It’s hot in England at the moment. I took this by the River Dee in Chester today.
I saw the photo as part of an exhibition this week. I’m a sucker for all this kind of stuff so if you’re the kind of person who sneers at art you might want to skip this entry; maybe you could go wire a plug or watch The Only Way Is Essex or something.
We went to see DLA Piper Series: This is Sculpture at Liverpool Tate and it was completely brilliant! This new collection display examines and questions the trajectory of artistic innovation in twentieth-century art and beyond, at least that’s what it says in the leaflet… I just had great time. Sculpture in the form of object, installation, assemblage and ready-made sits alongside more surprising forms, such as painting, video, photography, language and performance. There’s a light up interactive dance floor, weird Antony Gormley sculpture made out of toast!, Salvador Dali‘s lobster telephone, terrifying life-size figures (see photo below) called The Redeemers by John Davies, a wall of grinning clones (see photo below), Andy Warhol‘s famous Campbell’s soup can picture, Picasso’s legendary Weeping Woman, a bizarre model of a block of flats called You see an office building by Julian Opie, this weird thing called knock knock by Eva Rothschild which seems to stand up without any visible means of support, sexy chairs (sexy?!) by Allen Jones (see photo below), and so much more amazing stuff.
The cloud face man thing is actually a commercial plaster reproduction of the death mask of the French Emperor Napoleon painted with sky and clouds by Belgian Surrealist artist Rene Magritte. It’s called The Future of Statues(how great a title is that?). The artist’s friend the Surrealist poet Paul Nougé suggested an association between death, dreams and the depth of the sky: “a patch of sky traversed by clouds and dreams [can] transfigure the very face of death in a totally unexpected way”. I bet a sentence like that didn’t pass your lips this week.
More than anything else though, this exhibition was actually fun! People think of art galleries as being very serious, hushed, cerebral and pretty boring but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The only thing you must do before you enter is leave your preconceptions at the door.
I was looking at this exhibit which was actually just a few floor tiles laid out in a square (I think it was by Carl Andre) and, to be perfectly honest, I was having one of those ‘it’s just a load of kitchen tiles, how can that be art?’ moments. But then I saw the accompanying video which showed comments from visitors to the exhibition. There were a few pretentious people pontificating about how the floor tiles exhibit ‘speaks’ to them… There were many ‘sneerers’ who went on about what a load of crap it was and how it wasn’t proper art! But there was this one young Scouse schoolgirl who just said that it was the best art she’d ever seen because it she could actually walk on it. She got so genuinely excited about it and she spoke with such un-selfconscious, unpretentious, unprejudiced, un-jaundiced…. joy that it restored my faith immediately. It’s floor tiles. Yes! It’s floor tiles!!!!!
We went to Crosby Beach, Liverpool, UK to see the 100 cast iron figures ‘Another Place‘ sculpted by Antony Gormley. Each of the figures is life size and are staring out to sea. In common with most of Gormley’s work, the figures are cast replicas of the artist’s own body. As the tides ebb and flow, the figures are revealed and submerged by the sea. Gormley won the Turner Prize in 1994 with Field for the British Isles. In October 2010 he and 100 other leading artists signed an open letter to the Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt protesting against cutbacks in the arts.