Eating with my eyes; Part II – A mind expanding evening at Noma

For three consecutive years, Noma, a small restaurant housed in an old warehouse in Copenhagen, Denmark, has been named the best in the world by Restaurant magazine. It is safe to say that right now it, and its head chef and co-owner, Rene Redzepi are at the centre of the culinary universe. A few days ago, I was lucky enough to be able to dine there, and to say it was amazing really doesn’t do the place justice. It was simply out of this world. Much like the Osteria Francescana, about which I have previously written, artistry and beautiful presentation are crucial at Noma, and I want to talk a little about this, as well as my general experience of the restaurant.

Potato and duck liver (apologies for the quality of the photo)

In total, there were 22 different courses in the evening, and I obviously don’t have enough words to write about all of them in detail, but I’ll try and convey a general sense of what we ate. The first 10 or so courses were a series of small bites, all to be eaten with our fingers and shared around the table, which was delightful, and proved to be a real talking point amongst my party, made up of myself, my parents and my good friend Rory. Highlights of this finger food included; Crispy pork skin and black currant, potato and duck liver, and radish, soil and grass, which was brought to the table in a plant pot, and genuinely looked like a potted plant, until we were told that the soil et al was edible!

Crispy pork skin and black currant

Perhaps the most exciting and simultaneously scary part of the finger food though was the live shrimp, which has been a controversial dish at Noma. Four supposedly stunned shrimp are brought to the table alongside a beurre noisette dip and you just tuck in. It was actually quite nice, and nowhere near as scary as I’d anticipated.

On top of our appetisers, we were served 8 main courses, and 2 puddings, all of which were deeply rooted in the philosophy of Noma: the idea that food should give the diner a feeling of ‘time and place’ before they eat. That the food should be both seasonal and locally sourced. At Noma, if it isn’t from Scandinavia and it isn’t in season, it isn’t on the menu. The presentation of the food tended to be earthy, and was far less grand than at the Osteria Francescana. For instance, an oyster dish at Noma was served on a plate covered in glazed pebbles, clearly attempting to replicate a pebble beach, which I found to be an interesting touch.

Oyster from Limfjorden with Gooseberry and buttermilk

What I enjoyed about the presentation of the vast majority of dishes, is that they were without unnecessary embellishment, they looked almost as though they were like nature intended them. This was most true of the ‘Cauliflower and pine with cream and horseradish’, which was presented with two branches of pine, there only to emphasise that this dish was very much rooted in nature.

Cauliflower and pine with Cream and horseradish
The oyster once again, this time sans shell!

There were very few precise swirls and dots of sauce, with a nice spoonful or even a dollop favoured. This rustication of the presentation, in my eyes at least, reflects the restaurant’s creed, and helps to showcase the ingredients, without placing too much emphasis on style, as some modern restaurants can do. Instead the dishes, even down to the tableware they were served on, were made to look earthy and rustic, whilst still retaining a great degree of refinement, which I believe is a huge credit to the chef. All in all, my trip to Noma was as eye opening as it was delicious, and if you can get a table, I’d thoroughly recommend making a trip to Copenhagen.

 

Cauliflower again, shrubbery removed.

If you’d like to read more of my thoughts on Noma, please go to my personal blog at http://custardandjelly.wordpress.com/

Noma is co-owned by head chef Rene Redzepi and business partner Claus Meyer in Copenhagen, Denmark. Visit www.noma.dk for more information.

Berlin: City of Dissent. Thoughts by AHA tutor Andrew Stewart Mackay.

Hot-bed of dissent for two hundred years now, Berlin has absorbed strikingly divergent ideologies ranging from Romanticism, Expressionism and Dada to the imperatives of Marxism, Nazism and the Cold War.  The multi-layered history of Berlin’s artistic, cultural and political radicalism reveals a city at the very heart of twentieth century culture.

Despite the material and philosophical advances of the 18th century Enlightenment, there was a growing sense amongst many German artists of the day that spirituality in art had been entirely forgotten. The scientific view of nature prevailed; God was either relatively absent in the miracle of creation or a simple fiction, a myth. So how did one experience awe and wonder in this brave new world? A revolution, in a period of revolutions, was in order.

'Monk by the Sea' (1809) by Caspar David Friedrich

 

The most famous German Romantic artist was Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840) whose use of the ‘sublime’ in nature depicted the glory and terror of the natural world as well as the folly of human civilisation. The revolutionary middle-class Berlin student Karl Marx (1818-83) saw the folly of civilisation as the destructive ‘dictatorship of the bourgeoisie’ going on to write his famous book The Communist Manifesto (1848). The personal experience of brutalising urban civilisation was violently explored a hundred years later with the emergence of German Expressionism, a movement devoted to the inner subjectivity of human psychology. The personal is always political and Expressionist artists such as Otto Dix (1891-1969) and George Grosz (1893-1959) sought to explore the perversity of modern life. The devastating effects of the First World War only served to increase this political agitation.

'Sylvia von Harden' (1926) by Otto Dix

 

In Berlin during the nineteen twenties the radical ‘Dada’ movement emerged, an absurdist exploration of surreal ‘madness’ seeking to expose the corruptions of the Weimar Republic. Considered ‘degenerate’ by the Nazi’s (themselves dissenters from the status quo), Hitler’s fascist revolution and the Second World War affected a cessation of the radical avant-garde in Germany. By the nineteen-fifties Cold War anxieties pervaded Berlin, particularly after the erection of the GDR Wall between 1961 and 1975. Artists on both sides of the Wall often, naturally, became exemplars of their respective ideologies. But West Germany was decidedly more tolerant of the social critiques emerging, for example, from the work of Joseph Beuys (1921-86) and Anselm Kiefer (b.1945) even if the work explored some of the more uncomfortable elements of German history. Nourished by conflict, dissent and uncomfortable memories, since the fall of the Wall in 1989 Berlin has once again established itself as an international epicentre for the radical and subversive avant-garde.

'Das Endedes 20' (1982-3) by Joseph Beuys

 

 

 

 

 

Andy will be giving a lecture on Berlin tomorrow evening at Durham University:

8pm, Tuesday November 27th in the Birley Room, Hatfield College. There will be free drinks in the college bar afterwards. You can contact Alex Fielding alex@arthistoryabroad.com for more details.

We are also getting lots of bookings now for our Whistlestop Trip to Berlin with Andy, 8-10 February 2013. Contact alex@arthistoryabroad.com now to secure your place!

 

 

AHA Alum Izo Fitzroy and her captivating new song ‘Michael Coins’.

Izo Fitzroy attended the AHA Spring Gap Year Course back in 2004 and has just released her new song, ‘Michael Coins’. Below is a brief biography and links to the song and a recent review.

‘After AHA I ventured up north to attend Glasgow University where I began studying music. Dropped out as it was far too theoretical and dry, and I began writing and singing my own songs, more for my own entertainment than anything else. I then started to do gigs around Glasgow, got a band together where we began doing festivals around Scotland. I was then in 2009, nominated as ‘Scotland’s most Stylish Artist’ alongside Bobby Gillespie, Calvin Harris and Sharleen Spiteri but Sharleen pipped me to the post!

After that moved to London and continued working on my band ‘Izo FitzRoy &The Royal Bastards’ whilst also training to become a Voice Coach at Central School of Speech and Drama. I now work full time as a musician and a voice coach.’

Listen to the song at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wm_2wtEBb1U.

You can read a bit more about Izo in this reveiw by Trivial Pursuits: http://trivialpursuits.org/2012/11/13/review-michael-coins-by-izo-fitzroy-and-the-royal-bstards/

‘Play Me, I’m Yours’: Music on the streets of Cambridge, by AHA alum Catriona Grant

 

Cycling home one night earlier this term, I heard the sound of a piano being played on the bridge of Silver Street. The next night when walking to meet a friend for dinner I heard an accomplished pianist serenading an enraptured companion, against the backdrop of the 17th century facade of Gibb’s Senate House, and the iconic silhouette of King’s Chapel.

 

A piano on King's Parade

 

As part of a traveling art installation, 15 pianos were dotted around the city of Cambridge for two weeks. The project is an international one by the artist Luke Jerram. ‘Street Pianos’ has seen painted pianos broadcasting art and music through cities across the world. The instruments were destined for the scrapheap before being painted by local artists and groups, for the purpose of public enjoyment and bringing communities together.

 

It coincided with the inevitable Cambridge ‘Week 5 Blues’. It is a phrase understood across the student body to summarise the ‘meh’ feeling that accompanies tiredness, overdue essays, endless reading lists, cold weather, coughs and runny noses, dark evenings, and the looming laundry crisis that hits most students at this point in term. If you’re extra lucky like me you may even find yourself ill for a few weeks in the lead up to this particular low point. Don’t get me wrong – I love it here, but there are always times when you feel a need to break free of the routine in ‘the bubble’. Seeing the pianos dotted around the city inspired me to stop off by one in the playground on my way home, and I tentatively tried to play a few bars of whatever I could remember from my days of piano lessons. I soon remembered why I’d never taken any grades, but although I am certainly not a natural musician I still thoroughly enjoyed having a go. Playing music took my mind off my problems, and was a refreshing change from the everyday. What’s more, by sitting down on a piano stool in the park I was able to revel in the warm sunshine and turning leaves that can make autumn in Britain so beautiful. It was the kind of day I will look upon nostalgically in six months time, yet is so often overlooked in the midst of a busy schedule.

 

Newnham Road Park piano

 

I wasn’t the only one enjoying this project. As I left, a family arrived and the children were soon playing away happily. The artwork appeals to all ages, as does the opportunity to relive former musical talents. Each one is individually decorated, yet the motto remains the same; ‘play me, I’m yours’. And the people of Cambridge have loved doing just that. Some truly talented amateur pianists have taken to the streets, providing genuine enjoyment for those who hear them, whilst others just play around on the piano keys.

 

The collaboration between art and music that has touched so many unsuspecting individuals. It may be, that what makes the pianos so special, is how ordinary music can be, but when taking you by surprise and heard when going about our day to day lives, it exemplifies how often its the little things in life put a smile on your face.

 

Silver Street Piano

(With thanks to Memento Vivere and Street Pianos contributors for the use of images).

HOW TO BE ROMAN: Lucy Chiswell’s top ten substitutes for tourist traps in the eternal city

 

2) THE MUSEUM

Right, second up, it’s the museum. Museums are to me what the gelato is to Italy: life support.

Now, there’s no question that the Vatican Museums are a truly magical place. Knowing you are standing under the same roof as our very own Pope (as well as standing on top of the 15 billion popes that have been before), whilst simultaneously gazing into a Michelangelo-ey abyss can sure enough only be experienced in this very spot. But as a Vatican tour guide, doing that 3 times a week for 12 months of the year can wear thin; so it’s not surprising that I alerted my museum sensors to look elsewhere for satisfaction from inanimate friends.

Thanks to bugbog.com

This section of my top ten frustrates me. There are 5000 museums in Italy so where the diavolo am I meant to start? Answer: The Capitoline Museums.

If you want a less hectic, less sweaty, less churchy version of the Vatican, head to the Campidoglio. Like the majority of Italy, this piazza was designed by Michelangelo Buonarotti and finds itself plonked right on top of the Capitoline Hill. If you are successful in escaping ‘death by vespa’ in Piazza Venezia, you will make your way to the museums by ascending a set of sloping steps and arriving in what can only be described as geometric heaven. Paninied between Rome’s busiest piazza and the bustling Roman Forum, the Campidoglio, which forms a sort of internal courtyard to the museum buildings, is the kind of place you want to hang out if you love a stationery shop… if you know what I mean. It has the symmetrical perfection of St. Peter’s square, but on a smaller scale, and good grief there’s no queue to go inside. If heaven isn’t like this then we’re all wasting our time.

The Capitoline Museums are split: Palazzo Nuovo and Palazzo dei Conservatori. I am not going to attempt to walk you through the whole lot, but as always, it is vital I mention some of the ‘big names’. You’ve got Bernini, Caravaggio, Tintoretto, Veronese, Van Dyck. You’ll see Rome’s iconic bronze of Romulus and Remus suckling on the she wolf, the famous Roman sculpture of Marcus Aurelius on horseback (a copy of which is in the centre of the Campidoglio) as well as hoards of other delicious Roman, Greek and Egyptian treasures. But for me, it’s the Dying Gaul that steals the show: a manifestation of perfection and pain in marble. One of those sculptures you sometimes like to just visit… as a friend… you know?

The Dying Gaul
The Dying Gaul
Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius

Even if you visit the Capitoline Museums just for their spaciousness, their peacefulness, or to pick up a date from one of their over-friendly guards, I can assure you that you will come away overwhelmed by its contents and thirsty for more.

Good, Bad and Modern Government

Having recently been back to stunning Siena on a sneaky pre-university trip with my mother, I simply had to take her to see the famous and important Lorenzetti fresco series of Good and Bad Government. Once again, I was struck by the figures, by the delicate grace of Pax, lounging on the hidden armour, and by the amount of complexity that could be painted into one fresco. Since I started Art History at Warwick University, this fresco series has turned up numerous times. Medieval Art was intended for study, only for learned men, none more so than The Nine, who sat in the Palazzo Pubblico, discussing the best way to govern Siena, the momentous eye of Good Government looming over them. The figures of Faith, Hope and Charity hover disembodied above The Commune of Siena who is aided by elegant and strong female representations of virtues such as Fortitude Prudence, Temperance and Justice. The mirrored layout of Bad Government on the left wall provides a poignant contrast.

Good Government Detail Copyright Web Gallery of Art

As I considered their gracious strength, I wondered are these virtues any less important in today’s government? And is there a modern day equivalent of this allegory for our own government to look to? Not having an immediate answer, I did the modern thing. I Googled it. The range of answers was inconclusive and thoroughly negative which made me think, that the virtues Lorenzetti depicted, while they should be important, are not. Since nowadays we are bombarded by visual stimulation and information, we can know every detail about our government, and needless to say they are often portrayed as more like the tyrannical fanged figures on the Bad Government side.

Bad Government Detail, Copyright Web Gallery of Art

Is this simply bad press or bad politics? Maybe qualities such as patriotism, power and economic survival have overshadowed the Virtues of the Sienna fresco. However, while the years of the Nine were prosperous, they were eventually overturned. Maybe there is no perfect guide for Good Government, and Lorenzetti painted an idealistic dream that, while beautiful, is unrealistic. Nevertheless, the allegorical meaning in those amazing fresco’s is something which modern leaders and governmental figures can in fact look to, so they might be reminded of the potential their positions have, for good and for evil, just as the Nine did.

House of Commons
House of Commons 1893 Copyright Wikipedia

View of the frescos, Palazzo Pubblico. Siena. Copyright Web Gallery of Art

Got something to say about this subject? Get involved, leave a comment.

Need a view? Florence has plenty…

Having been lucky enough to do a good amount of travelling in the last year one thing I have learnt is that it is great to get an impression for the place before you go.  How? Lonely Planet, Baedaker (those of you who have read the book in question, do you get this?!) Certainly, these are some good sources for knowing where to go/ what to see etc.


Yet, what about literature? I have found that novels often give a far more evocative insight into a particular place.


 

 

In addition, saying you have read some amazing novel makes you sound incredibly intelligent/ sophisticated/ cultured… and we all like to give off that pretence!!


For Italy, here is my first recommendation: ‘A Room with a View’ by E.M. Forster.


I read this after I had been to Florence but the beautiful descriptions took me right back. Regardless of its early 20th century setting, the Forster’s descriptions of Florence still apply; a perfect example of the enduring beauty of the city. This will get you more excited about Florence than anything you could read in a guidebook.


And for the girls reading this, it conjures up a sense that you are about to commence on an exciting and romantic journey, just like the novel’s protagonist!


You have a bit of Santa Croce in there…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Machiavelli’s tomb makes an appearance in the novel.



 

My FAVOURITE LOCATION IN ALL OF ITALY: the Church of SAN MINIATO <3.




Check out this view from the Church:


 

WOWWWEEEEE



Also, the vital part for anyone in the process of travelling/ finding themselves/ enjoying zero responsibility: it’s an easy-peasy read. Ahhh yeah.

 




 


Enjoy!

N.B. All these photos were taken by me on my course with AHA.



 

Andy Warhol – Playing with Layers.

In this cold, dreary weather, it seems like we could all do with a splash of colour in our routine. Humbly inspired by the recent exhibition of Warhol displayed at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, I’ve decided to dedicate this blog to the photographic re-creation of some of his work, focusing on the manipulation of multiple layers in portraiture.

There’s no Marilyn and there’s no Campbell’s soup tin, because, although now arguably synonymous with Warhol’s name, I left the exhibition assured that there were many more dimensions to Andy’s career, hence the reason why he is considered one of the most influential individuals of the 20th Century.

Above left: ‘Rosie’ (Original photograph by Marie Naffah) Here I have a photograph that has been duplicated and layered each frame on top of one another. I have enhanced the saturation of the original, replicating Warhol’s vivid palette. This acts as the base of the original, whilst, akin to Warhol’s portrait, I have sketched the top layer digitally, suggesting subtle details of the facial features.

Above right: ‘Muhammad Ali’ (Warhol)

With the striking simplicity of the line drawing, combined with the small inclusion of hand- drawn details, a sense of identity is created  for the subject, whilst unanimously creating a piece that successfully draws the viewer in, stimulating emotion. It’s almost reminiscent of the Baroque style, with regards to breaking the boundary between the subject and the observer.

Another aspect that impressed me was Warhol’s expertise in creating something magnificent from something so simple, reiterating layers of the same picturesque cliché in order to produce an alternative perspective on the subject.

Above left: Mickey Mouse Screen Print (Warhol) – Warhol’s prints are defined as screenprints on paper and were intended to be produced in multiple impressions.

Above Right: ‘Tara’ (Original photograph by Marie Naffah) – Here, a monochrome photograph is repeated four times and rendered with the ‘Conte Crayon’ effect in order to imitate the simplified style of the screen print.

Warhol is undoubtedly regarded as an astonishing colourist. I still can’t quite comprehend how he gets away with placing layers of decorative colour on fairly formally composed portraits, and it manages to prove a huge success. The colours chosen are far from naturalistic, yet seem to enhance the overall piece, consequentially adding further expression to the individual.

Above Left: ‘Sarah Bernhardt” (Warhol)

Above Right: ‘Self Portrait’ (Original photograph by Marie Naffah) Similarly to the first image, I have used multiple layers, combining a line drawing and a monochrome photograph. Additionally, I have added three more layers of separate colours, echoing Warhol’s style. For some reason, the image doesn’t appear primitive, yet instead, a portrait full of expression and animation.

I’ve only touched on a few examples of Warhol’s phenomenal use of layers, but the exhibition did solidify my opinion that he was indeed a master manipulator of photographic imagery and had the ability to transform familiar, commercial art into that of “high art”.