London Art Spot: The Two Emilys

Newcomers to the city, Emily and Emily from the feminist art collective “The Two Emilys” are settling in to London life just fine (apart from all of those typical moving-to-London money woes we all experience for a while in the beginning). But they’re making themselves at home with £3 corner shop bottles of wine and taking advantage of London’s vast and varied free arts and culture scene. And in the meantime, they’re making videos about what it means to be a woman in the Western world today. 

Read on for their thoughts on London life, their double take on 50 Shades of Grey and have a look at their video toward the bottom of the post – “Validate My Life” (Note – if watching at work, contains bits of nudity).

LLO:So you recently moved to London. How does it feel? 
E&E: Good, exciting and at times pretty terrifying. I think we are both buzzing from the city atmosphere and that there is so much art and culture for free. It’s great to be part of the rat race, rushing to work, reading the metro; we’re finding that quite interesting.

LLO: Where are you from originally and what’s been your biggest challenge or surprise in London so far? 
E&E: We are both from Plymouth, and then we studied in Reading together. Budgeting has been our largest challenge – we are living in a house with no living room and cupboard doors which don’t fit as a consequence.

LLO: Tell us a bit about yourselves as a “feminist art collective”. What does that mean exactly?
E&E: Our work is essentially a social documentary, focussing on how young women behave within society now and how this relates to the concept of feminism, post feminism and what these definitions mean.

LLO: How long have you been collaborating as a creative duo and how did you come together in the first place? 
E&E: Last summer we were really disillusioned with our degree programme and lives in general. Once again there was a serious lack of money, and we took to drinking excessively together. We moaned a lot. We noticed how we sounded, the nature of our conversation, and started filming ourselves. It was an effective way of recording how young women relate to each other, producing material which we began to create satirical scripts from.

LLO: How do you go about devising a skit? What’s your method of putting your ideas into their final format? 
E&E: We take conversations that we are having and write them into a script, which forms very naturally. Then we set up a tripod and a microphone, get all our props together (many fancy dress places have been visited) and experiment with the dialogue.

LLO: You say you create a commentary on modern femininity. How do you think the definition has changed over the years to reflect women now? 
E&E: There so many rules for women which are supposed to define femininity. Due to the feminist movements in the 60’s and 70’s, freedom for the female gender has increased in western society. This has produced a self-policing environment. Women have become a driving force in the fashion and beauty industry, creating their own restrictions which define what it is to be feminine and attractive.. Consumer culture has created a market for everyone. There is so much choice, and such a pressure to be flexible; a flexible career, a varied social life, a varied vibrator collection, a varied wardrobe… which results in this kind of voluntary neurotic behaviour amongst young women; we constantly need approval and are always partaking in extensive self analysis.

That’s what our films try and show. We are aware of our own voluntary exploitation into consumerism; it’s comfy, and it’s easier to think about buying shampoo than about genital mutilation.

Empowerment and repression are now blurring, everybody’s perspective on defining the two terms is different. Take 50 Shades Of Grey – is it a) ‘empowering’ to read porn in public as a woman, or b) encouraging ‘repressive’ relationships, as the storyline encourages the excitement of a relationship where the man has the majority of sexual power and control?

LLO: Can you tell us about any other Londoners you know who are talking about it publicly or places in London where there is an environment that caters to open conversation about what it means to be a woman today? 
E&E: We feel there has been a big feminist boom lately; Waterstones is a great environment which caters to open conversations about women. Caitlin Moran’s How to be A Woman is a bestseller. Living Dolls by Natasha Walter and One Dimensional Woman by Nina Power are also fantastic reads.

Sarah Maple is an artist working in London whose work we respect and find really interesting. She had a recent show at the Aubin Gallery.

LLO: Do you do live shows or focus more on videos? 
E&E: Videos. We have tried live performance a few times. When we film together we lose all of our inhibitions producing an edited video diary. This way we can produce a film which would have a higher impact than a live performance, which we feel can sometimes come across as insincere. However, we do like having a live audience to view our films.

LLO: What is your favourite piece so far and why? Share a clip with us?
E&E: Validated? As it seems like the final product of a lot of hard work.

LLO: What’s your favourite London discovery so far? 
E&E: The private view circuit and this evening it’s the 2.99 bottle of wine from the off license around the corner.

Thanks Emily and Emily!

You can also find The Two Emilys on their blog.

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

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Listen to a Londoner: Kerry Hiatt

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview with a Londoner – someone who lives in this city, born here or elsewhere. If you’re up for being interviewed, email littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk.

Kerry Hiatt

Writer, relationship guru, alfresco sex junkie and sometimes basset hound thief, Kerry Hiatt talks to The Little London Observationist.

LLO: As well as being signed with Penguin and plenty of other work, you’ve written for The Guardian, The Daily Mail, The Daily Express, LOOK and Psychologies and have made a freelance writing career work for you. Any dream clients?
KH: I have an amazing client list. I started writing for the national press when I was 18 and that had always been my dream. With every passing week there’s always another exciting client though. For example, this week, I’ve signed a contract to write a sexy, new board game.

LLO: What’s your favourite unique London discovery?
KH: You would think that I’d seen it all having lived here my whole life but that’s the most amazing thing about London, you can never see it all. One of the great things about editing www.getupandout.com is the plethora of new experiences we discover as a team. Just recently, I’ve tried out performing live stand up comedy, burlesque and zoo keeping in the city; all of which I would absolutely consider as a new career. Although, as my mother constantly reminds me, we’re from a family of travelers so if I were to do a career change, I’d likely end up working in a circus, which sort of combines all three doesn’t it?

LLO: You met your husband in Greenwich. Give us a great Greenwich date idea.
KH: Greenwich is so full of history and culture, I adore it. One of my favourite things to do is evening star gazing from The Royal Observatory. You snuggle up under blankets, sip hot chocolate and watch the incredible night sky. I spend most of my time trying to steal other peoples’ dogs in Greenwich Park though and Joe often has to come and drag me away. If he’d just let me have a basset hound it would save him a whole lot of trouble …

LLO: Your recent Time Out Magazine article on alfresco sex got a lot of attention. Can you share three of the best places to take it outdoors without getting caught?
KH: I love sex. It’s a very natural thing and people feeling inhibited is just silly. Having sex outdoors is a wonderful, primal feeling. Yes the article in Time Out caused a stir but I’ve also received tons of e-mails from couples who have tried it and loved it. As long as you’re safe and discreet of course. Greenwich Park has many a secluded spot to throw down a blanket, a bottle of wine and your three pack of Durex as does St. James Park by night. Personally, I’m keen on those occasional blacked out phone boxes you find around the city. If you see one, go for it.

LLO: As the editor of the newly launched site “Get Up and Out”, tell us what it’s all about and why we should visit immediately.
KH: www.getupandout.com is fab. It’s something that started off as a small blog because I just couldn’t fit all of the amazing date ideas I had into my features in Time Out. Within a month, it’s grown to huge proportions and we’re very proud. It encourages people to shrug off tired and traditional dating. You know, say au revoir to cruising along the River Thames by moonlight – everyone has done it already … twice. And those BOGOF cinema tickets for your local VUE? It’s dull. for a first or second date. Instead, we provide our readers with a plethora of quirk-a-licious date ideas as well as fashion, food and relationship advice. It’s very much a community blog.

LLO: Best thing about living in your postcode?
KH: Greenwich Market. I love how I can whiz over there on a Saturday morning, pick up freshly ground coffee beans (Jack Daniels flavour, natch), warm churros for breakfast and something completely original to wear for the evening. There’s something very special about the camaraderie of the market too. I’ve lived here on and off all my life so it’s lovely to walk into a bar and say hello to familiar faces.

LLO: One of your specialities is writing about relationships. Give us three favourite quirky date ideas for Londoners looking for something out of the ordinary.
KH: There are LOADS of things. Three of my favourites include The Italian Job Experience with smallcarBIGCITY, where you and your date don blue boiler suits, stash gold in the back of a mini and navigate your driver through the twisty backstreets of London to get away from the law. Circus Space also offer circus skills workshops for couples; juggling, unicycling and all that malarky. It’s so much fun, trust me. Simon Drake’s House of Magic is great for the ‘seen it done it’ type too. It’s a secret mansion house in London with haunted cellars, an enchanted garden, fortune tellers and magicians. He does occasionally public nights with drinks and dinner and they are crazy weird.

LLO: One of your loves is karaoke. Where’s the coolest karaoke bar round town?
KH: Without a doubt, it has to be Lucky Voice, which has venues in Soho and Islington. With its bubbly, Japanese kitsch party atmosphere, we often book a private karaoke room for two hours and invite friends down with us. The jukebox is easy to use (there’s even an ‘I’m Thirsty’ button, which sees your drink orders delivered at speed) and every room is equipped with a fancy dress box chock full of 70s sparkles, 80s mullets and, of course, the classic 90s shell suit. Perfect.

LLO: Give us a few ideas from recent book on your favourite childhood literary haunts around the capital.
KH: It’s still top secret but this city is a literary goldmine. Charles Dickens, 101 Dalmations, Mary Poppins, Peter Pan and Harry Potter are just a few covered in the book.

LLO: As a born and bred Londoner, what changes have you noticed most over the years? Anything you miss?
KH: London gets more and more exiting as the years roll by so I never feel too nostalgic. I do miss the old pie and mash shops that once littered the streets of the south; they seem to be disappearing. The only thing I truly miss though is busking with my Great Grandfather, Edwin. My family immigrated from Ireland after the war and he made his living by playing the accordion on the streets of London as well as other things. We would go to Portobello Market on Sundays and I’d sit on his case while he played. It’s one of the best memories to have. My love for London started young!

Thanks Kerry!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

London Art Spot: David Stevenson

Calling various bits of East and South London home for over a decade, illustrator and animator David Stevenson can’t imagine living anywhere else. He tells me the average person only stays in London for seven years so he counts this as a tiny moral victory. He was born in Wolverhampton.

David’s work is influenced by Jack Kirby, Walt Simonson, the internet and literally whatever the last thing is that he saw or read. He’s always doodling stupid stuff (his words, not mine!). He also admits to wasting far too much time in front of a computer. He draws things for anyone who will pay.

Recently married, he drew himself as a gorilla on his wedding invitation so keep that in mind when you get to the question about his self-portrait in this week’s London Art Spot interview. He also lets us in on the bizarre way he heard of Michael Jackson’s death and shows off an illustration he feels really captures Sean Connery’s sexual magnetism.

LLO: How does living in London influence your creativity?
DS:
Obviously there are loads of creative things going on in a city this size, but mostly it’s the people. When you hit a creative snag you can get out of the studio, jump on a bus and just people-watch until you buck your ideas up.

LLO: A lot of your illustrations are comments on current events or the arts. What inspires you and what’s your favourite source of daily news?
DS:
Rumour, opinion and word of mouth. And by word of mouth, I mean the internet really. You can hear the news anywhere now – and quicker than the proper news channels. The way I heard about Michael Jackson’s death? An orc told me, in World of Warcraft. Of course I googled it; you don’t just take the word of an orc you don’t know. But I like that randomness.

LLO: You’ve had some big clients like Amnesty International, Orange and Warner Brothers. Who’s your dream client?
DS:
High profile clients are useful, because they do open the door for more opportunities. But if you’re involved in something genuinely good, chances are people will hear about it.

LLO: I hear you also do some comedy nights. Tell us something funny?
DS:
I’m not one of those funny comedians. I do stand-up pathos; roughly five minutes of quivering my lip, then a single tear trickles down my chin. It’s very moving. Some audiences have moved right out of the building.

LLO: Where can we catch your next stand-up gig?
DS:
The London comedy scene is pretty quiet during the summer months, as everybody decamps to Edinburgh. So I’ll be chilling out until Autumn, making an effort to be as unfunny as possible.

LLO: What sort of animation projects have you worked on?
DS:
Very quick stop-motion videos for songs, mostly written by my good friend Rob Manuel. Generally we go for a very fast, hand-made feel to keep the energy high. It’s more immediately satisfying using objects in the real world than being stuck in an animation programme.

LLO: If you were to do a self-portrait illustration, what would it look like?
DS:
Me. It would look like me. I hope.

LLO: Which illustration are you most proud of and why?
DS:
I like my picture of Zardoz, which I’d say totally captures Sean Connery’s sexual magnetism.

LLO: Are there any public figures in the spotlight at the moment you’ve got your eyes on to illustrate?
DS:
Ed Balls is so pleasingly ugly that I really hope he does more stuff to get on the news. Like eat some orphans or something.

LLO: Which other London-based artists do you admire?
DS:

Hartwig Braun – Illustrator
Duncan Smith – Children’s Illustrator
Daniella Baptista – Photographer
Gerald Scarfe – Legendary Cartoonist

Thanks David!

For more of David’s work, check out his website: http://www.david-stevenson.com

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

London Art Spot: Guy Keown & Luke Smith

Guy Keown

Luke Smith

Luke Smith and Guy Keown are aspiring comedy writers who live in Golders Green and Salford, Surrey respectively. They met at an Oxfordshire school at the age of 15 and formed a lasting friendship despite guy moving to back Swansea a year later. After finishing university, they ended up (entirely by accident) living a stone’s throw from one another (as had been the case seven years earlier). They took this as fate (or stalking from both or either party) and, in the summer of 2008, decided to write together.

They both share the same influences and enjoy the same styles (Chris Morris, Red Dwarf, Curb your Enthusiasm, Black Books, Peter Cook, Spike Milligan) so it was a happy arrangement. Their first sketch show (The HaHa Show) was praised by both the Writer’s Room and Pett Productions (the company founded by Reeves and Mortimer) for its wit and pace, but has found no offers as of yet. Their sitcom “Seen the Light” is a current work in progress that follows a doomsday cult facing Armageddon, a shortage of food and one member hogging the comfy chair.

For this week’s London Art Spot, Guy and Luke tell us about how adventures on the London Underground influence their comedy, about their current “tour” around the West End and share the first podcast episode of The HaHa Show. 

LLO: Tell us about your new podcast “The Ha Ha Show”.
GK:
The Ha Ha Show Podcast is the result of pent up anger and masses of rejection. We have received nothing but compliments from the industry in regards to our material, but alas no one is willing to front us the dosh to make our scripts into fully fledged media texts. So we have taken up the microphone and put together our very own podcast to share with the world.

We just want to demonstrate our writing abilities and put forward some fresh ideas into the comedy genre. We know our material is great, but seeing as no one is going to help us we have decided to do it ourselves.

LLO: What’s the funniest thing that happened to you this week?
LS:
Oddly enough, I get my biggest laughs at my capoeira class. What tends to happen is we’re practicing some complex move then someone says something utterly ridiculous just to break the tension. We were listening to a CD with a master singing and when my teacher asked a student who was singing he said, poker-faced: “Susan Boyle”. Classes are intense, so moments like that are a huge release.

LLO: Is there a specific moment that stands out when you knew you loved to make people laugh?
LS:
I was in a production of Abigail’s Party at sixth form that clinched it. We worked really hard because it’s very naturalistic and easy to get wrong. You have to pitch it perfectly. We got such a fantastic response; the audience were in hysterics and the cast were fighting to stop laughing ourselves because it was so infectuous. I got my second dose after my first stand up gig. I got a few laughs and it was more exciting than I can describe.

LLO: You’ve got four sentences. Give us a chuckle.
GK:
There once was a man called Ronald. Took a trip to McDonald’s. His burger was modified, promptly his mind died. And he spent the rest of his days as a clown. (They aren’t people too.)

 

LLO: What makes a good comedian and what elements make a great comedy show?
LS:
A good comedian is always honest. I’ve seen comedians trying to be something they’re not and it shows. They take the world apart as they see it and hopefully enough people tap into that and laugh. They make you see the world in a different way. Personally, I find observational stuff like Michael McIntyre horribly banal as it doesn’t make you think. A great comedian makes you gasp with suprise and recognition as you laugh at something you never noticed.

A great comedy show has suprises because an audience expects a lot these days. You can see a million stand-ups online now and I think that’s made people tougher. However, we’re familiar with lots of pop culture which mean shared humour is wider than ever. Mitchell and Webb works great for me as it has so many approaches and subjects. One minute you’re in a lab, the next you’re up a mountain. Its exhilirating to bounce inside someone’s head and see so many ideas in so many different settings. Obviously that’s a little tougher on stage.

LLO: Which London comedians do you most admire?
GK:
We both have a great admiration for the king of wit, Paul Merton. He is the master of comedy and is just brilliant. I think that is about as much as I can say without sounding fanatical.

LLO: Which aspects of London life most influence your comedy sketches?
LS:
The mix of cultures obviously. The tube is another. Because people are often locked in their own world, there are great moments on the tube where people are chatting, not really thinking that someone can hear them as most have their iPods on. I heard a hilarious conversation between two actresses coming into Victoria. People they knew were divided into people they had or hadn’t slept with. One of them said she liked a certain guy and added as an afterthought “but I haven’t slept with him”. I had this bizarre image of her liking everyone up to the point she had sex with them.

LLO: What do you get up to when you’re not making people laugh?
GK:
In the rare moments I spend in life not making people laugh, I get up to such simple things as reading, dreaming, imagining myself as ruler of time and standing around in parks dressed in a skin tight pink leotard arguing with ducks about their views on crusts and why it doesn’t make their feathers curly. They constantly tell me it’s all hokum and I’ve been lied to by my elders, but I won’t stoop to their level. Partly because I’m a very tall man, partly because deep down inside I harbor a fear they might be right, and I don’t want to see my mental stability forced into jeopardy.

So just the usual things really. I’m just like all of you.

LLO: Best London comedy venues or comedy nights?
LS:
There is a great place in Leicester Square inside Storm called the 99 Club. It’s quite cheap for a non-open mic night as well, £9. You get a 2-hour show and some good comics. The Lions Den in King’s Cross offers a lovely open mic on Tuesday. Great atmosphere and some suprisingly good people, although it’s not called the Comedy Car Crash for nothing! The Comedy Rocket off Leicester Square is tiny, but quite funny. There’s so many comedy nights in london, they’re like mushrooms in a cupboard.

 

LLO: Where’s the best place to catch the two of you on stage?
GK:
Well, at the moment, we are doing a very successful tour of the West End. We sold out the pavement in front of the Gielgud Theatre and the alley behind The National. Our audiences by the backdoor of the Albery were disappointing and our run at the Palace Theatre was cancelled by some stupid musical about the suburbs. Apparently it’s got Michael McIntyre in it. No review could sting that much.

Thanks Guy & Luke!

Listen to the first edition of The HaHa Show here: The HaHa Show

Future HaHa Show podcasts can be found on MySpace.

Guy also writes a blog called Thoughts from a Former Optimist.

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

London Art Spot: Sandy Andy

This is Andrew Robertson, best known as “Sandy Andy”, a man who has taken the little strip of sandy beach across from Gabriel’s Wharf on the Thames and transformed it, with the help of his crew, into The Dirty Beach. Take a walk along the river and you’ll likely see a string of curious people leaning over the railing, tossing coins onto a sheet. With amazing attention to detail, Andy and his crew have constructed hands, people, monsters, rats in a sewer, dinosaurs, skulls and, most famously, the giant couches where they chill out with a beer until the tide rises up around them.

But it’s not just about playing in the sand. They also throw some brilliant BBQs with bonfires and set up sand stages for music and comedy. All the while, they’re tidying up the beach. The world is a better place when it’s clean and creative.  

For this week’s London Art Spot, Sandy Andy tells us about the fascinating and nasty things he’s found washed up on the sand, shares plenty of cool photos and maps out his life from creative entrepreneur to homeless to game show contestant and TV extra to stripper to, well, creative entrepreneur – only, on the beach.

LLO: Are you from London? If not, where are you from, how did you end up here and how long have you been here?
SA:
I am from the Midlands. After I left college, I trained and worked as an inspection engineer. I was settled with a house and a dog but it wasn’t what I wanted from life. I tried to set up my own company making handmade birthday cards, but that failed in the first year, so I tried selling magic tricks and opened a magic shop in Warwick. I came down to London six years ago to try to work in TV when my magic shop went bust and I had to sell my home to pay off the debt.

I worked as a TV extra and did a bit of modelling, but made most of my money as a professional game show contestant. For about a year I applied for every stupid game show I could and ended up winning over £26,000. But after a while I found it hard to get on any more shows as a contestant because my face kept popping up all over the place. I soon blew all the winnings on drink, girls and motorbikes. And because of my refusal to work in a proper job, my only income came from working as a stripper at weekends in Stringfellows. I ended up living homeless on the streets of London.

(Andy when he was homeless)

LLO: What made you first wander down to the little strip of sand on the Thames and decide to build a couch and how long ago did you start?
SA:
About four years ago – while I was homeless for the summer and used to potter around all over London. The beach was one of my usual haunts, but I would also spend a lot of time in the parks. Anywhere I could sit around for free, drinking in the sunshine, that would become my home. I’d make money doing a few magic tricks, busking in the streets but with no living expenses, life in the city was fairly cheap.

One day down on the sand I decided to build a person. Some chap threw down a pound and took a picture – it was quite obvious I was broke and homeless and I think he felt sorry for me. I had no intention of doing it for money, but I spread out my jacket, placed the coin on it and carried on. It turned out to be the best busking I had ever done.What made it great was the fact that once I stopped to enjoy a sit down and roll a fag people were still throwing me coins.

The sofa evolved over time as people enjoyed seeing me sitting down and doing nothing. Which is something I can do quite well.

LLO: What’s a typical Dirty Beach day by the Thames like?
SA:
It’s hard to say as no two days are ever the same. It could be a beach party with live music and lots of people drinking around an open fire or a quiet day of artistic expression with lots of quiet time for personal reflection. The difference the weather makes to my day is huge and the tides are never the same. I could be down there at 5am to start work as the tide is going out or I sometimes don’t start work until 5pm at which time London has a very different feel.

It always involves picking up a bit of litter and doing some digging to make a sculpture. Whatever happens, my beach office always has the best views of London.

LLO: What’s been your favourite sand creation so far?
SA:
 The first time I built the largest sand sofa in the world was during the London Marathon a few years back. We did all the digging by hand and Dexter Fletcher even came down to lend a hand. It was massive and we sat on it right until the tide had surrounded us like a little island. There was so many tonnes of sand it took hours to wash away.

LLO: Did you let onlookers join in on the sandy fun?
SA:
We put a shout out on on the local radio the day before the London Marathon saying we wanted help to set the world record. We ended up with hundreds of children helping, each doing a tiny bit of digging. It was great – I could not have done all that digging on my own. I love it when I inspire people to get creative.

LLO: What’s the most unusual object you’ve found washed up on the beach?
SA:
We find all sorts. I have often found syringes, condoms and horrible London rubbish, shoes and animal bones. The most unusual thing washed up with the rising tide had to be a frog. I’ve only ever seen one frog in my life hopping out of the Thames but this wouldn’t be so unusual unless it also happened to be the same day that I carved a giant frog in the sand. He hopped right up to the sculpture, an amazing coincidence.

If you go exploring at low tide you are guaranteed to find lots of old Victorian clay pipes, the sort they smoked tobacco with. There are hundreds of broken ones, but I once found one that was still usable.

LLO: I hear you’re a bit of a comedian. Tell us a good London joke?
SA:
So America got 9/11. And London got 7/7. Rating’s don’t lie, America. We’re much better than you.

Knock knock / Who is there? / Europe….Ha ha, the punchline here is NO – YOUR A POO. <This is still directed at America.>

LLO: Favourite place in London to check out a good comedy gig?
SA:
Come to the beach and do some heckling. It helps me through the day. I also like the 99 Comedy Club. They have a few venues all over town, but the most popular is in Leicester Square. It has some amazing acts and it is way cheaper then the Comedy Store or Jonglers.

LLO: How else do you spend your time when the tide’s not out?
SA:
I like to make music and I love cooking. I build sculptures at music festivals which keeps me busy in the summer, the sofa has turned into a sand stage. I have also been planning on opening a beach bar in the Bahamas.

(Luc Valvona)

LLO: Tell us about something, someone or somewhere you’ve discovered in London that you think the rest of us ought to know about.
SA:
Luc Valvona. This chap is so talented and funny. I build him a stage and he amazes the passing people. Some of his songs are quite rude, but if you don’t mind that sort of thing you will think he is amazing; you have to see him live. He made over £2,000 selling his album at a music festival in one weekend on my sand stage. He is going to be a star. He plays the majority of the tunes on our dirtybeach music album. It’s called Monster and you can see the music videos on my site dirtybeach.tv

All album sales go towards helping keep the beaches of the world clean.

Thanks Andy!

For more of Andy’s work, see the Dirty Beach website or check out his Flickr set of London beach pics.

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.