Sunday, July 18, 2004

There are two kinds of art baby, good ... and bad

Now, I am going to do a little bit of shameless promotion here – I would write a huge post filled with my own thoughts on the Jack Vettriano exhibition, but I am disinclined to repeat what has already been put succinctly by my fellow fans. So if you want to read a really excellent review of a fabulous exhibition – with illustrations – go to Monica's blog for her post. The rest of the blog is well worth a look too ... and not just because I star often and, I feel, rather fabulously!

I first saw Jack Vettriano's work when my brother's girlfriend bought him a print of the Singing Butler, and became a real fan when I walked into a little gallery in Woodstock in Oxfordshire last year and saw a whole room of his prints and bought a signed copy of one of his books. Our entire household are huge fans of the Scottish artist and all our thoughts come out in Monica's essay on the topic. What I will say is that Vettriano has a sense of narrative that echoes my own. When I entered the exhibition I went around first without the catalogue, just absorbing each picture and story without the titles. I spent a lot of time in front of this picture

which I immediately decided was a moment during which the woman was lying on the phone to another lover. I was deeply satisfied when I picked up the catalogue and was proved right – Vettriano really is a extraordinary storyteller.

From amazing art to stupid art – let me take you from Vettriano in St James Park to modern Britart in Shoreditch. My fabulous Skegness buddy Richard is a culture vulture like myself, and he has been invaluable in finding some excellent things to do on a shoestring budget in London. We decided to spend a day in Shoreditch at some of the glowingly reported modern art shows. Now, the company was brilliant all day – Kim and Richard in the morning, Fi in afternoon – but the art was definitely below par.

Let me set the scene. Shoreditch is East London, and East London is gritty London. Shoreditch is edgy, cool, dirty and ugly. Shoreditch also has lots of empty warehouses turned into painfully cool modern art galleries with no numbers or signs to identify them, just discrete silver buzzers with the name of the gallery written in size 8 font graffiti style writing next to the buzzer. If this is not silly enough, the art inside was more than enough to set my wank-o-meter overheating. In the first gallery Richard and I decided to waive the programme and make up our own explanations for each obscure installation. We spent almost 30 minutes being as luvvie, pretentious and outrageously over the top as possible, looked at the programme and had outdone ourselves – we had managed to get at least one element of each explanation right. Top marks all round.

The second gallery, reached after strawberry beers in a brilliant German pub on Regent's Canal – the Canal that I never knew was in London – was actually very good. Then I was deserted by my gallery buddies and I went to an avant-garde music festival with Fi, once again in a deserted factory with minimalist signage. I think the cool people like to hide from the world lest the non-cool people discover them and dilute their wonderfulness. Anyway. Placard was thankfully free so all I wasted was an hour of my time. The look of the event was perhaps the best thing I had seen that day, all you had to do to participate was bring a pair of headphones. The musicians then playing straight into computers and we just plugged our headphones in and listened – when you weren't jacked in you were watching a dim, silent room of 150 people bopping their heads silently in front of a group of musicians jamming in silence. Truly bizarre. Each group performed for twenty minutes and I stayed for three sets. The first set was a dialogue between two Irish DJs interspersed with live guitar solos that would be of the type of music (ie rock, folk, irish etc) that had just been mentioned in the conversation. Then there was a couple of men making wind sounds – I nearly fell asleep! The last set was made up of three noises – incense being burnt underneath a sensitive mike, a mike sitting on the throat of a gently gurgling 3 month old baby and a man writing a poem on a piece of paper with a crayon hooked up to a microphone so you could hear the scrape of wax on paper. Yes. The cutting edge of music ladies and gentlemen.