Walter Martin and Paloma Muñoz

The worst of the winter weather is over now, I think.

Any nostalgia for the crisp voluptuousness of virgin snow can be indulged in the work of Walter Martin & Paloma Muñoz.

Martin was born in Virginia, studied Literature and gained an MFA.  Muñoz is originally from Madrid, started in Fine Art, but found the curriculum restrictive and left – “I decided to take my education into my own hands”.  The couple met in 1993 in New York, moved in together shortly after and have been collaborating since 1994.

Their most famous, and prolific, series is Travellers; intricate Lilliputian snowglobes which are beautifully photographed with a medium format (Mamiya) camera; either the globes or the photos or both can be exhibited.

The immediate effect is one of simple, almost childlike prettiness, but look closer and the scene is slightly warped.  Sometimes the details are comically absurd like the passing men, one doffing his hat, the other his head:

Meeting and Passing

Others show desolation:

Traveler 170 at Night

And some utter tragedy:

I Have a Future

In a similar vein is their Islands series:

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Camille O’Sullivan

I recently went to the Apollo theatre in London to see Camille O’Sullivan.  She is stunning.

If you’ve not heard of her, she is a half-French, half-Irish ex-architect chanteuse. She takes songs from writers who are master storytellers (Waits, Brel, Cave, Bowie, Kirsty MacColl) and dramatises them through her performance.  If I was a genre sort of person I guess I would tag her as Dark Cabaret.

She toured last year with her ‘Dark Angel’ show, where I first saw her, in a smaller venue, and spent an evening totally spellbound and entranced by her.  So I booked tickets to her run in the West End as a joint Christmas present for myself and my daughter.

The Apollo is a beautiful setting, and the stage was set, as previously, with a mix of hanging twinkling dresses, a sparkly swing, groups of glowing candles and homely touches such as the crocheted blanked lying on the spindly pine high-backed chair.

Camille came in through the back of the theatre, carrying a candle and leading her band up the aisle, onto the stage.  The evening started off with a powerful interpretation of David Bowie’s Five Years.

She is so engaging that once she was up on stage, any thoughts of making a note of the playlist or even capturing the odd moment on film was forgotten, but highlights I recall are the tragically beautiful ‘Little Water Song’ (orig Nick Cave), a scathing ‘Rock’n’roll Suicide’ (orig David Bowie) – my daughter’s favourite, a rousing ‘In These Shoes?’ (orig Kirsty MacColl) and an explosive version of Jacques Brel’s ‘Amsterdam’, which was so authentically wretched that it left Camille in a heap on the floor and my daughter feeling uncomfortable “like I was watching someone’s mental breakdown”.

Last time I saw her, I was moved to tears by her unaccompanied singing of Marieke (another Brel song) as an encore, but this time she seemed distracted, possibly because there seemed to be a bit of a commotion backstage.  Disappointing, but overall a wonderful evening and Camille has a new convert.