Chewing my keyboard

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

In which the heroine has a cultural experience...

According to the Times 'Critic at large', art is 'high culture for people who can’t read.' (he should have added 'and are tone deaf' at which point he'd encapsulate me perfectly).

As a result, it is no surprise that yesterday I wandered into an art gallery. To be precise, I wandered into the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery which is free (because I'm skint and tight) and which is worth the entrance fee just for the inside of the building... oh, and the automatic glass doors. There's nothing like walking in and out of automatic glass doors lots of times. Anyway, it has a nice high ceiling with glass in it, some marble pillars, one of those marble branching staircases with wrought iron railways and a balcony! :D... and some automatic glass doors (which have recently been added).

My reason for going into the art gallery was entirely pragmatic. I have recently purchased an oil painting kit and don't know how to execute stuff like water, trees and stonework since I normally work on silk. Thus, I decided to see how various artists had depicted these things.

Upon entering the gallery and being unable to find the paintings, I encountered a rather stern looking woman who enquired as to what I was looking for. I said "oil paintings" to which she squinted myopically at me and said in a lofty tone "anything specific" with the disgust heaped upon someone who lumped anything done in oils into some interchangeable and homogenous category. Given this, I widened my search criteria to "and possibly water colours".

Being about as cultured as The Full Monty (and unable to remember names), I can say I know nothing more about artists than I did when I entered the gallery. I do know, however, that in the 15th century or earlier, people tended to draw people. By the 16th-17th century, they drew wild-looking landscapes (Romanticism), later they liked technology and cities, and in the modern and post-modern era they draw stuff where you squint at it for ages and don't know what it is. This is a simplistic reflection of the concerns of society, pretty much (although I may have got the centuries wrong) - transition through the Industrial Revolution, blah... I know you can oil paint on cardboard, how to depict water in oils and a good technique for patterning a shawl. I also have memorised how to draw noses using oil pastels (I did some simple oil pastel drawing last year in Chamonix on holiday. Gavarnie at 800 m this year was too cold to sit outside).

I enjoy painting in silk and can produce relatively pretty scarves despite being hopeless at Art at school, which has encouraged me to see if I can paint using anything else. However, I'm utterly unskilled at drawing anything 3D or real (school art - here is a fruit bowl. Draw it in 3 types of medium). My silk paintings are very abstract and not particularly realistic. They're very 'child-like' with unmixed loud colours, basic shapes, an absence of perspective and use Jungian archetypes and unsubtle symbolism to make a commentary on exactly nothing whatsoever. Abstract art is usually a commentary on cultural identity or social alienation in a capitalist society. Mine just say "trees are nice" or "anger is like a flame". But then, my favourite 'classical' artists are Bosch and Dali, so that's possibly to be expected. NB: I especially like the bird with the goldfish bowls (or diving helmets) on its feet and head, and the man with the hollow body and the hat. Like, what was he saying here? (if you go to hell, you will be condemned to an eternity of being eaten by your pet parrot?)... I'm being facetious - there was a social/cultural significance. Dali though, just liked being strange on purpose from what I gather (his moustache being exhibit A for the prosecution)...

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