Friday, 30 July 2010


If I offend dog lovers by dressing pooches up in frocks, I am only using these sad little confections as a metaphor for what we tend to do with our human pets.

That Pinking Feeling

Pink is a delicious colour but little girls, particularly the ‘tween’ market, are bombarded with pink merchandising opportunities that dominate their wardrobes, their accessories, their worlds.  This seems to pose no other narrative, no other gender choice than a ‘girliness’ that is becoming commodified and toxic: contaminated with sentimentality, anxiety and a sophistication that only accelerates the loss of childhood innocence.

Most of these paintings were made for an exhibition at Southampton Solent University in 2008.  The horrible phenomenon of the beauty pageant was an insistent idea behind this somewhat uncomfortable project.  

Caged Bird

Candy Lamb

Are You Sure You Really Love Me?

 Bunny Cuddles

Play Time

All images © Rosie West

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Pure Allure

Oh what a treat last night! We were invited to the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden  for the Bolshoi Ballet’s ‘Spartacus’ with the music of Khachaturian.   Excited by the prospect the fabled Bolshoi,  I was unsure about the choice of Spartacus imagining it to be visually spare, ascetic and  just hard work, frankly. I was wrong and had to eat my uninformed hat: it was thrilling, beguiling and a magnificent spectacle.

The background to Spartacus’s rebellion of the slaves was the dissolute behaviour at the heart of the Roman Empire. With sly wit, choreographer Yuri Grigovich juxtaposed the military aggression with a bacchanal of the effete Roman elite, of satyrs and dancing girls; and later amongst half the followers of Spartacus who turned against their leader when seduced into lustful abandon by the Roman general’s courtesan Aegina.  Maria Allash in that role was  sexy and capricious, a real handful.  Her tiny toga was draped to expose a bare breast cleverly conceived by a little circle of red sequins on flesh-coloured net.  Her General (Alexander Volchkov) had the finest legs below his leather tunic that I’ve ever had the privilege to dwell upon and, boyishly glamorous, he evinced a camp kind of menace. (On a fashion note, here were the most fitting gladiator sandals of the season.)   

Dominating the production was  the overwhelmingly virile, saturnine presence of Ivan Vasiliev as Spartacus.  At only twenty-one, he is being hailed as a once-in-a-generation icon, the next Barishnikov?    Stocky, athletic and savage he seemed to demonstrate the limits of human strength and agility as well as the gift of flight. And yet he was most tenderly passionate towards his lover Phrygia (Nina Kaptsova) who bent and wavered and wafted like a willow in the breeze.

In the midst of my first attempt as ballet critic, a curious thought struck me.  I don't suppose the T*l*b*n would be too happy with this physicality, this intimacy, this state of undress.  I pondered the matter from a socio-religio-political angle on the way to the pub and suddenly heard myself asking my other half ‘By the way, did you find anything untoward happening in the trouser department tonight?’  Choking on his Guinness the answer was an emphatic NO.  ‘Okay, okay, just checking out the corrupting power of dance on the average British male.’

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Great Colour Combinations: Red & Pink

One of the most depressing aspects of the landscape of bringing up children  is the cacophony of crude colours or sickly pastels.  (Luckily my small grandson prefers a more muted palette: any kind of hose pipe, mobile phones, tools, car steering wheels..  )  I  turn to Hollywood musical ensembles or ballet on You Tube to find the World's unsung colourist heroes - costume designers.  The gift of creating a moving tableau that is gorgeous but subtle, I always find miraculous.  

Well here, the bold juxtaposition of pink and red, or pink and vermillion is not exactly subtle but they really pull it off in these two films.  As a child with red hair, my mother would never let me wear pink. As much as I loved her,  I never forgave her then and still don't. 

Here is Rosemary Clooney in Red Garters (1954) directed by George Marshall.  Costumes by Edith Head.  (No surprise there for genius.)

And Dorothy Jeakins created these shockingly wonderful petticoats in The Music Man (1962) dir. Morton DaCosta.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Scenes From The Mess In My House

Uh oh, I'm panicking again because I need to do another post in a hurry.  Here is a selection of my artwork interspersed with my mess.  That's it, really.

Toot Toot!  Back Soon

Sunday, 4 July 2010

That Time of Year

The Stars and Stripes on the River Thames at Henley Royal Regatta 

For all my lovely American friends
on the Fourth of July

Mallards settle on Brian Flattery's slipper launch moored outside his fine house which overlooks the Regatta's finishing line.  He has lived there for over ten years. Mr Flattery, a former state energy official in North Carolina, looked unmistakably American when we met him on Friday in his blue and white striped seersucker suit and preppy rounded collar with pink braces (suspenders, I think you call them.)  His blue tie bore the emblem of the famous Leander Rowing Club, pink hippos.  Pink is the colour at Henley: it is Leander. 

 Famously hospitable, whenever possible he hosts an Independence Day party, inviting American crews to participate. “We read the Declaration of Independence and throw tea into the Thames at 1:30 p.m. on July 4th…. it’s all done in good sport. We always have an Englishman read the Declaration so we have the proper accent” he laughs. [quoted from The Henley Standard July 2008]  

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