Darkness Falls on the Open Arts Café


On Thursday night I entered into a world of darkness and lurid twisted minds. No, I hadn’t just entered the pub with old friends, no, I had stepped foot into The Open Arts Café (cue overdramatic sound effect).

The Open Arts Café is a monthly themed arts event that gives new and emerging artists working in all mediums a platform on which to perform and present their works. It is the brainchild of Maya Levy whom with Tyne Rafaeli established the event in 2008 to give artists a non-intimidating and dynamic environment in order to foster creativity and encourage them at the beginning of their artistic careers.


The theme of the night was “Darkness Falls”, fitting for the Halloween period. As I sat down with some blood red wine and scary snacks the show began. First up was Emily Harrison a Poet who won the Christopher Tower Poetry Prize in 2010, the Bang Said the Gun stand up poetry prize, has been published in Pop Shop and is one of the Barbican’s 15 best young poets between 14-25 in the UK. She came to the front of the stage with a quiet air of confidence and proceeded to read her pieces which were energetic and witty with a sardonic bite. Two pieces stuck in my mind to the point I had to discuss it with a friend afterwards, “Self (Marc Quinn)”, an interpretative poem about Marc Quinn’s sculpture of his own head carved out of his own blood, and a poem about the backstage lives of actors in Disneyworld. She has her very own webpage where you can read more of her works www.blag-jazz.tumblr.com A great live performer with an edge, I would recommend everyone read her works or better yet, catch her live if you can.

Next came Gallit Shaltiel , a Brighton based Illustrator, visual artist, photographer and educator. She recently completed an MA in Sequential Illustration and Design at the University of Brighton and last night she presented us with “Talking Underwater with a mouthful of cement” a piece of animation for which she received a distinction. The animation was made fusing digital technology with handmade elements of paper cutting. There is a quality of the macabre in the monochromatic style and the visuals evoke images of coffins, death and skeletons. You can see more of her works on her website: http://gallitshaltiel.com/

Shortly after we were witness to the musical dexterities of Meadhbh Boyd whose songs like “smelly Defeat” had heads bopping to spooky experimental pop tunes. Having been born in Clare, Ireland Meadhbh now lives and works in London as a musician, Journalist and teacher.  You can find out more about this dynamic musician on her website at http://meadhbhboyd.com/

The interval came and the audience were led into the bar area where we were also treated to some ghoulish displays by two very accomplished artists: Charlotte Orr and Karina Akyopan.

Oxford based freelance illustrator, Charlotte Orr’s works create a sense of wonder and awe in the landscapes and perspectives she portrays. Be it urban or natural, you can be sure that she will present you with an image that grasps your attention in its creativity. Visit her page at http://www.charlotteorr.com/ and have a look at her captivating works.

Karina is a London based artist and illustrator whose works are infused with intricate and repetitive patterns mixed with a dash of kink which maintains the viewer’s gaze. Head to www.karina-akopyan.com to be enthralled in her fetish wonderland.

To bring us back into the nightmarish world of darkness the multi talented Maya Levy,  who along with being the sole artistic director of the Open Arts Café since 2010 is also a singer songwriter, performed some wonderfully humorous  and dark pieces. One particularly funny one was inspired by the story of a school being evacuated due to a black widow spider sighting. Based on the music and witty lyrics you would never have guessed that she had only written it the night before. To end her set the audience were asked to sing along to a mash up of Stand by Me and The Monster Mash, a surreal and thoroughly enjoyable experience.

After Maya’s dynamic performance we were introduced to  the writer Jennifer Leigh Allen who read us an excerpt of her original fairy tale entitled “Lux” which concerns the concepts of light and darkness as seen through a child’s eyes. The story was captivating and her talent can be noted in the fact that when she finished her excerpt, everyone in the audience wanted to know what happened next. We were all spellbound by her story. Jennifer Leigh Allen is also one half of the London based production company “CosmoLeigh” http://www.cosmoleigh.com .

The final treat of the night was the talented musician, Nick Edward Harris Nick is a guitar/harmonica player, songwriter and teacher based in London . His music is a mix of Andy Mckee’s brilliant percussive use of the guitar and John Martyn’s melancholic atmosphere. His debut album “Chimera” was produced by Nick Trepka and features collaborations with Ted Dwane of Mumford and Sons as well as Emma Gatrill of The Mariner’s Children. You can buy his album on his website where you can also find out more about this talented and inspiring musician,  http://www.nickedwardharris.com/. If you have the chance to see him live, I advise you take it as he will surely grip you with his musical talents.

All in all, it was a great night full of jaw dropping, talented and ghoulish artists.  Maya Levy never fails to do a wonderful job picking the best artists and performers for her themed night which are always thoroughly entertaining.

The next event at the Open Arts Café will be on the 28th of November. To find out details or to be kept informed of events, you can visit the website at http://www.openartscafe.com/ and also follow them on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/openartscafe.


“Women don’t paint very well.”

This quote was made by the artist Georg Baselitz in an interview with Der Spiegel in January 2013. The full article can be found here:


Georg Baselitz is a German postmodern artist who works as a painter, draughtsman, printmaker and sculptor. His career exploded in the 1960s after his painting “Die große Nacht im Eimer“(The Big Night Down The Drain) was seized by the public prosecutor’s office for being immoral because of its provocative, offending sexual nature.


Die große Nacht im Eimer” by Georg Baselitz

He is currently a professor at Hochschule der Künste art academy in Berlin.

I first came across this interview in a post on YouTube presented by the Southbank Centre as part of their Women of the World Festival. Every year the Southbank Centre puts on this festival of talks and lectures to highlight the issues affecting women around the world and each one is recorded and subsequently put online for public viewing.

This lecture was called “Women don’t paint very well – It’s a Fact”. Well I didn’t take very well to this statement at all. It was especially poignant as I am currently reading Whitney Chadwick’s “Women, Art and Society” (Thames and Hudson,  2012) a book all about the overlooked great female artists in history, dating back to Marietta Robusti, Tintoretto’s daughter and had just read an article in the National Geographic that claims a new study discovered that most paleolithic cave art, previously thought to have been made by men, were actually produced by women.

Handprints in ancient cave art most often belonged to women, overturning the dogma that the earliest artists were all men.
Handprints in ancient cave art most often belonged to women, overturning the dogma that the earliest artists were all men.

Considering this, my indignation regarding this title was understandable, I simply had to watch it and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did

Sally Tallant, Director of Liverpool Biennial, Marin Alsop, one of the world’s leading female conductors and artist Alexis Teplin, investigate Baselitz’s statement :

I hope you found that enlightening. I wish to some degree that they had challenged the statement in question more and had brought up the reasons why it is still a commonly held view that women can’t paint, despite all evidence to the contrary. Other points they could have expanded upon would have been the language of the Art world, the lack of expertise on historical female artists in the educational system, the belief that artworks can be defined by their femininity and masculinity when these are completely arbitrary man-made constructs. However, considering the time limit and the range of the subject, I was very impressed by the panel. Many of Marin Alsop’s opinions in particular rang true, especially about the lack of successfully mediocre female artists, as greatness only exists in its relativity to mediocrity.

Indeed, in relation to Baselitz’s statement, Griselda Pollock, co-author of another great book on women and art “Old Mistresses: Women, Art and Ideology”, said: “Only few men paint brilliantly and it’s not their masculinity that makes them brilliant. It’s their individuality…Baselitz says women don’t paint very well, with a few exceptions. Men don’t paint very well either, with a few exceptions.” She goes on saying that although many factors contribute to holding back female painters, the main one is the “myth of the painter. The image in the West of a lonely, tortured white man. I could run rings around you with great women artists but there isn’t space in the cultural imagination.”

That great female painters exist and have always existed is irrefutable but much more needs to be done to change the prevailing perception, particularly in an industry that deals with subjectivity, that female artists are not on par with their male counterparts.

These talks and many more are available to be viewed on the Southbank centre YouTube website:


And the next Women of the World Festival will be held at the Southbank centre from Friday 7 March 2014 – Sunday 9 March 2014. You can obtain day or weekend passes from their website








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