Sunday 15 May 2011

Tracey Emin, The Turner Contemporary and Kent TV

Tracey Emin is a Margate born (sorry Croydon born) artist who is supportive of the new art gallery, recently opened in Margate.

I am a local shop assistant who has been artistically moved by this new gallery.

This is one of a series of blog posts about aspects of this new gallery The Turner Contemporary.

Kent TV is a television service provided by Kent County Council, that has now been moved onto a public video hosting site similar to YouTube.

I was surprised that this video of Tracey Emin talking about The Turner Contemporary had only had 20 viewings, so I have embedded it here as I assume other local people will be interested in it.

Once again I haven’t taken a photo of Tracey, so I ran the video and using a simple piece of hardware produced a picture of my own for this post, click on it to enlarge it and click on it again to make it even bigger. 

The pictures I took of The Turner Contemporary today have just published to the internet, the first batch are of the inside, see

As is my usual habit, apart from reducing them in size for publication I have published all of the ones on the camera card, in fact viewing them online will be the first time I see them.

What is art?

We were asked this question in the Turner Contemporary today, by a lady in one of the galleries, evidently she wished to sit down, on the other hand she didn’t want to desecrate a work of are.

Is this a chair? She asked. Fortunately it was and we were able to tell her it was, so she sat on it.

This page of pictures was taken today outside the gallery when we arrived and this page after viewing the gallery

If you are new to this gallery and want to see more of it inside and out, these links take you to some other pages of pictures of it, that I have taken in the past.

We seem to be developing a situation here in Thanet, where people who appear to be, intelligent, articulate and educated have become uncertain about the chairness of chairs and the artness of art.
I don’t think that this is a psychological problem, I think it appears to be more of a philosophical one.

The phrase. Don’t adjust your mind, reality is at fault. Comes to mind.

There it a large blank wall in Turner Contemporary with a sign on it, saying. Do not touch. It doesn’t say any more, like what it is one shouldn’t touch, if it was meant to be a work of art, I thought it rather a good one, oddly enough it doesn’t seem to be ascribed to anyone. I suppose in terms of the gallery it could be seen as rather dated, a piece of Post Modernism in a contemporary art gallery, perhaps it is an accident.      

I will add to this post as the day progresses, pictures of the gallery taken to today and some thoughts, as I get time.  


  1. What is art?

    "What I have in mind is that art may be bad, good or indifferent, but, whatever adjective is used, we must call it art, and bad art is still art in the same way that a bad emotion is still an emotion."

    Marcel Duchamp

  2. Tracey Emin was born London not Margate, she is not, as most people think, Margate born and bred.

  3. Marcel, perhaps I should have asked what isn’t art? I thought you had died when I was fifteen, so it was a question I didn’t have the opportunity to ask you. In the circumstances it’s probably as well.

    18.05 apologies, I was so overcome by the TC I quite forgot.

  4. It’s good to know that Tracy Emin is an authority on culture as well as art. I’m pleased I’ve seen the video as it's helped me to make my own assessment of her. What I particularly liked was the wry smile she had, almost as if she’s taking the Mickey Bliss out of you!

    I made my first visit to the Turner Contemporary this weekend, and despite the multi million pound machine that has tried to blur my vision in recent months, I did my very best to approach the gallery with an open mind. I don’t belong to any particular faction when it comes to my appreciation of art, contemporary or otherwise.

    What I saw was predominantly rubbish. Remove objects from the gallery and the majority of them would not look out of place on a rubbish heap. When it comes to stimulation and presentation there are far better displays to be seen in the average shop window. I fail to see how visitor numbers will be maintained without the massive publicity machine that has attracted people so far, and when the building losses its art connection it will become another monstrous carbuncle spoiling the view that apparently Turner found so inspiring.

    When I hear people waxing lyrical about such art I remember Hans Christian Anderson’s story of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” when his tailor made him a set of clothes that were invisible for those unfit for their positions. Maybe the same psychology applies to those who authorised expenditure for such a venture. If it’s art, it’s art, and all it needs is an accommodating brain to appreciate it, not a multi million pound gallery to make the point.

    I would love to see a display of brown envelopes used in the decision making process. Now that would be art!

  5. Conversations heard this weekend:

    Customer: "Have you been in that Ramsgate library? There's nothing in it."
    Charity Shop Worker: "But it's a lot better than that Turner Centre, isn't it?"

    And as I walked down the road a bloke in front of me was told to f**k off by the woman who has tourettes. He turned to see me smiling and said: "That's Thanet all over that is. As soon as dad dies I'm off."

    Cheered me up no end.

  6. Just because you don't understand some art doesn't mean it's rubbish.

  7. Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging items in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect. Most exhibits at the TC didn't do that for me as I thought they were meaningless rubbish - unless of course you stretch the definition to include meaningless rubbish. Actually, on reflection, that would explain how Tracy Emin has become an Artist.

    Surely if you have to "understand" something, it can't be art as without explanation it's failed to influence or affect the senses.

  8. One man's art is another man's rubbish, I don't "understand" some of Picasso's paintings but I recognize them as Art.

    I haven't been to the Turner Contemporary yet, waiting for the crowds to die down. Says it all really!

  9. Actually. I did go on the first Monday and the closed it especially for us:-)

  10. I agree Readit, one man's art is another man's rubbish. For me, Picasso's paintings aren't art because they convey nothing to me. Perhaps I just can't see the Emperor's clothes!

  11. Enlightened, it has occurred to me to do blog posts about some of the exhibits in The Turner Contemporary that interest me, possibly this could help understand what is going on there.

    I will start with Daniel Buren, if I get a chance to do a picture of him, later today, he is an abstract minimalist, it is possible that you enjoyed his work without actually noticing it.

    21.15 wot nothing?

    21.57 the concept of understanding all art I think is perhaps where the TC has hit some problems in the past.

    Enlightened again, I wonder how many people have pasted that one from Wikipedia into their thesis?

    Affect the senses, does sound a bit camp you know.

    Readit Picasso is a bit of a dodgy one here as he did draw conventional portraits where, the subject was recognisable. I believe I read some correspondence between David Hockney and Martin Kemp the art historian suggesting that Picasso may have used some sort of optical aid to do this. As someone who doesn’t I have always had certain reservations about economy of line, something sort of messy tends to happen in the foreground when a likeness begins to form.

    Enlightened again, recommend you Google “Pablo Picasso self portrait” and look on the image tab, to my mind someone who can draw a recognisable likeness of a person produces something, that for want of another word has to be called art.

  12. If art is only the true representation of life then we have photography, which was not available over 100 or so years ago.

    Art, in the form of paintings can re-create reality to make it more perfect or less perfect depending on the point of view.

    It can also convey mood, atmosphere, feelings, hope, and many other intangible concepts.

  13. Readit, I think I am going to get myself into hot water here, I have had certain problems with art before, and made certain observations about what art is and what photography is.

    My interest in art revolves around depicting the human form, what interests me the most about this is the thing that happens, or should I say sometimes happens when one tries to freehand draw something, particularly the human face and get something that is recognisably the person who is the subject of the drawing.

    I suppose this type art falls somewhere between the caricature and the photograph, the mind I think takes the aspects that differentiate between individuals and is inclined to accentuate these aspects.

    I think chemical photography started to become successful about 200 years ago with the oldest surviving photographs dating from the 1830s.

    Pretty much all art prior to this date was essentially trying to achieve what the photograph achieves now, pinhole cameras, camera obscurers, drawing grids, well optical devices have been around for at least 2,500 years.

    During that time artists have used them to a greater or lesser extent.

    Photographs can convey mood, atmosphere, feelings, hope, and many other intangible concepts, so I don’t think that is what separates art out, I don’t think you can say digital and chemical photography is more or less than any other artistic tool and I don’t think you can say that photography isn’t art.

    I suppose if you want a definition of visual art, then it is an image that sticks in the mind and if you know the subject, what the art is trying to convey, then it changes your visual perception of that subject. Perhaps the closest we can come to seeing something trough someone else’s mind, conscious and unconscious.

    Where this gets interesting in contemporary art is when the artist tries to convey something that couldn’t normally be conveyed visually, one of the artists exhibiting at the TC for instance is trying to covey a sound.

  14. Michael, the first comment was a quote by Marcel Duchamp. I wasn't actually calling myself Marcel Duchamp.

    I reckon those who say modern art is rubbish are a bit arrogant. It's a bit like calling a professional sportsperson rubbish: unless you can do better than they can that is. If you say you don't like it or it does nothing for you then fair enough.

    It also shows that person up as being narrow minded and a bit ignorant. I first visited a gallery to see modern art 20 years ago and didn't have a clue what I was looking at. Since then I've done numerous courses, read a number of books and watched anything I can on art and can now enter a gallery and have a fair understanding of what I'm viewing. I would feel stupid going into any sphere of culture and saying it was rubbish unless I had a good understanding of what was on show.

    As for the "Emporeror's New Clothes" argument: always wheeled out by those who get their views on art straight from Brian Sewell or the Daily Mail.

  15. Anon 17.19 What criteria do you use to judge whether " can do better than they can...."?

    I am always amazed when I see pop and rock artists with backing singers, and I wonder why the artist is famous and the backing singer unknown, although they can be sing the song equally well

  16. 20 viewings for the Tracy video on the Kent TV channel is massive by the viewing of some of the other KCC videos which have attracted zero.
    It makes you wonder just how much of our money KCC are spending on this latest Kent TV venture having wasted over £2 millions on their last effort.

  17. Is the video of art students being forced to walk around a boating pool in Turner Contemporary? I must confess I haven't been in there yet.

  18. 17.19 unless you want go through life like The Prisoner, it had better remain Marcel, as one of my children said after watching the antics of No 6 “I am not human I’m a free child”.

    I don’t think there is any modem art in the TC the modern period in art did last about a hundred years but fizzled out some time ago, perhaps they will have a retro exhibition eventually.

    With contemporary art there is a sort of trap, if you are going to say it isn’t all rubbish, then you either have to say that none of it is rubbish, or you have to differentiate.

    It therefore follows that some of it will be good some average and some I am afraid just rubbish, in the way that if the picture of the top of this post just looked like anyone, I would have considered it a failure and consigned it to the paper recycling.

    Readit, I think the answer there is that it is the rock stars who wrote the music and is singing solo in front of a live audience or playing lead guitar, being a backing singer is much closer to singing in the choir.

    Music is a much more structured framework than visual art, you tend to notice if it’s out of tune rock or classical, most of the musicians play both.

    20.06 I think all government funded websites should have counters on and publish detailed web statistics, pinch and a punch all round just as I do at the beginning of the month.

    Peter and the silly walk thing here as you see no takers.

  19. Michael 12:38

    You suggest I may have enjoyed Daniel Buren’s art without actually knowing it. Are you sure? I’ve always been under the impression that enjoyment is something you feel.

    You’ve caught me, the quote was from Wikipedia. I guess we both use the same site.

    I have to admit on reflection that Picasso’s paintings do sometimes resemble objects but I find it difficult to associate them closely with anything in my world. I can’t honestly say they affect any of my senses or emotions as “required” by art.

    Anonymous 17:19

    So I’m arrogant, narrow minded and ignorant for not thinking the same as you! Not to worry, we all have our little foibles.

    I think you’ve proved my point with regard to art as when you first visited a gallery 20 years ago you didn’t have a clue what you were looking at. That suggests to me that the displays didn’t affect any of your senses, emotions or intellect and therefore they were probably not objects of art. Now, after extensive training you understand what you’re looking at, and would probably view the same objects differently. My point is that the objects would still be the same. I would suggest it’s the knowledge that is stimulating your senses, not the objects.

    As for your comments regarding the “Emperor’s New Clothes”, I have no idea who Brian Sewell is and I don’t read the Daily Mail as you appear to. My comments were my own analysis based on my life experiences.

  20. Apply the tests to "works" of art:

    (1) What consequences would there be from a mistake ?

    (2) How many people are likely to benefit from getting it right ?

    (3) How many people are likely to suffer harm from getting it wrong ?

    (4) How long will the work matter and how much will it matter ?

    Now apply the same tests to the review currently being conducted of UK nuclear safety and security by Dr Weightman head of the Nuclear Inspectorate.

    If he gets it wrong then all life on earth could suffer a consequence and his efforts will matter for all time.

    The artist is but a child who elects never to put away childish things. Appreciating art is like that ... imagine patting Tracey Emin on the head and saying "That is really good wowsa what a clever little girl you are".

  21. Enlightened, your comment was in the spam folder, I suggest you get a blogger id to prevent this from happening again, it won’t effect your anonymity but will also prevent people from impersonating you if you get into a heated debate on one of the blogs.

    Daniel Buren is a world class artist, probably France’s most famous living artist and frankly I consider his exhibit in the TC to be world class, in terms of contemporary art, I think that it is good and I like it.

    It consists of mirrors attached to two opposite walls and yellow stripes stuck to one of the gallery’s windows, here are a few pictures I have taken of it

    Reflections fascinate me in a sort of Harry Worth sort of way, I can’t help it my interest is both artistic and scientific, this is an example of the sort of thing I mean

    I take it that you must be an intelligent sort of person as you have the facility to change your mind, as in Picasso or accept being found out as with the quote. So I don’t suppose you will say that when confronted by two huge mirrored surfaces, you look the other way and don’t enjoy them.

    I tried to produce a picture of Daniel Buren, but it just didn’t work out, I couldn’t as it were capture the Burenness, possibly because of his age, see he is a very difficult subject there is a video of him being interviewed recently here as you see it is very difficult to see what it is that makes him recognisable as who he it.

    Retired I think if you put the control of nuclear reactors into the hands of a group of people who can’t appreciate art in any shape or form, you could have problems.

    Quoting Corinthians is always a slippery slope to wearing hats and uncircumcision, beware of Greeks and their gifts.

  22. Having read through this post and its comments I am left feeling rather devoid of artistic culture. All this talk of feeling, impression and understanding is somehow reminiscent of the nonsense spouted by so called wine experts about body, nose and plummy flavours.

    Treat art as you would wine. Look and see if it is pleasing on your eyes as you drink what suits your palate. Don't force yourself to like it just because it is by someone famous or is expensive.

    Sits back with a glass of Sainsbury's merlot and enjoys the African lanscape oil on the lounge wall painted by some total unknown.

  23. Michael, I have no need to know who Daniel Buren is as I feel quite comfortable without his input. The fact that he is famous means little to me even if he does produce something that inspires me.

    As for the mirrors, I did see them and I did discuss them with my family to try and find a connection with art. We unanimously decided they were mirrors doing what mirrors have always done. To be honest, I wasn’t particularly impressed with what I saw when I looked into them. Now Harry Worth’s effort was something completely different. It did make me laugh at the time, but I was in my early teens.

    As for the yellow stripes, they appeared to me as yellow stripes. Maybe I’m missing something and they actually contained some covert earth shattering revelation. Even if this is the case I don’t think they would be art as they didn’t excite or influence my senses or thoughts.

    Maybe I need to think like an artist to appreciate their work, but putting myself into the same mindset as Tracy Emin or Pablo Picasso doesn’t appeal to me. Using the same analogy, I would be very concerned if the control of nuclear reactors was in the hands of the likes of Emin and Picasso.

    Sorry Michael, I just don’t get the majority of the exhibits displayed at the TC. I’m with Anonymous 11:45 on this one, except I prefer Port (even though it has a deep garnet edge, clean aroma, showing maturity and finesse, with a hint of dried plums, and a rich, mellow texture with a long, satisfying finish).

  24. The Margate hoy no longer sails them down_to a Georgian fantasy. Road snakes deliver them now in SUVs and bright beamers. Islington contemplates the Edge. In the new reactor buildings at Fort Hill,a rotating triple-headed goddess is nothing more than the reflection of the Real moving shaddow on the wall. Trickle-down Multidimensionalism, perhaps! A note graphs eurhythmic, chaotic despair, and in Arcadia the Shepherds, by their absence, signal no refuge from the apocalypse. A beautiful star chart, illumes the night sky in its glory, but I see no origin in space near the PLEIADES. Is orions belt wrong? I sit here attempting to write a new Wasteland,without sucess,brooding on Thanatos and Symbolist paintings. Where is the Babylonian genesis and its illumination in the angles,or should it be angels? Have they got it right by Chance_Dauchamp would celebrate it! the Network of Stoppages is now only found on the roads. I guess like Quantum beavers we gnaw around trying to collapse the waveform into ART.

  25. Touché, Enlightened. Too early in the day for port for me so looks like another glass of merlot.

    Still prefer my African landscape to mirrors, the latter tending to reflect some aging chap I prefer not to recognise. Harry Worth, eh, now there is a genuinely funny man without the modern necessity for filth and insult.

  26. Anonymous 16:22 Have you tried laying down in a darkened room? If that doesn’t work I suggest trying Merlot … or Port.

    Anonymous 16:23 I prefer the steppes of Mongolia. I often travel there in comfort courtesy of Cockburns (currently on offer in Morrisons).

  27. 16.22 with all these anonymouses do you mind if I call you McGonagall, recommend you start with Old Possum and work up to the old timeless moment business slowly.

    11.45 etc mind if I call you Baccus it saves confusion, the trouble even when viewed through the bottom of a glass, good luck with your African Landscapes, recommend if you live in Ramsgate or Margate you give the Aldi wines a try, very good value, with the TC though if you are a Kent council tax payer, you are paying for it regardless so you might just as well enjoy those aspects of it that you can.

    Enlightened, I have also noticed that Morrisons is very handy when visiting the TC.

  28. Spot on Michael. I needed something to calm my nerves after visiting TC. What a delight to find the antidote was on special offer.

  29. Red wine and Art? I am up for that combination Michael. I can understand peoples comments on th TC. I am very pro the TC but was underwhelmed at its minimalistic approach. I liked what I saw I liked the building etc and I like what it is doing for Thanet. I saw youfs out with video camera's and clipboards yesterday I dont know for certain but I recon they were TC course related.So add on the community stuff it makes the TC bigger than just the sum of the building. Then add in the small but substantial influx of new artistic/art based shops galleries etc plus Sunday events and you see some regren in Margate old town plus the Harbour arm etc and the TC is making an effect. I think its great and I am pleased it is open.


Comments, since I started writing this blog in 2007 the way the internet works has changed a lot, comments and dialogue here were once viable in an open and anonymous sense. Now if you comment here I will only allow the comment if it seems to make sense and be related to what the post is about. I link the majority of my posts to the main local Facebook groups and to my Facebook account, “Michael Child” I guess the main Ramsgate Facebook group is We Love Ramsgate. For the most part the comments and dialogue related to the posts here goes on there. As for the rest of it, well this blog handles images better than Facebook, which is why I don’t post directly to my Facebook account, although if I take a lot of photos I am so lazy that I paste them directly from my camera card to my bookshop website and put a link on this blog.