Sunday, 23 August 2009

Colour Chart @ Tate Liverpool

When I started writing this blog, I thought I was in Manchester to stay. Less than a year later, an unexpected but pretty awesome, sequence of events has led me to relocate to Liverpool.

While I was flat hunting I went to have a nose around Tate Liverpool and it's very appealing sounding Colour Chart exhibition - a welcome break from viewing dishwater dull execu-flats.

The whole setting of Albert Docks is pretty unfortunate, a snarled tangle of pedestrianised bits and one way streets, which equalled cyclist hell. Why do traffic calming measures always bring out the worst in motorists?

Anyway, Albert Docks feels like a pretty odd place to put this gallery. The other Tates stand with architectural arrogance that reflects the institutional prowess and self confidence. Tate Liverpool is bunged into a colonnade with nasty tourist shops selling overpriced gewgaws and leather sofa packed chain wine bars.

Inside it feels more like a Tate, and with not a lot of time on my hands I went straight to the top floor to see Colour Chart. I'm saving the rest of Tate Liverpool for another day... like a kid hiding sweeties from themselves.

It's a wonderful exhibition. At the best moments the profusion of colour creates an ambience I last experienced in the Rothko room at Tate Modern. At the worst it feels a little stark and dehumanised. But in some ways this scintillation between states is exactly what you need and expect from an exhibition based upon such an utterly abstracted art concept. It's hard to find the right critical phrases to apply to such a beautiful monster of an exhibition, apart from that is is both marvellous and enthralling, stepping between the simply delightful and the sublime.

Perhaps the unusual downplaying of figurative images allows the viewer to experience things in a new manner? Although we are used to seeing non-figurative art, it is not often in such a focused presentation.

Beyond what is a marvellous and enthralling exhibition, the commercialisation of the show is a little annoying. There are so many things to purchase from the shop, so centrally displayed on the website, that it feel a little too much like a shopping opportunity. We do love colour, but the endless merchandising is just a little too much for me. When did shopping become such an integral part of a visit to a art gallery?

Friday, 7 August 2009

Seriously, Southampton Art Gallery, what are you thinking?

Being from Southampton is a strange burden. On the whole it can look like a pretty shitty place, full of small minded bigots, ketamine fuckheads, bad retail and worse memories.

However, the further away you get, both physically and chronologically, a certain nostalgia seems to set in. If you read Owen Hatherley's blog, you'll notice that a certain wistful tone worms its way in when he writes about Shirley High Street. Southampton has nice parks, at times ace charity shops and a Waitrose right near my parent's house. Ah, Portswood. It also has a somewhat kick arse art gallery.

Southampton Art Gallery, in both its building and its collection, is certainly the jewel in what can be considered the rather rusty crown of that dilapidated port town. It's collection is both varied and comprehensive. From my childhood visits everything I understand and love about art stems. There is not a thought or feeling I have in relation to art that can not be traced back to the place. Beyond what I experienced in my home, beyond what I was shown by my artist mother, Southampton Art Gallery is what I model my relation with all other institutions. I'm not saying its right, or useful, but it's frankly the truth.

That is why I'm distressed and pissed off when I discovered that Southampton Art Gallery is intending to sell off some of it's collection to fund a shitty heritage museum. Fuckit, they'll probably call it a Local History Family Experience Centre, or something else equally twee and meaningless! It's not a case of "robbing Peter to pay Paul"; the inevitable editing and re-presentation of Southampton's history, almost certainly coupled with stultifying didacticism, could never equal the value and immediate personal impact that those lost works of art could deliver.

Southampton needs an identity beyond West Quay, the Saints and the Titanic. As well as setting a dangerous precedent for regional collections throughout Britain, it undermines any cultural ambition that Southampton could ever hope to foster.

As usual, Jonathan 'intellectual hunk' Jones says it better -

If you one of those who believe in the possibilities of democracy, sign the petition -

Yours sincerely,

Appalled in Rusholme

P.S. If anyone from Southampton Art Gallery is reading this, you seriously need a better website.