Over the last couple of weeks we’ve visited a fair number of art galleries in Scotland and the North of England, and we have seen a great deal of great art. ‘Isabella and the Pot of Basil’ by William Holman Hunt for example (on display in the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle) is something we could have spent hours looking at. When you look at Hunt’s Isabella you can see he has spent hours observing light, shadows, colours, shape, form, how light reflects off objects onto other objects… Hunt has then gone on to recreate what he saw with such skill and dedication that it looks as if you could reach out and touch the cloth draped over the prie-dieu though I’d not like to pull the basil from the pot if it contained Lorenzo’s severed head 😉
A couple of days after our visit to the Laing Art Gallery we visited Abbot Hall Art Gallery in Kendal, on the ground floor we really enjoyed the works of Ruskin, his observation and detailed work were excellent. The work of Joseph Mallord William Turner with is painting of ‘The Passage of Mount St Gothard, Taken from the Centre of the Teufels Broch (Devil’s Bridge), Switzerland’ again left you feeling that this was an artist who had studied his subject, the light, how the mist and cloud faded and changed. We wandered upstairs to a much hyped exhibition ‘Taking Flight: St Ives in the 1950s’ – I say much hyped as the Daily Telegraph review said it was the ‘Hot Ticket’ and The Times said it was ‘Hot 50 Critics Choice’. What we were faced with was nothing more than pretentious dribble, to think that artists spent their time and energy working in a beautiful area like St Ives only for them to produce a series of frankly embarrassing set of “paintings” is to me very wrong indeed. I visited the place in the late 80’s and it would have been a wonderful place to spend some time with a sketchbook and some paints, how then they turned a place of beauty into what Julie described quite well as a migraine on canvas I’ll never know. There was obviously a failure somewhere between the artist observing the scene and them translating that observation to canvas. Whilst it’s true that art takes all forms, I’m just not sure why so much gallery space and money is given to such pretentious dribble when there are so many real artists out there trying to get their work seen and recognized.
Strange to think you can visit the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle for free and see works by Hunt and Burne-Jones, yet you have to pay to visit the Abbot Hall Art Gallery to see dribble-o-stasis (a new term for pretentious dribble captured on canvas).
Having said all that, there was one piece that caught my eye titled ‘descent’* which wasn’t too bad…
If you are thinking of visiting a gallery try to find one that has some real art inside, it’s inspiring, and well worth the effort, but for every gallery you visit try to find someone’s work online who hasn’t yet made it into the public galleries and if you like what you see give them a friendly pat on the back (you could even go mad and support them even more by buying something ;-)) – but only if it’s not a load of pretentious migraine inducing dribble 🙂
*Yes, this took thirty seconds with a scrap of paper and some paint, but it would not have looked out of place in the St Ives exhibition.