At Towner: Towards Night

Peter Doig's
Peter Doig’s “Echo Lake”. Loaned by Tate to Towner for this exhibition. Details here:

The first work you see is Julian Opie’s View of Moon over Manatsuru Peninsula. It moves like those keyrings you see: here a tiger sitting normally, turn it and here’s a tiger roaring at you. But in this case it is city lights that glimmer and move across unseen, dark water. It is a bold work – beautiful in its simplicity, more intelligent than it first appears, drawing you in to investigate what you can and cannot see.

It’s a statement work for this exhibition of works covering all things twilight to midnight and beyond that has been expertly curated by artist Tom Hammick.  Across five rooms titled “Evening Light”, “Metaphorical Landscapes”, “Contemporary Angst and Journey into Night”, “City and Revelry” and “Dreams, Insomnia and Moonlight” works spanning some 250 years address the human condition after dark.  Loans have been intelligently sought and the calibre of artist on display is mightily impressive. Constable, Turner, Chagall and Munch lend their interpretations alongside some compelling modern works.

I’ll pick a few out. Susie Hamilton’s Blue Petrol Station does what it says on the tin. But in its few, blurred brush strokes it captures the emotion you feel as that ball of light and spilling shadow appears in front of you on the road ahead.  Emil Nolde’s The Sea takes an almost Turner-esque seascape and drains it of the last of the light – the sun reduced to a red idea beneath the final waves; the sea terrifying and unknown under darkened skies. The suburban night is shown in the voyeuristic gaze of TV Room at Night of Danny Markey and House by Humphrey Ocean. The narrative of Eileen Cooper’s charcoal work Night Gardener captures the idea of nighttime as a private space. And Peter Doig’s Echo Lake (above) takes a still from Friday the 13th and makes a work that speaks of unknowable action and loneliness.

I could have picked others out. There really is so much to see here. We end with the emerging light of Mark Wright’s Afterglow and, from there, return to the world of the gallery and daytime.  But the works seen here stay with you, waiting for the next time you return to the darkness.


At the De La Warr Pavilion: Fiona Banner – Buoys Boys

Found image, courtesy Archive of Modern Conflict, London (from the De La Warr Pavilion website)
Found image, courtesy Archive of Modern Conflict, London (from the De La Warr Pavilion website)

An immersive installation exploring language and its limitations might not be everybody’s cup of tea and there will definitely be some people who leave the lower gallery of the De La Warr Pavilion with furrowed, or even angry, brows but, overall this latest intriguing show in Bexhill won me over.  Not least because I’m a sucker both for stop-motion seagulls looking angry and for the use of “Snoopy versus the Red Baron” in modern art.

Really this is the kind of show that annoys people and it’s one that’s making no welcoming overtures. Brilliant. Ride with it. See where it takes you.

There’s a wall full of letters and pictures – they seem random but they hang together. Sort of. Then there’s an exchange of letters from the copyright deposit library because Bannen physically published herself (that is, if I’m reading it right, her body) and got an ISBN. She then replies, with a straight face, that the inquiry has made her consider how much she, or anything, can be said to be, and how she will try and deposit herself for posterity. Next to the reply the numbers of the ISBN glow in neon.  Then there are repeated variations of the title ‘Snoopy and the Red Baron’. They remind me so much of the boards that used to announce which psalms would be recited in church. Peanuts and the signs of Christianity – that’s Proust’s madeline for me right there.

There’s other stuff too. To describe it is to diminish it. There is sound. There is movement. There are balloons. This is immersive stuff. I enjoyed it all without ever being truly convinced by it.  But then, cynic that I am, that is often the case.

If I’ve chance I’ll go back to have another enjoyable but unconvincing time.  Sometimes you don’t have to need an explanation for everything.

Why you love sport, pt 795

Because “win or go home” matches take some beating. Because Footscray became the Western Bulldogs.  Because passion.  Because GWS have folks hate them for no reason. Because wow. Because this is about glory, guts and history. Because, at the end of it all, one team can’t speak for happiness and the other can’t speak destitution.

And because they then have to do it all again.

At the Jerwood Gallery: Marcus Harvey: Inselaffe

This is the catalogue which, at £5.50, is an absolute bargain.
This is the catalogue which, at £5.50, is an absolute bargain.

Anyone who has travelled home from the continent has played the game of “I can see England.”  Normally, at first, you aren’t sure if those fuzzy shapes on the horizon are clouds or the first sign of the White Cliffs but, eventually, there is clarity and, before you, stand those ultimate symbols of Blighty.  Marcus Harvey’s excellent exhibition at the Jerwood plays with those iconic, natural structures, as well as pretty much everything else that makes England English.  Given that the day I walked round it properly was also the day in which Hastings’ own MP talked about securing the industry of this island for its natives, it seems that Inselaffe has become during its run something bigger than maybe first imagined.  This is proper ‘state of the nation’ stuff.

Those cliffs find themselves repeated several times.  Most straightforwardly with the representative brushstrokes of Albus, which feels a little like a softer version of a John Virtue sea painting. This is contrasted brilliantly with, for example, The English Cemetery, in which, compressed like a rotting favela a squashed English suburbia rises up in place of the cliffs.  Albus could hang on the wall of a Ukip constituency office; The English Cemetery would generate only angry letters to the Mail.

Elsewhere, there are cartoonish, grotesque, distorted sculptures. Mr Punch looks like a devilish child snatcher, but then maybe he always was. Nelson appears. Not the astute, brilliant, officer but the distorted, blimpish, golf club caricature of a soldier who has never fought but who still believes in the glory of Empire.  Meanwhile, we have a bronze of Thatcher, tits out and being caressed by a pig. Not the subtlest work you’ll ever see but it feels vital.  This is art that shocks but, so rare now, placed in the context of genuine political feeling.  The nonsensical, impossible memories of power reach their finest expression in Untitled (Big Galleon) painted earlier this year: at its foot a ship, perfectly ordinary and so familiar from so many works you’ll have seen on school trips, but on top of that base an abundance of flags, weapons, bubbles … and tits, obviously.

This is an enjoyable show. I love art that feels this alive. The strokes of the paintbrush so deep and strong, and the sculptures so clever and compelling.  But there is now a serious message here.  How much are we prepared to mock the Colonel Blimps with their righteous but wrong-headed views and how much are we prepared to leave the gallery and confront them?

At the match: Bexhill United v Southwick

The officials inspect their balls. - Copyright (C) Jon Smalldon 2016
The officials inspect their balls. – Copyright (C) Jon Smalldon 2016

When people who live in Bexhill (I presume we call them Bexhillians) use the following sentence then you know you’re in trouble: “Yes, it is windy today.”  For a town that could power the national grid with its gusts on a calm day that giveaway line means that anything not bolted down is in danger of being blown away. What this particular day of north-south blowiness meant for non league football was a match where the play never settled and neither side really managed the situation but the home side did more than enough to justify running out 2-0 winners with a goal in each half.

There was some good play – and Bexhill will be pleased with how much control their midfield was able to muster but the most positive outcome I could really point to was that they are now back at the Polegrove having ended their annual nomadic start to the season waiting for the cricket to end. For Southwick – or “Wickers” as their fans had them – they had the ball for stretches but really struggled to put the Bexhill defence under any sustained pressure.  They did have chances though and on another day might have come away with a point.

I took a few photos. They are not brilliant but they are here.

At the match: Hastings United v East Grinstead Town

The home side under the home banner, just before kick off – (C) Jon Smalldon 2016, All rights reserved

A Bank Holiday Monday when neither the Premier League or Championship are playing means a Bank Holiday Monday when you journey to and from the game without the usual sounds.  Nothing on Five Live and regular programming on the other stations.  Coupled with a guy who lives opposite the ground asking you why there’s a match on and you could be forgiven for thinking that this is not really a time and place for football.  And, given the match that was then offered, maybe this point of view was shared by the two teams involved.

To be fair this is a tough gig for players at this level.  Play hard on Saturday and then 48 hours later you go again.  But even with that understanding this was a very hard game to love.  Hastings were by far the better team – and had enough of the ball to win by more than the 2-0 they managed – and yet even they went long stretches without gelling.  For East Grinstead they had some good play dotted around the pitch, and a few players whose movement caught the eye, but very little came together for them.  They will feel a bit hard done by though as it took an own goal and then a rather brilliant second strike to defeat them.

But still, even with low level fayre on offer, this wasn’t a bad way to pass the time. The sun shone and the crowd mostly enjoyed itself.  I took some photos and, should you wish, they are here.

At the match: Westfield v Cowfold

Handshakes and have a good game ref … – (C) Jon Smalldon 2016, All rights reserved.

One giveaway that you’re nearing the all-but-hidden Parish Field home of Westfield FC is when an errant football flies out from between some trees and causes a car passing along the A28 to brake or swerve.  Such it was today … with the ball being sheepishly followed by a player from Cowfold who had the duty of collecting it.  Westfield were warming up at the other end – their balls just fly into back gardens.

In another nod to non league whimsy, the visiting goalie appeared to have borrowed a shirt from his hosts.  And, in keeping with the most obvious tradition this far down the pyramid: on a hot afternoon in August you’ll get goals.  Nine duly arrived and that was with both defences being pretty tight most of the time.  Westfield led 1-0 and 2-1 with scores being level 2-2 at the break.  Cowfold had the edge at 3-2 before Westfield got to 5-3.  The last action of the game was a close-in header that made it 5-4.  There was some neat play from both teams but Westfield were, overall, worthy winners.  I hope the Sussex roads weren’t too bank holiday terrible for Cowfold as they made their way back.

I had the camera with me and took some photos.  You can see them here.

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