16 January 2013

Thoughts from an Exhibition

Today I went to a local exhibition of art from the Government Art Collection and attended a talk about the exhibition given by one of the Government curators.
I'm not particularly an art fan and don't consider myself knowledgeable about art (except for some Ancient Greek stuff). However one of the nice things about art is that you can go and look at it and see what takes your fancy without having background knowledge. I do like to learn things and the talk was certainly good for that.

The exhibition was divided into 5 parts, all displaying a variety of different pieces. Mostly paintings, but also photography, sculpture and video, spanning about 5 centuries. This is the first time pieces from the Collection have been brought together like this as the art is used for display in Government buildings and Embassies.

I've put images and my thoughts under the cut.


The Lowry
Lancashire Fair, Good Friday, Daisy Nook by LS Lowry

This is one of the first pieces you see when you go in to the exhibition. It normally hangs in 10 Downing Street and was chosen by the current Prime Minister's wife. I was immediately impressed by it and could easily have spent longer examining the different figures.
I'm not sure if I've ever seen a copy or image of this painting before, but it relates quite strongly to an idea I had. In my Next Big Thing post I talk about a story idea I'm working on. In that an artist is murdered the night before unveiling his new painting. My idea of what the fictional painting looks like has various similarities with this one. I've decided to do a bit more research and may well have my fictional artist base his painting on this one. Thanks to info in the exhibit I know where it was hung in 1956.


Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain
In this section of the exhibition the pieces had been chosen by an artist and arranged by colour. The title refers to a mnemonic device often used in schools to help children remember the order of the colours in the rainbow. I personally consider rainbows to be good luck (or attractive at the least) and so I liked the idea of an exhibition arranged this way.
There was a tall wall red pieces, a long wall with orange, yellow and green, then another tall wall with blues. The fourth wall held pieces with shades of dark, light and greys. As well as sober portraits there were also various light-hearted modern pieces. There was also a playfulness in the positioning, for example Charles I was on the same wall as Oliver Cromwell and Elizabeth I was facing Mary Queen of Scots.

The yellow and green bits seemed to have a lot of boldly coloured modern pieces. Having watched the first episode of Utopia on Channel 4 yesterday (more on that later - but bright yellow is definately a thing) I found the yellows particularly noticeable.*
I liked this neon by the Turner Prize winner who did the blinking light bulb, largely because when I'm not sure what to say I'll often refer to Things and Stuff.
Things by Martin Creed

There was a snowy scene that caught my eye. From the distance it look almost like a photograph (arty photos do a lot of interesting things with light, as was clear in the exhibit) but as I got closer I realised it was painted. The colours are few but vivid, and while it seems like a simple scene there are parts that aren't so obvious when you look closer.
Blue Lane by Graham Crowley


Delightful Cacophony
The last piece was obvious without being seen because it created a lot of noise. It was the only piece in the exhibit that had a Red Button.
It was specially commissioned for the 2012 Olympics. It takes inspiration from a race in 1952 in which Roger Bannister (famous for doing the 4 minute mile) came 4th. Somehow, the footsteps of the competitors in the racing lanes were used like notes on a score to create the music. As well as having various horns and chimes and other noises, there's also a player piano. I like player pianos because they look like they're being operated by ghosts, and piano-ghosts aren't restricted to 10 fingers like humans are.
4' 33" (Prepared Pianola for Roger Bannister) by Mel Brimfield
The national anthems of the first 5 over the finishing line are used. I could identify bits of La Marseillaise, God Save the Queen, and the Star-Spangled Banner. I recognised another piece of music that I'm assuming is the German National Anthem (I don't know it well, but often hear it when my husband is watching Formula 1). The winner of the '52 race was from Luxembourg, but I don't know that anthem at all. There were also bits of the Ski Sunday theme tune, the reason for this was explained on the wall of the gallery, I think it was something to do with how the music had been devised.


This is a really interesting and diverse collection, and I'm sure it has something that would interest everyone. You could spend 20 minutes in front of either of the 2 Grayson Perry pieces, trying to read all the tiny labels and look at the figures. Or you can push a button that makes a lot of noise.

The  exhibit is open for free in Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery until 24th February.


* One of the odd things I discovered when planning my wedding (besides the fact that getting married makes me go a bit crazy) is that I can train myself to notice certain colours. Perhaps this isn't an unusual thing, I don't know. After I decided to use purple in the colour scheme I started noticing instances of it a lot more on a day to day basis (not just when seeing Cadburys Dairy Milk - though that was a handy reference).I watched a film and found that my eye was really drawn to purple whenever it appeared on the screen.

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