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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More than just a miniskirt: Two exhibitions reveal how Mary Quant shaped our world

Published in The Independent February 2, 2019

If you’re a British woman, you’ve probably got Mary Quant in your wardrobe. OK, maybe not literally – but if there’s a sleeveless shift or a tunic dress, a Peter Pan collar or a skinny-rib sweater, a pair of brightly coloured tights or even a PVC raincoat, you’re wearing Quant. And that’s before mentioning her most famous creation: the miniskirt.

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The art of the ménage à trois

Published in BBC Culture on November 7, 2018

Brangelina, Kimye, Hiddleswift… you could be forgiven for thinking the celebrity portmanteau name was an invention of the 21st Century. But today’s creative couples surely have nothing on the delightful ‘PaJaMa’: an amalgam of Paul Cadmas, Jared French and Margaret French, to reflect the interdependence of their relationship and artistic practice. From 1937 on, they lived as a polyamorous trio for 20 years. Continue reading “The art of the ménage à trois”

George Butler: ‘Because people are watching as I draw, it’s by permission and honest’

Published in The Observer on October 27, 2018

A reportage illustrator specialising in travel and current affairs, George Butler, 33, has worked in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2014 he helped establish the Hands Up Foundation to fund health and education services in Syria. A new exhibition of his work, Anima Mundi: Drawn Stories of Migration, will be at Bankside Gallery, London, 20-25 November. Butler grew up in Oxforshire and is now based in south London. Continue reading “George Butler: ‘Because people are watching as I draw, it’s by permission and honest’”

How LSD influenced Western culture

Published in BBC Culture on October 17, 2018

When you think of LSD, a very specific aesthetic probably leaps to mind: the psychedelic pink-and-orange swirls of the 60s; naked people with flowers in their hair; the shimmer of a sitar. After its psychedelic properties were accidentally discovered in the lab by Albert Hofmann in 1943, the drug was banned in the UK in 1966. LSD is still most strongly associated with hippies who embraced its mind-expanding properties. Continue reading “How LSD influenced Western culture”