The Unteleported Artist

So I didn’t need to be at the theatre until 7.15 for a 7.45 start, so I thought a HS1 to Saint P would put me on the Victoria to the Royal Academy of Arts, a coffee and expotition booking, the Victoria down to Pimlico and t’Tate t’Britain, Victoria/Northern to Borough and The Royal Oak for an annual half of Harvey’s Christmas Ale, with time for a walk to a Caffè Nerd near London Bridge to sober up for the theatre.

I saw and enjoyed a preview of the Dalì/Duchamp exhibition and will write that up, but I took a second look and my sense that Dalì is the better artist but Duchamp the more interesting one stays. And I got to admire the Christ of Saint John of the Cross again, having not seen it (obviously) Glasgow.

Meanwhile, the From Life show is a group show based on the idea of art taken from life that begins with a horse’s arse (literarily) and is dominated by art student images of Iggy Pop curated by Jeremy Deller, a selection of Gillian Wearing portraits and two instantly identifiable sculptures by Yinka Shonibare MBE, based on laser scans of two statues (or casts?) in The Academy collection

But what drew my attention were three portraits by Jonathan Yeo, the central one being a Paolozzi style sculpture. I didn’t have a predisposition to like Yeo, in a case perhaps of guilt by association, having seen portraits of luminaries such as Andrew Lloyd Webber, Rupert Murdoch, the Duchess of Cornwall and Tony Blair at the Laing Art Gallery. But these two paintings were based on scans of his face and body and were called The Unteleported Man and The Simulacra.

Clearly a Philip K. Dick fan. And quite striking.

A couple of hours later I made it to the Tate and finally did the Rachel Whiteread exhibition. The first woman to win the Turner Prize, she is probably best known for Ghost, the interior of a demolished house, and her Fourth Plinth commission, a cast of the plinth.

A room full of her stuff is a little overwhelming, or perhaps underwhelming. And it is one room —the Tate having removed the walls that usually guide you through the galleries. It is the same idea repeated: lots of casts of doors or mattresses, a cast of Room 101, a cast of bookshelves, a cast of a staircase… you get the idea. I’m glad I didn’t pay, for I clearly wasn’t in the mood and I had to go in search of colour in paintings to detox. I’ve liked works individually, but a retrospective made me recall the sublime Roger Hiorns copper sulphate cast of a council flat, Seizure.

In fact, a proper Whiteread retrospective would be a cast of Tate Britain.

Your kilometerage may vary.

And then in the shop I noticed a copy of Dick’s Confessions of a Crap Artist.
DAC6065D-EE32-428F-8EAE-7FB6F3797CC8
Yes, obviously, I know “crap” isn’t acting as the emphasised adjective — Jack Isidore is not an artist who is crap and I’m not saying that Whiteread is an artist who is… But I couldn’t immediately see why the book was there.

In a sense she creates alternate realities, making the space solid… but why that book? What did I miss?

False Memory Syndrome (Number 94 of a Series)

Last night I went to Winchester again.

As best as I can make out, we went in 1984, when we were checking out universities for my big bother and we stayed in Lymington so that we could take a look at Southampton. In fact, I think we went to the New Forest twice — I believe my father was considering retiring there. So we saw the Mary Rose and we went to Salisbury and we were disappointed by Stonehenge…

And Winchester.

I think I remember the statue of King Alfred, but above all I remember a narrow medieval street, yellow and grey, possible sandstone walls, and a door off the street into the Great Hall. There was a lot of traffic — I recall a bus almost running us over — and it was pissing down, real cats and dogs.

In the Great Hall, a couple of metres off the floor, was a huge round table, allegedly that of King Arthur — but, oddly, even though I was avidly reading about pyramids and the Bermuda Triangle and UFOs in the Bible, I cried BS.

So, an invite to speak to A Level philosophers at Winchester College gave me a reason to return after thirty years and take another look. I didn’t expect to remember much of the town, and, indeed, nothing seemed familiar.

winchester great hall 1a

That narrow street has gone.

Indeed, the Great Hall is in a square, set back from the road. The buildings to the right are pre-twentieth century, the courthouse adjoining is evidently 1970s Brutalist, with a flight of steps.

“Did people used to enter from the other side?” I asked.

No, that’s the barracks.

The table also seems to be higher than I recall, which is odd since I’d be half a metre taller, so it ought to seem lower. The door to the building has moved.

I am convinced that Winchester has changed, but the museum staff must have been sworn to secrecy.

(Am I conflating the Great Hall with a visit to a cafe or a long since lost secondhand bookshop? Is my memory of the Merchant Adventurer’s Hall in York bleeding into it, although I don’t think either side is straight onto a street?)

And in the evening, it began to piss it down again, real cats and dogs. Yes, familiar.

It only seems appropriate that I’d been invited to Winchester to talk about Philip K. Dick and was going to discuss the questions of what is real and what is human. It gave me a new introduction for the talk.