well its been an interesting week…generally I make it a rule nowadays not to enter competitions. My only exceptions over the past decade has been the Moores (out of habituation, I’ve been doing it since the early 70’s) and the CBP because a goodly number of painters I respect have been party to this set up since it began around 2012. So it was something of a punt that I found myself entering and then – surprisingly – being short listed for the Threadneedle Prize for figurative art with a sculpture. Oh yes…quite a surprise for anyone who knows my work as being a) resolutely abstract and b) almost exclusively painting. It came about by capricious accident, my wife (a previous prizewinner in this same competition) was entering it one morning as the deadline approached and a tad mischievously suggested that one of my Paintings Standing Up (the series yet to be fully resolved) might pass muster as ‘figuration’. Well it was true that it was around the right height for a figure and that the violin mounted onto the ‘torso’ projected from it around the right angle for being played. Adding a dodecahedron on top and two boots below and…é viola you have The Fidler.
So being shortlisted required delivery to the Mall Galleries last Saturday morning, a round trip of 236 miles that went surprisingly well and, being a gloriously warm sunny day for late October, was augmented by a visit to Tate Modern. So far so good but, hey, not that surprisingly, a rejection followed on this past Thursday that, you’ve guessed it, meant another journey this Saturday. Not such a breeze as first the weather was wet, dark and greasy all the way down and secondly Regent Street was closed requiring a work around the centre of town to reach The Mall. This time we turned tail and headed back ‘ome straightaway. I’ve no complaints – you shouldn’t enter these things if you’re not prepared to be knocked back but, gawd, its been a bit knackering!
Oddly enough the trip to Tate was to take in the Ilya & Emilia Kabakov show – the central element of which (and that gives it the title) is Not Everyone Will Be Taken IntoThe Future…in this installation the ‘Art’ train is leaving the station carrying those works deemed ‘good enough’ whilst a heap of canvases etc. are left spilling over the platform…to which we might now add The Fidler!
As one gets older you begin to realise how quickly time passes and how much things change (shades of Dylan again…). One day (and it doesn’t seem so long ago) I accompanied the sculptor Paul Mason on a trip across to Clipsham just north of Rutland Water to see him finishing off a new work in stone – Leaf Fields.
This piece had been commissioned by Hertfordshire’s RIBA branch to be sited in the county – there were (I now have discovered) three potential locations for it but the one chosen was St. Albans and, specifically, adjacent to the Alban Arena (appropriately enough designed by Sir Freddie Gibberd, a long time supporter of Paul’s work). Like so much public art its life has been marked by both love & devotion and hostility & admonishment, and often just plain neglect. Luckily for this piece it has its protectors – in particular those pictured above, foremost among them Professor Chris McIntyre of Herts University (centre in picture) who was instrumental in having it relocated a short way from its original site.
Of course the passage of time has given the creamy Clipsham limestone a deal of patina, some mosses and lichen. Whether or not this ought to be removed when it is finally re-sited (due to happen in a few years when a new City Centre Museum & Visitor Centre, – an ambitious redevelopment of the Town Hall – will be completed is a debatable point. What it does prove beyond any doubt is that a relatively short passage of time, just over thirty years, and nature reasserts its primacy over culture.
Shameless plug warning! Somewhere in the photo above is the small painting that my wife Sarah R Key has in the upcoming exhibition – we are hoping to be at the view party around 6pm on March 5th…along with a barrel load of good painters and others. Try and get along if you can!
The quote at the top of this post comes from a rather good review of ‘Forever Now’ (currently running at MOMA NYC) that I’ve devoured as glory be…I’m actually travelling to NYC to see in a few weeks time. Written by David Salle (a painter that I’ve not really ever investigated properly) it is generally positive about the show (or at least some of it) but his final words on the current status of what we do bear repeating…
“The real news from “The Forever Now,” the good news, is that painting didn’t die. The argument that tried to make painting obsolete was always a category mistake; that historically determinist line has itself expired, and painting is doing just fine. Painting may no longer be dominant, but that has had, if anything, a salutary effect: not everyone can paint, or needs to. While art audiences have gone their distracted way, painting, like a truffle growing under cover of leaves, has developed flavors both rich and deep, though perhaps not for everyone. Not having to spend so much energy defending one’s decision to paint has given painters the freedom to think about what painting can be. For those who make paintings, or who find in them a compass point, this is a time of enormous vitality.”
If those painters at the Container gallery I don’t know are half as decent as the dozen or so I do then that ‘enormous vitality’ is to be found here as well as over the pond.
What else has been going on…well…its not painting but we cut along to Walsall’s excellent New Art Gallery. I always enjoy a visit there given the excellence of the Garman Ryan collection but this time round I found a real gem…tucked away on Floor 2 of the collection.
This extraordinary display ‘The Raven’, created by artist Darren Banks shows once again that some lives you simply couldn’t make up…I’d say you really need to get along and experience this show…words of possible description or explanation much less a critique would do it justice…in any event Darren uses film as a kind of sculpture so its not work that can easily be represented without actually being experienced – so go take a look. The ‘big’ temporary show is ‘Found’…to be honest there was little that captured my attention here, and plenty of it seemed rather arch and repetitive. However there was one stunningly strong installation piece by an artist not previously known to me – Vesna Pavlovic. Search For Landscapes was both visually interesting but also conceptually compelling, its rhythmic and hypnotic clicking of the Kodak Carousel projectors making it another piece that can only really be experienced in person.
Finally we had actually fetched up to see one of Sarah’s best students of recent years – Sikander Pervez. His presence here was the result of winning one of the ‘prizes’ in New Art West Midlands a truly excellent project that celebrates the emerging talent in the West Midlands. Of the pieces he had created I felt the strongest and most inventive took a mundane flat pack chair and transformed into an elegant and original cultural object that looked terrific in the space.