Saturday, June 24, 2006

Art attack!

click photo to enlarge
An overcast day with showers found me in the Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool. This small venue is known for its collection of Victorian and Modern British painting, and my hope was that these works would lift the metaphorical clouds that had descended on me caused by the day's stratus. But no! The permanent collection had been hidden away, and mainly contemporary works were on show instead. Oh joy!

The first, in the entrance hall, comprised an "installation" - a video screen showing a loop of about 30 square feet of water with waves. It had a soundtrack of intermittent moans, groans and sighs. At least I assumed the sounds were connected with the moving images. They may have been associated with a model (sculpture?), standing facing into a corner. This was covered in an approximation of clothing, had two feet and legs, no arms, and a torso that tapered into something like an elephant's trunk. Neither work offered a scintilla of intellectual or aesthetic interest, so I moved into the first gallery. Here was an exhibition of black and white photographs by John Gay, taken in Blackpool in 1949. They included interesting portraiture and documentary shots of the post-war British seaside, and I lingered a while, enjoying the way the photographer presented the personalities he found on the beach. The next gallery appeared almost empty! And it was, apart from the sound of bird song coming from a few speakers. On a short column was a stack of paper. These explained that the bird song was the art work! It was entitled "Birds Sing in Response to a Distant Calamity"! The paper had the "cast in order of appearance" - twenty one birds, starting with the chaffinch and ending with the corn bunting. A waste of a gallery. On to the next. This had several large photographs taken in a garden: the sort of photographs that you might achieve by pressing the shutter by accident! The word "banal" would be too much praise for these photographs. And so upstairs to where there was a moderately diverting display of paintings and artefacts about the history of Blackpool. The best piece on display in the whole gallery was there - an architectural water-colour of a 1920s open air pool and buildings, now long gone.

As I descended the stairs I noticed a light cluster that I'd missed on the way up. It comprised eight orange and yellow glass shades, each of which looked like it was melting. Ironically they offered more interest to me than virtually any of the art on offer that day. Certainly more than the drab portrait of a woman, attributed to Millais, hanging on the stairs nearby. Seeing a reflection of these lights in the glass of the portrait I decided to make my own art work. I offer it to posterity, and call it "A Doodle about the Present Calamity that is Contemporary Art."
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen