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The Anxious Artist: From the Bauhaus to the Creativity in Cocktail Making

Updated: Nov 26, 2022

Sometimes, I think our way of defining art can be far too narrow and this is what can make it feel alienating and elitist. It is not just what we see on white art gallery walls, art is all around us. It is literally everywhere. I have just been listening to a radio programme about the Bauhaus movement, which had sought broaden our understanding of art, by including architecture, crafts, such as furniture design and trades, such as stone cutters and plasterers, as being of equal value to any other kind of art. The vision of the Bauhaus movement was to make art accessible to all, in both the practice of making and the enjoyment of experiencing. That it could become part of everyday life, abandoning any sense of hierarchy and status within the various disciplines and trades.

Lyonel Feininger's 'Cathedral of Socialism' (1919). Woodcut. This was a representation of the embodiment of a future social structure, intended to overcome the consequences of alienation.

I consider my husband, Adam, to be an artist. Indeed, he loves to visit exhibitions, this is something we enjoy doing together and is quite the fan of the Bauhaus movement. I hope he is pleased that I have opened my blog about him by referencing them. Like me, Adam started his working life as a mental health nurse. However, also like me; after some years, he found that the immense pressures and demands of nursing had become bad for his mental health. I cannot imagine what it must be like now and have deep sympathies with those nurses speaking out about the impossible circumstances within which they are expected to work.

For Adam, it was time for a career change and so he made the decision to train to be a cocktail bartender. You might think this quite a radical leap, but looking after people is very much the bread and butter of the hospitality industry. The change suited Adam well, as he could now explore his playful, creative side, along with his meticulaous attention to detail. I must admit to having had my reservations about this career change, as Adam now works long, unsociable hours and we see much less of each other. This has been difficult while I have been negotiating life within the limitations imposed by PTSD, as normal life resumed after the lockdowns of the pandemic. However, I have also wanted to support Adam in his choice, as I want him to be happy.

Adam's enthusiasm for his work is very apparent and as an artist, I can see and connect with it's creative value. Adam is an artist. His vast array of spirits, liquers, syrups and other ingredients are skillfully mixed and manipulated with scientific precision and a shot of pure alchemy, to create something quite beautiful. Adam uses all of his senses in putting together these creations, as he recognises that attention to detail will infintely enhance the experience of his customers. There is a real skill in learning to understand flavours and how they interact. He is not just serving them any old drink, the experience of being made a cocktal, with all the science, creativity and performance that is involved, is an event. Adam wants those he serves to remember their night out. He wants to make them feel looked after and to feel special.

Adam sometimes shares pictures of his creations on social media and they really are something to behold. Our experience of consuming food and drink is not only enhanced by taste and flavour; presentation is (arguably) just as important and this is an area where he takes great care. He is a perfectionist, which in cocktail making is a must. Adam evidently gets a huge buzz and sense of pride from his work and enjoys dressing up for the occasion as much as anyone else might enjoy dressing for a night out. He is developing quite the collection of ostentatious spectacles, so nobody could possibly forget their barman.

2 Pornstar Martinis and a Whisky Sour

2 Mojitos, an Espresso Martini, 2 Apple Brambles and a Mock Margarita.

Master Craftsman. Check out those specs!

Bar scenes feature often in famous works of art, immediatly paintings by Manet, Toulouse Lautrec, Van Gogh and Edward Hopper come to mind. There is something evocative about these nightime haunts, which could indicate the disinhibition of over intoxication, or the despair of the man slumped over the bar, with a glass and a bottle of whisky, having drowned his sorrows. They are also environments of warmth, where you are welcomed with a smile and a glass of something to take the edge off the harshness of the daily grind. They are additionally places of celebration, where friends and family come togther to mark a special occasion. After extended periods of being isolated from one another, these spaces to come together feel all the more precious. So much life happenning to observe and absorb, I'm not surprised these spaces have been a source of inspiration to so many creatives.

'Bar Scene' by Henri de Toulouse Lautrec (1864-1901).

'Nighthawks' by Edward Hopper (1942).

Through my research, it seems that it is equally the case that art is a source of inspiration in creating cocktails. I guess this should be no surprise! Here are some that caught my eye and stimulated my taste buds:

I went on to wonder what art I might hang on the walls, were I to be the interior designer of a bar. Just as food can be coupled with a drink, what art would create the correct ambience to enjoy a cocktail, served (of course) by Adam? Afterall, our surroundings impact on our experience of taste. None of our senses function independently, they work as a team. I suppose this is very personal and dependant on what one is looking for in such an environment. I will confess to being a bit of a purest and most enjoying a glass of Malbec perhaps, sipped in a rustic old pub, sat by a blazing open fire. Although, I'm persuadable as I have just been reminded of a Winter spiced pear cocktail, which I had in a little bar in Glasgow and I think that would do me very nicely. This is all fantasy, as I can no longer drink, but I'm allowed to dream. I think I would sip my aforementioned beverage, while listening to some blues or jazz music. As for my surroundings; the walls ( and this is where we come full circle and return to the Bauhaus) look great with some Anni Albers and Wassily Kandinsky), set off by an art deco interior.

'With Verticals', (1946). Tapestry by Anni Albers.

'Bright Unity' (1925). Wassily Kandinsky.

1930s Bauhaus shaker and and 2 matching cocktail glasses.

As a dutiful husband, Adam said that if he owned his own bar, it would showcase the artwork of yours truly. What would he be sipping, I wondered, on his day off? A 1910; Cognac, Mezcal, Maraschino and Sweet Vermouth . Never tried it? Why don't you drop by NYX Hotel bar in Holborn and ask Adam to serve one to you and see what you think? If this doesn't float your boat, there are plenty more to choose from (with or without alcohol) and you will be made to feel welcome, so kick back and take the world off. While you're there, do consider what art would match your favourite tipple! Or, if you're more a cuppa and a sticky bun sort of person, give me a shout and I'll share a pot with you.

'Adam' Mono screen print.

By Naomi Elfred-Ross

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