I went to visit my mate, Markham and his lovely wife, Sarah, in our nation’s fair capital last week. (That’s Londinium, if you don’t know where I live.)
Anyhoop, apart from drinking copious amounts of alcohol – as is our wont – and eating my own body weight in Rogan Josh, I took the liberty of culturising my soul by visiting a few galleries.
I don’t know about you, but I always feel reinvigorated and inspired after a jaunt to a gallery. And, whilst Manchester has a fair few decent galleries, there’s nothing quite like a visit to a capital city to see the top-banana stuff.
The highlights for me, (apart from the boozing), were the BP Portrait Awards at the NPG. Some fantastically refreshing stuff on show. I even saw that portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge. (Or, Kate, as I prefer to call her.) I know she looks a tad tired in the piccie, but you have to admit, she’s still one of the most beautiful women in the world. (Up the republic!)
Now, the National Gallery is pretty vast, and time was pressing, so I just visited a couple of rooms – mainly the 19th Century galleries, where I got see works by: Monet, Van Gogh, Renoir, Cézanne, Picasso, Pissarro, Klimt, Vuillard, Degas, Sisley, Seurat, Gaugin and Matisse. My artistic soul was well and truly satiated. Here are a few highlights for your delectation.
I also took a sneaky peek in a section where they had some medieval paintings of Anne Boleyn, King Dicky 3, Lizzie 1, and a whole host of others. It wasn’t so much the paintings that fascinated me, but being in the presence of work that was commissioned while these historic people were alive. (Or not, as the case may be.)
Last up, was The Tate Modern. And, whilst I’m all up for a bit of modern art, it was the ‘older’ fraternity that appealed to me the most – Henry Moore, Francis Bacon, Miro, Giacometti, Picasso, Turner, Warhol, Hockney, Kandinsky et al.
But, I couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed with the majority of the works. So much so, that I remarked to my mate, Markham, that – if I can do it, it’s not art.
Very graciously, he said that I should make a note of that remark because it was profound. (He always says nice things to me. That’s why he’s my mate.)
He also said that if I were to scrawl it on a piece of paper it would probably get hung in the gallery.
So, here we are. Profundity or Luddite. It’s your call.
My other mate, Mike McGinn, is an artist based in Edinburgh. (I have a thing about friends who’s name begins with ‘M’ – sorry, Zebediah.) And I reckon his work should be in the Tate. It’s miles better than some of the stuff they have in there.
Don’t get me wrong, the Tate Modern is a fantastic art gallery and it has some wonderful works in its collection. Just not enough of it on show at this moment in time. Maybe I’m just a traditionalist.
The other thing that gets my goat is Contemporary Art Photographers. Not all of them, mind. I love Cindy Sherman and Ansel Adams just to name a couple. But there are so many art photographers out there that are technically inept. They may have an eye for a composition and an idea, but too many of them lack the technical skills to make them good photographs. I’m talking mainly about lighting, contrast, colour and depth. It’s one thing to have a concept. Taking it to the next level and being able to bring that concept to life through technical wizardry, is what makes it art.
The key is: Know your medium – then surpass it.
I’ve had the good fortune to work with many brilliant commercial photographers over the past 30 years in the ad industry. And a great many of them would be (and are) better artists than those who ply their trade doing it. I suspect that the reason many of them aren’t famous is because they are tarnished by the word “commercial”.