Friday, October 28, 2011

Tate Modern

I may have already said this, but since I became a regular London visitor about a decade ago there have been some things I have intended to do eventually and others which I've never thought the need to do. Recently I was in London, possibly for the last time in a while, so I did some stuff I always meant to get around to. The poster child for this was walking on the Abbey Road crossing made famous on the Beatles' album cover.

I have to be honest and say that the Tate Modern art gallery never held any attraction to me. While I can swoon over Impressionist masterpieces at the Courtauld Institute (feel free to call me a Linkphilistine, or indeed a Palestine for comedic effect), my exposure to more modern art is limited enough that I still regard it as the Emperor's new clothes. I have come to love Jackson Pollock's Blue Poles at the National Gallery of Australia, but for the most part I just don't "get" modern art. I stop short of dismissing it out of hand (although I come close), rather I think of it like many other artforms that, perhaps to my detriment, I don't appreciate. I won't list the many and varied examples of expressions of the human spirit which elude me, for fear of being dismissed as totally lacking any artistic merit at all.

I won't apologise for the following, but I will say that the reason I ended up at the Tate Modern was that I wanted to let my daughters know that I had walked across the bridge that was blown up in Harry Potter 6 ("Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"). Its real name is the Millennium Bridge. Admittedly the other reason was purely to walk across such a controversial bridge - when it was first built there were all sorts of reports about it swaying alarmingly. However there I was crossing the "Harry Potter" bridge, so when I reached the southern bank of the Thames in front of the Tate Modern, it seemed silly not to go in.

I have to say that I am surprised I had not previously heard what a ridiculous design this building is. It's so bad that you almost feel like it was a deliberate attempt to keep out the plebs. However I eventually found a way to look at the art. I was suprised to see a Monet there, but that's neither here nor there. Here is the description of one piece of art that I captured on my iPhone. Stupidly I didn't take a photo of the actual painting, but I eventually found an image of it online.

"The Bigger Picture. Clyfford Still, 1953. Matthew Collings, painter and critic.

"The blue in this painting is full of differences.
"Ruffled and disturbed, it sometimes seems brilliant and full, sometimes dark, almost black. It's a shape but it also has shapes within it which gradually emerge - you can see a kind of vertical trawling shadowy form, indeterminate, like weather changing, or something passing by under water. When you register the other colour areas the whole arrangement snaps to, and the painting becomes much more flat. It has very little to it, but the effect is amazingly rich. The yellow creates a feeling of great distance. Nothing is careless, everything relates to everything else."

I'm sorry, but clearly Matthew Collings is a wanker. It's an almost entirely blue painting with tiny bits of other colours on top and bottom. But wait, there's more. Surely this is the wankiest description ever to accompany a painting (the same painting by the way, this time by the artist).

"Clyfford Still 1904 - 1980
"Born and worked USA

"Oil on canvas

"'My paintings have no titles because I do not wish them to be considered illustrations or pictorial puzzles', Still wrote. 'If properly made visible they speak for themselves.' In a letter discussing this work, he explained that the red at the lower edge was intended to contrast with and therefore emphasise the depths of the blue. He saw the yellow wedge at the top as 'a reassertion of the human context - a gesture of rejection of any authoritarian rationale or system of politico-dialectical dogma."

Since he refused to give titles to his works it took me even longer to find an online image of the piece.

The old saying is that if you can't find anything nice to say, don't say anything. In the spirit of that belief I won't say anything at all about this total load of bollocks that pretends to be art.

I mean really, "politico-dialectical dogma"? Anyone who takes that seriously deserves serious derision, pointing and laughing.

[I really wanted to use the expression f***ing b***s*** in this blog, but I'm much too polite to use words like that.]

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Royal Visit

I took my daughters to see Queen Elizabeth the Second last Sunday. I didn't particularly want to - we had had a hectic few weeks and we were for once happily lazing around the house. The girls and my wife were also about to go to Cooma for an afternoon tea (I had some work to do so was staying in town).

While I was sitting there trying to think of reasons not to mention it to them, I suddenly realised how much it meant to me to have seen QE2 in Darwin in 1977, during her Silver Jubilee. I knew that this would be something they would probably remember for the rest of their lives. Moreover, in all probability this would be the Queen's last visit to Australia, and who knows what the future of the Monarchy holds for Australia after her passing. The girls weren't particularly keen - they were also happy to take a rare opportunity to lounge around the house.

I guess there was also the thought that it would be silly not to go there, given that Government House (where HM was staying) is only about three minutes' drive from our house.

So we all bundled into the car and drove to Yarralumla. We parked and walked two minutes to Dunrossil Drive. One minute later a few Police motorbikes passed, and then the Royal motorcade went past. We were on the right hand side of the road. Prince Philip was in the right hand seat and Queen Elizabeth was in the left hand seat. Both waved as they went past.

My elder daughter was beside herself ("I saw the Royal Queen", my iPhone video recorded). My younger one was also happy, but not quite as much - being six years old I think there is a limit to how much she can understand. Regardless, they will both be able to retell for the rest of their lives the day they saw the Queen. I can't believe I almost denied them this experience.

How times have changed - in the past the road would have been 10 deep with people cheering. As it was, we could turn up with a couple of minutes to spare and be right on the edge of the road only a couple of metres from our Monarch.

For the record, as well as seeing QE2 in 1977, I was in the crowd at the opening of New Parliament House in 1988. I also accidentally saw her and most of the Royal Family in London once. I was on a business trip in Berkshire and had used a free day to go into London. I took the Tube to Westminster and was planning to walk to Hyde Park. On the way I suddenly found barricades in my way and lots of people standing around. I went as far as I could and after a short amount of time I heard the clip-clopping of horse and carriage. The first one had William, Harry and Charles, then another went by with QE2 and Phil the Greek. Apparently it was Trooping the Colour day, and I had missed the memo.