Monday, 21 March 2011

Art in Modern Britain

On the recent British Studies field trip I tagged along, mainly because a trip to London seemed like it would offer more opportunities for interesting blog posts than staying in drizzly Grantham! After a bus breaking down and a hilarious game of 'drive away whilst a student trys to get on' we were on our way: my plan was to get to London, meet up with artistic friends, and DO SOME CULTURE.

First Stop: Tate Modern. Now I've got to admit, of the two Tate's in London... this is my least favourite. Modern Art is something I generally need someone to explain to me, to make me understand why it's not just a canvas painted blue. Enter Rebecca, a friend of mine studying at Wimbledon College of Art! She and I have been friends since we were 11 (eep I feel really old now) and she was actually the Ridgway Scholar three years before me, so we have a lot in common. I was definitely excited to see Chinese artist Ai Weiwei's ceramic Sunflower seeds and also very tempted to leap over the barrier in a dramatic flourish and run through them, but you're not allowed to as the ceramic dust is too dangerous?! I was part way through planning "Operation Chewing Gum on Shoes" (designed to cunningly steal a few seeds) but sadly the guards were a bit too good at their jobs and so I had to leave.

Rebecca wanted to go and see British Art Show 7 which catalogues the best of up-and-coming British art from the last five years. One of the artists, Charles Avery, has created a fictional world for his 'Islanders', people who have colonised a strange island full of creatures such as the 'platypus-billed duck' and who can't escape their obsession with eggs pickled in gin. Now, I know that all sounds a bit mad but I promise you, his drawings of the town were amazing, full of detail (and random eggs!). You can read more about his work here (the drawing below is from that article).

One of the more disturbing pieces was in a darkened room: a mechanical face with rolling eyes and a moving jaw, with a tube in the mouth that randomly excretes papery-gluey gunk into a bucket with audible 'plops'. It was truly horrible, and was there to draw you to the artists short film, in which a man who eats books appears to be living in a disfunctional families house without them realising. I can't really describe it, beyond saying that it was massively disturbing to watch the film with a randomise 'plopping' happening in the background. Maybe you should hear about it from an expert instead of a grossed out amateur! I was sad to see that one of the performance artists was missing: from the poster his work seems to be focused on him sitting on a bench naked, and occassionally setting fire to it? As Adrian Searle puts it, "maybe the youth decided that starting a fire was less effort than putting some clothes on".

So you see, art in Britain is not limited to fusty Rembrandts, or pickled cows, or even something I create every single day: the Un-Made Bed. London is a fantastic city for modern art as well as the Natinal Gallery experience the students had on this trip to London: if you've got an open mind then it's well worth exploring!

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