The Accessible Art Show

I didn’t know much about the Accessible Art Show other than it was an art exhibition at the Solent University’s Spark, where I work. The term ‘Accessible’ sparked my curiosity though. I initially thought it referred to the accessibility of the building it was held at but no.

It was Accessible because there was something for everyone. Paintings, digital art, pottery, sculptures and many of the artists were there to have a chat with. There were people drawing, painting, creating there and then, incredible atmosphere and all for free (there was also an online auction going on at the same time where anyone could bid to buy the artwork on display, which has now closed). Local art, accessible to all. A great selection of incredible art by superbly talented local artists.

I bumped into Richard, the That’s TV journalist I was chatting to half an hour earlier at the Communicare Fair. He put together a little video on the exhibition, published yesterday. You might spot a familiar face!

I’m glad I decided to pop by, despite my tiredness. I absolutely loved it. I had a wander, taking snaps of the pieces that caught my eye and coming up with my own stories about them. That’s what art is all about.

One of my favourite was Evelyn Bartlett’s ‘Perfect Day‘. That’s how I, often, when I need to go to my happy place and calm my mind, imagine my Perfect Day to be. Sometimes a warm early morning watching the sunrise and other times a warm afternoon watching the sunset, always by the beach, listening to the gorgeous sound of waves.

But there were many many more. Here’s the rest of my favourites from Pip Webb’s Jazz Tree-O (I hear Jazz in my head every time I look at it), Mick Dixon’s Pottery to David Mc Diarmid’s Harry Potter-esque Griffin sculpture. Have a look yourself. Make up your own stories. Enjoy.

Thank you to all the organisers. What a great event at the centre of our city.



From Abstraction to Overpainted Photographs: Artist Rooms-Gerhard Richter

Art is the highest form of hope. (Gerhard Richter)

I didn’t know what to expect when we walked in.

I knew of Gerhard Richter,  as I’ve heard of him before, I didn’t know much about him.

I’m no artist, nor I have a great knowledge of art other than what most of us do- Picasso, Van Gogh (the depression through his art is captivating), Michelangelo, Da Vinci (no need to say much), you get the idea- but I love spending hours staring into paintings, admiring the talent and coming up with my own stories. Imagination, one of the greatest abilities of the human mind.

And it’s not that often that works of one of the most important artists of the 20th and 21st centuries are displayed at the beautiful, new gallery in the city centre for free!

First room we walked in: Tapestries


We sat at the ‘viewpoint’ (that’s what I call it, the little wooden bench in each room to sit on and immerse into the paintings) and stared at the large, imposing tapestries hanging off the walls. Four different but similar patterns, they somehow look like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle (They actually are. Each tapestry is a quarter of Richter’s Abstract Painting 724-4 mirrored and repeated four times). We wonder how the whole picture would look like if you put them together.

They remind me of Rorschach inkblots. What do you see in them? I always wondered how accurate Rorschach tests really are. Can you, with confidence, diagnose a mental disorder from how one interprets ink stains? That’s a whole other story!

I could see a bat with cool sunglasses on, a dog, sound waves, pain, screaming, anger…

I find out later Richter meant to make them look like Rorschach. 

In the room next to the Tapestries we come across Abstract Painting No 439. I thought my eyes went blurry but no. It’s the painting.

Abstract Painting No 439

What is it? Plants? A pond? Is that sunlight? Why does it remind me of neurons and neurotransmitters? Why did Richter want it blurry?

We read in the cute little booklet we were given that this painting is actually a picture (4 times larger) of Richter’s Oil Sketch No 432/11. Which is hanging on its left hand side. It looks very different to the original but also so similar.


I love the original, not only because I love oil paint (I’m not sure why). I can see where Gerhard brushed on top of the last layer of paint, I can see the paint brushes. He must have painted this in stages. The rain of sun rays I can see was added last. That’s what I’d do if I were an artist. Come back to a piece of art and add to it until I feel it’s complete. How do you know when it’s complete though?

Just opposite, one of Richter’s most famous paintings, Abstract Painting 809-3.

Abstract painting 809-3

I find abstract art thrilling. I love how I can imagine Richter painting the dark blue and black, then days or months later deciding to add all the yellow and then scrape some of it off to reveal the darkness underneath.

Upstairs, the first room we walk into is… eerie. It reminds me of tombstones, a memorial… 48 portraits.


They look like photographs but not quite. Upon closer look we realise they are actually paintings. The talents of this man are endless.

Each picture is a portrait of a famous man, a man who left his mark in history. We recognise some immediately. Others we know of them, but didn’t know how they looked like until now. I can’t believe I did not remember what Alfred Adler, one of the most significant psychologists of all time, looked like.

Why are there no women? And why there were no politicians or other artists in the final selection? I find out much later. If you want to know, all the answers are here.

Just when we are about to move on, the gallery assistant hands us a copy of the paintings with a little blurb of what they were famous for under each portrait. ‘We tend to give this to visitors at the end, let them guess’. I’m glad she did. It’s been a while since I tested my general knowledge.

Next stop my favourite room of the Gallery. The one facing Guildhall Square. The one where Hetain Patel’s Transformer proudly stood months ago, one of my all time favourite pieces of modern art.

I love the views of that room, the ample natural light.

And today it looks brighter because of Colour Charts. ‘Richter used a predetermined mathematical system to create 1,024 shades, then randomly placed the colours in a grid of 4,096 squares, repeating each one four times’ (Gerhard loves number four it seems).

We sat down looking around the room for a while. Fascinating.


The last room we walk in is an artwork collection, samples of other various different techniques and ideas Richter experimented with. He loves photography, painting over photographs, he played with glass and mirrors, amongst others.


I left the exhibition feeling… I don’t even know how to describe the feeling. Excited, amused, inspired, touched. Is there a single word to capture it?

Thank you John Hansard Gallery for a simply stunning exhibition. Thank you for introducing me to Richter’s colourful, bizarre, surreal, world.

If you’d like to experience it yourself, Gerhard Richter’s Artist Rooms will be at the Gallery until the 18th of August. 

I can’t wait for the next one.




From a hardworking teenager to a chef to an artist- The story of Andy Jones, a Solent Fine Art Student

I love meeting inspiring humans who love what they do. They talk about it with so much passion and eloquence. I instantly know when that happens. I can see the sparkle in their eyes. And I smile without realising.

What is even rarer is to meet well-rounded people who can talk not only about what they love, but everything and anything else. And Andy is one of them.

A couple of months I received a message on Twitter. Andy, a final year Fine Art Student at Solent came across my blog and wanted to meet and have a chat. He offered to show me around the Fine Art studios and his third year project he was working on.

I love meeting new people-oh if I could do that for a living- and any excuse to visit the beautiful, colourful, creative Below Bar Studios again, I didn’t have to think twice.

We met on a grey Thursday afternoon a couple of weeks ago. And I enjoyed every minute. Andy is honest and open about his life. I miss it, I often find that people here are too polite and don’t say what they think, afraid they may reveal too much. But not Andy.

We sit opposite his impressive piece of work.

IMG_5678 1

We talked about his life, what a life he had. He left Liverpool when he was 17 to get away from family troubles and had to work since. He became a chef, at some point working at the Marco Pierre White restaurant in London, living THE life.

We inevitably end up talking about food, Mediterranean cuisine, he lived in Spain for a while so he really knows the essence of delicious food.

He somehow lost everything later on, and some years and six children later, one day his wife said to him ‘I’ll go back to work, and it’s time for you to chase your dream’.

That’s when he applied to study Fine Art at Solent. He wanted to become an artist since he was a child, but as you’d imagine, there wasn’t much support for a young Liverpudlian lad in the ’80s to become an artist, you ‘can’t make a living out of it’.

We talk about the course. He loves it. He absolutely loves it but he feels there is not much support, recognition or promotion from the University. As a mature student, commuting for hours most days, he expected more for himself and his classmates.

We go through his work and his current project. Imposing, sad but incredibly powerful.

Andy Jones

The big hammer, the ‘corporate’, the ‘big powers’ ruining our planet, ruining humanity. All of that painted on plastic canvases. The contrast, the intentional irony.

On one of his paintings,  he added a crown on his hammer hitting the Grenfell tower, on which he added a little head. A prime, tragic example of how greediness has destroyed the lives of innocent, every day people. I can see it so very clearly (image below it’s not the one I’ve seen, but it depicts the same scene).

Grenfell tower

On the top right, I catch a familiar image with the corner of my eye. The traditional blue and white houses you often see on Greek Islands. I smile. It reminds me of the cute little holiday apartment I stayed with my sisters in Protaras, two years ago, the best summer I had in a long time.

He shows me around the studio, it somehow seems bigger than the last time I was there. He talks me through the rest of the students work, some finished, some still in progress. That’s why I love art. I love the creativity, the beauty of the surrealism mixed with cruel reality in more than one occasions and the subjectivity. You may not see what I see, and I may not see what you see. That’s the beauty of it.

I leave the Studio grateful I met Andy and I spent my lunchtime at a gorgeous, creative space, escaping reality even for a little bit.

I can’t wait for their degree show, 26° Below Bar, opening night on the 8th of June. Everyone is welcome. If you want to see Andy’s and the rest of our amazing Fine Art students’ work, come along. I’ll be there.



You are very much on time

Today I’m not reflecting back on last week.

I weirdly can’t remember much of it. It’s all a blur.  I remember walking home after my hairdresser’s appointment on Monday evening, only to find out the next day that a girl was raped at the very same park I walked through, roughly at the same time I passed by.

I didn’t hear a thing. It was only 6:30pm in the evening. It shouldn’t be dangerous walking through a park with so many people around early in the evening.

I no longer walk through the park at night, most days. Some days I’m angry that women in this day and age are advised not to walk through a park in the afternoon, just to be on the safe side, so I walk through it and I’m ready to fight whoever tries to even touch me.

I remember Mike’s birthday lunch and the fire at Waterstone’s whilst we were at Turtle Bay. How sad to see all the books, all the beautiful books with amazing stories on their pages, all the philosophy, science, literature, fiction books that open up our minds and teach us valuable lessons burnt.


And I remember having delicious pies for lunch on Thursday. This is it. The rest is nonsensical in my brain.

What I vividly remember is waking up one day during the week in tears. I was terrified, panicking. Panicking this year is going so fast, too fast. I cannot believe it’s already March.

I went through a whirlwind of emotions, thoughts. I’ve been contemplating about life a lot this week.

‘Am I good enough?’

‘What should I do next?’

‘What do I really want to do next?’

‘What if I die right now?’

‘What have I achieved in my life so far?’

‘I am running out of time. I’m almost 32, what should I do?’

Excruciatingly painful questions with no simple answers.

And then I remembered. I remembered a video my lovely Lou sent me.

A simple, minute and a half long video going through examples on how people achieve different things at different times. One might have become a CEO when they were 22 and then died a year later whereas someone else became a CEO when they were 50 and lived until their 90. Just an example to show that we all work on our own time zones, some might seem ahead and some might seem behind you, we shouldn’t mock them or envy them. Because we are all running our own race, in our own time, our own time zone.

So simple, yet so powerful. I’m in my own time zone, as you are in yours.

It’s incredibly tough to not compare yourself to others. Society norms dictate and often measure your success on others. But that’s not the case.

I recently finished reading one of the best books I’ve ever read and I would recommend it to anyone and everyone, Emotional Intelligence, why it can matter more than IQ by Daniel Goleman.

I’ve learned a lot from this one book, from the neuroscience behind it to what Emotional Intelligence is to how developing it can benefit yourself, others, the society, the world, but I won’t go into much detail, one must read it to get the full picture.

Emotional Intelligence, recognising your own emotions and managing them effectively, motivating yourself, recognising emotions in others and handling relationships is what can make or break you. Emotional Intelligence in contrast to the highly regarded by many IQ can be cultivated and improved at any age. And it should. It’s vital and essential. It all starts from a very young age. The way your parents raise you up even since you are a toddler affects your whole life but you have the power to change it. It should be taught at school, it should be taught from a young age.

Why? Because when we finally become adults we can cope better in life. We learned how to be good, loving caring humans. We are aware when and why we are happy, upset, angry.  We recognise how others behaviours affect us and how to change that, we know how to treat people truly respectfully without letting prejudices affect us. We are more resilient to social pressure and all of the social rules dictating our lives. We won’t feel the need to measure our success by comparing our lives to others, because we have the emotional intelligence to recognise that’s just emotions and feelings imposed by others. 

What is success anyway? Money, fame, reaching the top of your career ladder?

No, not really. Many have done that and if you ask them years later they all say the same thing. They’d rather have spent more time doing things they love, with the people they love, making memories.

Of course it’s important to love what you do. And I respect people who love their work. But work is not everything and it shouldn’t define us. And not all of us are lucky to be doing what we love for a living.

In one of the first Derren Brown books I read, Derren whilst explaining how he memorises and recalls people’s names, mentions that when he meets people he never asks them what most would ask, what they do for a living, because some might hate their job and what they do doesn’t define who they are, but he instead asks them what they do in their spare time, what their hobbies are, what they love doing, and then associates their name with some of their favourite things. What a great way to remember people’s names!

I’ve met many ‘successful’ people in my life. Most could only talk about their job and their career, understandably because they love it but they couldn’t discuss about anything else. They rarely read any book, they rarely had time, or made time, to go on a holiday or explore another culture, they haven’t listened to music or went to the theatre for months. They couldn’t remember the last time they’ve seen a film, they had no knowledge or experience in anything else other than their work.

If that’s success, then I do not want it.

What I loved about my lunch with Charlie yesterday is that we could chat about films, life, society, Higher Education, music to travelling and life. Because we both love learning, trying new things and our life doesn’t revolve around work. What we do for a living does not define us and it shouldn’t.

What the world needs is more well-rounded people like Charlie. Well-rounded, emotionally intelligent, loving, caring humans.  People who have what the Japanese called Ikigai, ‘a reason for being’.

Some of them might have reached success in the conventional sense, some might not. But it doesn’t matter.

I don’t know if anyone in years to come would even remember who I was, I don’t know if I leave a big mark on this crazy world, but we all leave our mark, big or small.

What I’ll leave for others is what I learned from my life through my blog, I’ll leave thousands of photos of delicious food and beautiful places and stories of amazing humans.

The feature image I used for this post today is an example of what I’ll leave for others. A gorgeous moment I captured whilst walking to work. I stopped walking for a second because I wanted to take in the beauty of this world. The sun coming out of the clouds, shining gloriously, brightening the beautiful park. Every time I stare at the sun I think of all my friends and family who live far away but at that moment standing there, the same sun is shining where they are. At that moment they don’t feel that far.

We are on our own time zones, literally and metaphorically but we are part of each other’s life, we are part of each other’s time line, in the most beautiful way. Because we love and care about each other. And I smile. 

It’s all about the little things, it’s all about enjoying every single moment, trying new things and for me right now, doing more things I want to but I’m scared of. And everything will fall into place. Just like that.

There is no better way to end this post with a poignant quote by my favourite lady, Leslie Knope.




Soleto’s 5* dinner and Miss Saigon 5* show

Wednesday, last day of February…

After an interesting but challenging, busy day running around for most of it, I could not wait for my dinner and theatre evening.

I’ve been daydreaming for that first sip of wine for days… I’ve been looking forward to seeing Miss Saigon since we booked our tickets a month ago… I’ve been drooling thinking of the Ravioli from the first moment I saw that Insta Story weeks ago…

It’s all about the little things, I lost count how many times I’ve been told by friends, colleagues, even people I recently met that they love how I enjoy life and make the most of it. It’s true. And I looked forward to this evening more than words can describe.

First stop Soleto, a little Italian just opposite the Mayflower. I’ve never heard of this restaurant until a couple of weeks ago. During one of my long sessions on Instagram exploring, I came across this snap on the Southampton location Insta story of the most gorgeous looking ravioli I’ve ever seen. That’s one of the ways I discover all the little gems I often blog about. I googled the place, as one does and it had great reviews on TripAdvisor.

The gang trusts my instinct when it comes to food and they were all up for trying Soleto before the theatre. I’ve made a reservation a couple of days ago and the lovely manager on the phone after hearing my name asked where I was from as my name sounded Greek. I told her I was Greek Cypriot and she had a giggle before telling me that her husband, George/Yiorgos was Greek and he is the cook, he would be the one preparing our meals. It made my day. It reminded me of my dad, cooking delicious fish every night… I almost knew the food would be amazing.

And it was one of the best three course meals I had in a while. Everyone else agreed.

For a starter we shared the Baked Camembert with Garlic and Rosemary which came with Toasted Ciabatta and Chilli and Onion Chutney. Heavenly runny Camembert, with just the right amount of garlic and herbs, warm, crusty on the outside, soft on the inside, homemade ciabatta and delicious, spicy chutney. We loved it so much we ordered a second.

Baked Camembert with Garlic and Rosemary. Toasted Ciabatta and Chilli and Onion Chutney

I usually struggle to choose a main, but this time I knew from the moment I’ve seen it on that story that I had to try the Wild Mushroom Ravioli. Oh my lord. Perfectly cooked ravioli beautifully laid in a creamy Leek and Pine nut Sauce, with of course grated Parmesan on top.

Wild Mushroom Ravioli

I could not decide what to have for pudding, I love a chocolate tart but the lovely manager recommended the Creme Brulee. It was the perfect pudding to finish off this incredible meal. Light and fluffy, not overly sweet.

All the dishes were beautifully presented which makes a difference. If it looks good, it rarely doesn’t taste good!

Creme Brulee

I’m not a big wine drinker but Dave’s recommendation of red hit the spot. Light, smokey, smooth, it was the perfect choice for our meal, especially on a bitterly cold, winter night.

2018-03-01 15.28.05.jpg

And for all of that we only paid £35 each, tips included! I’d definitely pay more.

After dinner, warmed up, happy with full belly, we headed to the theatre to see Miss Saigon.

I do not want to reveal much in case you are about to go and see it but it was hands down one of the best shows I’ve seen at the Mayflower.

Incredible props and sets and beautiful, colourful, authentic costumes, for a moment you forget you are in Southampton and you are transferred to 1970’s Vietnam.

The music was amazing, well done to the brilliant orchestra and the maestro co-ordinating the musicians and the outstanding cast singing.

The whole cast was stunning, especially Kim and the Engineer, but everyone was incredible.

I cried in the end not just because of the tragic ending (as one would expect of an Opera adaptation) but because of the beauty of it all, the set, the music, the acting.

Some of my friends and colleagues I’ve talked to afterwards didn’t think it was that brilliant, as they compared it to the London production they’ve seen years ago but as a first-timer I absolutely loved it.

Needless to say I’d recommend it, it’s worth every single penny. And if you decide to go, pop to Soleto for dinner first. I’m going back at the first opportunity to taste more of their dishes.

Delicious food, great company and an amazing show, definitely a night to remember.

Thank you to Solent Staff Scene for the tickets and to the Mayflower for bringing such a great production to Southampton.



Summer in the Square Wednesday

Today I had one of the most interesting, inspiring conversations with strangers at East park.

I’ve been passing by this tent in the park for the last couple of days.

I saw people leaving there with drawings, I saw people chatting but didn’t have a clue what it was about, I only knew it was part of Summer in the Square, a month of free gigs, performances and activities at the Cultural Square.

So today, whilst wandering around at lunchtime as I normally do, I decided that the one thing I’ll do different today is to find out what was happening under that tent.

So I went over and ask the two lovely ladies sitting there, Abi and Jo, what it was all about.

They told me that they invite people to build little hubs or dens, create a space to have a conversation with each other, a ‘conversation station‘ . They were then asked to write down their thoughts and a book will be put together and sent to all participants.

The topic of discussion today was what it makes a good neighbour.

Abi was telling me what others have been talking about over the last couple of days she is been running the workshop. Below are just some.

A guy said that he and his neighbour have a lot in common, listen to the same music, go to the same events and if they were not neighbours they would have been friends. Which sounds bizarre, but it makes sense. They didn’t want to break the ‘neighbour’ boundaries.

Another lady thought that her neighbours may stereotype her because of her colour but she concluded that ‘you won’t know how good a pudding is until you try it’.

A Muslim and Christian lady whilst discussing about their neighbourhood customs, realised through their conversation how similar they were, despite their religion.

I talked about how different the culture is back home in Cyprus and how I struggled to adjust when I first moved in the UK. I know some of my neighbours here, we say hi, we take parcels for each other but that’s it. Back home I know all of my neighbours, the whole neighbourhood not just those living in the same building.

We often have a chat, they come and we go over. We share food and other goodies.

The downside of that is that there is no much privacy. People often ask you intrusive questions without realising that you mind feel uncomfortable. And everyone knows everything you do. Nothing stays a secret for long!

When I first moved in the UK I used to think that Brits are rude or unfriendly and I sometimes worried that maybe they were put off by my accent or my level of English but I grew to realise they are probably worried not to intrude, not to invade my privacy.

Abi told me how she wanted to invite her neighbour to a barbeque she had recently but she didn’t in the end as she thought that her neighbour might have felt obliged to go even if she didn’t want to.

Whilst I was there writing down my thoughts a lovely Chinese lady arrived with her adorable 5 year old. She told us how back in China where she grew up, they used to leave the door open and their neighbours would come in at any time without any warning. In modern China most live in large block flats and you don’t get to meet many of your neighbours.

The little girl at this point interrupted and said ‘and there are no (green) fields to play and run in’. It’s incredible that children would wish for the most simple things like a place they can run and play.

We ended up talking about stereotyping and how we judge people based on their colour, religion or even their behaviour. Most of the times the way people behave is not necessarily who they are. It’s not all black and white. We all have been rude or did something bad. That does not define us.

After spending my lunchtime at the tent with all the lovely ladies I went back to the office, excited, eager to share this with my colleagues which sparked up even more interesting conversations and beautiful stories shared.

My colleague Denise told me how her Italian neighbour used to take her food. I then remembered that a couple of years ago, my Chinese and Indian neighbours use to bring me delicious dumplings and fresh curry and I used to take them freshly baked cake and Greek pies.

We moved on talking about regional differences. Linda who is from Northern England told me how more open and chattier people are up there compared to the South.

We then went on talking about how when we were kids we were out in the neighbourhood playing all day and our parents wouldn’t worry if we were gone for hours.

Nowadays parents tend to be overprotective. I’m not sure whether it’s much more dangerous today than it used to be decades ago or we think it is.

And we ended up sharing our childhood memories. The grumpy old lady living in the corner who would complain about the noise the kids in the neighbourhood make, the lovely one living on the other side who used to treat us to biscuits and chocolates.

So today I’m grateful for the incredibly beautiful conversations with lovely strangers which then continued with great friends and colleagues.

It’s amazing how different but also at the same time how similar we humans are.

Today I was reminded to be more open. And not be scared to talk to my neighbours or anyone else for that matter. Social norms are useful and sometimes necessary but they shouldn’t dictate our life.

My urge, my need to do something different, even small every day to break the routine led to a great day of interacting with beautiful humans.

Thank you to Jo, Abi, the John Hansard Gallery and Summer in the Square for this great initiative!