Three of the British artists that have contributed site-specific artworks to Kerridge's Bar & Grill discuss their art, their practice and their influences.
The first time I met Tom we were speaking about our work, I mentioned I put a special ingredient into my art. Tom asked what it was. I said “love” and he said “so do I!”
I have had the pleasure of knowing Tom for a little while and wanted to create very special pieces that are reflective of him and will be an integral part of the energy of the space. This level of intention is a major component of the creation and production of all my work; especially the collage which has foundations in sacred geometry. More than just their aesthetic quality, they carry a certain vibration and some people who have lived with my work have said that they feel it has helped to recalibrate the energy of the room.
I work with discarded materials; taking things that have been abandoned and transforming them into things of beauty thus reviving their intrinsic value. So after Tom and I talked about the secret of love and intention in our work, he went on to say that for him the EXPERIENCE of eating (whether it be alone, with loved ones or to mark a special occasion) is something that creates memories. He said that he even went so far as to keep menus from restaurants as keepsakes and knew that many others also did. We decided to start a campaign asking for people to send in menus they had saved and utilise them to create the pieces for Kerridge’s Bar and Grill.
Our conversations about the menus lead Tom to come up with the idea of having me create table tops as two of my pieces of artwork. People will be eating off of other people’s food memories while creating new ones of their own.
The third piece I have created is to be hung on one of the main walls. It was made in the studio of my new gallery space in the heart of Soho. The gallery is a creative hub; building and sustaining community in a space that supports the spirt of potential and the catalytic transformative energy that goes along with it. I will show my own work here but will also show the work of other artists; in particular those that have also come from disadvantaged or marginalised backgrounds.
The space will also be used for workshops, talks, screenings, performances, installations and gatherings. One of the things I love about this project is the collaborative energy of working with other creative people. From Tom himself to the talented David Collins Studio team, PureCF, The Corinthia Hotel, Gemma Bell and of course Liam West and everyone at West Contemporary - I am so happy to have been have been a part of this amazing project.
Discover more about Robi Walters at www.west-contemporary.com
Is your artwork featured at Kerridge's site specific for the space?
I have created three new pieces specifically for Kerridges Bar & Grill at The Corinthia Hotel. One of the smaller pieces is a reworked version of a painting called tea with the queen, which is part of Tom's current collection of works at the Hand & Flowers in Marlow. I hope that my paintings will contribute to the atmosphere of the restaurant and also create some intrigue.
What is the process in deciding on which pieces should be featured in the space?
I prefer that my work reaches a broad audience, either through galleries, public murals or within buildings where the pieces help to create an atmosphere and reflect on the nature of their surroundings.
What was your professional training?
I trained as an illustrator at Maidstone College of Art in 1995. After training and working as a gold wire embroidery designer for twelve years, I left to pursue a career as a painter in 2010. Much of my work involves experimenting with unusual media such as alcohols, teas and other liquids that have an unpredictable result on the outcome of the work. The process has evolved over the years but stemmed originally from the accidental use of alcohol within a watercolour painting!
Describe your process in terms of making each piece.
Rather than plan a painting I like the work to evolve around an idea or sometimes an emotion. I find that by linking together chance happenings within the work the painting becomes a discovery and sometimes a meditation on a particular subject or theme. I enjoy the freedom that this method of working gives and also how it allows chance to play a part in the process.
What are your preferred materials to work with and why?
For these paintings I have experimented with different spices and liquids that might also be used in the cooking process to create the base painting for the work. These marks then suggest a flow or composition to the piece and elements are brought out from this chaotic start. For the floral piece I have used various teas with paprika and turmeric, liquids such as apple juice and elements such as salt to create texture in the background. The paintings are built up using layers and are painted with acrylic marks on the surface to give focus to the figurative elements within the work. I have used gold leaf in areas to give a richness to the finished work but it's application is as chaotic as the starting process rather than picking out individual elements.
Which artists from any time do you find the most inspiring?
I am fascinated by the paintings and methods from early surrealism, particularly the experiments that explore the importance of the subconscious.
Which artists directly influence your work?
I am particularly drawn to the work of Sarah Shaw whose work is a real exploration of both the medium of paint and the surface of the canvas. I find my influences come from outside the field of painting also and I still have a love for textiles and stitched artwork.
Which work of art do you find yourself returning to again and again?
I am very lucky to own a painting by George Morton Clarke entitled The Devil's Cabinet. The portrait painting constantly transforms depending on the play of light - I find it soothing but at the same time very powerful.
How has time influenced your process?
Over time it is possible to see the slow evolution of the painting process, it is fascinating to see the relationship between events in one's life and how they reflect, often subconsciously, in the paintings I create. I am also intrigued by the symbols and personal elements which build up throughout the painting process, and how these sometimes slowly evolve and transform within the work.
What does being an artist mean to you?
I think the one thing that really made me feel as though I was an artist was the moment that someone became emotionally connected to a painting I had made. Art is something which can go beyond understanding and reasoning, when someone connects to your work you feel like you can let go of this thing that you have created and move on to continue the journey.
Is the concept of being an artist changing?
I think the basic concept of being an artist remains the same, it is about communicating thoughts, emotions and ideas that are important to the creator. The way art is consumed and is marketed or projected is constantly changing, making the role of the artist much broader than it has been in the past.
When creating a piece, do you consider how this might be displayed?
Not all of the paintings I make are for display or for exhibition, sometimes the process of painting is a personal release and is not designed to communicate an idea, it simply serves as an outlet. When painting for a public space, there are so many other things to consider, primarily you are painting for yourself but with an awareness of the impact the work will have, be it in creating an atmosphere, saying something about that particular space or environment, or reflecting upon what will be happening in the space.
Do you create art for yourself?
Yes, I think painting for yourself is a great way to gain a better understanding of your surroundings and your place within them.
What are the influences on your work?
Nature plays the most prominent role in the work I create, themes of order and chaos within nature are often focal points both within the subject and also underpinnng my process in making these paintings.
Discover more about XXX at www.west-contemporary.com.
The works featured for Tom Kerridge’s Bar & Grill were custom made for the venue. All shots were taken in and around Marlow and many were shot in Tom Kerridge’s The Hand & Flowers, The Butcher’s Tap and The Shed.
As this was a commissioned project, it was important that each piece be relevant to Tom as a chef and that they each connected to his heritage in Marlow and the sites that first brought him to prominence as a chef. As such, the pieces were always made for public display to give the new site some connection to the Marlow sites.
My original training was actually in cinematography. I was originally a camera operator for a small production company shooting commercials and tv idents. I then drifted away from the industry and became interested in photography. When the iPhone came out, I became interested in the use of various apps to manipulate images and started using my phone as my primary tool for capturing and editing images. This is what first got me noticed as an art photographer and I have since been commissioned by Microsoft, Becks and Spurs Football Club. I now shoot mainly on DSLRs and mix my post production process between iPad apps and photoshop to produce the finished pieces.
In researching ideas for the Tom Kerridge project I felt that as the new site was to be his first permanent location outside Marlow that it would be interesting to create images that connected the new site to Tom’s spiritual & culinary home in Marlow. Tom graciously gave me access to all of his sites and this was the starting point of the project.
It is important when I come into commissioned projects that the works connect not only with the brief but also connect with the client. Having elements of his achievements in Marlow appear in the new site connected the culinary journey that Tom has travelled.
The process of making the pieces was first to go to Marlow and get a feel for each of Tom’s sites and see what would resonate well in the new site. Going into the kitchens of each restaurant the thing that drew my attention first were the tools of the trade. In particular the knives. All good chefs tend to have their own sets of knives and this is seen as their key tool. It seemed a great place to start and became a key element of the final selection of pieces. I also wanted to include touch stones to The Hand & Flowers where Tom received his first Michelin Star, and Marlow a place clearly dear to his heart.
My photographic style when it comes to my art images is to use multi layered and mirrored images saturated in colour or layered with textures on the black & white images. Using apps allows me to get real time preview ideas for the final images and gives me some guidance as to how I want to shoot the subjects. I tend to render at least 3-4 versions of the shots before narrowing down my final choices. As this was a commissioned project the images had to have some visual connection so the use of mirror imaging is prevalent.
Photographers who I admire, there are so many. Some of those who first captured my imagination as to what photography could be were Richard Avedon, Albert Watson, Annie Leibovitz, David LaChappelle, Steven Meisel, Gregory Crewdson, Tim Walker, Nick Knight, Masashi Wakui, the list goes on!
In terms of work that influences my own, the double exposure portraits of photographers like Brandon Kidwell, Christoffer Relander and Jill Greenberg have certainly impacted my work with their use of multiple exposures and carefully layered images to create alternate realities to their subjects.
A photographic work that I often return to would be Gregory Crewdson’s Untitled work from his Summer Rain series where a man stands in the rain by his abandoned car. Like much of his work it is a surreal and slightly disturbing image full of melancholy and dread yet it remains fascinating. The image blurs the boundary between fiction and reality. While known for his meticulous set ups and cinematic approach to lighting the image feels both manufactured and spontaneous at the same time.
Has time influenced my process...? I am now much quicker at finding and processing the images. I am more confident in knowing what images I want to capture but also trust my instincts to allow spontaneity within my work.
I think I first felt like an artist when I had my first works in a gallery show and heard people discussing it and ultimately buying it. It gave me validation that the work spoke to people.
I feel that being an artist has not really changed as regardless of the technology that has become available to artists over the years artistic vision is still the driving force that makes any art compelling regardless of the medium.
Ideally I approach the images individually and work to get the best out of them as a sole piece. The scale comes from how I feel the piece is best viewed. With commissioned pieces I work with the client to give the piece the impact they want from it.
I am always taking photographs and the majority are for me. Many are to capture moments or people that inspire or are important to me. I find influences in all kinds of things but I am drawn to cinema and animation as well as nature.
I do enjoy Tate Britain and the Royal Academy of Arts. One of the most impactful exhibits I have ever seen was the Anish Kapoor retrospective at the RA a few years ago.
I hope that diners who see my work at Kerridge’s Bar & Grill will feel some connection to the heritage that Tom brings from Marlow to his latest London venture and the culinary transformation & artistry that Tom and his chefs bring to the raw ingredients that are the basis of his cuisine.
For artworks by P Gerard Barker please visit www.beautifulcrime.gallery
Tom Kerridge: Over the last five years, various independent hoteliers and restauranteurs have approached us to open a restaurant in London in various places, we have always been talking to people but it has never been the right time or right partnership for us. Our company has always been about organic growth so we would not be opening this restaurant without having the right people behind it. I would never open somewhere and then try to find the right people to run it. We have been very lucky that we have retained members of the team with us for a long time and so as they have grown they have reached ceilings, and so the only way for them to progress has been to create their own ceilings! Nick Beardshaw, the chef heading up this project, has been with the company for eight or nine years, and it is really exciting that he now has this opportunity.
It was a phone call from Thomas Kochs asking if we would be interested in having a conversation that kicked off this project. From the moment that I met Thomas, I knew it was always going to happen because he is such a wonderful and warm person that is all about hospitality and that is what we are about too, even though our two offers may seem miles apart: one is a pub in Marlow and the other a five star hotel in the heart of London, both are about making sure that the guests have the most wonderful time.
The dining room itself is a wonderful room, it is a beautiful space but as it was it may as well have been a museum or an art gallery, it presented no immediate connection to the restaurant we wanted, other than there being a bar to one side.
The Hand & Flowers in Marlow is a small space, it is a pub, you instantly know what to expect inside from its exterior, and so when you walk in it is easy to connect with the space and to the offer, so I wanted to bring the warmth, the immediate connection to the food, and that same sense of hospitality to this amazing room. That was the first thing that I said to Simon, that the design needed to bring an intimacy to this very grand room.
Simon Rawlings: The large glass orb chandeliers had to go!
TK: The chandeliers were amazing, the room is amazing but we wanted to lower the impact of the ceiling and that was one of the first decisions that Simon made. He said, “I would like to paint the ceiling green’, and referenced New York’s Grand Central Station, and we suddenly got it. It still has a grandeur and a beauty, but the green ceiling brings the space in, creating this very seductive room from something so vast.
SR: When we visited Marlow, I knew we needed to distil the essence of the place and the pub into a series of nostalgic and familiar touch points. Not to create anything contrived, but to create something that felt right for Tom. What is the offer? What does the space need? What is the purpose and function of each area? How do we make each seating area inviting? How do we bring food preparation and food display into the room? Thinking about the room as a series of different elements, rather than trying to deal with it as a single room, means that from every perspective there will be a different viewpoint of the activity at each station within the room. I think the layout that we have all worked very hard to perfect is going to make the guests feel immersed in their own pocket of activity and part of the wider room, which I think is important.
TK: Familiarity, as Simon mentions, has been a really important concept. When people eat with us in Marlow they quite often say, this is the first Michelin starred restaurant they have ever eaten in, and that is a wonderful thing. They feel they can come because they feel comfortable within a familiar surrounding so being able to bring that context and that warmth into a dining room that is in the heart of London was key to us.
These are the touch points that Simon and The Studio added: the real ale room as you enter, the meat aging on display, seeing the meat being cooked, the cheese on view. Everybody knows roast beef, cheese, and beer. But having these activities on display and integrated into the space, gives a beautifully decorated, high end dining room the familiar touch points which people recognise and make them feel comfortable, which was so important to the brief.
SR: The space had to evoke Tom’s personality as well. It would be boring if it felt as if an anonymous designer had simply created something that was disconnected from him. The fact Tom has brought his wife Beth’s artworks into the space, the fact that we had a late night telephone conversation the other day obsessing over the selection of the beer taps - this is the level of engagement Tom has with the restaurant and its design, to really make sure that everything really has that level of attention to detail and represents him.
And whilst familiarity to the guests is important, the room is not going to feel alien within the building either, which is also key. It is not going to feel like a pub has been dropped into the heart of The Corinthia - the space feels relevant to the building as well, which is key.
TK: To be able to have something of the pub offer was quite tricky, but has been achieved by interpreting the ethos behind craft ales or fine wines: both are well looked after, both are brewed or nurtured or bit is brewed well, both have heart and soul, vibrancy and love, a warmth, that understanding that there is something tactile about the manufacturing processes behind both. Real ales and fine wines are made by people with passion, and the hops, the vineyards, the barrelling, the whole process of both represent a connection to human beings, and that is what we wanted to infer with the design of the restaurant.
SR: Exactly. One of the other things I think you will really get a real sense of is the Britishness of the space as well when you walk in. The furniture has all been made in Britain. The leather is all British. There are all these touch points that are all going to be really quite special similarly to the processes behind developing the food and the menu, there will be an emphasis on process, craft and authenticity and familiarity, which will bring about a really unique feeling. Tom has been a great collaborator, and whilst he has been very involved, we have been allowed to really develop the vision, design and the details.
TK: I think once the vision has been established, I am very good at letting people deliver what they are good at doing. I am quite good at delegating and I am quite good at understanding people’s skill sets. I do not know how to design a restaurant, so you ask, ‘Who are the best people at designing restaurants?’ and one of the most famous restaurant designers is David Collins Studio. So already having designed the room once and having had an understanding of the space and a connection to it and having worked with the hotel before, I could see no reason not to work with The Studio.
Following the first conversation I had with Simon, the team followed up and presented some ideas back to us, and they were already on point. Not 100%, but straight away 80% of what we wanted to capture and had been talking about was there, and we knew it was going to be a great partnership.
In terms of the design, there has been very little going back and forth. It is always going to be a conversation with three parties: us as an independent, the hotel as group and then the design studio. How you bring our personality as an independent into the hotel and into the space with the design is the hardest role. David Collins Studio has been the middle-man trying to make everything work, whilst fighting for personality and having an awareness of the numbers and bums-on-seats!
There is always a bottom-line that businesses are looking for, and of course every endeavour needs to operate at a profit, but there are front-line considerations in terms of operations and people as well, as of course, it is the people working on the space and in the space who will make the room work. The room having a heart and soul, and the room looking good on a balance sheet, could be two very different things, so all parties have very honest about what they want. David Collins Studio has been straight forward at communicating, there have been absolutely zero issues from our point of view. We have been understood from the word go. The Corinthia have been amazingly understanding too. There really has been a connection between all three businesses.
SR: I think that from the outset there was a very clear brief, which always helps. It is when there is no clear direction or brief that you have false starts. That is when the process becomes complicated and troubled. I firmly believe that with any relationship you need to have the confidence to talk openly at the beginning of the project. If you don’t agree with something you have to speak up.
TK: Yes, otherwise it will become a larger problem further down the line.
SR: From the outset there were very small conversations and the actual decision making team was small. It was yourself and Thomas Kochs, we issued our drawing packages and it came back with either a tick or a cross! That made it much easier than presenting the same thing over and over again and navigating multiple differences of opinion.
TK: Yes, “Can we make the green a bit more green...!”
SR: Exactly, I am not going to tell you how to cook my steak. It is just a kind of trust. You have got to have trust in the people who know what they are doing. I am not saying that come the soft-launch everything is going to be perfect because there are always a few things to shimmy around: a few more lights here and a few less lights there, more pictures there - the space will evolve.
TK: Exactly, the menu will be the same. We know that we have dishes that are going to work and they will be brilliant, but you never know if they are going to sell or if you will need to change something. It is all well and good saying, “This is how it is going to be”, but it doesn’t mean that it cannot adapt as long as you have the foundations of what you want it to be in place.
SR: And the room is like a plate of food. You don’t know how people are going to react until they eat in it. You don’t know how it will fully function until it is full of people.
TK: You just want to make it full!