Category Index
Books About Big Art
  • A Life of Picasso: The Triumphant Years, 1917-1932
    A Life of Picasso: The Triumphant Years, 1917-1932
    by John Richardson
  • Sarah Lucas: A Catalog RaisonnĂ©
    Sarah Lucas: A Catalog Raisonné
    by Yilmaz Dziewior, Sarah Lucas
  • Grayson Perry
    Grayson Perry
    by Jacky Klein
  • Hendrik Kerstens (English and Dutch Edition)
    Hendrik Kerstens (English and Dutch Edition)
    by Pim Milo, Kathy Ryan
  • David Hockney: A Bigger Picture
    David Hockney: A Bigger Picture
    by Marco Livingstone, Margaret Drabble, Tim Barringer, Xavier Salomon, Stuart Comer, Martin Gayford
  • Vernon Ah Kee: Born in this Skin
    Vernon Ah Kee: Born in this Skin
    by Robert Leonard, Anthony Gardner, Aileen Moreton-Robinson, Blair French, Glenn Barkley
  • Yayoi Kusama
    Yayoi Kusama
    by Midori Yamamura, Jo Applin, Yayoi Kusama
  • Henry Moore: From the Inside Out; Plasters, Carvings, Drawings
    Henry Moore: From the Inside Out; Plasters, Carvings, Drawings
    Prestel Publishing
  • Wall and Piece
    Wall and Piece
    by Banksy
  • Mark Rothko
    Mark Rothko
    by Mr. Jeffrey Weiss
  • Louise Bourgeois
    Louise Bourgeois
    by Robert Storr, Paulo Herkenhoff
  • Damien Hirst
    Damien Hirst
    by Ann Gallagher
Join the Big Picture

A blog that aims to spark thoughts and inspire by seeking out and sharing works of art

Historically, artists have always worked big, and nowadays those boundaries are being pushed to the limits.

Large-scale art, whether in the form of photos from the Hubble space telescope, sharks floating in tanks of formaldehyde, rooms full of dots, concrete sculptures cast from Victorian buildings or hand knitted blankets wrapped around trees, large-scale art is all around us. Join the Big Picture aims to spark thoughts and inspire by seeking out and sharing these works.

All content by Karla Thompson, an ex-pat Aussie living in East London. When not working on Join the Big Picture she is part of the backbone to the Leonhard Pfeifer brand.

Read an interview about Join the Big Picture here.


Karla Thompson
Creative Partner




Detail of Yarn Bombing UK

Entries in Barbican (2)


The Golden Oldies

Fred, age 95½

My wife and I moved into a two bedroom flat on the Golden Lane Estate in about 1960, after a mutual exchange housing programme. It was so good not to have to commute anymore. I was a technician for the medical trade, and then became a messenger for a bank in the City. I did that until I was eighty-two.

My hair was brown.

My wife loved the city after previously living in Kent. I liked meeting different people, and being inquisitive about the world. I liked dancing. I also enjoyed travelling, especially in Australia.

I think people were friendlier then.

Your body slows down as you get older. My daughter visits regularly and cares for me, and my neighbour brings me my newspaper. I should probably be in a care home, really.

I love nineteen seventies’ music and films, especially “The Green Mile” (it has amazing jail scenes), “Along Came a Spider” and “Return of Jaws.” I think there’s a load of rubbish on TV. It’s all repeats.

The Golden Oldies Photography Exhibition by Patricia Niven
Words and interviews by Sarah Winman
Showing at EXHIBIT until 9 June


I happened upon the photographic works of Patricia Niven on my way out of the Barbican. Fresh from the Bauhaus – Art is life exhibit Patricia’s work was light, passionate and full of life; quite a contrast to the austere Bauhaus work.

The exhibit The Golden Oldies is a photographic project that documents the lives of long-term residents from the Golden Lane Estate in London. Built in a part of the City of London virtually destroyed by the Blitz, The Estate opened its doors to the first residents who unknowingly became pioneers in this new urban utopia. Fifty years on many of them are still living on the estate. This is the story we are telling.

Patricia has let us show four of her ‘Oldies’ here. Gentle, yet thought-provoking, these portraits aim to depict the unique journeys they each have taken. I felt a sense of peace when looking at these proud faces, reading their short stories and felt privileged to be given a small insight into their lives.

Golden Oldies are currently on show at EXHIBIT until 9 June. Be sure to check it out.

Oh, and there is wonderful coffee to be enjoyed as well.


Doris, age 85

When I moved onto the Estate, I was married to Lawrence and had two small boys. My hair was dark brown.

After spending the first four years of our married life in rooms with gas light, and carrying a pram up five flights of stairs, you can imagine how wonderful we thought our new flat was – It had central heating, hot water and a bathroom! We were very happy there. I did not think I’d still be living on the Estate fifty years later.

Lawrence and I used to love walking along the Embankment to the park with the children, playing on the swings and enjoying a cup of tea.

My aspirations when I was younger were to marry and have children, both of which I did. My husband passed away ten years ago. Next year would have been our sixtieth.

Today, I still like the Estate and my home. Most people are friendly and easy to get on with.

I enjoy playing bowls, keep fit, and attending the Ralph Perring Club. I also like to go to church on Sunday mornings.

The Golden Oldies Photography Exhibition by Patricia Niven
Words and interviews by Sarah Winman
Showing at EXHIBIT until 9 June


Joan, age 83

I was a single mother when I moved onto the Estate. My hair was brown. My aspiration at the time was for my son to get a good education – first of all at St. Luke’s Primary, and then at Woolverstone Hall Grammar.

Our flat was well-planned out: light and sunny, with good storage, and best of all, with central heating. It even had a balcony. I loved that view from Hatfield House.

The world seemed quieter and cleaner then. People cleaned their windows, swept doorsteps.

I’m in Great Arthur House now – ideal because there are no stairs. The Owner’s Association provides a strong sense of community. I hope the Residents’ Association will grow.

I’m still very interested in the Associations and the young people who’ll continue to care for the Estate.

The Golden Oldies Photography Exhibition by Patricia Niven
Words and interviews by Sarah Winman
Showing at EXHIBIT until 9 June


Maureen, age 79

I moved onto the Estate in 1987 with my husband Ted. I was still working at St Bart’s hospital at the time and my hair was brown.

We’d come from a very old tenement flat and here we were in this lovely, modern flat with central heating and a balcony – it felt like heaven. (Sometimes though, I missed the old flat; simply because I was born there and had lived in it for fifty years).

I loved living on the Estate. There was a very good social club which we made great use of. My hopes at the time were looking forward to more grandchildren – I had just one then and seven more were to follow – and thinking about their future and that of my children.

Most people liked the look of these flats and I did think that I’d still be here now, because we are not people to move about much. I still love it here and think it’s the best Council Estate in London. And London is the only place I want to live.

My main aim is to keep well and to keep fit, and to go out socially as much as possible and to enjoy life.

The Golden Oldies Photography Exhibition by Patricia Niven
Words and interviews by Sarah Winman
Showing at EXHIBIT until 9 June



Bauhaus at the Barbican

Bauhaus: Art as Life

At the 3 Barbican Art Gallery until the 12 August

 I had not paid a lot of attention to the Bauhaus movement in the past, but working with a furniture designer the past couple of years I have slowly begun to appreciate the whole modernist movement and its reliance on the Bauhaus.

So, I went into the exhibition at the Barbican last Friday, knowing little about the movement. First impression of the exhibition was lilghting - it was quite dimly lit, and after walking around the top floor the whole exhibition felt austere - almost without passion. I think on reflection, this was a deliberate move by the curators, as the whole movement stemmed from a combination of arts and crafts in Germany in the 1920’s between two great wars. Bearing that in mind, the work and the curating reflected this darker time in history.

Given that the Bauhaus movement is the world’s most famous modern art and design school, the exhibition assumed that you knew a great deal about the movement to begin with, which alas, I did not.

Luckily for me, I was walking around with a Bauhaus enthusiast in the form of Leonhard Pfefier, who was able to help piece the exhibition together for me. I kept looking at everything and saying – “What is so good about that?” only to be informed that actually, this was the first time it was ever designed/executed/conceived this way, and a hundred years later, still relevant and in some ways still contemporary. So in that sense, the work and ideas from the Bauhaus movement were truly visionary.

You can find out more about the Bauhaus here: Barbican Bauhaus – Art as Life Page 4 of the Learning Resource material)

Kandinsky and Klee were two of the painters that I already knew and liked, and were involved in the movement as directors.

Wassily Kandinsky was a master of painting at the Bauhaus for most of its existence, teaching workshops on wall painting then free painting. From 1922 to 32 he taught on the abstract form and analytical drawing component of the preliminary course and his well-known paintings remain influential today.

Kandinsky believed that art should conjure up in us an experience ‘beyond the reach of words’, rather than giving a picture of something that can be named or described. Through this he hoped to find a basic form of communication that speaks to us at a more primary level than words. For him, this kind of abstract art was an attempt to resist words and pictures and replace them with effects that worked directly on the body and the mind.

From Barbican Bauhaus – Art as Life Page 16 of the Learning Resource material Speaking without words

To discover the basic building blocks of what he thought of as a pre-verbal language, Kandinsky tried to establish a universal human association between basic shapes and colours.

He had varying success. On one occasion he attempted to prove it with a collective psychological test. He gave all members of the Bauhaus the following questionnaire to fill in. It contained a triangle, circle and square. The task was to colour each in with the primary colour that each shape seemed to suggest.

I asked my 4 year old to fill each shape below with the colour she wanted. She decided the circle was blue, the triangle was red and the square yellow.

When I asked her why she thought each shape should be that colour, she replied "I just like this colour for this shape Mama". So there you have it.

According to Kandinsky certain colors have an affinity for certain forms. A "dull shape" like a circle deserves a "dull color like blue". A shape with intermediate interest like a square deserves an intermediate color like red. A dynamic, interesting shape like a triangle deserves an enegetic, luminous, psychotic color like yellow.

I'm not sure about blue being a dull colour, nor a cirlce for that matter. Why not try Kandinsky’s test yourself?