I’ve had a couple of days in London checking out some galleries. The principle reason I chose to visit at this time was because I had an invite to the opening of Adventures of the Black Square at the Whitechapel. How could I not go? I have been playing with black squares – or rather, black squares that are neither truly black nor quite square -for some time. In fact it was a day or two after my first tweets using #blacksquare that I got the email telling me about the show.
I’m going to start this blog near to the end of today’s time in London, with the image above. I have included a picture I took in a Cork Street gallery of the lighting track and stained ceiling tiles because I find it interesting, attractive, intriguing, meditative, arresting, though-provoking and irritating. The fact that it causes such a range of emotional and intellectual reactions is something I celebrate. The fact that far too few of the things presented to me in the last 36 hours or so as art managed to cause as much reaction in me is depressing! There was a point today when I had been to a few galleries and was overwhelmed with a wonder at the futility of it all. I was seriously doubting if “art” – including my own work – had any intrinsic value! Fortunately, I subsequently saw some Richard Serra etchings at Phillip’s which to some degree ameliorated my slumped mood.
Yesterday I started at Tate Britain. The Late Turner show hasn’t long to run and I wanted to catch it. It’s probably fair to say that I felt I ought to catch it. I’m pretty familiar with his oeuvre (and it’s a pretty big one) but it was a good opportunity to take a fresh look from a different perspective. The show was packed, so sometimes that perspective was a distant view partially obscured by other visitors. The shocking thing was the average age must have been over 70! I know it was mid week, but I was genuinely surprised there were not more younger people or students. I was not surprised that that the show had attracted that older audience, an audience that seemed to be affluent, conservative, well-travelled and “county”. Turner is probably seen as “safe” by this group who, from overheard conversations, were mostly interested in telling each other about their visits to Turner’s sights! I found it interesting that the works I found most interesting were the least crowded. So what did I think? First, it was great to see some all-time favourites. As a teenager I occasionally would go to London on a Sunday and head straight for the Turners at the Tate and still pop in often to pay homage. I suppose the most interesting revelation of looking just at the late works was that Turner never seemed able to shake off the influence of painters such as Claude. There he was breaking new ground in so many ways, when up pop some old traditional clichés that nail him back into less interesting areas.
To be continued.