Adventures of the Black Square, Whitechapel Gallery

‘Adventures of the Black Square’ is a rather ominous, but intriguing title for an exhibition. The Whitechapel Gallery is showcasing an important selection of abstract art from the last 100 years.

The selection of works is varied, giving a thorough overview of this often misunderstood genre. It begins with an example of the renowned Kazimir Malevich black square; a simple statement, the icon of suprematism and an ode to the colour black. The exhibition proceeds chronologically reaching the current day in the final rooms. The works are split into four themes: Utopia, Architectonics, Communication and the Everyday. We see how abstraction is approached differently through a wide range of media including painting, drawing, photography and video.

For me it was exciting to experience a wide range of works which I have never seen before, exhibited together as an effective narrative. I loved the geometric works, a striking colourful composition by Piet Mondrian (with an accompanying film of the artist’s studio), and lesser known works like Sophie Taeuber-Arp’s woven wall hanging, a pattern of shapes carefully sewn from Pearl cotton.

The development of abstraction across the globe indicates the influences that connect the works. The Russian Constructivist ideals in the early 20thcentury works are revisited in later works, for example Zvi Goldstein’s glorified megaphones emphasising the importance of communication in society. David Batchelor’s Monochrome Archive particularly stuck in my head, a series of photographs taken over a 20 year period, capturing square and rectangular panels, all accidentally encountered on walks through cities all over the world. Individually they are plain and uninteresting, but together they present a captivating and serene composition.

My mind was whirling after an hour observing the shapes, colours and textures. An extensive study of the history of abstract art, ‘Adventures of the Black Square’ is about so much more than the title initially suggests.

Exhibition continues until 6 April, more information and book tickets here.

Qbic Hotel, Whitechapel

If you’re looking for cheap accommodation in London, Qbic Hotel is definitely your best bet. Located in the up-and-coming Whitechapel area and at one end of the famous Brick Lane, Qbic is perfect for those wishing to explore the evolving East End of London.

Qbic reinvents the affordable hotel and it is far from bland and boring, with quirky touches and characterful features in the rooms and common spaces. As the name suggests, each room is cube-shaped with an all-in-one bed/bathroom pod, which is modern and sleek in its design. Our room, number 323, was located on the third floor and was one of the larger on offer. The design is basic but chic, with a focus on primary colours and experimental furniture. The bed was extremely comfortable and we thoroughly enjoyed the easy-access TV at the foot of the bed. Bathroom facilities were clean, compact and efficient. It is the ideal base for a weekend in London.

The artistic flair of the surrounding district certainly feels present in the hotel’s eclectic and creative lounge.  Here guests can unwind, watch sport on TV, read, work or have a snack from the open kitchen (complete with hi-tech vending machines). The breakfast array was very impressive, with a range of hot and cold options; I even spotted Chegworth Valley, the most delicious fresh-pressed apple juice.

Rooms at Qbic range in price from £59 to £84, and if you are lucky you can nab a room for a mere £1 with their regular competitions (100 rooms per month every month).

You needn’t stray far from the hotel, Whitechapel has a plethora of venues to enjoy. Here is a shortlist of my favourites in this part of town:

–          Food: Tayyabs, family-run Punjabi cuisine. Delicious, cheap and renowned. BYOB to go with your meal.

–          Drink: Apples and Pears cocktail bar, innovative and tasty, my favourite is the signature Martini-style Apples and Pears cocktail. For coffee, there are many independent cafes to choose from, try Love in a Cup or Vagabond for your morning flat white.

–          Culture: Wilton’s Music Hall is a beautiful renovated building with regular events and an atmospheric bar. Whitechapel Gallery is the place to see the most exciting exhibitions in East London.

Book a room at Qbic Hotel here.