Friday, November 04, 2005

London - day 1 2005

In on the early flight - quick trip through what is laughingly referred to as Border Control - and on to the Piccadilly line after a bus transfer (they are making Terminal 5 at present, so according to hallowed Brit engineering tradition, have entirely dug up Terminal 4 Tube access), change at Hammersmith to District line, and on to our fleapit hotel. Quick shower, then onwards and upwards! London beckons. Specifically, Tate British and the Turner prize entrants.

Tate British also has a Degas - Toulouse-Lautrec exhibition, so we buy a joint ticket and brave the Turner entrants first. Four entrants, but only two worthy of the name: the other two encompass:

1. Simon Starling - yet another Installation - a charmingly decrepit German boatshed which was allegedly dismantled, made into a large canoe, paddled down the Rhine and thence as a dismantled stack of timber shipped to the Tate, reassembled as the boatshed. The 'art' in this journey rather escapes us, as the shed resembles a chicken coop on steroids. Or a Starling coop. It's endearingly dishevelled, but then so am I.

2. Darren Almond - a multiple-video presentation which tugs at the heartstrings via use of an elderly aunt's vist to the Blackpool of her youth and... that's it, actually. Quite weak, not a bad idea, poor execution. Thumbs down.

So the two real Turner contenders are (tada!):

- a clever installation of taped floor and painted found bird objects. Engaging, a Scottish artist (Jim Lambie), but specific to this place. Floor tape, in case you missed that.

- Gillian Carnegie (the one that deserves to win but probably won't. A painter! Just like Turner, no less. Just painting, No goofy commentary on the audio guide. No subtexts. No stupid captions. Just plain old skill, in a single, well chosen body of work. Including Bums paintings, always a personal favourite. And a gorgeous scuplted-black-paint woodland landscape, impassively titled 'Black Square' .. Cannot be photogrraphed - photos cannot pick up the 3-D aspect. Hooray!

But it probably won't win the Turner. Too little cleverness. Old JMW will revolve in his casket, but the chicken coop is our pick. The judges will admire the temporal nature, the metamorphosis, the zeitgeist and the frankfurter.

But we stand by our Black Square pick. Woodworm and the ever-alert cleaning crew will have disposed of the Starling coop long before Black Square bites the dust.

Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec are good but patchy: many of these Paris artists had a very ambivalent view of their subjects, and as always, overt politics in art does not wear well. Likes: Bonnard (a radiant, sunny view of his women subjects), TL's sketches, which reveal his warped but very characteristic view of the world, and some of the Degas.

Exit stage left, into light rain, and a few z's before Madeleine Peyroux at the Barbican.

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