Last year I began a project that could only be described as a dream come true. To create bespoke artwork for an impossibly beautiful hotel in the heart of London.
In a complete whirlwind of compositional sketches, late night note jotting, ideas bursting at the seams, scouring the internet for historical records and deciphering latin names for all kinds of botanical specimens… I set to work on a creating bespoke commissioned original oil paintings for the newly renovated building that would become one of the most lavish, expensive and artistically drenched hotels imaginable.
The Belmond group have renovated a building, where the room marked 118 is famously the room where Oscar Wilde was arrested. The hotel is owned by the Cadogan family, a lineage steeped in rich history as the ancestors of Hans Sloane, the 18th century physician, naturalist, adventurer and collector noted for bequeathing his collection of 71 000 items to the British nation, thus providing the foundation of the British Museum, the British Library and the Natural History Museum. He traveled to Jamaica on a 15 month long expedition to examine the local flora and fauna, also bringing back the recipe for hot chocolate. (Later the Messrs at Cadbury manufactured using Sloane’s recipe.) With this incredible history in mind, I had so much inspiring content to work with to create the pieces for the hotel that were not only to be aesthetically pleasing, but to tell the story of so much history.
The idea behind the pieces (5 in the restaurant although not all photographed yet) are to celebrate both the decadent movement of Oscar Wilde and the bountiful life’s work of Hans Sloane, all detailed within an opulent and extravagant arrangement of brush strokes of rich oil paint.
‘I plan to incorperate a plethora of plants that are relevant to the life’s work of Hans Sloane. For example, I have used the cocoa plant as the anchor of the piece, using the branches to guide the embellishments and detail of the flora, fauna and wildlife around the paintings. Also to include are other important features fro the Tropical Corridor of Chelsea Gardens such as cinchona pubescent, with its 300 years growth in the gardens, as one of the many specimens brought back to London from Sloane’s expedition to Jamaica. I would like to incorporate at points, the familiar shapes and outlines of the beautiful and plentiful dried plants from the archives of the Sloane Herbarium. The studied specimens of wildlife will be dappled throughout from the bold monarch butterfly to the delicate marbled white. Weft into the jewelled pigments will also be bird species, including the important red-billed steamer tail hummingbird, famously studied by Sloane and is the national bird of Jamaica. Amongst others, I plan for these subjects to be bold in their presence as well as hidden within details, and highlighted by 24 carat gold leaf.
As a nod towards Oscar Wilde, a nightingale and a rose will feature delicately within the botanical flourises, as well as green carnations. An emblem worn by himself and his followers, a symbol of an ideal he supported, in nature imitating art. The use of a spectrum of colours lends nicely to the words of Oscar Wilde: ‘Mere colour, unspoiled by meaning and unallied with definite form, can speak to the soul in a thousand different ways.’
The specimens features in the artwork are: Cocoa plant / cinchona pubescens / carnation / rose / jersey lily / red-billed steamer tail / small blue heron (egretta caerulea) / nightingale / marbled white butterfly / adman many more specimens from archives.
Adam Handling, the food genius behind the Adam Handling Chelsea restaurant inside the hotel, has created not only a fantastic menu but an experience. Everything from his decided artwork, making the surroundings a mixture of modern and eccentric with the most intricate interior work of small details and art deco perfection. The waiting staff have a warmth and a wit about them. The food is pure innovation. The whole experiance is stunning.
I was also asked to create bespoke artwork for the hotel tea rooms, an equally beautiful section of the hotel ran by Adam Handling. But thats a whole other blog post…