Issue 347
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"A lot of my paintings show a busy, bustling Birmingham," says artist Paula Gabb. "I guess that's why I find it so hard to see the city so quiet, right now. It's so anti-Birmingham. But it'll be back. Not long now." 
Paula has lived in Birmingham (or Solihull) since the age of three and is, on the whole, self-taught. "I did advertising art at college, but that style is miles away from the abstract illustrations I do now. My collection of work is my love letter to the city."

She first fell for Brum's Victorian buildings but soon her work evolved, just as the city did, to encapsulate the newer buildings and the new new buildings. "The Cube is a work of architecture that makes my heart tingle," she says, her passion for her city permeating almost every sentence. 
Paula is an acrylic artist but last year she was struck with carpal tunnel, meaning her days covered head-to-toe in paint were limited, turning from the paintbrush to a digital pen to produce her inimitable, dreamlike works.
"Although digital work loses that physical chunkiness and gunkiness of 3 dimensional canvas painting, digital apps are clever and they do allow the impression of textures, so I can keep doing what I love, and doing it how I love to do it.  
Two uniting elements are common in almost all of her work: reflections and the lady in red. "I'm drawn to rainy scenes and the reflections in puddles that follow. Sunshine produces a bright, white light and though beautiful in its own way, I'm more in to the darker, duller days — dull in name — but not in appearance. Rain and cloud creates a different kind of beauty that, to be honest, rather suits Birmingham. Beautiful but not in the boring, conventional manner." 

The lady in red isn't ubiquitous, but she's not far off. "She's whoever you want her to be," says Paula. "But at her core she is the soul of the city. She's going to work, or she's going to meet pals or maybe a boyfriend. Wherever she's going she loves Birmingham and she's energised by it and adores exploring it. She's appeared in Acocks Green, Digbeth, Kings Heath, Brindleyplace, all over."
Some of Paula's most striking pieces capture the ordinary in unordinary beauty. A Ladbrokes (below), Broad Street (top), a Costa coffee in an Odeon cinema or a closed down pub, places we all pass without a second's thought, draw her in and the results can be powerful. "That's the thing about Birmingham, it's not beautiful every day. But the everyday can be beautiful. What drives me mad is when people decorate their homes with cityscapes of New York, or London, or Paris when we have our own city to place on our walls, our own home to be proud of. I don't care if people buy my work or someone else's, but I do care that if it's going to portray a city, it be the one we live in. Stand up and be counted."
Paula is on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and can be messaged on any of those platforms with enquiries. Canvases start at £120, digital prints at £95.


Stirred by the success of Stewart Lee doc and I Choose Birmingham muse of a movie King Rocker, Kings Norton-based graphic designer Dave Fogarty has rebooted his short-lived but much loved Etsy store Little Brum, that was placed on hold when  — and we've all been there — "life got in the way". It features a raft of natty tees and a re-stock of the will-sell-out Kong/Rotunda mugs (left) at £13 a throw. Pick of the t-shirts, I reckon, is the Brum canal design (right) £18, but Dave thinks it's trumped by his Isometric Birmz classic which, if you look closely, features, the Library of Birmingham, the Cube, Selfridges, the Radisson, the Hyatt and the BT Tower, plus the little amphitheatre area in Centenary Square. Check that beaut out hereMore
Venue: Tattu by You; Website
Choice: Two courses plus one (£45 per person) 

I'm often asked whether Instagram dreamland Tattu is a restaurant that's guilty of style over substance. I don't think it is, no, enjoying it enough to have made half a dozen visits to the Grand Hotel's handsome basement-based roomie. But the immaculate interior, cherry blossom trees and theatre-prone dishes are a huge part of the luxey Chinese restaurant's fun experience, so it's natural I feared their 'at home' offer could be something of a damp squib. It's not. The crispy aromatic duck rolls starter is a sinch to sizzle together, the snap of the crust contrasting with juicy, soft duck all dunked into a fresh and alive spring onion, chilli and cherry hoisin sauce. This is the antidote to the oft disappointing dry duck and cloying, cheek-clamping sauces that occasionally (often?) find their way to your home. The caramel soy fillet steak main was meat utopia. Easily the finest cut of beef that's ever sat in my kitchen, a full page of the cooking instructions is dedicated to who supplies this superb product. The beef sang (not literally) with its richness taken to inner core levels of earthiness by a pan-fried shitake and ginger mix that I'd pay hand over fist to acquire a weekly pot of. What wizardry is this? A silky soy dipping sauce is an eye-opener on exactly how much butter restaurants really use but as the late, great Anthony Bourdain once said — and I'm paraphrasing — if you can't tell what the secret ingredient is, it's butter. I'm not the biggest dessert fan so I was perhaps weirdly thrilled that this DIY kit is a pud-free zone. I'd like to think that the time and cash they've saved in not including a token afters has gone on the meat, the veg and the Hangin' Snake shiraz that was so good my guest had to remove her glasses to concentrate on the flavour voodoo. This month's menu includes the very same options but also a Tattu By The Sea kit which features Shanghai Black Cod and lobster toast. Lobster. Toast. Both are available to pre-order from tomorrow (March 5) for delivery on March 12, which — note well — is two days before Mother's Day. You're welcome. 
Birmingham City Council wants YOU to help shape the future of our city. Check out 'Our Future City Plan' which shows how Central Birmingham could look in years to come and fill out their online survey to have your say.   

I had the banh mi (Vietnamese baguette) from the guys at Brum Mi, convinced I was going to be disappointed having worked for 7 years in an office that was a stone's throw from London's best banh mi joint. It was every bit as good. Find them wherever they roam.  

And I stumbled upon the Female Inspiring Twitter account and thought it looked like a very ace thing. Didn't realise the corresponding Instagram account was already a 91,000 follower juggernaut! Follow one, or both.  

Simmer Down Festival returns to Handsworth Park, July 18, and could be the happy-filled, reggae-fuelled tonic to our recent months of grimness.

Lisa & Pann's Kitchen (cooking out of the JQ's Pig & Tail) is the talk of the culinary town. More details about the Thai-Singaporean-Malay dishes over on Bite Your Brum's Insta.

Part of International Women's Day celebrations, Supersonic Festival have the honour of hosting acclaimed performance artist Cosey Fanni Tutti and actress Maxine Peake In Conversation, plus a load of new mini-commissions from some cracking local artists. More

Moseley Record Fair is "doing a Sol Campbell" and moving to bitter rivals Kings Heath for its two date pop-up at the old Kingsway Cinema (outdoors). April 25 and May 23. Details

"Boyfriend said please stop buying mugs, we're two people, we don't need 20 mugs. I said f*cking break up with me then — I'll literally never stop."

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WORDS: Tom Cullen

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