Tuesday, 17 April 2012

The Turner Contemporary Art Gallery’s first anniversary Retrospective

Here is the blog post about my first visit to the gallery http://thanetonline.blogspot.co.uk/2011/04/pictures-of-inside-turner-contemporary.html

The gallery’s first big failure architecturally for me was that it doesn’t appear to glow in the sunlight as I was lead to expect that it would. My understanding is that it is coated with glass to achieve this. Close up it certainly appears to be covered in glass panels, but if it does glow I have never caught it in action.

I suppose the problem here is that years ago public buildings were commissioned by the rich and powerful and if an architect said the thing would glow and it didn’t, then he was probably decapitated, I don’t think women were allowed to be architects then.

The first exhibition was very contemporary art, albeit some of it rather dated contemporary art. The best aspect of it from my point of view was that one was allowed to take photographs of all the exhibits and in all the galleries.

The acid test however, did it make me want to paint and draw? Is where the point is proved for me, I hadn’t done any painting or drawing for about forty years, due to an embarrassing problem relating to a sketch of mine that very nearly got me expelled from school, after a very few visits to the gallery I picked up my pencil and brushes again.

Coming back to what is wrong with the building, the problem with the damage to the floors is an example of why the decapitation of architects may need reintroduction, anyway as the architect had survived the lack of glow, I asked him about the damage to the floors and some other faults with the building, see http://thanetonline.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/fine-tuning-turner-contemporary-margate.html

I guess part of the problem here is that it us the public who have funded the thing and various government departments that ought to ensure that we get what we have paid for. The difficulty seems to resolve itself to money, the bureaucrats have all been paid and they have paid the architects and the builders, so everyone is happy.

You be wondering why I am posting this a day late, the anniversary being yesterday, two reasons really, one is that yesterday being Monday the gallery would I presume have been closed, so such celebrations as there were would presumably have been private and it is not for me to gatecrash. The other is that because the gallery first opened on a Saturday and I was at work, so today is the anniversary of my first visit.  
I did do a couple of watercolours of the early stages of visiting the gallery, which I have reproduced here as they may be the first paintings of the gallery and I will ramble on as further thoughts occur.   

As a shop assistant I would say that I am eminently qualified to talk about art, aesthetics goes hand in hand with window dressing, in the case of secondhand bookshops the normal approach being to achieve the ambience that the shop is shut, the owner out to lunch and the shop will remain closed. Metamorphosis in to early closing may be the best one can hope for.

One aspect of art is that it ought to be memorable and the two pictures of stages in the birth of the gallery illustrating this post may help you to understand what I mean, they will get bigger if you click on them and even bigger if you are a compulsive clicker.

Essentially they are similar the one at the lower down being easier to forget than the one at the top. 

So anyway lets for moment say you went to the first exhibition at the turner contemporary the main artists exhibiting there were Conrad Shawcross, Daniel Buren, Ellen Harvey, James Webb, Russell Crotty and JWM Turner.

So some questions:

How many of the names do you recognise?

How many of the exhibits do you remember?

How many of the exhibits could you put the artists name to?

Which name is missing? 

Whose picture is still there?

I scored five out of six with the first question. Seven for the next, assuming that the groups of work by the same artist in the same area count as one, five for the next, couldn’t answer the next, and could answer the last one.  

We now come to the next exhibition, Nuffin in the Worl but Youf, I done some posts bout et, viddi http://thanetonline.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Nothing%20in%20the%20World%20But%20Youth sorry that started well and then I tripped over the clockwork orange, so had better avoid, newspeak before I go so far back in artistic time that I vanish down a rabbit whole.

Rabbiting on about this exhibition would take me all day, ‘twas the best, and if you went I guess I don’t have to ask you if you still remember any of the exhibits.

The very early Turners caused me to change the palate in my paint box, to the palate used in the pictures decorating this post. As far as watercolour goes I think turner mostly stuck to it for his whole life.

Chrome yellow, yellow ochre, rose madder, cobalt blue, burnt umber, sepia and indian ink at that stage, some others added later, I won't bore you with the details.  

The next thing to turn up was Rodin’s The Kiss pardon me for Duchamping the hand in this quick sketch of Rodin delivering it, cant help myself, life is dull but art is fun or whatever it was that the cyder ouse man said.

I had to sort out the logistics of this one with those nice people at The Tate, otherwise those nice people at The Turner would have wasted a lot of time stopping you from picturing it, a couple posts about this kiss, here http://thanetonline.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Rodin%20The%20Kiss

Finally we come to the current exhibition, Turner and the Elephants, theoretically this was what everyone has been saying they wanted for years, a Margate art gallery full of Turner’s paintings. To begin with I have to say I was a bit disappointed about the elephants.

Well there it is, in the room, I have visited this exhibition several times and using the acid test, do I want to paint and draw afterwards? Well not as much as I expected.

Obviously it would be a brave individual or a fool who criticised this exhibition, going down the more difficult but less dangerous road of playing the fool and I did have a go see before see http://thanetonline.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/ramsgate-joseph-mallord-william-turner.html but don’t think I exactly hit the nail on the head, I will try giving it another shot.     

I think it is a bit like religion, or at least visiting a church, this business of viewing a lot of the works of a great artist in a gallery, obviously it is different from viewing them online or in a book, there is an aspect not unlike going to church here.

However there is also, going to the local art gallery and finding really a considerable number of Turners on the walls, something rather akin to popping into the local church for a quiet moment, and finding that a lot of angels had turned up, and they weren’t all living up to your personal expectations of the way an angel should behave. 

There is for instance a Turner watercolour of a rainbow there, it does have some the components that make up rainbowness however it also lacks the aspect usually associated with rainbows which is colours.    

What I mean here is, was Turner intending to symbolise a rainbow, was it just a sketch notation to which the rainbow was incidental or did the colours fade in the intervening years?

I did ask the gallery attendant, who didn’t know either.

But don’t think I am getting any closer to hitting the nail on the head here.

One funny moment was when I heard someone in the gallery pointing out a particularly light part of one of the Turner oils, after they had finished their rapture about painting with light, I checked this out and found this particular patch of light was caused by an electric spotlight.

I do of course concede that Turner is the master of painting with light.   

Was Turner badly hung, well I don’t suppose that Ruskin would have tried to burn his erotic sketches that will accompany Tracey Emin’s in the next Turner Gallery expedition if he was.

On to the latest change at the gallery, something which for me suggested a lack of nerve, see http://thanetonline.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/turner-contemporary-margate-and-how-do.html

To most of the young contemporary artists I know; Buren’s tired old stripes representing a 1960s statement in the Paris Metro are a personal insult, however I think this is because most of the young contemporary artists I know would have given their eye teeth to be hung in the gallery instead.

Personally I think the Buren work was a good one, although I was a little reluctant to stand between two mirrors, (There is a scientific hypotheses that says reality is two dimensional and the we, everything is actually flat, but experiencing a hologram that makes us think reality is three dimensional.) in case anything holographic occurred.  

Of course the conundrum here is that is that the people who are saying, how brilliant the art and the gallery is are the people who haven’t looked either at the art or the building properly. In fact they can be summarised as people who have nothing much to say and do the gallery no service. The whole thing about art is it is supposed to produce some other reaction than, “how nice”. 


  1. Ramsgate residentApril 17, 2012 12:26 pm

    Have you taken a similar critical look at your own shopfront and window displays lately?

    1. RR I thought “ the ambience that the shop is shut, the owner out to lunch and the shop will remain closed. Metamorphosis in to early closing may be the best one can hope for.” Was pretty accurate. Or perhaps you commented on the post without going through all the difficult business of actually reading it.

    2. Ramsgate residentApril 17, 2012 2:43 pm

      Yes Michael I DID read it all.
      Alas, I missed the point that this 'shabby chic' look was intentional and that your metamorphosis comment was ironic - if it was.
      Sorry. Didn't mean to upset you. Just went past earlier and ... but enough already.

    3. Not at all RR I had just been having a discussion with an artist who is too well know to mention here and disagreed with my view of the various exhibitions and then told me what was wrong with my paintings. We have been engaged in this sort of jousting for a quarter of a century, and although we both felt much better for the exchange I was moving in a different mental dimension and am afraid dealt with your comment straight afterward. Please accept my apologies, I am normally only rude deliberately, my reply was an act of absent mindedness.

  2. Do you know how they get their figures of over 500,000 visitors, there doesn't seem to be any checking in process or do they have auto counters on the door? if so how do they take into account the children who spend a lot of time just going in and out doors. Or is it think of a number double and round it up to the nearest half a million.


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