On Good Friday I went to London for an art-filled day of galleries and displays. I'm only just blogging about it because a) I've been mad busy and b) I wanted to get my head around what I'd seen and form a proper opinion, not based on knee-jerk reactions. You see the first exhibition we saw, and the one I'm going to waffle about now (I'll blog about the others another time) was Damien Hirst's retrospective at the Tate Modern.
I had fairly negative views about Hirst before the exhibition. I got the impression of shock tactics, copied ideas, and arrogance, but whether or not any of that is true, it was certainly a thought-provoking experience. The spot paintings did nothing for me, most of them had been painted by assistants onto the gallery wall for the retrospective anyway, which feels like cheating to me? Similarly the medicinal and surgical displays held no interest. For me the most profound pieces were probably some of the most controversial.
A Thousand Years is a huge glass tank split in two by a glass wall with holes in. One side has a white box (containing maggots) , the other has a real cow's head in a pool of blood and an 'insect-o-cutor' ~ a black light fly killer. At first glance it seemed a cruel and questionable piece of 'art' ~ the flies were being bred to die, and quite horribly when you looked closely at the insect-o-cutor and saw the burnt little fly legs stuck all over it. But I could see a comparison with our own lives, we are born, we live, we die. There is no escape from our final fate, no matter what choices we make.
Mother and Child Divided was another gruesome piece ~ a cow and calf split lengthways in two and preserved in separate tanks. The poses they have been arranged in is what gives this piece its poignancy ~ the Mother seems distressed, lowing for her calf, the calf anxious, looking for it's mother.
Another room had what at first glance seemed to be a huge black shaggy rug hanging on the wall ~ Black Sun. Unobtrusive perhaps, but to me it gave off a palpable sense of menace and death, like the approaching planet in the Luc Besson film The Fifth Element. It is only when you get up very close that you can see the piece is actually made of thousands upon thousands of dead flies.
There is a lot more I could comment on, but these are the pieces that moved me the most. I guess one of the most important lessons I learned from this exhibition is that art doesn't have to be pretty to be art. It can be ugly, unpleasant and smelly too!