Friday, 30 December 2011

Tips for avoiding gallery rage (Leonardo, National Gallery)

Me and D visited the National Gallery to check out the Leonardo exhibition a few weeks ago. We bought the tickets early, as in when they went on sale over the internet, so we didn’t have to queue up like the plebs, shuffling along, one metre every minute. I detest queuing, not having to queue is one of my favourite hobbies, although I did have to queue in the Next Sale yesterday and that was shit. So it was marvellous to glide through the magnificent doors, with the sweaty masses to our right… and be directed… to another queue! A shorter one however, just for our ticket time slot. So that was cool. It was only 5 minutes waiting.

That morning we also went to the Wolseley for Eggs Benedict and a fruit salad containing the most endangered fruits known to mankind, killed, skinned and diced in a silver bowl and splurged with an agreeable jus. We also saw Marc Almond in there, buttering his toast. But I have no further anecdotes about him or the Wolseley. It’s just to set the scene that it was a lovely day out, sort of a late birthday celebration for me (even though my birthday was months before).

So Leonardo and his exhibition. It was hyped to the max, a once in a lifetime. And yes, it was impressive. Here was an artist, a scientist, a draughtsman, an inventor and a genius. They’d gathered his work and work of his contemporaries from all around the world. We’ll probably never see the light of it again, certainly not in that magnitude. What impressed me as well was that the National Gallery had reduced the amount of people that could enter per timed slot. The Guardian paints a picture of serenity and calm, of some chim-chimeny love in where everyone is considerate. And to some degree, this was true… as we hate getting jostled by wankers. You need time to get close and study as a lot of his work on show was of small size and incredible detail. For example, two works owned by the Queen and lent to the exhibition :

A Man Tricked by Gypsies (c1493), Pen and ink, 26.0 x 20.5 cm – (i.e Small!). Look at the detail in their expressions, the grotesques leers and snarls.

Studies of the human skull, 1489, Pen and ink on paper, 29 x 20 cm

Which leads me onto Gallery Rage. How to turn situations which would otherwise be irritating, to your advantage.

You are always going to get people with no sense of spacial awareness or respect for their fellow human beings. People who blunder around a gallery space, shoving their bag or backside into you, or just keep standing in the way with a dopey bollocks expression plastered over their faces.

Therefore, two handy tips. It really is quite fun and you should test yourself to see how far you can push it. Don’t do anything to spoil your enjoyment of the art however, just so your nemesis knows that they are an annoyingly ignorant or selfish shit.

1) When someone walks right in front of you and blocks your view of the art, blow gently on their ear. This really works. They usually move as I can imagine this would be really uncomfortable.

2) If someone shoves past you without saying “excuse me” or if they stand in your way and option 1) doesn’t work. Then you should adopt their methods against them. Immediately shove past them and stand right in front of them obscuring their view of whatever they are looking at.

3) If you are brave, do it wherever they move to. They’ll get the message and leave you alone.

4) You could just ask them to politely move of course (tut optional), but this isn’t as much fun.

Now use your loaf, if you see someone is 95 and clearly isn’t the most lucid, then don’t just start shoving over pensioners, then piledriving them, because of some perceived slight. And please do not throw any children out of the window. Pick your targets appropriately. Just cause a little bit of annoyance, don’t earn yourself a criminal record for knocking out an old man, then finding out it’s Brian Sewell.

And whatever you do, don’t smash a priceless painting over the head of someone who has annoyed you.

Finally, one of the most beautiful paintings I’ve ever seen (So I don’t leave you with any hint of bitterness).

Lady With An Ermine

It’s worth going to the exhibition just for this. I’ve been to the Louvre and I’ve never understood the fuss over the Mona Lisa, it’s small, she’s a bit of a sourpuss (to me anyway, enigmatic my arse!) so Lady With An Ermine is a far superior work. She is just beautiful.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Forkbeard Fantasy

I never win anything, this is a fact.

Therefore, I was delighted to break this curse, when I was fortunate enough to win a twitter competition which got me a guided tour of Forkbeard Fantasy’s exhibition on the South Bank, as well as four tickets to their theatre production “The Colour of Nonsense” in the Purcell Rooms.

So yesterday, me, Debbie, my sister Helen and my bro-in-law Mike rolled up at 5pm and were greeted by the gracious, exuberant and highly talented Tim Britton, one of the founder members, performers and artists of Forkbeard Fantasy.

The exhibition itself covers their 30+ years of performance art and theatre. Their costumes, props, gadgets, mechanical peepshows (including the smallest cinema in the world), films, animations, puppets and mannequins were all on display and (mostly) interactive. This was quite trusting of them considering some of the robust assaults on them, not just by the children, but over-enthusiastic dads who were treating them like wrestling partners in some circumstances.

It seemed there was a team of good natured repair-folk everywhere, patching, sewing, twiddling and tweaking to ensure things didn’t get shorn or split or smashed. In some circumstances though, exhibits, some of them of venerable age, needed to be roped off to save them the indignity of utter destruction.

Making the imagination real is a conundrum that has foiled many an artist throughout history, but what impressed me most was how they’ve managed to achieve it, on limited budget.

Take the Unicorn for instance, this is a triumph of Art, Engineering and Anatomy, combining these disciplines they’ve managed to create something unique, fun and genuinely beautiful. It was also tough enough to be able to withstand being ridden in a theatre production. It’s jointed and moves just like a real Horse (unicorn!). Had the exhibition not been so busy, we’d have been allowed a go on it. Now I’ve only ever ridden a donkey before, when I was six in Cyprus. Not many people could say that they’d ridden a Unicorn. Perhaps it was for the best though as my fulsome backside may have crushed and damaged something so magnificent. I would not want to be responsible for the extinction of such a beautiful and endangered creature. So we had to make do with controlling its movements through a system of ropes and pulleys.

(photos from BBC Website)

The productions themselves are surreal, darkly amusing and very much centred on fun. The special effects are mischievously ingenious and enhance the experience. And the knowledge that goes behind making and maintaining them is impressive.

They are a multi-talented and multi-disciplined bunch, I imagine them working away like Gnomish tinkers, in a dark little cave, giggling, working with outrageous looking tools, hammers and sparks flying and consuming copious amounts of tea and cake all day. And combined with performing such that the finished article, i.e their productions are masterfully executed on stage.

As for the play, The Colour of Nonsense was compelling and very funny. It poked gentle fun at the trend in the arts to discover “the next big thing”. And the next big thing in this case was “Invisibilism”. It paid a respectful nod (with a wink) towards the Emperors New Clothes.

There was a great narration through projected comic strip (graphic novel don’t you know!) film as well as other very funny effects. There was a fell villain, the slurpy Angstrom and the three heroes Line, Splash and Scuro overcome the adversity of feeling isolated and out of touch with the art world, to become the leading lights.

It’s only on for two more days, so it’s well worth checking out if you have time.

Otherwise, go to the exhibition, that’s on till the 8th January 2012. If you have kids, or if you just like great art and interactive fun exhibits, then go! Have a blast! Tug and pull! Just not too hard!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

A Haiku a day

Went on a run earlier, through the chilly moors / nature reserve near my house. We’ve had an exceptionally dry Autumn, normally by this time of year I’d need my wellies it’s that muddy and running would be near impossible without sinking ankle deep in peaty mud. But other than a few particularly boggy areas (and being the excellent pathfinder that I am, I can avoid them, like some sort of native American tracker) it was a relatively dry run.

It’s only a 5.5k run, over both Flitton and Flitwick moors. I always find running is a good time to think and being unfit means a longer run and therefore longer to think. Not only do I work the body harder, but also the mind.

I thought about the plot to my novel, I’ve reached an impasse, I’ve got an ending (a fine tip, thankyou Mr Pink – know your ending, this sounds simple, but it’s so true, I’ve just meandered into blah blah bollocks land previously), it’s just I’m just stuck at a particularly shitty bit somewhere in the middle, which by even my own standards of suspending disbelief, seems beyond ridiculous.

But it’s ok, momentum and inspiration will come back. I’m not getting bogged down about it, so I play out little heroic fantasy scenarios in my head instead, whilst running. Nothing too heroic mind, things like walking around in a Barbour jacket as a gentleman farmer and delivering a foal for one of my serfs workhorses and being toasted by the peasantry in the moonshine barn (the moonshine barn doesn’t exist by the way). Or saving a baby Owl whose parents were savaged by fell beasts and bringing it up to be my familiar, things like that.

I’ve stopped listening to music while running now. The psychological effect of music is that it makes me run faster. It shows that athleticism is not just the body, but the mind. And yes, I use the term “athleticism” reservedly. But Debbie always said to me I was missing out, it’s a form of sensory deprivation and by depriving myself of one of my senses, I might as well just be on a running machine. So now, I try to absorb as much as possible, not just listening, but watching, smelling, touching and when I swallow a moth, tasting. The sixth sense, this so called ESP, I haven’t found to be possible to experience yet. Sometimes I attempt to bore into the darkest thoughts and desires of the people I cross paths with solely using the power of my untapped mind, but I just look like a staring freakface, so I don’t do it anymore.

Anyway… The sound of my own breathing (normally huge rasping gasps to be fair) and the stomp of feet into the soft muddy earth. It’s somehow satisfying. As well as that I listen out for nature, try to identify bird song, look out for nature as well. Today for instance I saw a Muntjac deer, with their weird little vampire tusks, normally shy creatures, but this one just watched me suspiciously through the Ash trees.

But before that, I was running along the River Flit and there was a little group of Greenfinches calling out to each other, or probably warning each other about the lumbering oaf running alongside the river towards them, and every time I got near them, they’d all fly off and settle in the next tree with a gentle hubbub of pissed off calling, only for me to get near them again and then into the next tree… and so on. You get it. I know you do. The point was it was one of those little poignant moments that might otherwise be instantly forgotten. So I made up a little Haiku whilst I was running and repeated it to myself again and again, so I wouldn’t forget it.

Greenfinches disturbed

Little flock over the Flit

Disgruntled chirping

And then I thought… hey, why don’t I write a Haiku, for every day of the year, starting January 1st. It wont all be about nature, some will be funny (I hope), silly, serious.. whatever. It will be significant to the day it was written however. It could be accompanied by a photo or picture, or some words to give it context as to what it meant to me. Or I could just leave the words to speak for themselves. The beauty of the Haiku is you are only restricted by the syllable structure and that is no hardship. There is a power in the economy of words. It distils the starkness and the beauty of it and it leaves ghostly hints at the authors inner meaning.

So that’s my plan. I’ll set up a new blog for my Haikus and it will rock and roll come January.