Sunday, 3 June 2012

Art. Unexpected. Ouch.

When I wrote last night about the Diamond Geezer exhibition at the William Wilson Gallery, I touched on the postcards that were the catalyst for me to visit that marvellous little exhibition. But I didn't say to much about them. Three reasons, firstly I'm rubbish at writing reviews, if you want a good one you need to visit my flatmate's blog, secondly, by the time I started writing I'd had a glass of wine or two and wasn't really focusing, thirdly, and maybe most importantly, I had no idea how to approach it...

So forgive me if this comes across as a load of tosh.

Whilst I really wanted to see the exhibition, I was more than aware that the cards in question were a bit close to the knuckle and referring to a coming large sporting event that will be making travel between Poplar and Notting Hill even more difficult for me than usual. The sort of close to the knuckle that might get lawyers interested, or at the very least the press. And not in a good way.

The cards were by Sadie Hennessy, who, according to the gallery blurb, creates hybrid objects & images which are both comfortably familiar and deeply unsettling, oh yes.

This was the advantage of having gone with somebody who's been before, we could go straight to the cards and, I must admit, I did confess that it was these that had made me make the unexpected trip to collect them. As it was I'm truly glad we did as they were the last ones on the shelf.

At first glance they appear quite simple, hardly subversive at all. Until, that is you realise what the cards say, how they say it and who they say it to. It was a fine, British, two fingered salute to the insanity of the Olympics and the nonsense that surrounds it. Having spent the last few weeks, well, months actually, doing some stuff that's, err. Actually, I won't say anything about that, I'm not that brave. But anyway, having listened to the insanity of the great ticket grab and talk of how fabulous it will be able to see quarter-finals of name-of-sport-I'd-never-heard-of, I fell in love with the in your face UK Olympic Wanking Team with such utterly perfect phrases as "it's what your right arm's for".

On closer inspection you notice that the team is sponsored by Amateur Wanker, a faux commercial organisation (I presume!), giving yet another poke at the commercialisation of the Olympics. This. Was. Brilliant.

I bought the cards.

Not that they were expensive, I just had to have them. Next up Dawn told us a lot more about Sadie and referred to a pile of seaside rock... I'd not even thought about them, but in that innocent seaside treat lay another close-to-the-knuckle story.

Apparently there was a rumour that Gary Glitter was going to move to Herne Bay, not that it was true, but she had some Herne Bay rock made with his name running through it. A fabulously simple, but powerful, connection to make between sweets and perverts. Not surprisingly it received, from what I understand, a great deal of attention. Controversial art? Absolutely.

I love seaside rock, but this is one piece I will never eat.

The thing that struck me was this use of a common item to make a statement, as with the postcards. And it wasn't just about the medium, it was almost the reflection of the state of the local gossip that was the catalyst to the art creation. It reminded me of life back in the small market town in Norfolk where I have a house with my nearly-ex. A few years ago there was a strong, heard it from a reliable source, rumour that either Liz Hurley or Hugh Grant were going to move in up the road from me. A new place was being built with, well, I won't say what I think of it, but all a bit nouveau. It was all bollocks of course, but there was a thread of connection as, apparently, one of Hugh's godparents was the Lady of the manor. I would check, the validity of this but, actually, in the words of my flatmate, I can't be arsed.

The point is, in small places what they can't find out, they make up, rumours fester and grow like Russian vines, taking a hold that's tricky to remove in the face of facts. Facts really can be quite inconvenient in the face of a good yarn.

Before we went on, Dawn showed us a box of postcards, again by Sadie. I must admit I wouldn't have noticed them, partially because I didn't have my reading glasses with me, but largely because I was on such a short time leash that I wasn't dwelling on each object as I would have preferred.

Inside the rather well presented little cardboard box was ten cards, ten black envelopes and an Accident and Emergency card. On first inspection, as with the other items, all looked innocent, dreary postcards from various places... Until you read the messages. All were suicide bridges, except for the collection of emergency phone boxes, and all presented in a way that would pass muster on any largely ignored seaside card rack, the sort of thing you'd grab and send to your Aunt Gladys because you always send her a card.

They were subversive in their apparent innocence. I think I might have fallen a little bit in love with the whole concept.

I bought a box. How could I not?

And with that I had to rush back to Notting Hill and my afternoon working in The Dungeon. For the weekend I was returning to Norfolk to spend most of the Bank Holiday with the nearly-ex and my children. I showed the nearly-ex the various items, with great excitement, and, frankly, they were unmoved. Which I felt was sad as I'm sure they would have got the art at one time. But today, oh yes, today I showed my eldest. It took him a few seconds, but he got it, tear rolling, face creased with laughter, got it. I was so proud.

And, actually, I was so glad that we could share a moment and have a mutual appreciation of what was being represented, even if it's likely that our views were in different places, it mattered not, he was suitably moved and felt it was, yes, a little bit subversive.

Sadie has a solo show coming soon, I really can't wait.

Oh, and if you go to see the Diamond Geezer exhibition (which you should), bring me back a stick of rock, there's a love...

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