Tate Britain review
Tate Britain is the one gallery that I've never bothered to visit before today. And the reason is this: I'm lazy. Yeah I know it's a dumb excuse, but it's true. They need to knock it down and move it closer to the train station. You've either got to get off at Vauxhall and walk across the bridge (not doing that), or get a tube to Pimlico (not doing that either), or walk it from Big Ben (with my knees?). But I can't write a blog about London and leave out Tate Britain, can I, so it had to be done. I hope you are happy.
Tate Britain is full of British art, hence the name. No foreigners allowed. My knowledge of British art runs to about five people at most -- Turner, Constable, Gainsborough and, er... who else... I'm struggling now. Does Rolf Harris count? And Francis Bacon! So that's four. And Damien Hirst, but you can hardly call him an artist. All he does is pickle stuff.
I must say that the building is rather nice. That is the real artwork for me. I'd rather look at the walls than the frames. Give me a decent ceiling over sculptures any day of the week. It's not quite on a par with the National Gallery (what is?), but it comes a close second. Most of the rooms have huge lofted ceilings arching over your head, and you can run your eyes down long corridors to a painting far away. The only noise I can hear is the sound of stilettoed footsteps on creaky old floorboards.
Okay, here we go... here is the first silly bit of art. I've just walked into a huge empty room and there's a plaque at the far end which says "Martin Creed uses commonplace objects, simple gestures and everyday actions in his work". And the piece is called "Work No.227: The lights going on and off".
Now we're back onto solid ground, with a room full of classical pieces. There are some apocalyptic scenes by John Martin that are worth a look, with tiny trains of angels and the damned, lining the clouds and mountains as the skies fall down. There are some good landscapes too, of chugging and puffing chimneys and ships, sitting on the docks. They've got some atmospheric old horse carts wobbling along through smoggy cobbled streets too, like something out of Dickens.
I've just come across that famous one by John William Waterhouse -- "The Lady of Shallot". I used to quite fancy her at school but she looks a bit moody now. I think she's lost her paddle or something because she's just sitting in her canoe waiting for someone to save her. Is she looking at me? Sorry love, I'm busy. I've got things to do. I've got a blog to write.
I'm skimming through the modern art section now so the standard has slipped dramatically. Here are a few examples of the artists' work: a floor full of bricks, a shelf full of seashells, a copy of The Sun, and a black square. Or how about a load of old car doors lying on the floor. Or a TV showing a clip about a tree. Henry Moore was quite handy with a chisel I suppose -- I'll give him that. But I can't see him doing a Michelangelo.
I've found some Francis Bacon and David Hockney now. At least these guys could paint. Sticking a brick on the floor is not art. That's like a footballer playing football without using his feet. You have to use a pencil, some paint or a paintbrush to call yourself an artist. Putting a French beret in a box will never be art; not in my book anyway.
I've stumbled across an LS Lowry hidden amongst the sculptures -- that is how crazy the layout of this place is. There is no rhyme or reason to it. But it's a good reason why you should explore every room because you never know what you're going to find.
Now here's a picture that I do like. It's by an Italian though, so I'm not sure how it managed to sneak in here, but who cares, because it's a big view of Horse Guards by Canaletto, from the mid-18th century. That's right up my street, because I love old pictures of the city. If you ever come to the Tate then have a look for that picture and stand in front of it, picking out the edge of Banqueting House. Then you and me will have shared a moment together -- we both stood and stared at the same thing.
If you like JMW Turner then you're in for a treat -- the Clore Gallery is totally devoted to his stuff. I was going to try and add up all his pictures but I lost track at fifty -- that is how many there are. There are rooms and rooms of landscapes, portraits and little simple sketches. With a collection this big there are bound to be a few clunkers (let's be honest) but it's quite interesting to see his unfinished stuff too, to see how rough and ready his preparatories were. They've got a big collection of Constables as well, if you like your English landscapes.
Before I finish... Do you remember that piece by Martin Creed that I mentioned earlier, about the blinking light? I've just realised that it was the exact same light that's hanging in all of the other rooms too -- so he didn't even design that! He's basically just emptied out an entire room and put a twiddle on the switch. I'm obviously in the wrong job. The next time I write a book I'm just going to have a load of blank pages in it -- people will think I'm a literary genius!
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