Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Sunday art and fish fingers

The German and I went to Baltic. If you don’t know, Baltic is a great big contemporary art gallery housed in an old industrial building on Gateshead’s quayside. I like that there is no permanent collection but constantly changing exhibitions Baltic attracts big names and lots of visitors and I’ve seen some fantastic work there, but sometimes they show some really pretentious and obscure work which annoys me, as I think it turns people off art rather than getting them interested.

There are several current shows. If you couldn’t give a monkey’s chuff what my opinion of them is, skip to the bottom bit about fish finger sandwiches. If you have a vague interest, continue and I’ll try to keep it short:

John Cage ‘Every Day Is A Good Day’ – I know he was ahead of his time, innovative, unconventional and hugely influential but he’s just not my bag, baby. Neither was ‘Cage Mix’, work by eight artists influenced by Cage, though there was a highlight in an onomatopoeic video installation which included an image of some Cillit Bang..

Cornelia Parker ‘Doubtful Sound’ pushed the right buttons though. ‘Perpetual Canon’ is a selection of silver-plated brass instruments, crushed flat and suspended from the ceiling in a circle, hence the title. They’re lit from inside the circle by a single, bare bulb which stretches their shadows along the walls. Being crushed, the sole purpose of the instruments is gone, which forces you to consider them differently and the silenced, crumpled metal is strangely beautiful, like the feel of the room.

Another piece is a collection of seemingly everyday objects which gain new meaning and new value when you read the text next to each one – the framed record is like any other, until you learn its former owner was Adolf Hitler, the framed feather is like a million other feathers, until you learn it came from a pillow belonging to Sigmund Freud. There are some interesting objects without this kind of provenance if you’re unimpressed by Hitler’s music collection. A little pile of metal shavings looked like something you’d sweep up and throw away but turn out to what’s left over when text is engraved onto metal. I found the idea of the negative of words very charming.

I wasn’t loving the video installation though, a loop of a 5 second clip of a shed-like building with a non-corresponding soundtrack of something rather like scraping metal. I’m not a video installation fan. I always pre-judge them, sometimes unfairly, as pretentious and try-hard and not requiring any artistic talent to produce.

Reeeeally liked the Tomas Saracemo work housed in a 350 cubic metre space spanning all 6 surfaces. He used 800 metres of cord, hand-knotted 23 000 times in an exact replica of a black widow spider web, constructed in zero gravity conditions. The planning and research behind the piece, which is also on display, is astounding. Scientists use models of spider webs, examining their construction to make sense of the origins and structure of the universe and wanted to see how the webs differed under zero gravity. It's fascinating reading. And you get to wear giant, marshmallow-like shoe covers to keep the blindingly-white floor, blindingly-white. I wanted to crawl around inside the web and absorb its detail and complexity but one doesn’t do these sorts of things. Unless one wants to be asked to leave the premises.

And then we poked round the gift shop (which I love) and went to the pub for drinks and fish finger sandwiches (which I also love).

I might try out some spidery-based illustrations. I like working in black/white, pen/ink and enjoy using a lot of detail. I did a small drawing last year of some trees whose branches I warped to look more like spiders webs. I’d been walking in Scottish countryside after the rain and seen ragged, sparkly webs spanning the spindly branches of the peeling silver birches and connecting them all together. I tried to translate the idea into a two-dimensional sketch, decide for yourself how well it works.

1 comment:

  1. i really like your tree sketch wiiiiife :O) and the photo of the flat instruments