“Logic will take you from A to B, imagination will take you everywhere” Albert Einstein, written on the wall of Sheffield Central Library.
“Oh my god! look at her bum”, exclaimed by woman in gallery 5 of Graves Gallery.
Through rigorous facial muscle workouts I have attained the peak “hmmm, I am looking at this painting in a deeply interested way” expression. I walk around quietly and hope for quiet. If that peace is to be broken, I think a loud outburst of “oh my god! look at her bum” is better than hearing loudly, look at me articulation from someone keen to show their superior understanding of brush technique and Jungian symbolism.
I was in the Graves Gallery on the third floor of Sheffield’s city library.
I am fond of it because it has pleasingly sparse café that I had a tea cake in and eavesdropped in a way that briefly let me imagine I was Alan Bennett. It is good to imagine you are Alan Bennett every now and again. I was having a tea cake, too. I didn’t drink coffee, that would have felt belligerent in such an environment. Sadly, it is now only open between 11 and 2 and it was 3.10pm. It was just past the café that the bottom of Edna Manley’s Eve took the gallery visitor by surprise.
It is good to hear a yelp at the shock of the nude.
“I wouldn’t want that in my house, scare the life out of me”.
Sheffield central library has quotations on the stairwell, as well as Einstein’s salute to imagination, there are the some celebratory words from Michael Palin, and this unattributed quite, “the library is an arsenal of liberty”.
This was also where I first saw an exhibition of the work of Tom Hunter, so I am fond of this third floor.
It was in Sheffield where I first saw Wyndham Lewis’s painting of Edith Sitwell (mentioned in an earlier post) and in Graves there is Roger Fry’s portrait of her. It seems they managed to get through the sittings without falling out as Fry did not feel the need to cover up her long delicate hands, her favourite physical feature.
Jane Austen’s great uncle hangs here. Frances Austen Esq of Sevenoaks is captured with jowls bristling as if about to scold a child for laughing.
Before television or Netflix, prints of paintings could be hired for the weekend, the equivalent of Blockbuster video rentals, you could spend the weekend staring at a Hogarth. Warning: whenever you rent or buy Beer St or Gin Lane, there may be scenes of violence and a sense of sexual swearword. Looking at The Execution of Marshall Ney, I wondered if that would be rented for a weekend as a static version of BBC News 24 when the poor people of the 19th century did not have such easy access to spin and Westminster gobbledygook.
Near Stanley Spencer’s Helter Skelter, there are two works by Frank Auerbach. I took my sister to his exhibition at the Tate Modern in 2015 and she found herself dizzied and on the cusp nauseous confusion by his work. Like certain fabrics that can create a sense of prickly disgust, those man made fibres that are nails on a blackboard (the acrylic on the seats of a 1980 Ford Fiesta springs to my horrified mind. The anti-Madeleine of this sub Proustian moment), it seems his painted faces that harshly blur the details were the stuff of her nightmares.
I like them, but then, I was the odd child out of the three of us.
Graves has Portrait JYM and one of Auerbach’s many images of Mornington Crescent.
Today was also the first day I have been aware of seeing a John Bratby, one of the “kitchen sink artists”, but maybe that is because it took cinema to make me aware of him, so untutored am I.
(He created the Gulley Jimson paintings in The Horse’s Mouth)
Marc Quinn’s Kiss is the first sight in the final room.
I never did find out what the woman of gallery 5 made of their bottoms.
Who was it who said that art shouldn’t show you the world, it should change the way you see the world (which is true of well communicated science and philosophy too). I presume I’ll get accused of some form of cultural Marxism for nearly quoting that. But as I’ve told you before, i can’t be a cultural Marxist, I haven’t done the reading.
postcards bought – Kiss by Marc Quinn, Christ Carrying the Cross (attributed to Luis De Morales).
Josie & Robin’s Book Shambles has talk of art, comedy, Richard Brautigan with Noel Fielding and science and astronauts with Dr Karl. Other recent Book Shambles include Alan Moore, Sarah Bakewell and Lisa Dwan. All 49 episodes are HERE.
My Edinburgh Fringe show about art is at Museum of Scotland and will form part of my Autumn tour show (Salford, Reading, Bath, York, Hull, Falmouth and on). Details of all here.