Sitting at our kitchen table where she has sat hundreds of times before Padma says “I am lost”.


Continuing with research into the history of global sea trade, especially early trade in spice, dyes, fabric and sugar and confirm that it is the story of the slave trade.  Making Mood Indigo pieces and playing Nina Simone.


Also slowly slowly working on dutch gilding wheat for my installation piece for Chelsea.



This week and for the next few weeks I am really busy just making and organising things for the summer when I have a series of events coming up:

I am making a plinth for on of my pieces in:


Nautical Perspectives, Commodity Quay, St Katherine’s Dock 1st-15th May, opening times, 11am to 6 except the final day when it closes at 4.


I need some prints packaged up for Fortunate Events, East Finchley 10-4 20 May


Then I will be to getting on with the pieces for my installation at the Chelsea Charity Street Party for Pocket Arts. 11th June


And after that get organised for Kensington and Fulham Open Art Spaces, an Open Studio event with alternative spaces:  I will be showing in Faron Sutaria, North End Road, Fulham.   You can meet me there Friday 24th, 25th and 26th June, between 11am and 4pm,  and on 2nd or 3rd of July.  The event closes at 4 on the Sunday. I will have a range of small works and one big piece available to buy.


I will be collecting food stories on the 26th if you would like to come along and contribute to my story bank I would love to see you there.


In between I have some pieces to complete if I am going to be able to submit for the next Plastic Propaganda show at Commodity Quay in July, which I really want to do because it is such a perfect location for my work.


Better get on with it!


I am feeling delighted that I have been selected for the “Nautical Perspectives” exhibition to be held at Commodities House, St Katherine’s Dock, between 1st and 15th of May. I will be showing 3 works which are concerned with the following three narratives, found when researching the story of international food trade: These are all narratives of deceit:

1. Phoenix Egg


In the 1300s, before the establishment of the sea routes,  spice and fabrics were traded by Middle Eastern and North African traders who went along the silk road, taking goods back and forth. Spices were an incredibly luxurious commodity, prized highly by the elites of Europe and commanding very high prices. Most of this trade came across the Mediterranean and into Venice.  The traders were aware of the treasure they had, and for a very long time they made up stories: Stories to defend their trade. But also I like to think of them making up stories as a way to make the long hazardous journeys bearable, to make themselves feel brave and  less vulnerable to being robbed.  At this time nutmeg was literally worth more than its weight in gold, it is often stated that a pound of nutmeg was worth the same as seven fattened oxen in 1393.(*1a)  The price of my piece in this show is determined by the current price of 7 fattened cattle at market (*1b).


They told of dragons and phoenix who guarded the spices in the East and the adventures they had in trying to release the spices from their protection, of winning battles with these monsters and defeating dangers in the pursuit of spice.  They told these stories to the traders in Europe, and for a long time the traders in Europe stayed away, but with so much wealth to be made….

2. Chilli on Gold Square


Sea routes to Asia were established going East but they were long and dangerous.  The second narrative behind my work is the reason the chilli pepper got its name.  So the sailors had been trying, as we all know from school, to find a quicker way to India and the Spice Islands, so jealously fought over by the British and Dutch.  But instead of reaching India they reached America, and there was a desperation to find pepper.  Pepper was so valuable it was sometimes used as currency, and certainly plenty of piratical raids went on across the seas to attain possession of this spice.


Columbus craved peppercorns, had built his voyage on the promise of bringing back pepper. But peppercorns did not grow in South America.  Rather than accept defeat, the hot chillis which did grow in South America were rebranded peppers.

3. South Sea Bubble

Context :

The third narrative is from the South Sea Bubble Company directors. The British and Spanish were at war over who could control trade with South America, the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714).  Due to this war the British Government was in debt. In 1711 the South Sea Company was set up and in opposition to the Bank of England took over a large share of Government debt in exchange for monopoly rights to trade with South America, modelled on the monopoly trade enjoyed profitably by the East India Company.  However this promise only had any meaning if the British won the war, and then they didn’t.


The treaty of Utrecht ended the war in 1713, only two years later, so the South Sea Company now held  British Government debt and only very limited trading rights with the remaining British South American colonies; select Islands in the Caribbean and British Guyana. It was 1717 before any South Sea Trading ships even set sale.  South Sea Company ships were limited  and the company profits were based on slave trade and interest on  loans to the British government, but when has that stopped a good story?  Certainly the slave trade was not an appealing one, so…




In an effort to increase investment the South Sea Company Directors told stories, exaggerated stories of the profits they were making, and of the treasures to be found in South Sea trading.  Bubble stories with no substance except a shiny surface.


Which through 1720 first lead to rapid rises in stock valuations, but by Autumn in the same year, price crashes and prosecutions happened,  Company and Government Officials were accused and found guilty.


And this bubble, in the way of bubbles, created more bubbles, more crazy investment companies on the same model, and investment frenzy, with share prices in all sorts of dubious companies bubbling up. In January 1720 shares in the South Sea Company were £128 by May £550, by June, after receiving a Royal Charter £1050, but in July……in July the investors lost confidence, in August stock was valued at £800, and September £175, and across Britain people had lost their fortunes, there was a massive economic crash. *2



I invite you to come to the “Nautical Perspectives” exhibition at Commodity Quay, St Katherine’s Dock, just next door to the Tower of London.  It will be open from 1st to 15th May 2016.


And thank you to a_nblogs who are promoting the a_n edition of this blog this week.



My work is a project, the Art From London Markets Project, a reflection of our relationship to food in London explored through art, image making, community interactive events, installations  and blogging both as a record of the project and as part of my practice.


Looking back at the stories collected in Hammersmith last October, I am making works trying to distil the essence of the stories collected, each culminating in its own single iconic image.The current narrative I am working on was a double remembering, the pomegranate in the interactive art event evoked for the story teller another moment of remembering.




The pomegranate evoked the memory of her childhood self being transported.  Transported by the glimpse of a pomegranate at the front of a greengrocers on a grey London street. Transported all the way back to the sunny Tunisian garden of her infancy.

This story is the story of the particular, a particular childhood that spanned Tunisia and the UK, but also the loss and longing that transience brings with it, a universal.  The pomegranate in this image has a particular individual symbolism, but is also pregnant with diverse cultural symbolisms.


The copper gild I am using holds the place of the intense Tunisian sun.  I will preserve its sheen with a shellac varnish, and it will change and play with the interaction of natural light here lightening and darkening through a day.

This story comes from a small collection from random people, people invited to story collection events through invitations handed out in markets, and social media reaching a random audience and there is a common theme in many of them, memories of other places: from Hong Kong, Jakarta, Tunisia, Liverpool, Israel, Romania, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Germany to Finchley, Liverpool and Highgate.  This is London, international and culturally diverse.




The culture and population is constantly in a state of flux and change.  The process of story collecting captures a small moment in time of the individual who shares the story, but also of who the city is in any particular place and a particular moment in time.  These works are an attempt to take the time to notice and record who we are now.

In interpreting the pomegranate story I have to decide whether to represent the grey London street or not, this has aesthetic and conceptual considerations.  For a while I play with the possibilities of bringing in the grey using a mini-me piece to look at the interplay of the colours: I made a small sketch with the broad colours and played with that so that I could make some decisions within the space of time offered by the gilding,  a  slow process requiring wait times to reach the perfect tack.  I started by adding scratchy charcoal and leaving a light halo around the Tunisian sun.  Then I added painting medium which gave a glossy intense shine,  but it was so intense and in competition with the copper.  I added white paint and took out the halo, played with the smoothness and tones of the grey lightening and then bring back in some dark tones.

And while I am doing all of this practical problem solving, I think back to the original storytelling and realise that the child had been transported back to the sunshine.  If I am going to concentrate on the memory within the memory there should be no trace of grey.


I have also been in the process of putting together some proposals for  Installations in public spaces which include a story sharing element where the installations provide a context which is not emotionally neutral, exploring themes that are prevalent in current discourse about food both in social media and more traditional media.


This work and others made from the stories collected in October will be shown at in Kensington and Fulham Open Art Spaces, Faron Sutaria, North End Road, Fulham.  So in  a nice circular way the works produced are going back to the geographic roots of where they were told. This show is open on the weekends of 24th to 26th June and 1st to 3rd July.   If you come in on the Sunday 26th (10 am to 12) you can share your story with me and become part of the project.