I've been wanting to see TE's show at the Hayward since it opened and somehow the summer holidays got in the way. Our Bank Holiday plans had involved visits from family and friends but these gradually evaporated for one reason and another and we found ourselves with an unoccupied Sunday. Of course, there are thousands of things we could do on a Sunday. Thousands of things that don't involve a 150 mile round trip in a car but I'd spotted my opportunity and The Worker agreed. We would go to London.
We left home at 8am and were parked (for free) by Tate Britain just after 9.30am. We walked up to Westminster Underground, past the Houses of Parliament and Oliver Cromwell and the protest tents. I continued to the Southbank and the Worker, J & E headed to the Science Museum.
London looked lovely but then, to me, it always does. A Sunday morning stroll along the Thames was just perfect. I managed to get into the show early and avoided a lengthy wait beside the beach huts that had been erected as part of the Festival '51 celebrations.
All her statement pieces were there - the quilts, the drawings, the films, the applique, the neons. All constructed with a fierce honesty that I truly admire although I assume there must be some personal editing going on. I can understand why some people declaim her work for the reasons they might not appreciate it - it can look unfinished, grubby, sometimes unpalatable but she's definitely got something to say and whatever we might think of it, we look and our reaction says more about ourselves. Just as some critics seem slightly bored by her work, I am slightly bored by the stock reaction to it. I became intrigued by her later works, her paintings, particularly as she'd burned the paintings she'd made during her studies at the Royal Academy in her twenties.
The worst thing about the show? Some people's decision to bring their toddlers. There is something very peculiar and unsettling about watching a screaming child parked in its buggy next to TE's gynaecologically expressive animation. I found the presence of children unsettling, not just because of some of the content of the work but also because much of the exhibition referenced the artist's childlessness.
I was hoping to link to the Hayward's site but the exhibition is now finished and the link tells me 'I do not have access to this site'. Charming. There's an interesting article by Marina Warner here that you might find interesting.
Emotionally exhausted, I took myself across Waterloo Bridge and up to Trafalgar Square for a quick snoop around the National Portrait Gallery.
I've seen the BP Portrait Award a few times and this year was beyond expectation. Every exhibit was breathtaking in its skill and craft. It was almost intimidating, especially for a middle-aged art student like myself. The short biographies revealed birthdates as late as the 1990s. The care and particularity of some of these works were miraculous.
I haven't been able to rationalise the contrast between Tracey Emin, followed by the Portrait Awards yet. In a bid to get my trip's worth out of my day out, I felt my brain cells creak between the extremes of work I saw that day.
A trip to Cass Art just a stonesthrow from the NPG was next where I bagged some 75% off sketchbooks ready for next term. I now realise I could have had an extra 15% off with my student card but having had 3 months off, I've forgotten that I'm such a thing. Never mind. Bargains were had.
It had started to rain so I trundled to Byron in Haymarket to meet the family where I had a salad (not as good as last time) and they had their usual cheeseburgers and enormous milkshakes. When are they going to open a Byron in Bath I ask?
During our lunch I discovered that the Science Museum was empty and the Natural History Museum was packed with huge queues. I couldn't tell you what delights were on offer at either beyond buttons and knobs and dinosaurs. They hadn't seen a Paperchase, much to E's sorrow and they'd eaten their packed lunch by 11.30am. They looked happy.
Having had a long discussion about the merits of seeing films we could see in Swindon for double the price in Leicester Square, we decided to walk back to the car. Haymarket to Tate Britain. I was about to complete a circular walk! We saw the lions at Leicester Square, the horses at Horseguards parade, the policemen at Downing Street and the protest tents and Oliver Cromwell again.
Off we set, back to our rural idyll. I fell asleep as we passed the cars in high-rises at the bottom of the M4 and woke up at Junction 15 as we passed Wootton Bassett.
We were home by 5.30pm. Seven and a half hours, 2 galleries, 2 museums, 3 burgers, 3 milkshakes, 1 salad, 1 glass red wine, 5 sketchbooks, 6 badges, 3 1/2 miles.