A Susan Day

On Monday I had what can best be described as a ‘Susan Day’.

No, not the actress famous for her roles in The Partridge Family and LA Law; for one thing, her name is spelt ‘Dey’.

I met my friend Sue at midday at the TKTS half price ticket booth in Leicester Square as our plan was to take a chance on getting a couple of tickets for something in the evening, have lunch and then go to the Watercolour exhibition at Tate Britain, have several cups of tea, maybe a glass of wine, and finish off the day at the theatre.

So there was only a hint as I set off, that the day might have a Susan theme.

After considering the available options for tickets,we decided on The Woman in Black a long standing feature in the West End that neither of us, despite our fairly regular theatre going, had seen.

The Watercolour exhibition showed a history of the use of the medium in Britain from illuminated plates in vellum prayer books through the pre photography detailed botanical and scientific pictures of flowers and animals onto Turner landscapes apparently torn from notebooks through pre Raphaelites finally arriving at some contemporary pieces.

As a whole I found it a thought provoking display which raised the question of why it had been felt necessary to put on an exhibition about a particular medium.  It’s hard to imagine a show called ‘Oilpaint’, although Tate could be planning one.  One purpose must have been to subvert the assumptions about what sort of work is produced when an artist uses a particular material.

In an era when anything can be used to make art from stone and concrete to blood and rubbish it seems an odd to be asking the question about the value of such a widespread medium; implying a snobbishness about the ‘artiness’ of something so democratic and widely available, as evidenced by the portable watercolour sets also on display.

As an aside, we provided further proof of the statistics mentioned in a recent Daily Mail article – we spent several minutes examining and marvelling at maps painted and drawn in the 16th and 17th centuries, imagining the care that went into the drawing of the detail of the cows in the fields or the rigging on the ships in the harbour, and less than a couple of seconds on the Emins.

Walking out of the exhibition we saw the signs for the other special show currently on at Tate Britain by Susan Hiller.  As we were there……

I am not at all well educated about contemporary art, so I generally approach exhibitions by living artists from a position of complete ignorance.  I hold onto the, perhaps unreasonable, belief that if it’s got something to say to me I should be able to look at it and see something that prompts either an emotional or intellectual reaction.

Using that as my yardstick I failed to connect with this exhibition.  It was only when I read the explanatory leaflet that I got any sense of what I was meant to be seeing.  The idea of an obsessive collecting and the faux scientific cataloguing of things that might otherwise be lost, and the dismantling of things to examine their constituent parts are concepts that I find interesting, but I was bored by the display of them on walls and in glass cases.  It was all far too dry and lacking in either any kind of story, or aesthetic impact, for me.

We finished our day at The Woman in Black. A two-hander, it’s based on a ghost story written by Susan Hill.  The Fortune is a tiny theatre and most of the audience with us was a school party of 14/15 year olds.

Stoked up on fizzy drinks and chocolate sweets decanted into plastic pint glasses, the girls in particular, were primed for squealing and jumping at every coup de theatre provided by the clever use of lighting and recorded sound; so much so that I am not sure what screaming was on stage and what was in the audience.  When they screamed, the man sitting next to me jumped out of his skin, and the whole row of seats, worryingly, rather loosely bolted to the floor, shook dramatically.  All good fun.

So there is my hat trick of Susans in one day.

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1 Comment

  1. Jane Hirst

     /  March 24, 2011

    So that I can read you everyday!!


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