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ARTS - December 2012

Joy, wherever we find it, allows us to feel, if only for a brief time, the intense blaze and burn of our humanity: it is an emotion so pleasurably powerful that it banishes mediocrity, dullness, pain and difficulty to the margins of our consciousness in the moment. What’s not to love about that? I shamelessly seek such moments, delight in them all the more when they are unexpected.

The source of such joy, for me, is often to be found in the creative arts and, this weekend, we went across to Somerset House to see both the Valentino and the Tim Walker photography exhibitions.

I do love the craft of haute couture, the fabulous fabrics, seeing the embodiment of history in fashion. Set up in a catwalk style, Valentino had all of those elements. What it did not have, for me, was the ‘WOW’. Maybe it was the style of the period - a lot of ’70’s and ’80’s, Joan Collins/Liz Taylor bling outfits - or maybe, as a friend with us suggested, Valentino was more of a tailor than a creative designer. Whatever, the overall impact was a little underwhelming - okay but not great.

The Tim Walker photography was fantastic … in every sense of that word. Brilliantly creative, totally surreal and fascinating. Being a magazine junkie, I have seen a lot of Tim Walker’s work over the past decade or so, always fun and with such a distinctive style. This exhibition magnified all the elements of his craft - fashion, film, portrait - into something that was … utterly fabulous and made the more so by its’ setting in the quirky rooms of Somerset House.

Winding your way through narrow doors, individually disparate spaces, all overhung/overlaid with many of the giant props used in the photographs, looking at the beauty of his subjects juxtaposed with the strange imaginings of his visually creative mind, this is a small gem of a trip that spins your brain cells into a vortex of thrills. Pure Joy. Get there if you are able. It’s on until 27 January.

We popped in to Tom’s Kitchen for a really pleasant supper whilst we were at Somerset House then wondered around the Handmade in Britain craft stores before we left. It’s a great place to stop off if you’re in town. Wheelchair access is not as smooth as you might wish, because it is an old building (Ugh! Cobblestones, slopes, awkward steps, odd lift access), but it is always possible. If you book in advance, disabled visitors may park in the courtyard if they have room.

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