Olli Thomson

Category: Exhibitions

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas…

My true love, and various other people, gave to me…

A TWELVE year old malt whisky. That’s a lie. It’s actually a 14 year old malt whisky but I didn’t have a fourteenth day available. To be specific, The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14. I’ve never been a great fan of these experimental whiskies finished in all manner of casks but I once tried a 21 year old Glenfiddich finished in Cuban rum casks and it was excellent. Since then other whisky makers have joined the rum parade.

According to the Balvenie website they use traditional American oak casks and fill them with rum. This is different from the Glenfiddich approach where they bring in the casks directly from Caribbean rum producers. These days the Glenfiddich no longer identifies the specific origin of the casks. I wondered if the switch from the specifically Cuban provenance had anything to do with the American trade boycott, but one of the regional representatives for William Grant I met while in the Philippines told me the reason was that they were not able to guarantee supplies of a sufficient quality from Cuba alone so they had to look more widely. I haven’t opened this bottle yet but on the next cold wintry night I might have a taste.


My recent visit to London coincided with lots of photography exhibitions, many of which were of interest. I managed to fit in eight during the five days there. I started with Martin Parr at the Tate Modern. This is a small exhibition focusing on a number of his classic images but still well worth seeing.

At The Photographers Gallery there were three shows: Alex Prager, a photographer I had not previously heard of and whose work left me underwhelmed; Tish Murtagh, another new to me photographer whose politically charged images of British urban life in the 70s and 80s were superb; and Shirley Baker, who photographed the same urban British environment in the 60s and 70s but with a slightly less militant touch.

Kim Soo-nam

Last year I visited the National Folk Museum of Korea for a special exhibition of the work of Korean photojournalist and documentary photographer Kim Soo-nam. In the 70’s Kim started photographing traditional shamanic rituals, concerned that the tradition was in decline in rapidly industrialising and modernising Korea. In 1982 he said

It’s for sure that the Dodang-gut (ritual) practiced in the southern Hangang River will disappear in a few years. When the shamans die, it’s the end. I feel lucky to have photographed those who have aged along with their practice for 60 to 70 years.

Of Things Not Seen

The exhibition Of Things Not Seen tells the story of a year in the life of Kit Gunasekera, a Church of England priest who ministers in the district of Clapham in London. The images, shot in black and white by photographer Jim Grover, are honest, sensitive and moving. The title of the series is taken from the book of Hebrews in the Bible.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get to visit the exhibition, but there is a website associated with the project with a selection of images and more information. I did manage to get hold of the exhibition catalogue through the website, though I’m not sure if it is still available.

Roy Lichtenstein’s Chinese Landscapes

Kong Zhongqi is one of China’s best known landscape artists. I know this because some years ago on a visit to Shanghai we somehow ended up at the opening of a retrospective of his work at a now forgotten gallery. We climbed the stairs to the main gallery where Shanghai’s artistic worthies were mingling. A long scroll was spread out and those arriving signed their names on this. Despite our protestations, we were prevailed upon to do the same, our English script like little boats afloat on a sea of Chinese characters. We were also presented with the exhibition catalogue with reproductions of all the works on display.


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