By Phil E. Stein
So, to the Tate Gallery for the Watercolours exhibition. I hadn't realised she'd made that much money being in a mediocre comedy series and then Doctor Who, but I guess that's the BBC's superstar salaries for you.
It was pleasantly surprising to see that some of these painter johnnies had scaled their ideas up appropriately, painting things a bit bigger than their normal shortbread tins, tea trays and non-specific greetings cards:
Those weren't the only sorts of food packaging images on show. Take a look at this one by Richard Parkes Bonington. It was probably for an early version of Pizza Express because they've done it all in Italian like they do, the spinach pizza being a 'Fiorentina', the weird leftovers one being the 'Veneziana', and so on. This was probably used on the box for some sort of herb-topped pizza, the 'Verona, Piazza dell'Erbe'.
(How long before Godsento resurrect that to use that on one of their Instant Language products?)
The food links didn't stop there. Apparently some of the early artists were so hard up they couldn't afford proper materials and would just use whatever food scraps they had to hand.
This one, for example, is a mixture of water colour paint and the tasty Japanese fried treat, tempura:
This one, by comparison, uses watercolours and ganache (a creamy chocolate mixture) on vellum. Vellum is very rare, being the actual skin of a character from 'Lord Of The Rings'. The combination makes it so bright... so beautiful... ah, precious, you might say.
I discovered that painting, just like Photographs, Radio and TV, had started off in black-and-white and sepia, before moving through wishy-washy colour to technicolour. You can see the gradual move to widescreen too.
There were quite a few works from folks from other fields – writers Victor Hugo, for example, whose paintings look about as cheerful as you'd imagine, and nonsense writer Edward Lear. Lear in particular was keen to paint at a high level, was always hanging around with artists, trying to get his name known, and was definitely considered a bit of a wallaby painter.
The next one I noticed was labelled as 'A Beardsley'. Who knew that ex-Newcastle United striker Peter Beardsley could be so precise and delicate?
It was notable that the same names cropped up again and again - Blake, Rosetti, Burne-Jones...
...and lots and lots of Turner, the popular fuzzy artist. Despite the overwhelming amounts of Turner, there were no exhibits on show from Bachman, his partner in rock group Bachman Turner Overdrive, who also wrote the best-selling book about the outcast hobbit that learned to fly and explored Africa, 'Jonathon Livingston Smeagol'.
Talking of names, at Dulac's 'The Entomologist's Dream', I noted it had been donated by Mr C.D. Rotch. Now, Two Legs Good has written before (here, here and here) on the pitfalls of stupid parents that don't think things through before they name their children, so I'm completely unsurprised that ol' C.D. always maintained the importance of that middle initial. How he must have thanked his parents for calling him C.Rotch!
But let's turn back to Turner. The Tate seems so in awe of Turner that they'll even exhibit some bits of paper he cleaned his brushes on while doing some real paintings:
The last rooms brought us right up to date with contemporary works, some so damned contemporary they haven't been finished yet, or in one extreme, appeared not to even have been started:
Yes, those were really on display.
One child in particular seemed to be trying to tell her own story:
Poor girl - I hope that she's getting good advice to stick in at that violin, because let's face it, she's obviously not much cop as a painter.
Another cheeky wee scamp that might benefit from the same sort of guidance is Rebecca, who thinks she can get away with yet another version of the schoolchilds' ancient but ever-popular joke painting subject, 'Black Cat in a Coal Cellar at Midnight':
I'm guessing that maybe some of these were actually made in a play session in the gallery, perhaps on a bring-your-children-to-work day they'd had recently. The plastic sheeting they'd put down to protect the flooring was still hanging up to dry near the exit.
I must say that leaving an old plastic sheet hanging around like that is a disappointing end to such an informative, enlightening and encouraging show, but if you do go to visit it will probably have been tidied away, it looked quite dry when I left. Perhaps they could find a spare artwork or two to put in it's place?
For instance, I'm sure there's probably a spare Turner or two they haven't used yet – say, some of his sketches on the back of old fag packets, or some tissues he cleaned his brush on or artistically sneezed on – that they could use to pad it out a bit and look less empty.
Oh - one last thing. Watch out for the 'Catalogue' - you might think it'd show all the items on show, but far from it. Bit of a swizz, really.
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