How I learned not to worry about being cool and fell in love with Renoir again

Published in Elephant August 17, 2021

I was small enough to be picked up to see the painting, held comfortably in my father’s arms. It was a good print, in a good frame, hanging on the wall in my grandmother’s dining room. It is the first artwork I can remember really being aware of, and I loved it.

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Why Alice is the ultimate icon of children’s books

Published in BBC Culture May 12, 2021

For books that are all about surprising transformations, it should perhaps be no real surprise that Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass are among the most frequently adapted and reinterpreted stories ever written.

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A cultural history of the nude selfie

Published in BBC Culture March 19, 2021 

“Love, lust, pleasure, desire, beauty, anatomical study, self-expression, egotism… The impulses behind sending nudes are many. Creating nudes and sharing them seems to be part of human nature.” So begins Karla Linn Merrifield, in the first contribution to a new anthology entitled Sending Nudes. A collection of poems, stories and memoir on the subject, it takes a long hard look at the contemporary – and seemingly timeless – habit of sharing images of the naked human form.

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How Britain is facing up to its hidden slavery history

Published in BBC Culture February 3, 2020

If we hear at all about Britain’s involvement in slavery, there’s often a slight whiff of self-congratulation – for abolishing it in 1833, 32 years ahead of the US, where the legacy of slavery is still more of an open wound. Less well known, however, is the enormous cost of this decision for the taxpayer – the British government spent £20 million, a staggering 40% of its budget in 1833, to buy freedom for slaves.

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How vaginas are finally losing their stigma

Published in BBC Culture November 14, 2019

In 2017, Florence Schechter discovered that Iceland had a penis museum, but that nowhere in the world could its female equivalent be found. And so, the science communicator decided to do something about it. This month, in London, the Vagina Museum will be born.

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Review: Feast for the Eyes, Photographers’ Gallery

Published in Time Out October 22, 2019

We may need to eat to live, but food is rarely just fuel: it’s ritual, it’s celebration, it’s sex; a signifier of good or bad taste, status or aspiration, individual or national identity.

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Gauguin’s ‘strange, beautiful and exploitative’ paintings

Published in BBC Culture October 21, 2019

The backdrop to the portraits is Tahiti. The sitters are feminine, sensual, proffering ripe fruits and wearing flower garlands. The colours are bright: tropical yellows, hot pinks, mango orange and cobalt blue.

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Lee Krasner: The wild artist who brought colour to dazzling life

Published in BBC Culture June 4, 2019

“Change is life.” So said Lee Krasner, in an interview in 1972 – in doing so, the artist captured a truth about her work as well an essential fact of human existence. As an artist, she never stayed still; unlike many of the other Abstract Expressionists she’s sometimes grouped with, Krasner never developed a signature style, but instead remained restlessly reinventive.

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