Duchamp’s urinal could not have caused more controversy. Deep in the Yorkshire dales the controversy was not over content or whether it really was art but it was tricky nevertheless. Who would have thought that retirement could be so exciting. I’ll come back to it in a moment.
First the context. My wife and I met at art college many years ago. She had talent and continued with it I did not have talent and didn’t continue. This is the season of my wife’s summer exhibitions and yesterday we went to How Stean Gorge café (you can google it) to hang the first set of pictures.
There’s nothing sophisticated about hanging the exhibition. We hang her pictures on the same nails (and hence in the same places) as the last hanger and the one before that and so on. In truth we did add two borrowed nails (if you can get that concept) knocked in (or not) with the hammer with the wooden shaft that we bought from the local car boot sale for a pound (we were robbed). Knocking in new nails is more difficult than you might think. The owner has covered the walls with panelling this means the panelling has a certain amount of ‘give’ which in turn means that you hold the nail and hit as hard as you dare with said hammer, release the nail and watch it drop to the floor. I am about to express my opinion on this and I’m in to my third word when I catch the eye of the schoolgirl helper at the café “Oh for goodness sake,” I say smiling at her as if I were the nicest, kindest, retired man in the world. I bend to pick up the nail and whisper ‘fuck it’.
This hanging business reminds me of some of the posh London galleries we’ve visited. I can see it now – “bash another nail in, Bert and hang that Turner.” Didn’t Yoko Ono make art out of bashing in a nail? She did OK. Hammering a nail in as art form as conceptual art isn’t big in the Yorkshire Dales. In one of those posh galleries (to us anyway) The White Cube we watched in amazement as they attempted to hang a new picture on the wall. They had the lot – theodolites, laser beams, metre long metal rulers, drills, a platform to stand on (no loose legged, health and safety defying chair here) and the bloody thing still wasn’t straight. Looking level and being level are two very different things if your walls aren’t square. So maybe there is something to be said for car boot hammer and borrowed nails.
Back to the art and the reason for this blog. There’s a variety of art media – watercolour, pastel, acrylic, pen and ink and a new approach which may be a bit radical. Landscapes drawn in black felt tip on white canvas (see photos). Some years ago we went to an exhibition (in New Zealand as you ask) of a Japanese artist called (if I wrote it down correctly) YaYo Kumana. She also used a variety of media one of which was black, felt tip lines on large canvases. We were impressed and so a few years later my wife decided to use the technique to draw local landscapes.
So I’m writing this blog to advertise to all my readers this exhibition and the one we will hang tomorrow in Masham tourist centre office. I can only hope that the hanging arrangements tomorrow are more accommodating which, I’m told, they are. And as for the controversy well that came about when the lady at the café realised we weren’t the people who were in her book as exhibiting for August. “Oh,” she said, “you’re not Mrs Buggins then?” We admitted we were not. I could feel her brewing up to tell us to take them all down. I grasped the hammer tighter and contemplated the back of her head – she was talking to my wife at this point. Now this episode brought out the best and worst in my wife and I. The best in my wife who said something to the effect of – oh if it’s a problem, we can… Don’t say it, I thought and contemplated bashing my wife on the head with the hammer before she could finish the sentence. So, yes, the best in her and the very worst in me. As I’m not keen to use this blog to give my bad side the oxygen of publicity as Maggie Thatcher once said of different circumstances , I will say no more about the thoughts running through my head. Suffice it to say they were along the lines of if you think I’m taking all these down well…..
Two views of Nidderdale
Two versions of the road to Grassington