Tag Archives: art installations



I’ve mentioned already that I work near an art gallery. I noticed a piece of opportunistic recycling as I walked into town today.

Reinstall 02

Apparently the artist

“creates new relationships, experimenting with unexpected combinations of materials creating objects and environments, which encourage us to see the everyday world with fresh eyes”

and she

“fashions monumental objects from scrapyard materials and throws them away after use”

Though I do wonder if a graffitied garage door is quite what she intended. It pleased me though.

“I don’t know much about art….”

When I went around the sculpture in the garden exhibition, I went round with a colleague, his wife and the one I go round sculpture exhibitions with. Interestingly, they all claimed to have parents who were artists, but their approach to the exhibition was very different.

My approach to this sort of stuff is a rather breathy enthusiasm – “Oh, wow, doesn’t it look like a spaceship?” or “Oh, look, blown glass bubbles in a tree, how coo-oo-ool is that?” My valley-girl inarticulateness in the light of the candy battle of Helm’s Deep is a case in point. I get terribly excited about this sort of stuff and go off at a dozen or so tangents, like a pack of hounds in a fun-fair.

A much less satisfactory picture from the Razr.  In theory this shows some leaded light panels hung from the branch of a tree, but you can see how badly its pixellated.  This picture was the main reason I went with the Sonly Ericssons instead.

The one I go round exhibitions with engages at a more knowledgeable and academic level. This is a kid who was taken to the Tate before he could walk and who refers to holiday snaps as “images”. He talks intelligently about what he is seeing – perhaps he’ll comment on the references the artist is making to the work of other artists, perhaps he’ll think about the artist’s intentions. Not only does he ‘get’ art, he gets the context too.

But the other two were much more passive. “Oh, yes, it’s a garment made out of glass hanging on a steel coat-hanger in a tree – it’s very pretty”. MMmmmm. “Kingfishers above the water. That’s nice.” I was left gasping like a trout on a riverbank at their lack of engagement. Nothing touched them. They saw it, but only seemed to see what was in front of their eyes. I am not sure whether or not they were deliberately holding back. The exhibition was my idea, not theirs.

But how can anyone walk through a woodland glade where someone has planted hundreds of fabric flowers and have a reaction which is limited to “oh, look, hundreds of fabric flowers in a woodland glade”?

I may not know much about art, but it seems that I know even less about people.

Summer Sculpture

Summer Sculpture

This is a photo I took a couple of summers ago on a Motorola Razr. I have cropped it, but it is otherwise unaltered. You can however see that the camera on the Razr is not a patch on the cameras on either of the Sony Ericssons. It handled bright light badly, didn’t really know what it was focussing on, and tended to pixellate under pressure.

I remain very fond of this photo. I think the sculpture looks like a space-craft which is landing or taking off, and whenever I look at it I have the feeling that there is a buzzing noise nearby, just beyond the level of hearing. It was complete chance that the lens of the camera was greasy in just the right direction, but the grease gives a sense of movement and some sense of the stifling heat of the day.

Picassing around again


Messing around on Mr Picasso Head is concerningly addictive.

Postcards from Blackpool

I spent this weekend in Blackpool. It was cold. It was wet. It was tacky: (“In Blackpool the things in the Poundshops are all over-priced”). But it was also photogenic:

‘Guernica’ Rocket

Having already written about Picasso’s Gurnica here, it seemed worthwhile to show this. The rocket is apparently a familiar part of the Promenade, and is a model of one of Thunderbird Three. I wish now I had paid more attention to why exactly it had been repainted with a rendition of Picasso’s Guernica.

The ‘Big One’ from the South Pier - I
The Big One from the South Pier – I

The Tower from the South Pier - I
The Tower from the South Pier – I

Seagulls alongside the South Pier
Seagulls alongside the South Pier

The South Pier
The South Pier

Old Bench
Old Bench

“Keep Out” - Full Tide
I liked the King Canuteness of this. They are doing a lot of rebuilding work to improve the whole length of the Promenade.

The Tower from the Ferris Wheel on the Central Pier
The Tower from the Ferris Wheel on the Central Pier.

Blackpool Valentine
Blackpool Valentine

The ‘Big One’ from the South Pier - II
The Big One from the South Pier – II
(This was taken about three hours or so after the first of this pair)

The Tower from the South Pier - II
The Tower from the South Pier – II
(I should warn any emulators that the sand under the piers is boggy and rather dangerous – I’m not sure I’d try taking these photos twice).

The Largest Glitterball and the Biggest Rollercoaster
The Largest Glitterball and the Biggest Rollercoaster

The Largest Gitterball in the World
The Largest Gitterball in the World

New Bench
New Bench

The postcard shot
The Postcard shot

A note on the photos: these are undoctored, and straight as they came off my phone, with the exception of the Postcard which I rotated by 3.5 degrees (I have a horror of tilted horizons). I did reduce them all to 30% of their original size, but I really could not be bothered to adjust any of them. They are, however, the best few of the 240 that I took. Even so, I love my phone.

Up close and personal

This post started off about something else entirely, but rapidly became a reflection on reality and the falsity of reproductions sparked by a recent visit to the Kandinsky exhibition at the Tate Modern.

Prétensions sont nous. I am sorry.

It’s very easy to think of Kandinsky as a purveyor of pretty patterns, and Composition VIII below…

Kandinsky - Composition VIII

… shows why this might be.

I’d been looking forward to wallowing sensuously in pattern, but the exhibition is much tougher and more challenging than I expected. The exhibition is explicitly about Kandinsky’s journey towards abstraction, and when you see the later works in context you can see the darkness and violence continuing through all his pieces. What struck me the most at the time was that I wanted to see Composition VII, next to Pablo Picasso’s Guernica.

Kandinsky - Composition VII

Picasso - Guernica

The Picasso is more obviously violent because the imagery is more accessible. The Kandinsky appears to be merely colour and pattern when reduced to a thumbnail or a postcard. If it was printed it on silk and sold as a scarf it would go rather well with my raspberry coloured velvet coat.

Isn’t it disturbing how much of an image’s impact is altered by these changes in scale so you can have them as fridge magnets or postcards or key-rings?

Only the original is the original. Even the versions that these thumbnails take you too, which are the largest which I could find online, are just pretty cyphers. I think I’ve seen Guernica, but of course I haven’t. My experiences are diluted and vicarious and my responses are based on lies and self-delusion.

Of course, all of the above could be written about the difference between live and recorded music. I’m struggling to remember which classical musician it was who rejected recorded music as a dead and lifeless thing and the only ones I can remember are, of course much recorded men and women. Make of that irony what you will.

I am no musical aesthete (I once found myself critiquing some Mozart by saying: it had a lot of notes in it) but I still remember the whole-body sensation of being in the Wigmore Hall and letting Debussy wash over, under, around and through me. It took about a day and a half for the feeling to wear off. Or standing in the NEC in the middle of Annie Lennox’s incredible voice, or inside the sound of Wish You were Here at a Roger Waters gig.

The point here is, once again, that reproduction does not in fact reproduce; it distances, diminishes and makes safe. A sensuous and physical response is reduced to a mental one. And worst of all, it short-changes us. We think we’ve had an experience, when in fact we have not. It wasn’t the music we heard on the radio, but a representation of the music, as is made explicit at the start of Wish you Were Here.

It is of course easier now for more people to see original art and be present when more live music is made than ever before, but that access is overtaken daily by reproductions and derivations. I’ve contributed to it myself with my thumbnails and my links.

So we have yet more examples of ways in which our lives are rich in the ertzatz, the imitation, the second-hand and the derivative, to the extent that it is more difficult than ever to see why it is worth seeking out the original, which will only be lumpy, bumpy, harder work, and more challenging.

A genetically modified strawberry, anyone?

St Paul’s trompe d’oeil

St Paul's trompe d'oeil

Too many words recently. By contrast here is a photograph I took on Saturday of St Paul’s Cathedral, complete with trompe d’oeil canvas covering the scaffolding while they do work on it.

It’s an art installation masquerading as responsible construction really, and I love the intelligence, sense of place and subversiveness of the thing.