Monday, 2 May 2016

art on the WoL

I thought Mary might have been taken over by aliens when she said she had a different plan for Sunday: not to drive to Gullane for a run, but to run up the Water of Leith to the Modern Art Gallery, spend some time there, then run back down. She also thought I wouldn't approve. The first point, under closer scrutiny wasn't that weird: there is a cafe within the gallery and this (coffee and homebake) was the primary objective. On the second point I had to grant her some accuracy: although I enjoy looking at art, I am extremely critical of it, especially when done (in my opinion) poorly. And there seems no shortage of that these days. 

path at Dean Village is still officially closed although there is debate about the necessity

I should have done an establishing shot of the gallery or us going through the gate at the front after leaving the WoL just the other side of the Dean Village. But all of a sudden we were there and there was this (new since I was last there) shed made of larch and polycarbonate(?) sheeting and why Pig Rock, and what was it for, and where do you plug in the lights, and I'm surprised nobody has nicked the ceramics? A tiny bit of a google reveals that "in 2015 the bothy will be permanently relocated to Assynt." Uhuh? Also that it was designed in collaboration with Douglas Flett Architects. Hurray! Dougie is a great guy (ran with SRAC in the Heb3 days of old) and good to see his firm's name in lights! The shed is deliberately wonky and cocks a snook at traditional perspective from around the grounds.

Next up, before we even got inside, was the spirally earth works and watery bit (Landform by Charles Jencks) which Mary enjoyed running round while I climbed up the steep side to take a photo. When I met Mary at the front of the gallery moments later she pointed out the sign that said no running on the art or climbing up the sides. Oh and by the way, that large american tourist in the above photo, is not a super realist exhibit.

So first up the important part: into the basement cafe for coffee and cake. The coffee was sub-Falko's but ok. I had a restrained fruit scone while M went for some small chocolately slab of homebake that was extremely sweet. Lots of good looking homebakes to choose from, medium to high prices but reasonable value. While scoffing we took panorama photos. Top marks for allowing photography in gallery (without flash though.) (Mary suggested the idea that a flash would black out a painting and we'd be there all afternoon trying to paint it back in.)

Above is Duane Hanson's Tourists. Mary was remembering seeing it way back then and sure enough it dates back to 1979. And I have to say although it has a load of charm, was looking a bit dated. Not surprising. I have aged considerably since then (the year I went to art school.) As an example of super realistic work it has been superseded by many exact-to-real-life pieces and casting techniques in materials that probably weren't available back then. I wondered if the clothes were taken off periodically and washed. I hadn't even noticed that you can't easily remove the man's shirt as his hand joins his head. Anyway, those, and far more unasked questions are answered on the gallery website and I was delighted to find this info and see the almost sacrilegious photos of the lady with no trousers on! (On link, click on 3 subtitles below Introduction and in Figures click on small thumbnails below photo.)

I hadn't seen this one before and really liked it. Not a huge fan of  Paolozzi but this collaboration with RB Kitaj has given his normally stolid work a lighter touch. It was behind glass so the photo is crap, click on link for more accurate image. Ooh it's dated 1962 - like me! Nice spectrum of jolly colours along the top!

I found it hard to believe they were holding a kids art class in a room of pristine Bridget Rileys. Picture a kid running with scissors / marker pen etc. Asking for it really. Must have gone through a few boxes of masking tape. Ms Riley that is. They are quite fun as backdrops for selfies but don't really have a lot of depth beyond that. There was a press cutting of BR doing just that. Having her photo taken in front of her painting. We certainly weren't the first to think of it.

I liked this modest work (Morandi) and would have it on my wall long before a large number of the more famous dross we saw such as this gash from Picasso...

Can you imagine the model, no doubt one of his many ill-treated lady-friends saying wow you've caught me just so! That's exactly my four toes on the end of my shapeless stump of a leg, and hey that's just like my fanny! You're so clever! So Picasso the genius has chosen a handful of colours: ochre, cerulean blue, grey, black and maybe a couple of smudges of different purples (none of which enjoy each others' company) and coloured in a demeaning sketch of his companion. The only reason we are looking at this is the signature (if there is one.) I looked up the floor plan of the gallery just to double check details and there is no mention of this piece of shit. I wonder if it was just put up for April Fools and hasn't been taken away. It really is lamentable cack-handed toss, and like a lot of Picasso's work should be forgotten.

In the same room is this Marino Marini, which at first glance seems simplistic but as you spend time in Pomona's company she definitely grows on you. I was familiar with Marini's horses and riders but hadn't noticed this one before.

Just to underline that I don't hate all art that isn't expertly crafted here (above) is a shambolic and poorly crafted landscape that nevertheless I was drawn to. It is by Ben Nicholson, more famous for his still lifes and geometric abstract work. I was unfamiliar with his landscapes and you can see why he might have moved on to less tricky subject matter. However there is something niave and atmospheric about this that is quite pleasing even though the draftsmanship is appalling. Or funny. We were recalling one of the last exhibitions we went to was Harry Hill and he has a similar style, though less painterly.

JD Fergusson

On the ground floor was an exhibition: British Art Show 8. Supposedly the "most significant contemporary art". Not unsurprisingly (but all the same disappointingly), it was utter horseflop. Just poorly realised doo-doo, from the heads of foolish young pups that went out its way to make no effort to communicate its meaning or worth or reasoning. Just like someone cleared an old lock-up and put the bits on show. There were darkened rooms showing bad video with worse soundtracks and bits of an old engine laid out (above photo) on 1979 Sun newspapers. Now I quite like engine parts laid out but there was no hint of what we were looking at and why we should be captivated and so we weren't. Nine concrete cast rings on a big tic-tac-toe grid. Shite to look at, meaningless (to me) and void of any aesthetic value. The workings-of-a-padlock made large, were very well crafted but again devoid of resonance or any reason not to walk past and keep walking. 

We had had a bit of a laugh at the stuff upstairs, even some of the trash, but this wasn't even amusing. A long piece of gold backed carpet unwound and hung up like, like.... well a piece of gold backed carpet. Most significant did you say? No wait turn around because these paintings are surely significant. They are piss poor but look - they are hung squint! Deliberately! Holy Moly this is significant.


Hang on my bullshit detector is flashing. Never mind the wonky headline. Look they are artists, not graphic designers. No designer would ever produce that top line - it is beyond disgraceful (is that 8 upside down? ouch, my toes are curling) but these people are artists, significant artists, so let's not get caught up on really tragic design flaws and instead read the 4th paragraph. I detect ARTSPEAK. You can translate this International Art English as "These artists are working on many unlinked themes. Some are using paint, some are using computers and technology, get used to it." Often IAE is deployed by conceptual artists and installationists to give the impression of deep philosophical processes while disguising the insignificance of their shonkily realised and poorly presented art. I saw nothing here to challenge that. You can see the sadness and boredom creeping over Mary's face in the carpet shot. If this is the most significant art going around it does not bode well. 

If you need cheering up then click on these links to find out how to make your own fabulously rich and evocative artspeak critiques and artistic biog.
First one: type 5 numbers into the first menu box, click Create Art Critique and it will say (for instance)
"I find this work menacing/playful because of the way the disjunctive perturbation of the sexual signifier makes resonant the remarkable handling of light."
Second one: type in your details, real or false, with your media and themes, real or false, hit Generate artist text and bingo, your very own artspeak biog.


So why does the artworld embrace such trite posturing? You never see anyone describe works from the world of pop music like that. Although it's been a while since I read the music press if they still exist. I have a feeling it's all a bit emperor's new clothes. And about the imperative of artists to live in ivory towers above and beyond the humdrum of everyday life and plain speaking. However like our friends the Tourists, it's about time for a makeover: we should throw out the indecipherable psycho-babble. Say what you see!

It was almost with relief that we started running again. Down the back steps and across this bridge and down the WoL. A couple of swans were setting up home on the riverside. Making their own art with 3 large eggs of bluey green. The female was sitting on the eggs while the male fussed about adding foliage to the nest, like a bit of installation art.

There has been a spate of these piled stone sculptures in the WoL. (And some down the beach too.) I'm not sure why but I really dislike them. Sort of third rate Andy Goldsworthy stuff, and no doubt done with the same sentiment as the much superior yarnbombing outbreaks. I don't know why I can't just walk past and ignore it - it sort of shouts out vegan wet-footed anonymous urban art-crime fighter like a watered down Banksy. Like a riverBanksy. I'm not a big fan.

So hopefully this culture run was the first of a few. I'd like to do one to Chambers St Museum - always worth a nosey round there - and maybe the Portrait Gallery etc. Not sure how many Mary is up for, depends on the in-house cafes I suspect.


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