Sunday was a day of seeing art (following Saturday’s visit to the First Emperor exhibit). Or, rather, trying to see art and not quite succeeding in the way it was planned.
The first thing we tried to see was the Serpentine Gallery Experiment Marathon. This was a two-day event, so we’d be catching the latter half, all about experiments performed by leading artists, architects and scientists. As former scientists ourselves, my girlfriend and I wanted to see something interesting and bizarre where the science world interacts with the art world. However, in the email she was sent and on the website, there was no mention of the fact that it cost £20 each to get in – stuff at the Serpentine is usually free. And, seeing as we wanted to sample only some of the marathon rather than stay the whole day, £40 was too much just to see what it was like.
As we were there, we looked at the exhibit in the Gallery, Matthew Barney’s Drawing Restraint. It was interesting seeing the constraints he put on himself in creating art (as shown in the videos of the pieces) but the large pieces in the main gallery seemed a little too obscure for my tastes, but then I am rather conservative when it comes to modern art. My girlfriend and I wondered how he got paid enough to be able to do all this bizarre stuff – bouncing on a trampette to daub on a ceiling, drawing on a whaling ship while a large fish swings around his head and pen in time to the ocean – and wondered how to get a job where you make up stuff and then explain it with a strange unifying theory. Maybe it’s because his girlfriend is Björk … Wouldn’t recommend this.
The next step on the art tour was The Old Truman Brewery for British Marvel Secrets, an exhibition of British artists on Marvel comics, which I read about in Rich Johnston’s Lying in the Gutters column. Again, this wasn’t quite what it seemed – it appeared to be a shop, playing a DVD of Blade in the corner, with some superhero video games in another corner and selling a variety of books and T-shirts. In the middle were three semi-informative stands about British artists working in Marvel comics, and to one side was the ‘art’ – some were monochromatic pieces using a figure from a comic book panel (I had to correct them on the artist for one work – the Hulk and Patch figures on the cover in the main image above were used on a piece of art and the original artist was listed as Rob Liefeld. It’s obviously the work of John Buscema, but perhaps Liefeld inked it?). The most interesting art was the ‘acrylicize’ versions of Bryan Hitch panels from The Ultimates. They looked fabulous, even from a distance, the way the colours dazzled due to the process they used. The best single piece was the Civil War poster by Steve McNiven – it looked fantastic, even with Mark Millar’s autograph nearly ruining it (and was only there because the man in charge owned it and wanted to show it off). The only reason to go to this exhibit was to see the Iron Man movie prop of the prototype armour – incredible piece of work – but it didn’t warrant going to Tower Hamlets to see it. At least we got to pop round to the 24-hour Beigel Bakery on Brick Lane for a hot salt beef beigel to make up for it.
The final leg of the art tour was the Wandsworth Artists Open House, part of their arts festival. Artists who reside in the borough of Wandsworth opened their homes to the public so that they could view their art (and hopefully buy some in order to keep their homes). We went to see an artist who lived near us – he had lots of nice paintings on the walls and in his garden (it was a lovely sunny day, amazing for October) but, with prices starting at £600 for landscapes, it was a little out of our price range. It was interesting to see somebody trying to make a living from art (even though he had to teach two days a week and his wife worked) but it was obviously a struggle to do so, and a shame to see someone realising that, even with a degree in sculpting, he wasn’t going to be able to support his family on his art alone.
And so ended our Sunday art tour, wondering: Art – what’s it all about, then? And not having an answer …