The value (or otherwise) of spectacle…


Having had a little time to reflect on my work – Epidemic! – now on show at the Lakeside in Nottingham I’m thinking about the idea of spectacle in contemporary art practice. Of course spectacle has been around for a fair old while…Michelangelo up on that ceiling and all those baroque and rococo carry ons…and coming nearer to now there are plenty more examples…the Tate Turbine Hall has seen plenty too. And before anyone points out the obvious, I’m aware that my work doesn’t have that much spectacle to it other than its a pretty big wall and the manner in which the 26 pieces are arrayed across it suggests it should be read (at least on one level) as a whole. Nonetheless I’m intrigued by the idea of spectacle and this was pointed up recently when we made a trip to Waddeston Manor in Bucks. Now the Prof doesn’t really do Christmas but if he did he’d do a Waddeston Christmas…

And very much part of the festive offer is a show of outdoor light pieces by Bruce Munro. My instinctive response to these was to be rather sniffy…after all this kind of ‘obvious’ spectacle in the setting of a grand country manor is likely to infuriate the art cognoscenti. Rather in the same manner that the UK art elite has done with Andy Goldsworthy. But the distance of travel involved in consideration of – say – a Richard Long in relation to AG is no greater than the distance further out to a Munro. What exactly makes a stone circle less obvious than a pile of plexiglass balls? I imagine the answer would be part context and intention. But of course for all those viewers outside of the ‘know’ merely passing by this counts for very little, after all they only have their eyes and instant response to go on. Its making me think again…not just about Epidemic! but also about my future activity…I may be wrong but I think there’s some juice in spectacle for my painting right now.

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