Tony Ray-Jones

In our exploration of how colour defines and influences our impressions of people and places, we came across the work of Tony Ray-Jones.

Ray-Jones is known both for his colour images of America taken in the early 1960’s, and his later black and white images of England from 1965 onwards. He tragically died at the young age of thirty from leukemia, but not before leaving behind a large collection of images that capture both the colour consciousness of America (in more ways than one), and the stark natural eccentricity of  the English.

Ray-Jones’ images are said to have a rare blend of compassion and irony, and were highly influenced by the films of Vigo, Bunuel and Fellini along with Charlie Chaplin and the Marx Brothers. Here are some of our favourites:

To see more of Tony Ray-Jones work, visit the Science Museum where they currently have on display a selection of fifty previously unseen works from the National Media Museum’s Ray-Jones archive. Selected by and interspersed with works of Martin Parr, another photographer with the uncanny ability to capture quintessential English society, these images make us all the more fonder of our adopted home.

Only in England: Photographs by Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr
21 September 2013 – 16 March 2014
Science Museum

All works © Martin Creed. This site is neither under construction nor complete


An artist whose playfulness both amuses and baffles us,
who takes the everyday apart to put it back in ways you never thought of,
Martin Creed is one artist we turn to when we need to be reminded that art is as much about nothing as it is about everything.

So with air filled with balloons,
works that are in all honesty described as ‘A door opening and closing and a light going on and off‘,
with cacti arranged in a logic that only man can give nature,
and a piano that plays no symphonies but where the human hands of an enlisted gallery assistant play the chromatic scales one note at a time…
Everything about Creed’s work shouts ‘does what it says on the box’.
but in a way that forces us to observe how trite our thought processes are,
and how quickly we follow what the majority of society thinks, does and expects,
because that way life becomes easier,
and quicker to the top.

Martin Creed’s current exhibition at Hayward Gallery is aptly titled – What’s the point of it?
It gave us a chance to refresh and to stop expecting to ‘get’ each work just because we ‘see’ so much art.

We were humbled by the sapient simplicity of Creed’s work – nothing is as complex as you think it ought to be, yet he never fails to hit the nail on the head, right through the wall.

Work No. 200, Half the air in a given space, 1998 (Image Source:


Work No. 1092, 2011 (Image Source:


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Work No. 960, Cacti, 2008 (Image Source:

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Work No. 88, a sheet of A4 paper crumpled into a ball, 1995 (Image Source:


For more on Martin Creed, read here.

And we cannot fail to mention that if there ever was a work we loved and would want to possess, it would be Creed’s Work No. 850 that featured people running as fast as they could across the Duveen Galleries at Tate Britain in 2008. We’ve been looking for ways to gush about this work since the first day we started Beanstories – in all secrets revealed, this hits our spot.


Martin Creed: What’s the point of it?
Hayward Gallery
Till 27 April 2014

Portrait Heaven


Yesterday we took the time out of our hectic weekending to catch the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize at the National Portrait Gallery, and we got just what we wanted – a few great images, a few great moments captured by the lens, and quite a few interesting photographers to research.

Here’s a special selection of the ones that stuck with us, among those that capture the different sides to femininity. The exhibition is worth a visit especially for the context it offers each photograph. Without this, an image could be many things to most.

Maria and Corrine, From the series After Sargent, Lydia Panas, July 2012 (Image Source:

The portrait is of Maria and Corinne, part of a series inspired by the work of John Singer Sargent. The twins’ mother is a friend of the photographer. Panas says: ‘When she told me she had twins, I was excited to take a portrait of them. It was curious how little they looked like one another, but still very compelling.’

Sisters, Tereza Červeňová, April 2013 (Image Source:

The portrait is of three sisters at a swimming pool in the photographer’s native Bratislava. Červeňová was working on a series that recalled the atmosphere and mood of her memories of growing up in Slovakia. On returning to the swimming pool she would visit as a child, she was struck by the chance encounter with the girls standing by the locker she had habitually used in her youth; with their mother’s permission she made this portrait.

Taylor Wessing Prize 2013: Holy Mother by Erik Almas, 2012
Holy Mother by Erik Almas, February 2012 (Image Source:

The portrait is of Sarah, a model working with Almås on a fashion image with visual references to the Holy Mother. Almås says: ‘It came at a time when my photographic curiosity changed from just observing to truly connecting with my subject.’

Taylor Wessing Prize 2013: Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait  Prize 2013
The Twins by Dorothee Deiss, March 2013 (Image Source:

The portrait is of identical twins Esther and Ruth. The photographer saw the women at a socialgathering and contacted them to ask if they would allow her to take their portrait. They posed together at Esther’s house and were surprised to be asked to wear bathrobes and lie on the bed. Deiss says: ‘I wanted to depict their relationship in all its honesty, tenderness and strength’.

Taylor Wessing Prize 2013: Katie Walsh by Spencer Murphy
And the Prize winner is: Katie Walsh, Spencer Murphy, March 2013 (Image Source:

The portrait of Irish jump jockey Katie Walsh was commissioned by Channel 4 to promote TV coverage of the 2013 Grand National. Murphy photographed several jockeys in their mudspattered silks on a race day at Kempton Park. Walsh was the only woman included. She is the Grand National’s highest placed female jockey, achieving third place on Seabass in 2012.

Elza and Nellie, From the series Family Matters, Hana Knizova, June 2013 (Image Source:

The portrait is of identical twins Nellie and Elza and is from a series that explores physical resemblance. Knizova says she was fascinated by ‘the twins’ similarities, differences, and their mutual close attachment.’ The young women have recently moved to London, hoping to further their media careers after being seen in the television series New Zealand’s Next Top Model.

Three Colours Red, Tom Stewart, May 2013 (Image Source:

The portrait is of Katie and Jojo, two of the photographer’s friends from university. They are posed with Stewart’s Maine Coon cat, Tex. Stewart originally intended to make a moving image piece, but found a photographic portrait communicated the idea more clearly.

Patrick Fraser Taylor Wessing Prize
Carla Korbes, Patrick Fraser, March 2013 (Image Source:

The portrait is of Carla, a friend of the photographer who is a Principal Ballerina for the Pacific Northwest Ballet Company. Fraser says: ‘I wanted a raw, natural setting. The portrait was made in the early morning by the coast, west of Seattle, when the mist was still hanging in the air.’

Sofia, From the series Vivi. Women with a present life, Néstor Díaz, April 2013 (Image Source:

This portrait of Sofia is part of a series that the photographer has dedicated to his late wife, Vivíana, and all women affected by breast cancer. Díaz says of this portrait: ‘Sofía looks us in the eye and tells us who she is and how she lives today: accepting her new reality, valuing a different kind of beauty, more authentic and more profound.’

Three Generations, From the series Family Extension, Sipke Visser, April 2013 (Image Source:

The portrait is of Visser’s newly born daughter, his girlfriend and her mother. He says of the portrait: ‘My daughter was born at 3am. The photograph was taken towards the end of the morning when everyone involved was exhausted and had fallen asleep.’

Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize
National Portrait Gallery
Till 9 Feb 2014

Foreign Bodies, Common Ground


It’s not very easy to make artistic interpretations of medical research, and present them in a way that captures both the data sets and the mindsets of the community the research sustains. But then when do we ever want easy?

The Wellcome Collection’s current exhibition Foreign Bodies, Common Ground presents the output of six artists who did residences at research centres in Thailand, Vietnam, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa and United Kingdom. The brief given to them was simple enough – explore the research being done at the centre, find an area that interests you, and make art out of it.

The responses are varied as are the works. Some focus on the science alone, while in other cases the local communities are encouraged to tell their side of the story. But either which way you realise that wherever you might be in the world – good health, strong community ties, and the opportunity and ability to earn one’s living – are common ground for every human being.

Here are some of the works that made us flip out our little black books to take notes –

Zwelethu Mthethwa (South Africa) worked with the Africa Centre for Health and Population Studies to explore their HIV research data collection techniques. Here are some of the images he’s showing, taken by young locals who were asked to capture an image of good health. The young boy all dressed up for church holding a condom in his hand , says it all.

Nothando Sabela, Yoga with NO face, 2012
Nothando Sabela, Vinyasa Flow 2, 2012


Sebenzile Nkwanyana, Save Me, 2012
Sebenzile Nkwanyana, Save Me, 2012


Siboniso Bhekumusa Sibiya, The Fountain, 2012
Siboniso Bhekumusa Sibiya, The Fountain, 2012


Sanele Mbokazi, Splash, 2012
Sanele Mbokazi, Splash, 2012


Lêna Bùi (Vietnam) examined zoonosis or the transfer of diseases from animals to humans. Her stunning video Where birds dance their last, follows the locals of the Trieu Khuc village who earn their living collecting chicken and duck feathers. This community was badly affected economically during the avian flu outbreak in 2008, though none of them contracted the flu themselves.

Lena Bui, Where birds dance their last, 2012
Lena Bui, Where birds dance their last, 2012


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And among the works on display by Miriam Syowia Kyambi and James Muriuki (Kenya) are two stunning images that represent the thin layer that separates the medical professional from the disease and the human being they are administering. Simple yet highly evocative images!

Miriam Syowia Kyambi and James Muriuki, Conjure Paths, 2012
Miriam Syowia Kyambi and James Muriuki, Conjure Paths, 2012


Miriam Syowia Kyambi and James Muriuki, Conjure Skies, 2012
Miriam Syowia Kyambi and James Muriuki, Conjure Skies, 2012



Foreign Bodies, Common Ground
Wellcome Collection
Till 30 June 2013