Bank Holiday Thursday

With reasoning that’s not entirely clear to me, my employer didn’t require anyone’s services on either of the days preceding and following Easter. This meant I could catch with some of the things on my List. On Thursday I went first to Matt’s Gallery, which is pretty convenient for me, just a walk through the park/along Regent’s canal from Mile End station. I don’t remember having to be buzzed in last time, never being quite sure what to say in such situations:

Hello – I’m not here to steam in and ransack – I am here to savour your cultural artefacts

feels just that little bit prolix. It was the last few days of Benedict Drew’s Heads May Roll. In the first room there was a ten minute video, with the soundtrack available via headphones on the wall. This was an odd experience, because menacing synth arpeggios were bleeding through from the adjoining passage. Very effective use was made of sound/image synchronisation and the floating text was appropriately witty. The way to the next room was through a space with a walkway surrounded by what looked like aluminium foil, with pulsating multi-coloured LEDs and two stacks of assorted speakers, the source of the oscillations. The final room held several combined audio/video/sculptural installations, including what appeared to be footage of Chris Hatfield the singing astronaut playing with some water floating around his eye, in zero gravity, clever use of small projectors (again synchronised with the soundtrack), small monitors and Arduino-like circuit boards. One of the quirks of these looped videos is that you can take a completely different interpretation depending upon when your viewing starts. The helmet was distended, with green fluid oozing out of it, I thought. Later on, it became clear that the fluid was dripping down on the helmet from above.

I think the show was intended to unsettle and it did so rather well. One of the gallery staff kindly offered to mail me the details of the three musique-concrète-style playlists Drew had created, which were playing in the lobby. A thoughtful touch. At first she tried to print it out, but this was unsuccessful. Apparently it was the second printer failure of the day. Eheu. [link to Flickr set]

Following my careful plan, next was to be the Stations of the Cross at the Marylebone Parish Church, but when I arrived there, no art could be seen. People were arriving to perform normal Church activities, and later on, to take photos. For once, I’m pretty sure I’d arrived at the right place, at the right time. Ah well. Instead, I had lunch on the benches in the gardens behind the church, watching the office workers savouring their crafty fags, and a businessman putting on his pink tie – for an interview?

With that excursion defunct, I went to Castle Fine Art, which seemed conveniently close, at least according to my preferred navigation program. Of course, this was the wrong Castle Fine Art, and there was no sign of Picasso. Hmmph. I’d seen earlier in the day that it was in Mayfair, a recognition which was sadly missing when it needed to re-emerge. My saviour here was that the gallery was open until 7pm, so I made it to Berkeley Square, for the Important Works on Paper exhibition. (Whereas Matt’s Gallery has a secured door, this gallery has a security guard on the door). It was particularly interesting to see Picasso’s poster and publicity designs the day after Matisse and I had a good chat with one of the staff about this. He said that I was the second person that day who’d made the same comment. He was very forthcoming with background information, and we discussed the relationship between the two. He agreed that they spurred each other on while noting that Matisse thought that he and Picasso were

North Pole and South Pole.

It was a pleasant change to have such a relaxed discussion, in what can be an austere environment. I confessed my earlier navigational error and he was polite enough not to laugh too much… As ever with Picasso, I had to admire his prodigious vitality, contrasting as it does with Matisse’s dynamic playfulness. The big difference in the experience was that there were only a couple of other people at Castle Fine Art, while even on a “private view” day, there were plenty about at Tate Modern.

 

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