Tag Archive for: Art

Paul Jackson Pollock, born January 28 1912, Cody, Wyoming, died Springs, New York, August 11 1956; Caroline Gameiro Lopes Martins, born February 26 1986, São Paulo, Brazil, currently running a fine dining pop-up in Ancoats, Manchester, named after her birth city.

Bespattered. It is one of my favourite words. Usually the ensuing messy chaos is accidental but in certain hands maybe it transcends random… Take Abstract Expressionism, that jazzy, canvas-bespattering art movement that caused quite a splash when it sprang up in mid-1940s New York. Its mythic master Jackson Pollock said of it: “I think they should look not for, but look passively…it should be enjoyed just as music is enjoyed”.

A typical Jackson Pollock canvas – inspiration for edible art forms?

Maybe the climactic dessert of Caroline Martins’ new 12 course tasting menu at the Sao Paulo Project is in a minor key alongside Pollock’s provocative Mahleresque symphonies in squirted household paint, but it has the advantage of being hugely tasty, too, thanks in no small part to the flavours of her native Brazil that pervade Caroline’s culinary art. 

That £58 tasting menu. currently available at her residency at Blossom Street Social in Ancoats (opposite Sugo and the Hip Hop Social), showcases exotic ingredients such as cumaru (tonka beans), jilo (slightly bitter tomato-aubergine cross), papaya seeds, artisanal dende (palm) oil, preserved Brazilian green fig, farofa (cassava crumble) and jambu flower alongside some cleverly sourced local ingredients.

Great to see a newcomer in her repertoire, vegetables from Cinderwood Market Garden, served simply with a parmesan sauce, brazil nut hummus and an olive crumble. Quite a contrast to the stalwart rosemary-scented edible beef fat candle, crafted out of beef rump cap dripping, where another herb, lovage, colours the moat of melted fat to dip your Brazilian cheese rolls into.

Lobster tail moqueca, Caroline’s take on a traditional seafood stew, and dry aged rib-eye feel surprisingly straightforward in contrast but the pre-dessert is the harbinger of wackiness ahead. A lime ice lolly, accompanied by a Brazilian honey liqueur is a kind of cool counterpoint to the candle, offering a chance in essence to construct your own Caipirinha.

Then the fireworks begin. Maybe in her fleeting appearance on BBC’s Great British Menu her sheer ambition perhaps undid her in her low-scoring ‘fish course’ but she is undeterred in playfully pushing back the boundaries. Hence what is literally a ‘signature’ dish with the likes of basil custard and coconut yoghurt scrawled across a huge black base. Dotted with  cubes of coconut candy, cassava biscuit, guava candy and banana candy, the centrepiece is a smashed ‘bowl’ of Manchester’s finest artisan chocolate, Dormouse (from specially imported Brazilian beans), containing passion fruit mousse, rose petals, coconut granola, merengue and marshmallow. 

Our seen-it-all chihuahua companion, Captain Smidge had kept his equipoise after a surfeit of flash-freezing liquid nitrogen in the build-up. The completed version did look the kind of spread best suited to his natural tongue action; we spooned it all up determinedly.

Six months on since first tasting it, the Sao Paulo food offering has forged ever stronger bonds between British and Brazilian raw materials. Unique? Possibly. It has certainly earned her a nomination for Chef of the Year in the 2022 Manchester Food and Drink Awards.

Of course, there’s nothing new under the sun. That expansive chocolate pud is descended from the presentational adventures of Grant Achatz. Not to be confused with the unpalatable Grant Schapps, Achatz has now held three Michelin star for 12 years at Alinea in Chicago. And yes his approach has led to some ‘serious analysis’. 

Grant Achatz has perfected a scattergun approach to presentation of his stellar food at Alinea

If you really must, delve into Hungry for Art‘a semiotic reading of food signifying art in the episode Grant Achatz (2016) in the documentary Chef’s Table’. The first chapter focuses on the intertextuality between a dish presented in Netflix’s Chef’s Table and the paintings of Jackson Pollock.

Better use of your time? Check out our own next chapter, Ancoats Expressionism According to Caroline Martins’ Great Brazilian Menu.

Caroline Martins’ Sao Paolo Project is at Blossom Street Social, 51 Blossom Street, Ancoats, Manchester M4 6AJ.

With David Hockney I’ve got previous. Alas, I wasn’t poolside in L.A. for The Bigger Splash. And it was Ossie Clark not me with the white cat on his knee in Mr & Mrs Clark and Percy. That was the Sixties when the bottle-blond, bespectacled Bradfordian forged his artistic legend. I enter the story only a decade ago outside Bridlington, getting lost in a quest to find a certain Woldgate.

That was the 10-mile straight, single track unmetalled (probably Roman) road linking the slightly shabby East Riding resort with its rolling hinterland, the Yorkshire Wolds. If it weren’t for Hockney swapping his Californian exile in search of a different landscape and quality of light, Woldgate would have remained an afternoon drive cherished by locals, its woods left to foxes, woodpeckers and tinkers. We finally got directions to this “woodland tunnel” from a local pub, The Old Star, where we’d spotted a picture of the artist and pals on the wall. Before the smoking ban excluded his compulsive pastime he was apparently a regular there.

We admired the immense, understated beauty of the landscape that the artist, then well into his seventies, captured in paint and iPad image for his show, The Bigger Picture. Not everyone was a fan. An old acquaintance of mine, Brian Sewell, art critic of the Evening Standard ,wrote: ”My predominant response to David Hockney’s exhibition of Yorkshire landscapes at the Royal Academy is ‘Why?’. Why is there so much of it? Why is so much of it so big, so towering, so vast, so overblown and corpulent? Why is it so repetitive? Why is everything so unreally bright, so garish, discordant, raw and Romany? Why is the brushwork so careless, crude and coarse?”

Make your own mind up. All those Wolds images are in situ at Salt’s Mill, Saltaire. But they are no longer the prime Hockney reason to visit this former textile mill, now an art gallery, upmarket household boutique and restaurant complex at the heart of the model village created by 19th century philanthropic industrialist Sir Titus Salt. Hockney super-fan Jonathan Silver bought the building, once the largest factory in the world, in the Seventies and created a showcase for his art.

The vast Salt’s Mill roof space can accommodate the sheer scale of Hockney’s celebration of his adopted Normandy

Silver died of cancer in 1997, but his ghost would surely relish the current big draw in the vast open top floor space – David Hockney: A Year In Normandie. At 90.75 metres long this is David Hockney’s biggest ever picture: a vibrant, joyful frieze recording the changing seasons in and around the artist’s garden in Normandy, where he sat out Covid lockdown. 

The house Hockney immediately fell in love with lies just outside the picture-perfect village of Beuvron-en-Auge, ten miles south of Cabourg and 40 east of Bayeux with its 70 metre long embroidered Tapestry that sets the benchmark for pictorial ambition.

Beuvron is a picturesque tangle of historic timbered and half-timbered buildings at the epicentre of the region’s main apple growing area, the fruit used for cider and Calvados. This rustic backdrop is reflected in the frieze – from the overflowing blossom of spring to the gaunt, bare orchards in winter. All recreated via pinning together in one continuous length most of the 220 paintings Hockney created on his iPad and printed onto paper. The enormous attic space with its own aged beams feels like gallery come barn, which is just perfect.

This is the first time this work has been seen in the UK; previously it was on display at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris. Hockney, now 85, traces its genesis back to when he first laid eyes upon a 30 metre long Chinese scroll painting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York in 1983, which he recalls as “one of the most exciting days” of his life.

Spoiler alert, not everyone’s excited about Normandie. The critical opprobrium is led by Observer art critic Laura Cummings: “A graze of parallel lines stands for a leaf or cloud; dots of different density are used for seeds, flowers or rising suns; grass comes ribbed, knitted or in sharp little toothpicks. Ready-made motifs proliferate. Blossoms are arrays of danish pastry whorls, both ugly and unpersuasive. Even the innately beautiful structure of a tree is undermined by the stick-figure lines, which lack all eloquence or fluidity. The register is as false and fudged as an electronic signature.”

I think that verdict is harsh. OK, the content is readily transferable into notebook, calendar of souvenir mug for. Yet, the colourful, pastoral positivity is a pick-me-up after all we have endured and are enduring. As Voltaire advises: “Il faut cultiver son jardin”. Vicariously, in this case, through the vision of Monsieur Hockney of Beuvron and Bridlington.

Do make your own mind up about this genuine magnum opus. Normandie is on at Salt’s Mill & 1853 Gallery until Sunday, September 18, 2022. Entry is free and there’s lots else to occupy you in this World Heritage Status enclave.

Fashion and diamonds, waffles and ales – Antwerp’s a heady mix even before its surreal side creeps up on you. And it will. Just let it. Rubens and Bruegel, the gabled Grote Markt and the soaring Flemish Gothic cathedral offer you art and architecture with a Capital A, but don’t neglect the hard-nosed quirkiness that also stalks this town, so perfect for an offbeat weekend break.

Step into the Chocolate Line workshop of self-styled “Shok-o-llatier” Dominique Persoone and ask for one of his chocolate shooters, which catapult finely ground dust of of exotically flavoured cocoa up your nose. No sniggers when you learn they were first commissioned by the wives of Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts for a surprise birthday party for their Rolling Stone husbands.

“Instead of putting chocolate on the dish, because they were the rock ‘n’ roll grandpas, we thought they should sniff the chocolate and to get a good result we designed a machine for that,” says maverick Dominique. “We just made one for that party, but then everybody talked about it in the newspapers, so then we had to make it commercial because everybody was asking for it.”

My companion took the full whoosh of a ginger flavoured shooter, while I suffered the lingering torment of sucking on a wasabi suffused truffle. Heston Blumenthal is a fan. I can see why.

The Paris-trained chef with a “chocolate is rock and roll” tattoo on his right bicep, set up hisfirst shop in his native Bruges; the Antwerp offshoot, utilising the finest South American source materials, is inside the splendid 18th century mansion called the Palais op de Meir (Meir is the main shopping drag between the imposing, gilt-encrusted Centraal Station and the Old Town).

The Palais once belonged to Napoleon, so our Flemish Willy Wonka created a chocolate in homage in the shape of a bicorne hat, filled with marzipan, cherry liquor and bitter banana cream. Look out for poodles and frogs crafted out of the finest cacao.

A sweet alternative is the waffle and doyen of these in a city that likes to snack is Désiré De Lille on Schrijnwerkerstraat (easier to pronounce than spell, it means Blacksmith Street). Desire’s HQ has a decided 1930s feel about it. Pass through to the glass pergola at the back where carp-teeming pools give it a lightly oriental garden feel. Decidedly not light are the alternatives to waffles and doughnuts – smoutebollen, or deep-fried lard balls. Good ballast, as they say.

Just the thing before running the considerable gamut of celebrated Belgian beer styles – immensely drinkable, deceptively strong Duval, various Trappiste ales such as Westmalle, Orval and Chimay and the sour, challenging Geuzes and Lambics, their grip sometimes softened by fruit in variants such as Kriek (cherry).

Step into the kitschfest that is Het Elfde Gebod, self-styled ‘The Holy Place’ on Torfbrug, more a shrine to monkish merriment than your average beer bar, and order the local De Koninck. “Ah, you want a bolleke,” the waitress tells you. That’s the local globe-shaped glass it comes in. That’s what you ask for here and in more classic “brown” long bars like Cafe Den Engel, centre of the Antwerp convivial universe with a view across the Grote Markt of the 400ft lacy spire of the Onze Lieve Vrouwekathedraal (Our Lady’s Cathedral).

This light-filled Gothic leviathan houses the pinnacle of resident genius Rubens’ devotional works, but before you make the pilgrimage across the cobbles to worship the sublime Descent from The Cross, central panel of a tryptich. and three other masterpieces, stop off at the statue of Brabo in front of the town hall (Stadhuis)  

Brabo? Verdigris coated nude chucking a severed hand, like some deranged baseball pitcher shedding his mitt. Symbol of the city. Antwerp translates as hand throwing in Dutch. Legend has a giant (or heavily-built entrepreneur) called Druon Antigon who lopped off the hand of any sailor unable or unwilling to pay the toll to sail on the River Scheldt. he was finally defeated and has his own hand detached by the Roman soldier Silvious Brabo, who then became the Duke of Brabant.

The hand symbol is all over a riverside museum opened a decade ago to explore the city’s past, ethnography  and many big issues (Life and Death anyone?). Oh and check out the luminously disorienting Matrix room! Yes we’re back with quirky. The MAS, (Museum aan de Stroom) is a striking building resembling a pile of rusty red horizontal box files.

Offering panoramic views of the city, it is the centrepiece of the Het Eilandje district, regenerating the old docks, Bonapartedok and Willemdok, which also hosts the Red Star Line Museum, tracing the exodus of 2 million emigrants across the Atlantic on the company’s steamers. 

Classy eating options are already in place. The dockside Het Pomphuis was completed in 1920 as one of the largest pumping stations in Europe. All this industrial heritage is the backdrop to the restaurant’s culinary aspirations.

After the Cathedral, a craving for art having overtaken one for waffles and a swift bolleke, I’d recommend visiting the much-restored Rubenshuis. It’s not crammed with his works (though don’t miss a fascinating self-portrait of 1630), but it is an atmospheric introduction to a hugely successful as well as great artist, who spent much of his life in Antwerp.

A generation before, Pieter Bruegel the Elder also spent a period living in the city. His Dulle Griet (Mad Meg) from 1562 is a nightmarish Hieronymous Bosch like allegory depicting a peasant who leads an army of women to pillage Hell. It was discovered at an auction in 1897 and bought for a minimal sum by a young collector called Fritz Mayer van den Bergh. Four years later he was dead and his mother built a gallery in his name to house Meg and the rest of his 1,000 artworks, mostly from the Northern Renaissance. Just south of the Grote Markt on Lange Gasthuisstraat, it is a gem of a place. I had it to myself visiting the city’s Sunday street markets.

Not far away, in the Vrijdagmarkt square, is the Plantin-Moretus Museum, a well-preserved building, which in the 16th century housed 22 printing presses and was a magnet for dissident intellectuals. Alongside old presses, the museum contains many printed treasures including Mercator maps and a Gothenburg bible. Afterwards, just wander alleys that have remained from medieval times to get a feel for the city of Rubens, Bruegel and printer Plantin.

I’d like to say I got round to exploring the Diamond Quarter (it’s superficially drab and was closed for the weekend) and the Fashion Quarter – I kept discovering fashionable new beers and genevers (gins) instead – but I am assured Antwerp is a place to come for affordability and individual chic. The Tourism Information folk can supply an Antwerp fashion map, if you feel the style urge.

There’s so much to occupy your entire weekend without leaving the Old Town, but we did venture, via Tram Route 8 from Groenplaats, to the increasingly trendy South Side of the city. We gawped at the spiky Law Courts complex designed by Richard Rogers before visiting the old De Koninck brewery for a final bolleke of the visit (and much Duvel and Kriek, too) in a cheese matching event organised by the best cheese affineur (maturer) in town and in Europe according the Wall Street Journal  – Van Tricht. Their cheese shop in Fruithoflaan is well worth a visit… but even a few nibbles do raise a thirst. Cheers! Santé! Or as they say in Flemish: Op uw gezondheid!


This is essential for exploring the city thoroughly. It costs 37 euros for 48 hours and gives you free entry to all Antwerp museums and monumental churches, including the Cathedral of Our Lady, a free printed map guide, a discount of at least 25 per cent on tourist attractions, sightseeing and bike rentals plus special offers on typical Antwerp and Belgian products, such as chocolate.