And it rained and rained and rained and rained... I can't remember when last I got as soaked in recent times, but then, I wouldn't normally choose to go out in weather like this morning's. When you're only somewhere for a short while, though, you can't afford to waste the time just because the rain wants to play mean.
I took myself off to the Victoria Art Gallery, to see Graham Dean's 'Fitter, quicker, longer' and Robert Race's automata. I expected the former to be so-so and the latter to be a 5 minute visit with very little interest.
I was right about Graham Dean's exhibition, in that I didn't go away particularly enthused, but I don't hold him entirely responsible for that. The subject was (not surprisingly, in this olympic year) sport. The artist paints in intense layers of watercolour and makes up complete pictures from a patchwork of sheets of paper. The intense colours I thoroughly enjoyed and I found his choice of sporting poses often very pleasing - they are mostly before or after the event, and many of them rather thoughtful. He does some nice things with lighting too. However, I cannot take to his frequent representation of skin as some kind of diseased map, and in the end I feel that I've just looked at a load of sportsmen and women and I can't make myself care particularly much. There is another thing - I'd already seen an article on him with plenty of pics in Artist & Illustrator magazine, and that's the umpteenth time recently that the Victoria Art Gallery's artists have been showcased there before or after an exhibition. Is it that the mag has a close connection with someone at the Gallery?
I was wrong about Robert Race's automata - they were really good fun. Simple pieces - by which I mean they were created purely for fun, and that was what they delivered.
On to the Holburne - the exhibition was the much reviewed Portrait Sculpture, and though I wasn't convinced that this was my sort of thing, the many excellent reviews made me think that maybe I'd be a fool to miss it. But in fact I had been right. It just didn't do it for me. I mean yes, there were some fascinating busts there - one gentle and sensitive one turned out to have overly hollow cheeks because it had been taken from the gentleman's death mask, and on the final stretch were two busts of someone else, sculpted many years apart, which gave an unsettling sensation of seeing him from two points in time at once. But I liked the waxwork of Henry Moore as well as anything there, and apparently he wouldn't have approved (realistic representation, he felt, was not the way to go). It wasn't that there weren't good pieces, as I said, but I didn't feel they added up to something special as a whole. Well, I was sodden by the time I got there, cagoule not withstanding - so wet that a number of people felt driven to made sympthetic comments on my condition (I guess I must have looked a total sight) - and maybe I wasn't prepared to give the exhibition the time it deserved. The thought of getting back to my parents' house and changing into something dry was too attractive, so I went.
However, by Thursday (mostly sun), I felt dry and a lot more positive - I'm not sure my final judgement was so very different, but I found much more to like than before. I had wanted to take some snaps of the automata, and ended up revisiting all three exhibitions, plus one I would have missed otherwise. Here's the reprise:
I took myself off to Bath again today, this time armed with a camera (for the automata only, alas) and a notebook (that would be for notes). I do feel that being dry makes an enormous difference to my state of mind when going round exhibitions. The automata, I'm afraid, got much shorter shrift today - they hadn't changed, but I saw and played with them all yesterday. I just didn't need to do that again.