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horns of wilmington's cow

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Friday 4 February 2011: Underground Music

The Innocent Tunnel, on my commute route to work, seems to have been gaining some graffiti recently. I've always liked good graffiti, cheers the place up as far as I'm concerned. And while it's hip and trendy to eb into Banksy these days I fought 'e was well wicked innit like aaaages ago man. Blek le Rat, the Space Invaders chap (who I think might be French?) - thoughtful, thought-provoking, and, dare I say it, artistic.

Interesting balancing that against the works in the National Gallery of Modern Art, which I wandered to at lunchtime rather than trudging in the rain and gathering gale. Actually, some are pretty good - the biggest problem I have with a lot of modern art isn't the art itself (though more on that in a mo), but the pretentious twaddle surrounding it. It was said, on a board, of one artist that his style of painting was, "... as if to catch his intellect off guard so he could release his true creativity." What the hell does that even mean???

Another wanted to get his subconscious thought onto the canvas, solidified into reality. His pieces were plaster slopped on and spread slightly. I think his subconscious thought was saying, "These pillocks will buy anything..."

There were a couple of pieces by Robert Therrien, who basically makes everyday things on a huge scale. His table and chairs made me smile. I enjoyed walking under them and around them. His stack of HUGE bowls lacked the same fun, but walking round it, your eye tricked by the random stacking, made for an interesting effect. Of course the boards proclaimed that his pieces challenged the conventions and made you contemplate the role of the ordinary by placing you in an unsettling position where nothing was to the expected scale and so blah blah blah blah.

Shut up. I like it without the waffle.

There were Tracy Emin sketches. Mondrian blocks of colour. The list went on (quite literally in the case of a work of art which consisted of an ongoing list of everyone the artist could remember meeting simply printed on a wall like some sort of modernist war memorial). Then suddenly there were Rembrandt and Manet. An oasis within the splodges of random colour that represented the feelings of the artist for a mouse he'd accidentally trodden on or pieces of lacework that were a visual representation of the horror of conflict, most particularly in eastern Africa.

Art is so utterly personal, but I still don't see why it has to be imbued with a deeper significance - if it's not obvious from the piece itself then it actually means nothing at all to anyone other than the artist. Comments, superior comments, are often made that if you don't like it then it's because you don't understand it. If three concentric squares of differing shades of orange require explanation stretching to 5 paragraphs then something has gone awry. Art is visual by its very nature, it's something to explain itself in a mere glimpse.

It's not that I'm an ultra-traditionalist either. My art loves are diverse. Favourites stretch from Degas (a shiver ran up my spine the first time I saw one of his ballet paintings in the flesh) to the aforementioned Banksy, via Dali Toulouse-Lautrec and Lichtenstein. I can't stand Van Gogh or Gaugin, but nobody accuses me of not understanding their work when I declare this, they understand that there is something in the style that doesn't push my buttons.

And this is true of random swathes of colour on a canvas (good god, there was one where a virtue of the piece was that he painted on the floor and had to step on the canvas to reach the middle and so this was the first piece to feature an actual footprint - now that's scraping the barrel) - it's not that I don't understand, it's that you seem to think that it's necessary to understand before you can enjoy. Personally I tihnk you've got that back to front.

So there.

Anyway, wandered out the back of the gallery to the river and decided on a stroll along in the lashing rain anyway. Then that familiar flash of blue on the river - the wind was bla'in a hoolie at my back, and I had not a scrap of wet weather gear on, but did I care? Not when I could crouch watching this.

Other graffiti:

Stoned Easter Island
Lapin!

EDIT: Duane Hanson's ultra-realism sculpture/cast of the Tourists is fantastic.

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