Sunday, 18 August 2013

Gallery Visit: Keith Arnatt - Sausages and Food

I visited this room at Tate Britain accidentally while looking for something else but was very glad I had wandered in here. Although what I saw may not be directly relevant to 'Drawing 1' I've decided to include it here anyway as a reminder to myself to keep an open mind on gallery visits.

The thing that drew me in in the first place was 'Walking the Dog' (Yes, I know - animal obsession again but at least it got me in there).  There was a wall of black and white photographs, clearly from the attire of the people taken in the 1970s, all of people walking their dogs. All the photos are composed in a conventional style with the owners and their pets at the centre of the photo and looking directly at the camera. As well as the owners, all the dogs are also looking directly at the camera. There is something humorous about these pictures. I found myself looking closely to see how much the dogs and their poses resembled their owners. From the tall gangly guy with the Great Dane to the stocky bloke with the fat corgi which looks like it would have trouble standing up and the woman with the sheepskin collar and fluffy hair accompanied by the poofy poodle. These images really made me smile. The point of the work it seems was to say something about photographic conventions and the way people behave when a camera is pointed at them. Link to Images from this series on the Tate Website

The next series was entitles "Gardeners" and the photographs had a similar composition, but this time showed people in their gardens - proudly displaying their dominance over the landscape and their exertion of their personal taste in their little patches of land.

At the far end of the room was the series 'Pictures from a Rubbish Tip'. This was a colour series and the muted brownish tones from a distance made them look like paintings such as Dutch 17th century still lives or landscape paintings. On getting closer it becomes clear that these are pictures of rotting meat and other foodstuffs. I've already touched on my ambivalence when looking at decaying fruit in assignment one. Other artists such as Sam Taylor-Wood have also looked at this theme but it is still interesting and some of these pictures were quite beautiful. Link to Image from this Series

However the series 'Miss Grace's Lane' resonated with me even more for the following reason. A couple of months ago I was out walking my dog along a riverbank near our home. A friend was visiting so I didn't take my sketchbook with me but I was still looking around for potential sketch subjects. At that point I was doing part two of the course 'observation from nature' so I was concentrating on plants and stones and shells rather than the surrounding landscape. At one point I spied a beautiful vivid blue in the distance. It was a really intense and attractive colour and I thought, 'what a beautiful flower - I must find out what it is and come back and draw it.' As I approached, it became clear that it wasn't a flower but a fragment of plastic bag caught amongst the long grass.I felt a sense of deflation but then a question - why was I so disappointed as it was still a beautiful blue even if it was a pollutant in the natural environment? This started me off on a whole spiral of sidetrack of thoughts about what is aesthetically pleasing and the philosophy of aesthetics  - I deliberately didn't put this in my blog as I was already behind schedule. I also formed an intention to go back and make sketches of the rubbish brought up into the grass and undergrowth by the river in flood but have  still not done it. How strange then that by chance I should come across these images of Tesco bags and the like ensnared by the undergrowth in a beauty spot/ natural environment as a timely reminder.Link to Image from "Miss Grace's Lane"

The title 'Sausages and Food' apparently comes from Arnatt's quote that trying to classify him either as an artist or as a photographer was as false a distinction as that between sausages and food.

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