and calming, that even though you're only allowed 20 seconds in there, you feel relaxed and can fully appreciate the artwork.

All the eternal love I have for the pumpkins Yayoi Kusama
Yayoi Kusama mirror room all the eternal love I have for the pumkins
artinstallation Yayoi Kusama all the eternal love I have for the pumpkins
Yayoi Kusama all the eternal love I have for the pumpkins mirror rooms at Victoria Miro

Yayoi Kusama Art Exhibition in London - The Details In Short

Entrance to the exhibition (25th May - 30th July) is free, however, it is very popular and you should bring some time with you when you visit the Victoria Miro Gallery (Old Street Station is the nearest tube). The Gallery is open from 10am-6pm every day except Mondays and Sundays.

You'll see one floor of paintings, one floor of pumpkin sculptures which feature Yayoi Kusama's signature pattern the "polka dot", three mirror rooms and a water garden art installation. 

Yayoi Kusama
Victoria Miro Gallery
16 Wharf Road
N1 7RW

Thanks for reading, 

Till next time, 

Monday, 6 June 2016

Copenhagen Weekender. Part 3

Hotel Chocolat latte Copenhagen

Why does time always go by so fast when you have fun? Alex and I were asking ourselves this question a lot when our last day in Copenhagen arrived. Whilst Mille returned to work, we spent the last remaining hours strolling around town, which included a visit to the Hotel Chocolat Cafe, a little shopping haul at Moss Copenhagen and a relaxed chill out on a bench at the harbourside. 

Day 3: Final Hours Exploring The Danish Capital

After a little lie-in, we checked out at 10am and hit the town. This time though we both had to carry a heavy backpack and I tell you, that I absolutely hate travelling with a backpack. Those things are heavy for no reason and they do tend to fill up far too quickly. Backpacks are so not stylish and they are so odd to handle, don't you think? Luckily we took turns and if one of us wanted to go into a shop, the other would look after the belongings.

When I'm abroad, I always like to explore the fashion scene in other countries. I love to discover new shops, check out what kind of styles they promote and sell and more importantly if they use different materials. Instead of a kitschy souvenir, I tend to bring back a fashion piece instead, which I find is more unique than a little replica of the mermaid (aka dust catcher).

You'll be surprised to hear, that Copenhagen has actually a lot of familiar British retailers on the High Street, including Urban Outfitters, Topshop and Aldo. I even spotted a TGI Friday's! But away from the usual well-known brands, I discovered a true Danish shop called Moss Copenhagen

A wonderful grey blouse with an incredible lacey neckline drew me into the store. When I entered I felt in fashion heaven: beautiful pieces everywhere and I didn't know where to start looking. The material of the entire collection was silky smooth (not the plastic polyester that seems to be the bestseller on the British High Street) and very comfortable to wear. 

Blouses and dresses had a clean-cut and shape for that ladylike feeling. Colours were all calm and muted, nothing too fancy but oh-so-chic. I tried on the grey blouse and a couple of other pieces, but after 30mins I left with a to-die-for navy blue striped pyjama blouse.

Moss Copenhagen stripey pyjama blouse

A few Danish Kroner lighter, we tried the Hotel Chocolat cafe. On our first day, we had picked up some vouchers to try their brand-new chocolate latte for free, a blend of coffee and Hotel Chocolat chocolate flavours. I'm not a coffee drinker and my former boss used to gently tell me off saying "You can't become a real journalist if you don't drink coffee". 

I do love the smell of it so this was a great opportunity to do something out of my comfort zone. I went for a latte with hazelnut chocolate and I must admit that it tasted nice. To me, coffee has a strong after flavour but through the hazelnut, the coffee note became a gentle softening. The latte version with white chocolate, which Alex had, tasted even better, as it was sweeter than my hazelnut latte.

As this was a quiet Monday morning with not many people around, we stayed for a while. The cafe was so lovely and the staff was extremely friendly and helpful excellent customer service.

The Hotel Chocolat Cafe in Copenhagen
New Chocolate Latte from Hotel Chocolat Copenhagen

For lunch, we met up with Mille. Whilst we sat on the top floor of a little cafe and ate our paninis, we watched a drunken man in the street, pulling down his trousers and having a good wee into his T-shirt. Haha, not something you'd expect to see during your lunch break, right?

Saying goodbye to Mille was sad, but I hope we'll see each other soon in London again. After lunch, Alex and I walked to the north of Copenhagen, to an area called Nyboder Østerbro where parts of the film "The Danish Girl" were shot. 

The area is known for hidden, little side streets with narrow yellow/orange houses which were former military barracks. The area was full of atmosphere and character and it made you feel like you've travelled back in time. There was so much charm and history in between newly build houses, it was a great experience to walk through and stir your imagination - a proper "Can You Imagine Living Here?" moment. 

Nyboder Film Location from The Danish Girl

The area edges to the Kastellet so we found each other north of the city again in the outskirts of the park which lead to the harbourside. In the glorious afternoon sunshine, we found a cute bench and sat down for a while watching the waves and enjoyed this tranquil Monday afternoon with chilled drinks.

Copenhagen Harbour side peaceful end
Sunshine at the Copenhagen Harbourside

We were both reflecting on our weekend and sunken into our thoughts. The last few hours slowly arrived and after a good chill out, we slowly made a move back to the train station. No rush and we took all the time in the world. We walked passed The Little Mermaid, a small secluded area with boats and yachts, the town centre and Nyhavn, Magasin where we had a little look at their gym section and then got some water for the journey to the airport. 

yachts and boats at Copenhagen harbourside

For our final dinner we returned to the side street where we had brunch on our very first day, but this time we would eat at another cafe called Cafe Zirup. I opted for their homemade Chili Con Carne whilst Alex went for a burger. Though a bit pricey, we both enjoyed our meal and it gave us enough energy for the next couple of hours ahead of travelling back to the UK.

The ride back to the airport took less than 15minutes and by then my feet pretty much hurt a lot from all the walking we've done those last few days. I was grateful once we finished security checks to sit down at Joe And The Juice bar for an elderflower, apple and mint smoothie. The background music was super chillaxed and later I found out their Spotify playlist and discovered a song which I really love and have ever since been listening to most of the time at work.

Unlike our flight to Copenhagen, the flight back home left on time. We took off into a clear blue sky and had magnificent views over Copenhagen, the airport and the impressive Øresund Bridge in the Baltic sea. The weekend went far too quickly and we arrived back at No10 shortly before midnight. Needless to say,  how hard it was to return to work and I pretty much sleep-walked back to the office.

You'll find Copenhagen Part 1 and our Malmö day trip in the links. I had an incredible time in Scandinavia and I'm definitely considering to revisit later this year, as it is so accessible to go and just get a change from the usual hectic London.

Thanks so much for reading,

Till next time,

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Copenhagen Weekender. Part 2

The Oresund Bridge panorama view

From my previous travel to Copenhagen in 2007, I had tonnes of Swedish Kroner left over which had lived in my drawers ever since. I thought they may feel a bit homesick and would love to return to their home country, so we planned to spend those Kroner on our Copenhagen Weekender trip. 

For around £7.50 pp I bought train tickets to Malmö and within 35 minutes, the train "flew" us over the Øresund Bridge (Baltic Sea) to Sweden. My friend Anna, whom I met during my time studying at an International Language School in London awaited us at the central station. I had not seen her in six years and though last time we promised each other it won't be so long again for our next meet up, it kind of did. It felt even more emotional when we spotted each other and hugged for a long time. What a fantastic welcome to Sweden!

Day 2: A Day Trip To Sweden From Copenhagen

It is incredible how well Copenhagen and Malmö are connected. Within minutes you can be in an entirely new country! Though growing up in Germany with neighbouring countries just as close, I'm still impressed by it and even Alex felt so. If you think about it, it feels crazy that we've been in the UK on Friday, Denmark on Saturday and Sunday in Sweden. The lifestyle of the rich and the famous haha!

Anna and her partner Johan had booked a boat tour around the city's canal and harbourside for us so we sat down in the glorious warm sunshine and enjoyed this incredible summers' day from the comfort of a softly rocking boat with the occasional refreshing little spritz of water on your skin. 

I've visited Sweden's third-largest city a few times, but same as with Copenhagen, the time spent here was always limited and short. It was fascinating and interesting to see how the city reinvented itself with the establishment of a university and developed into a cultural and thriving spot. Anna and I chatted along and I felt so relaxed that I've completely forgotten to take pictures. #oops

Friends in Malmo Sweden

After the trip, we hit the town and bought some snacks from the international food market. The British stalls were hilarious, selling candy, tea and of course fish and chips with a massive portrait of HM The Queen. 

Australia offered typical BBQ's such as kangaroo and crocodile steak and the German, well Bavarian, stall had sausages. Not stereotypical at all. We strolled further along the canal and found a spot to sit down with cat sculptures. Earlier, our tour guide from the boat trip mentioned that these cat statues have the symbolic purpose of giving people company whilst they sit here and watch the world go by. Lovely idea what do you think?

Cat statue in Malmo Sweden

Anna and Johan then introduced us to Swedish afternoon tea, aka "Fika" at Konditori Hollandia. Swedes are just as obsessed with fancy afternoon tea like the Brits. I would say they do it even harder. So we entered this amazing cafe on the main high street and I was overwhelmed by the offer of cakes, tarts and sweet treats. 

It very much reminded me of a German bakery with lots and lots of delicious bakery treats from pudding (creme patisserie) filled eclairs, to strawberry tartlets, to Viking Rolls (marzipan with chocolate), crunchy chocolate cornflakes nests or coconut flavoured chocolate balls. It was insane and stirred so many memories of my time living in Germany and generally on the European continent. Now and again I do really miss it, though sometimes I'm not fully aware of it and it hits even harder when I get reminded of the European lifestyle.  

Anyway, overwhelmed by the amount of choice, I literally had everything that my greedy eye craved for. After all, I was a) on holiday and b) still in possession of all that Swedish money, so yeah why not?!? I went for a strawberry tartlet, a Viking Roll (marzipan with chocolate) and a Coconut Chocolate Ball, which reminded me of a protein ball. Alex had a strawberry tartlet and another one with sweet sultanas. Sooooo good!

Swedish Fika in Malmo

The day slowly turned into a late afternoon/early evening and Anna and Johan were keen to show us their brand new apartment located at the West Harbourside of  Malmö. This is also the home to one of Europe's largest buildings, the Turning Torso, which hosts mainly flats and reminded me of the iconic Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai. 

This part of the town was my favourite. Apart from shopping streets, I love the beach and I got totally spoilt. We watched children and teenagers swimming in the Øresund or jumping of the ridiculously high cliffs (dangerous but so impressive!). 

No one got hurt in case you're wondering. At some point, we spotted people bombing it over the sea with jet skis and I felt really happy that moment. I'd love to ride a jet ski at some point in my life. It is on my bucket list of things to do before I'm too old to do it. It must be an incredible feeling of pure freedom to race over the water and enjoy the speed and energies. Aw, I've just entered daydreaming mode!

jet skiing over the Oresund in Malmo Sweden
The Oresund Bay with the Twisting Turso Beach at Malmo

The area was amazing, the weather again summery and I wished we could have stayed here forever. The sand of the beach was soft and powdery, the water was bathtub warm and crystal clear. The air felt fresh and I barely had to cough (I had a strong infection/sinusitis a few weeks ago which I couldn't get rid off when you have to commute in jam-packed tubes all day and work in an office in the high emission zone of Central London). The day could have not been better. Weather, beach, friends is all you need, right? 

West Havn in Malmo with the Turning Turso

Anna's and Johan's apartment was another highlight of the day. Located on top of one of the newly built houses, we had incredible views over the Øresund bay with Copenhagen in the far distance. Their light and airy apartment was pure joy and I felt very happy to see that my friend had this amazing flat and finally the lifestyle I had always wished for her to have.

Thought that we had already seen and enjoyed the highlights of Malmö, Anna and Johan went to absolute great lengths and took us to the "new place" in town for dinner called Pinchos. Be prepared for some absolute food porn to follow.

Pinchos restaurant Malmo Sweden
Inside Pinchos Restaurant Sweden

The restaurant right in the heart of town was decorated like an old theatre with some serious Moulin Rouge vibes. Think about Venetian masks, merry-go-round horses, red, red, and lots of red, pictures of circus and entertainment teamed up with warm, cosy lights and comfy chairs to sit on.

The concept of Pinchos is everyone's dream who loves spending time on their smartphones as you order your food via an app. Let me explain: once you've sat down and downloaded the Pinchos app (in Swedish only), you can scroll through the menu and order drinks and food. 

It comes handy, that each dish is listed with a beautifully shot picture to help to make your decision. All dishes are tapas-sized meaning you can try and experiment with a variety of food. There's not only Fish & Chips, but a creamy mushroom risotto, Quattro formagi pizza, sweet potato fries, mozzarella balls and a super cute mini burger. There's also burrito and a selection of vegetarian tapas available. You simply add anything you fancy onto your app which is then sent to the kitchen. Once your food is ready, you'll receive a push notification and can collect your food from the counter.

Overwhelmed by the choices, we all decided to try different dishes and ordered two rounds. All food is prepared freshly and you don't want to end up ordering seven dishes (such as Alex!) at once. During my "first round", I decided to try the mozzarella balls, mushroom risotto and the mini pizza. I think the pictures pretty much speak for themselves, don't you think?

Drink Order Pinchos Malmo
Tapas Pizza Risotto Mozarella Balls Pinchos Malmo
Mini Burger Pinchos Malmo
Food counter Pinchos Restaurant review Malmo
Food plate served at Pinchos Malmo

Each dish costs around £3.5-4.5 which is a reasonable price. When I picked up my food I was so excited! look at the cute sizes, perfect if you're like me and love to switch tastes during a meal. The portions had just the right size for me and I simply enjoyed everything!

For my second round, I ordered the mini burger, beetroot and goats cheese and two desserts, creme brulee and cheesecake. Needless to say, they were amazing! 

Pinchos Mini Burger Malmo restaurant review
Cheesecake Creme Brulee Pinchos Malmo

After food, we strolled back to the flat. It was a typical summer's day evening: a warm breeze, soft red coloured sky and a tranquil atmosphere. All you could hear were people returning from the beach, that soft flip flop sound that you usually hear all summer long and the occasional cry of a swallow. Again sometimes I really miss living on the European continent. We spent the evening on Anna's and Johan's balcony enjoying the view and a drink (or two).

The Twisted Turso on a summer day's evening Malmo

With a very heavy heart, we took the train back to Copenhagen at 10:30pm after a wonderful day.

I can't describe what an incredible weekend I had and I feel more relaxed after all those exciting travels, events and new impressions than from a weekend lounging at home. Isn't it amazing how a different environment and spending time with friends can contribute to your well-being? 

Thanks so much for reading, 

Till next time,
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