Sunday, 10 June 2012
Mall galleries and gardens
Yesterday I passed the Mall Gallery outside which was a large poster for a Peter Blake exhibition. The poster was a life size version of his self-portrait in denim. A classic. The exhibition shuts at four I was informed – oh what’s the time? Ten to four. Ten minutes would have been too long to look at the exhibition, which was essentially a collection of ink jet posters of Peter Blake's collage work. I could look at them online. Peter Blake is a lovely man or at least that is the impression I have formed of him from a couple of brief meetings and Beatles documentaries. Here comes the “but”. But before I go on perhaps I need to get over myself after all perhaps he himself doesn’t think of this as art. Leave him alone – it’s not his fault that the world is full of poseurs out to make a quick buck from other people’s desire to somehow seem classily creative in a quirky way. Is that enough of a but already? In my hastily scrawled notes written on the top deck of the 176 I was set to describe this exhibition as a residue – a kind of homeopathic echo of creativity easily tidied away or kept out of sight for when the men gather to smoke cigars and discuss the “world”. Now I recall that Harold of Rosenberg described Kitsch as just such a thing. Well to be more exact he saw it as the overflow of popular culture. But oh the irony. Blake's work is about taking the superfluous ephemera of modern life and imbuing it with a nostalgia for a childhood or wonder but this collection on the Mall was simply Kitsch. Rosenberg’s Kitsch is a kind of insidious middlebrow culture that gives the recipient a righteous sense of tastefulness. Today the show at the Mall feels put in place to make us feel we have not well and truly excommunicated our unreasoned creative selves. It’s an art that can be packed away at the end of the lesson. After a long spell away on business a man returns home to find his garden withered and so he decides that he will fill his home with easier to manage pot plants. After another business trip these too shrink and perish and so he decides that fine silk flowers will provide him with the organic forms he intuitively craves. His business thrives and he becomes accustomed to working in a state of stress. He reflects upon how foolish he would have been to invest the time in gardening that he has spent on expanding his business. He is almost proud of his ability to work at a highly neurotic level of being. One day though he admits to himself that the orders are not coming in as quickly as he needs them too and so he works harder and harder trying to secure more contracts. It is at this point that he thinks “Perhaps I need to walk in my garden to think of new strategies. But of course he has no garden only silk potted plants collected to show visitors he cares about nature. “ I couldn’t possibly attend to the garden now” he thinks to himself ‘what a waste of valuable time and money that would be!” Over time the mans business picks up again and this time the man decides to build (or rather pay someone to build) a beautiful easy to maintain garden with exotic species and water features. He has box hedges sculpted into perfect spheres and even peacocks roaming freely. Locally he is much admired for his sophisticated tastes and success in business. His garden proves so popular that he is able to start charging a fee for people to visit and his reputation as an arbiter of serene style and shrewd business acumen grows day upon day. His garden is celebrated in thick lavish coffee table books with sumptuous photos. Upon the death of the man the people of the town commission a sculpture in his honour for the central courtyard of the garden. The sculpture is nearly complete when the commissioned artist becomes sick with worry and eventually takes his own life. The un-cast sculpture languishes to this very day among the weeds grown tall in the outer edges of a foundry that generates a respectable income from casting man hole covers.