I first discovered the verb “to pop,” many years ago, when I heard it in, what else?, Absolutely Fabulous. Eddie and Patsy are forever popping into Harvey Nichols on the way “to work.” Saffy has to pop out for some milk when she cancels the Harrods food delivery, in her brief attempt at austerity. Gran loves to pop by, causing Eddie to instantly regress to a sulky teenager. It is a great word for a fantastic action. And London is the ideal place to pop. So many places, so many people, and with the world moving ever faster a quick pop is all we may be able to manage. It is a rediscovery of the small moments. The tiny breaks in reality that can not only provide rest, but perhaps, a whole new mood. A quick look at something beautiful. A short time under the sun in a secret garden. A few minutes with a friend. Not scheduled. Not planned. Not written in the diary. Just popping by. Because that is when the laughter is sudden and real. So it is what I plan to do over the next few months. And to what will I be popping? Art obviously.
London is the perfect city for this. Not only is there so much art, everywhere, all the time, as far as my new hot pink suede boots can walk me, it is, for the most part, free. FREE!!!! Not too much free around these days, so I plan to take advantage. So, 2 days ago after visiting a friend and realizing I was only one stop away from, I popped into the V&A. To see just one thing. Or 4, things as it turned out. Or 4 things plus the things around. And for a few minutes I was utterly transfixed. Rachel Kneebone’s new installations at the V&A. Ceramic bodies, sometimes just legs, in fantastic collections, at times entwined, with vines and leaves, as though emerging from the large eggs nestled in the background. So tactile and visceral and gorgeous. Displayed next to Rodin sculpture, works that also beg to be touched (though that is forbidden), the twisting bodies beautiful and mesmerizing. The longer you look, the more you see. And, at the front of the museum, Kneebone’s stunning tower, 399 Days, a Tower of Babel perhaps, or a series of physical vignettes, again in silky white porcelain. While 16th century statues of antiquity greats stand near, gazing at, reaching toward, engaging with her work. It is masterstroke of curatorial genius. The outside world just melted away as I stared and studied and sighed with pleasure. For a just a little while.
Yesterday I popped into the RA, again to see just one thing. Andrew Green’s stunning and heartwarming installation The Life and Death of Miss Dupont. A beautiful homage to his mother and her loving second marriage to lobster salesman, Stan, They only had 15 years together before Stan died, but Andrew believes they were the happiest of her life. Widowhood didn’t suit her nearly so well. In the center she stands, not quite life sized, but wearing the actual fur coat Stan gave Madeleine during their marriage. I know attitudes have changed, but there was a time when being given a fur coat was the highest expression of devotion possible. I remember well the Christmas when my father gave one to my mother, the pleasure and excitement was infectious. This effigy of Madeleine stands at a jaunty angle surround by touches of their home together, Peter the Poodle having a prominent role, and includes an acknowledgement that they greatly enjoyed the physical side of their relationship, not something most children are gracious or understanding enough to do (without retching anyway). The rest of the room is filled with other tributes, including the congratulatory telegram sent by her family to the restaurant where they dined after the ceremony . What looks like a large hat box topped with an elegant cut glass jar stands on one side. Two empty chairs are painted on the base. Immediately one is reminded of the heartbreaking song “Empty Tables and Empty Chairs” from Les Mis. And indeed the connection is correct, as this is the container the artist imagine his mother’s ashes should be held in, rather than the plain, metal urn he was given. Even in death, his mother is elegant and beautiful and very, very loved. Much of the story was brought to life for me by the excellent guard in the room, Harsal, who generously and enthusiastically shared the joy of this piece, in all its gorgeous detail. Thinking back, it feels like I spent hours with Miss Dupoint. But I was there less than 15 minutes. I popped out to pop in and what a bit of magic I got.
Earlier in the week I popped into the Lisson Gallery to see the new Anish Kapoor show. I adore this artist, but don’t always appreciate everything he does. Didn’t care for the large sculptures in this collection. But always love the mirror work. So spent most of the few minutes I was in the gallery playing around with them. Managed what I think is a fun photo of my hands. And then got on with the rest of my day. With an extra warmth in my heart.
And now my lovely readers, I must leave you. A friend I haven’t seen in ages has just popped by. Let the talking begin…