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British Living, Portraits of Style Visionaries
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In the words of legendary fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, “There is nowhere else like London. Nothing at all, anywhere”.

In our fifth issue, Esensual Living explores what it is about Great Britain and its capital that continues to attract the greatest minds and talent from across the world and how its blossoming multiculturalism has added to its eclectic fusion of high and popular culture.

 

For a deeper insight into what makes Britain great, we asked our Style Visionaries the following four key questions:

1. Why has Great Britain continued to be a destination for thriving artistic talent?

2. What is your interpretation of “Cool Britannia” and how has it shaped today’s creative landscape?

3. Which British landmark inspires your work?

4. How does Britain’s multi-cultural heritage influence your work and life today?

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Solange Azagury-Partridge
 

SOLANGE AZAGURY-PARTRIDGE

 

LONDON JEWELLERY DESIGNER SOLANGE AZAGURY-PARTRIDGE IS KNOWN FOR HER DRAMATIC SCULPTURAL SETTINGS AND UNCONVENTIONAL COMBINATIONS OF UNCUT PRECIOUS AND SEMI PRECIOUS STONES. A FORMER CREATIVE DIRECTOR OF BOUCHERON, HER BEWITCHING, SENSUAL AND COURAGEOUS CREATIONS ARE HIGHLY ARTISTIC AND PAY HOMAGE TO THE FACT THAT SHE IS SELF-TAUGHT. BOTH THE MUSEE DES ARTS DECORATIFS IN PARIS AND THE VICTORIA & ALBERT MUSEUM IN LONDON HAVE SNAPPED UP PIECES FOR THEIR PERMANENT COLLECTIONS.

 

1. Britain has such incredible heritage artistically combined with a totally modern perspective. The cultural diversity combined with such extraordinary geographic characteristics means there is always a rich seam of inspiration to tap into. If you want to feel refreshed and reinvigorated you only have to step outside of the urban landscape, a trip to the countryside perhaps, then to come back to the city reinforces the punch that change brings. The cult of individualism is also a motor for creativity.

2. ‘Cool Britannia’ is two fold for me, one aspect is that homegrown British talent has such huge influence through it’s being utilised by international establishments in pretty much every field – art, fashion, music, architecture etc . Also I think the fact that we are an island race which still manages to welcome the influence of other cultures that have settled here, keeps the dynamic constantly shifting and updating itself.

3. All of them. But I particularly love the Houses of Parliament. Gothic and splendid. The seat of democracy and freedom. I always remember alighting from the Eurostar from Paris and driving back home past the Houses of Parliament and feeling a sense of happiness at being home and safe at last.

4. You could claim my own heritage ties in directly with the definition of Britain’s multi-culturalism. My parents are Sephardic Jews from Casablanca, I was conceived there and yet born and raised in Britain, so there are those different angles to my point of view which translate into and influence my aesthetic.

www.solangeazagurypartridge.com

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Courtesy of Solange Azagury-Partridge
british-living british-living
Courtesy of Solange Azagury-Partridge
 
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CAROLYN QUARTERMAINE
Courtesy of Carolyn Quartermaine
 

CAROLYN QUARTERMAINE

 

FOR CAROLYN QUARTERMAINE, IT IS ALL ABOUT VISUAL HARMONY. WHETHER CREATING INTERIORS, DESIGNING TEXTILES PRINTED WITH 17TH CENTURY FRENCH SCRIPT, OR PRODUCING BEAUTIFULLY PACKAGED CHINAWARE, QUARTERMAINE IS NOT AFRAID OF MIXING PATTERNS AND STYLES OR FUSING THE FRAGILE WITH THE TOUGH, RATHER LIKE A COLLAGE. A PAINTER AT HEART, SHE HAS DESIGNED FOR BACCARAT, HERMES AND LOUIS VUITTON AS WELL AS DOING THE INTERIORS FOR LONDON’S BLUEBIRD RESTAURANT AND SKETCH.

 

1. I think it's an Island thing … It brews creativity. we look outwards not inwards and with a strong sense of history and anarchy … Which makes the clashes so interesting, just think of Punk … It could only have started here …

2. I HATE this term … It's fake … It was created as a piece of political marketing and stuck … Was misused, miscredited part of a generation …Once you say something is cool it's over … Really it makes me cringe ...

3. English country gardens … Blowsy overgrown, wild, loved … and rolling fields around them …

4. It's so completely natural to look and use and blend and mix … That its hard for me to even analyse... I think we just don't have the boundaries the rest of Europe seems so stuck with. Our music, art, fashion … Its always been a culture blend … We are voyagers we bring back and we mix …

www.carolynquartermaine.com

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Courtesy of Carolyn Quartermaine
 
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TOM DIXON
Peer Lingreen
 

TOM DIXON

 

INTERNATIONALLY RENOWNED, ICONIC DESIGNER TOM DIXON EXEMPLIFIES MODERN BRITISH DESIGN AT ITS BEST. TUNISIAN-BORN, LONDON-RAISED AND SELF-TAUGHT, DIXON STARTED OUT WELDING RECYCLED SCRAP METAL INTO STRUCTURAL OBJECTS. THROUGH SHOWING HIS WORKS WITH THEMES AND VARIATIONS IN NOTTING HILL IN THE LATE 80’S, HE GAINED A LOYAL FOLLOWING AND WENT ON TO DESIGN HIS ICONIC S-CHAIR, WHICH PROPELLED HIM TO THE INTERNATIONAL STAGE. FOLLOWING A LONG PERIOD AS HABITAT’S CREATIVE DIRECTOR AND FORMING HIS OWN BRAND IN 2002, DIXON HAD BECOME A HOUSEHOLD NAME WITH AN OBE AWARDED FOR SERVICES TO DESIGN. IN 2010 DIXON LAUNCHED HIS INCREDIBLE LIFESTYLE EMPORIUM, TOM DIXON AT PORTOBELLO DOCKS, HOUSED IN A CONVERTED CANAL-SIDE WHARF BUILDING OFF LADBROKE GROVE THAT SHOWCASES HIS OWN DESIGNS ALONGSIDE A SELECTION OF OTHER BRANDS. AS ONE OF BRITAIN’S UNIQUE AND INNOVATIVE DESIGNERS, DIXON HAS NEVER LOOKED BACK.

 

1. The last twenty years has seen the UK opening up to the world in terms of assimilating huge amounts of influences, culture and populations from all over the globe. It has reinvented itself as a place where art, finance, international food, design, digital, architecture, transport, fashion and business can all overlap and feed each other on an international stage, making a landscape that is unrecognisable to the UK that I grew up in.

2. This was just a government title for a movement that really didn't exist in the real world. But in a way it was an acknowledgement that creative industry has a role in generating jobs, money and pride in a Nation’s output.

3. Stonehenge – rough, primitive, deceptively simple and under-designed !

4. I live a multi-cultural life, having been born in Tunisia, lived in Morocco and Egypt before moving to the UK, having French and Latvian grandparents – so for me The UK is the perfect place to create an interior design aesthetic that can incorporate and reinvent influences from all over the world. We do this in our restaurant, with different tastes and spices, and we do it in studio with maybe 20 nationalities working here.
The modern designer HAS to be someone who is interested and engaged with the whole world, whilst keeping a strong sense of their own roots and heritage.

www.tomdixon.net

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Courtesy of Tom Dixon
 
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Courtesy of Jo Whiting
 

JO WHITING

JO WHITING’S CONTEMPORARY LIGHT FITTINGS HAVE REDEFINED THE CHANDELIER. MADE OF PAPER-THIN PORCELAIN TILES LAYERED UPON ONE ANOTHER, EACH INSTALLATION IS A BESPOKE, HAND MADE SCULPTURAL PIECE THAT HAS THE UNIQUE ABILITY OF SEEMING BOLD AND DELICATE AT THE SAME TIME. VISUALLY STUNNING, THEY TOTALLY TRANSFORM THE SPACE THEY OCCUPY. HER TALENT IS SOUGHT AFTER BY ARCHITECTS AND INTERIOR DESIGNERS FOR COMMERCIAL AND PRIVATE COMMISSIONS, INCLUDING TERENCE CONRAN WITH WHOM SHE HAS WORKED WITH ON PROJECTS IN LONDON AND NEW YORK.

 

1. I think Great Britain is good at celebrating artistic talent and this encourages and challenges all who take part.

2. 'Cool Britannia' to me, is a phrase of a generation of creative talent that have succeeded in capturing the interest of the public eye by pushing the boundaries.

3. Buildings inspire me. The Royal Festival Hall along with the South Bank.

4. It is inspiring - A complete catalogue of amazing references!

www.jowhiting.com

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Courtesy of Jo Whiting
 
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David Gill
Courtesy of David Gill
 

DAVID GILL

 

WHEN IT COMES TO 20TH CENTURY AND CONTEMPORARY DESIGN, GALLERIST DAVID GILL IS A TRUE PIONEER, WITH A PERFECT EYE AND AN UNRIVALLED ABILITY TO SEEK OUT THE BEST.
“I SIMPLY KNOW WHAT’S GOOD…” SAYS THE MAN WHO SHOWED ZAHA HADID’S FIRST FURNITURE COLLECTION.
A RENOWNED COLLECTOR HIMSELF, GILL IS FAMOUS FOR CHAMPIONING THE WORKS OF SEVERAL DESIGNERS WHO HAVE BECOME WORLD FAMOUS, AMONG THEM TOM DIXON AND GRAYSON PERRY.
HIS UNIQUE FLAIR STEMS FROM HAVING AN INSTINCTIVE UNDERSTANDING OF ART AND DESIGN AS WELL AS AN OPEN MIND AND TONS OF AUDACITY. HIS FIRST GALLERY, OPENED IN 1987 ON THE FULHAM ROAD, SPECIALISED IN 20TH CENTURY PIECES WHILE THOSE AROUND HIM WERE DOING GEORGIAN FURNITURE AND ANTIQUES.
GILL’S NEW SPACE IS ON KING ST IN ST JAMES’S, PROVIDING A FRESH STAGE FOR THIS WONDERFULLY TALENTED AND WHIMSICAL STYLE MAGICIAN.

1. London is a catalyst of creativity with world influence attracting a diversity of artistic talents.

2. Quintessentially Britishness has always been on the cutting edge despite its tradition and conservative approach. A nation with its colours, music and language open to the world with creativity and coolness.

3. There is not one – London does.

4. London with its wealth of history, its architecture, art, fashion and all the cultural mix of this metropolis makes it alive and a great platform to create or draw ideas.

www.davidgillgalleries.com

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Courtesy of David Gill
 
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Courtesy of Minnie Weisz
 

MINNIE WEISZ

 

PHOTOGRAPHER AND CURATOR MINNIE WEISZ HAS A PASSION FOR CRUMBLING, DERELICT BUILDINGS, PLACING THEM CENTRE STAGE IN HER CAMERA OBSCURA CREATIONS. THROUGH PINHOLE PHOTOGRAPHY, WEISZ JUXTAPOSES INVERTED EXTERIOR IMAGES OF RECOGNISABLE LANDMARKS ONTO THE INTERIOR WALLS OF THESE VACANT AND FORGOTTEN SPACES. INSPIRED BY THE SOCIAL HISTORY AND CONTEXT OF THE SURROUNDING AREA, WEISZ’S PHOTOGRAPHS CAPTURE A MOOD AND TELL A STORY OF LIVES ON THE BRINK OF CHANGE. FITTINGLY, WEISZ’S STUDIO IS HOUSED IN ONE OF THE REMAINING LISTED RAILWAY ARCHES BEHIND ST PANCRAS STATION IN LONDON. 

 

1. There seems to be a sense of artistic freedom in the UK, it's a hotbed for experimentation in art, design and ideas. Though we are a separate wind-swept isle, we are closely linked with Europe especially since the Eurostar, which has meant a close connection with ideas and inspiration from Paris, which is still very much the centre for photography. There seems to be more scope in England for experimentation, and galvanising new ideas towards art and design, artists I feel are less pigeon-holed in England, and can cross many artistic boundaries photography, moving image and art.

2. When I first saw this question I thought of Brit Pop and the early nineties,I think this is when this term was first initiated, the days of Blur, and Suede, and lastly Blair, and now I do know there is a shop on Piccadilly Circus with the same name, which sells all things British, I don't feel necessarily patriotic towards England, though I was born here, my family are from Italy, Hungary and Austria. I am not at all pro-the Royal Family - so I think Cool Britannia eludes to the Monarchy in some way - I think it’s great that we're closer to Europe, and to have this collaboration of ideas between artists and galleries - there seems to be more freedom of ideas, and creativity. My next show will be in Croatia, but it is interesting that I managed to make a link with Gallery Makinain Pula, Istria from my little studio in King's Cross, London ! The gallery director has never been to London, which I find charming, though he has travelled the world, it will be interesting to invite him to London, and make the connection with our great city. I do feel that us Londoners think that we are at the centre of the world, and we are not! But we do know how to make long lasting links culturally with other platforms of media, which is always rewarding, and encourages one to make new ideas and links with other places.

This cross pollination of ideas, enhances creativity and new artistic frontiers to discover and learn from. In terms of architecture, London has a very organic feel, an organic haphazardness of new buildings mixed with old ancient streets. There are constantly new buildings being erected and allowing for older buildings to be preserved, London is in a constant state of flux, the old mixed with the new. I love the organic way London can be read through its streets and architecture, there is always a street corner or a side walk waiting to be discovered. That is exciting, London has been my playground until the present day and beyond!

3. A group of Victorian Gas holders in London's King's Cross was a very inspiring landmark in the Kings Cross landscape, in my work, now they have been dismantled and will be resurrected as circular flats and a viewing platform in the new neighbourhood of King's Cross, which is fast growing into a mini metropolis at the centre of London. Many of the Victorian warehouses in King's Cross have inspired my work, and now if I think to greater London, Covent Garden Piazza, I find inspiring especially when researching the history in this part of London,

its fascinating, St. Paul's Church built by Inigo Jones, on the Piazza, is called the Actors church which I only discovered recently is where Vivian Leigh is buried, among many others, and behind it lies a ' secret garden' - I love finding ' secret' places in London, tiny back alleyways which wind their way through covent garden and down to the Strand and the Thames … since being artist in residence at the London Film Museum, Covent Garden and the landmark of the Thames River, with its rich history, is now my hunting ground, for new buildings to discover. I must say the ' Eye' is a wonderful feat of human ingenuity, craftsmanship and science, I always marvel at its structure and its delight in London's landscape, it is eye catching, and wonderfully awe-inspiring, and also less serious in a way than other landmarks in London. It’s a playful structure, which I find inspiring and is built primarily to be looked at and to be enjoyed by its audience of London and visitors. So the London Eye is a wonderful architectural joy purely for pleasure and to enjoy London from a great height. It is whimsical and playful, which belies the mechanical genius which has created this landmark.

4. The public often writes to me about how my work has inspired them, often writers/novelists, one being Wendy Wallace/The Painted Bridge, who are interested in preserving the past history of London/England through stories, and story telling. Through the research I have done in King's Cross London a myriad of stories has evolved from previous families who lived in the area, because of London's diverse cultural heritage this informs stories from further afield and allows for different trajectories of viewing everyday life in different ways. It also makes for interesting collaborations crossing continents and ideas, and therefore makes for a rich life of ideas here in London as an artist.

www.minnieweisz.co.uk

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Courtesy of Minnie Weisz
british-living british-living
Courtesy of Minnie Weisz
 

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