‘The Caged Bird’s Song’

Chris Ofili: Weaving Magic, Sunley Room, The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London WC2, until 28th August 2017

Chris Ofili
The Caged Bird’s Song, 2014–2017
Wool, cotton and viscose
Triptych, left and right panels each 280 x 184 cm; centre panel 280 x 372 cm
Installation view, Chris Ofili: Weaving Magic, National Gallery, 26 April – 28
August 2017
© Chris Ofili. Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London, The Clothworkers’ Company and Dovecot Tapestry Studio, Edinburgh. Photography: Gautier Deblonde

This is the first time that the Turner Prize winning artist Chris Ofili has worked in the medium of tapestry but I definitely think and hope that it will not be the last. Once again he looks at mythology for inspiration and combines it with the contemporary and the colour and the magic and tales of Trinidad. Alongside the tapestry woven in Edinburgh’s Dovecot Tapestry Studio, are the preparatory sketches for the piece.

Chris Ofili
The Caged Bird’s Song (She) 1, 2014
Watercolour and charcoal on paper
39.5 x 26.3 cm
15 1/2 x 10 3/8 in
© Chris Ofili
Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London

The artist says of it: “The Caged Bird’s Song is a marriage of watercolour and weaving. I set out to challenge the weaving process, by doing something free-flowing in making a watercolour, encouraging the liquid pigment to form the image, a contrast to the weaving process. With their response, which is an interpretation rather than a reproduction, the weavers have paid a type of homage to the watercolour that I gave them as well as to the process of weaving.”

It is quite magical. After the exhibition it will go to The Clothworkers’ Company, who commissioned it, in the City of London and will be on permanent display there.


“Chinese Nell” and friends!

Queer British Art 1861-1967, Tate Britain, Millbank, London SW1, until 1st October 2017

Solomon, Simeon 1840-1905
Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene
Watercolour on paper
330 x 381 mm
Tate. Purchased 1980

I have thought long and hard about this exhibition which marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act legislation in 1967 which meant partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality in England and Wales.

Paul Tanqueray (1905-1991)
Douglas Byng
Vintage bromide print
239 x 193 mm
National Portrait Gallery
© Estate of Paul Tanqueray

Well done Tate Britain for its partnership with this year’s London Pride (Pride in London at Tate Britain, 2pm to 10pm 24th June). Given what still goes on in countries such as Chechnya we must be grateful for the passing of the act.

David Hockney
Life Painting for a Diploma
Yageo Foundation
© Yageo Foundation

However, I do wonder, although admittedly progress has been made, how much things have really changed in our own multi-cultural society?  We know how differing faiths do not accept homosexuality as being right or acceptable.  Many families, whatever their ethnic background, struggle to accept a member of their family being gay. Gay people get homophobic abuse or are physically attacked for no reason other than they are “different”, even my partner and I have been hissed at in Westminster’s Edgware Road.

Angus McBean (1904-1990)
Quentin Crisp
Bromide print
National Portrait Gallery (London, UK)
© Estate of Angus McBean / National Portrait Gallery, London

I recently saw a production of La Cage aux Folles at the Wimbledon Theatre.  I think the real time to celebrate acceptance and inclusion will be when LGBT people can say/sing the words from the show –

I am what I am
And what I am needs no excuses

– And know they don’t have to look over their shoulder. Impossible, or could we all work harder towards it?

John Craxton
Head of a Greek Sailor
Oil on board
330 x 305 mm
London Borough of Camden
© Estate of John Craxton. All rights reserved, DACS 2016. Photo credit: London Borough of Camden

Among the exhibits in this somewhat politically correct exhibition is a monogrammed dressing gown that belonged to Noel Coward.  He was friends of Ian Fleming and his wife Ann and they both had houses on Jamaica.  In one of her letters Ann writes that Noel is referred to as “Chinese Nell” on the island *.  Need I say more?

Keith Vaughan
Drawing of two men kissing
Tate Archive
© DACS, The Estate of Keith Vaughan


*The Letters of Ann Fleming by Ann Fleming, Mark Amory (Editor), Collins Harvill, 1985




From Jamaica to Notting Hill – Rudi Patterson’s visions in colour, until 13th June 2014, Leighton House Museum

From Jamaica to Notting Hill – Rudi Patterson’s visions in colour, until 13th June 2014, Leighton House Museum, W14

Far the best way to introduce this exhibition is to quote the artist himself “I’m inspired by natural beauty and harmony, I love to paint.”

A View From My Window  Rudi Patterson

A View From My Window
Rudi Patterson

A statement that is more than amply proved in this vibrant exhibition, mainly of landscapes in differing media – oils, watercolours and gouache. But we are just seeing one side of his artistic output since he also painted abstracts and linear compositions, mixed media pieces and created ceramics.

Duckenfield Rudi Patterson

Rudi Patterson

Although self-taught it is obvious that Rudi Patterson (1933 – 2013) was a multi-talented man. Born in Duckenfield, a Jamaican sugar plantation village, he came to the UK in the late 1950s where he became a model for Mr Fish and British Airways and also an actor. Among his many television acting credits are appearances in Z Cars, The Professionals, playing opposite Cliff Richard in Two A Penny and in the Rolling Stones documentary film Sympathy For The Devil. He was also an accomplished stage actor. I am quite sure that some of you will remember him.

Stilll Life with Paw Paw, Tulips and Landscape Rudi Patterson

Stilll Life with Paw Paw, Tulips and Landscape
Rudi Patterson

He was one of this country’s leading black artists and had his first London show in 1970, the first of many in London and elsewhere. Freddie Mercury, Andy Williams, Twiggy and Stevie Wonder are among the celebrities who acquired his works. Where was Rudi’s studio you may wonder? Well, many of the paintings were created in each of the three council flats in which he lived in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea – Finborough Road, Hesketh Place and a block Ernő Goldfinger designed next to his Trellick Tower.

This retrospective is a very fitting tribute and includes many pictures that have not been publicly displayed before.

Tickets £5 – reductions for National Trust Members


Coconut Palms Rudi Patterson

Coconut Palms
Rudi Patterson


All images are copyright