Gherkin Challenge

Written by Nika Garrett on .

Gherkin Challenge

I made it to the top of the Gherkin – Gherkin Challenge for NSPCC

The Gherkin is 180 m high which makes it over three times higher than Niagara Falls. Iconic building designed by Foster + Partners celebrates 10th anniversary this year. Since 2004 a number of taller buildings have been added to London skyline.

That evening however as I stand in front of 30 St Mary Axe, the building seems to look taller than its 180 metres. I can’t stop thinking that in a few days’ time I will be walking up 1037 steps to the top. It is not about the views or exercise. The Gherkin Challenge is organised annually to raise funds for NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children). I can race it up or I can walk it, but every step I’ll take, I’ll take for the kids. Every £200 I’ll raise will help pay for 50 calls made to ChildLine from people concerned about a child’s welfare.

“London is my home and my muse” – conversation with Sarah Fosse

Written by Nika Garrett on .

 “London is my home and my muse” – conversation with Sarah Fosse

If you live, work or simply visit London, you can’t escape The Shard. Since it was built in 2013 it has literally grown on me with its 306 metres. It has become a very familiar sight, but I have never seen it before the way London-based artist Sarah Fosse does. In a couple of her amazing paintings The Shard of Glass is portrayed as curvy lines. These paintings are part of Sarah’s ‘wobbly series’ depicting some of London’s famous landmarks and iconic views in a beautiful and unique way.  It may have just been raining, but the puddles in front of The Gherkin and St Andrew Undershaft burst with an incredible palette of vibrant colours and so does the Thames as it comes alive with the reflections of Canary Wharf or St Paul’s Cathedral.

It is in Canary Wharf in The East End that Sarah and I meet in a lovely Italian restaurant. My very first question is about her unique style that I find so fascinating, with its lines and colours. “I used to paint in a more realistic style. I even did portraits once.” Sarah admits openly. “Since I moved here, I’ve spent so much time walking past these tall buildings of glass and steel and being captivated by their distorted wobbly reflections on the river. I loved the reflections and started painting them.  Then I thought I could take it further by abstracting the actual buildings themselves using simplified curving lines.  I love focusing on pure form, vibrant colour and light, but to be honest a lot simply happened through play and experimentation. It is indeed a bit of a childlike approach.  I’ve always been inspired by Fauvism and especially by Derain and Matisse. Like them I’m obsessed with colour, its energy, strength, its potential.  This ‘wobbly style’ has simply evolved. By the way, someone has called it ‘deconstructed divisionism’. ” She adds with a lovely smile.

Conversation with Tony Karpinski about his art and love of London

Written by Nika Garrett on .

Conversation with Tony Karpinski about his art and love of London

"I'm like a fly when I'm in London, watching a fast moving city around me in a slow motion" says Tony Karpinski while we are climbing one of the hills in Greenwich Park. "I live just outside London now and I miss the city so when I'm actually here in London I'm just so excited observing people. I don't look for action, just simple beauty. I love people and I love painting them. I don't like painting buildings and I don't like straight lines" He adds with a smile.

I'm trying to imagine this fit looking man in his late forties as a fly buzzing around and taking snaps of people with his camera... We have now climbed up to the top of The Royal Observatory hill and I can't help but tell him about the days when thousands would have come here to enjoy fairs. One of their favourite pastimes was tumbling down the hill. "It was notorious for creating 'sweet disorder in the dress' of pretty girls so there were always some onlookers waiting at the bottom of the hill. I'm sure that if we let your over 80 thousand Twitter admirers know you are here, and if you would like to see this custom re-enacted, there would be many volunteers flocking here" I joke. "Everyone would love to be part of one of your fabulous oil paintings" I add with a sigh as needless to say it is my dream as well.

London's Fleet sewer or in the footsteps of Sir Joseph Bazalgette

Written by Nika Garrett on .

London’s Fleet sewer or in the footsteps of Sir Joseph Bazalgette

Among the bags left in the middle of the pavement I find one that bears my name. There are quite a few things inside that I need to wear; white overalls, a helmet with a torch, thick gloves, harness and impressive long boots. I also get thin rubber gloves to wear under my thick gloves so that I can take photos with my little camera. 5 minutes later we take a few group shots and we are ready to go down London’s Fleet sewer. The whole thing feels very much surreal.

As I walk some 3 meters down the narrow metal ladder and then stand in what feels and smells like a very small and damp cellar, it becomes perfectly clear why it is not an adventure that can be offered to the public. I can only imagine what it would feel like to someone who suffers from claustrophobia for instance… In fact, there is quite a long list of medical conditions I’m happy I don’t have. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here.

There is barely enough space for 5 or 6 of us standing here around a fascinating looking machinery. This machinery turns out to be penstock winding mechanism that is used to open and close a gate in order to control the flow of sewage. It is Victorian and there are only about dozen of them in the whole sewage system in London.

Swinging Sixties above the Thames

Written by Nika Garrett on .

Swinging Sixties above the Thames

Standing 42 meters above the Thames I'm having the time of my life watching as the dusk falls over London. In front of me Sean Connery looks at his best; handsome and suave... To the right a wonderful display of a 'pyramid of champagne glasses' looks quite tempting as well.

I wish I could tell you that Sean Connery was here with me in person on the walkways of Tower Bridge! However, there are about 100 guests tonight and the occasion is a very special one. The launch of 'The Sixties', a new exhibition at Tower Bridge. Sean Connery's photo that I'm engrossed in is one of 60 iconic images on display here. They are a wonderful quality 26 large scale photos that show pop stars, Prime Ministers, fashion designers, formula drivers, architecture and even political activists.