Late at Tate Britain

2013-06-07 17.37.53I’ve discovered that I really enjoy drawing in museums.  This is surprising in that I don’t worry about the people who peer over my shoulder while I’m doing it, and that I can become quite immersed in the activity of looking and drawing even in quite a busy place; but it’s even more surprising because the ‘artistic trauma’ that led me to believe I couldn’t draw also took place in a museum, when I was entered into a regional competition by my school and spent an entirely miserable day at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum failing to draw a stuffed deer.

I hadn’t thought about my nemesis, the deer, for some time, but for some reason he came to mind on Friday evening, when I was 2013-06-07 21.41.32sitting in front of a Henry Moore bronze making a stab at capturing its form on paper.  Maybe it was because, even though I struggled to create much sense of the shape of the Moore sculpture, I did at least know where to start (sort of).

We spent two and a half hours at Tate Britain last evening, and it is perhaps the first time that time has expired and I wished there had been more so that I could finish my sketch; usually I am more than happy to abandon something half complete and move onto the next.

Tate Britain is open late into the evening only very infrequently, but when it is, they go full out for a big do.  The place was humming with art and fashion students curating their own performances and displays, including music, projections and catwalk.

Before it all kicked off, I had spent a while sitting in the Duveen Gallery watching the Simon Starling film installation.  It’s a swooping run through of past exhibitions in the same space, accompanied by an echoing, reverberating soundtrack, a sort of amplified white noise.  While the film felt a little bit like a ‘greatest hits’ montage during which I mentally ticked off the installations I had seen, I enjoyed listening much more because it felt like an amplification of all the echoing air and footsteps of time passing through the neo classical nearly empty space.  It has a certain synchronicity with the notion that has been occupying me recently that there is nowhere in Britain which has not already been occupied by people many times over.  (Evidently it’s the sound of a camera, so I may have missed the point…. but I enjoyed it nonetheless, especially when it was unintentionally augmented by the catering trolley rolling by on its way to the set up of the temporary cafe for the Late Tate party).

2013-06-07 21.41.12Later, away from the hubbub of the Late activities, we sat in the 1910 Gallery and looked at the paintings.  Told to study the shapes employed in one work, I chose one by Dora Carrington.  A very simple looking landscape of a farm set in rolling hills, studying it to draw  did reveal much more to me of how it was put together than I would ever have noticed if I’d simply walked by.  The curves of the hilltops, pathways and slopes, are repeated, and the sweep of a circle is completed by two rows of washing hanging out to dry.  And because we were focussing on basic shape, I didn’t have to worry about making the trees look like trees; diamond shapes for the shrubs by the farmhouse door and curly cloud shapes on tops of sticks did for the tall ones.

And I noticed that I always choose a different artwork to everyone else in the class.  Am I just contrary?  It’s possible.  Sometimes I do it consciously, especially if a couple of people are already sitting in front of one thing, a third, would simply create an obstruction in the gallery, but mostly the choice is unconscious…..

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