Once upon a time block-buster art shows were sweaty occasions where we crawled around the galleries in rugby scrums, catching brief glimpses of the exhibits if we were lucky. Most unpleasant.
Happily, the modern art of crowd control as practiced by the Royal Academy last week, meant that Hockney’s A Bigger Picture was, for the most part, a cool and comfortable experience. Entrance was staggered and numbers limited. There was space to move, with ease. I could stare and study the pictures for as long as I liked.
Except for the culture coach trippers.
I was sitting on the bench resting my bones, taking a longer look at the art, when along came a trio of ladies in lemon up from Leatherhead, complete with holiday hair and matching handbags. They stationed themselves between me and my hero, their bums in my face, nattering non-stop about some nonsense to do with one of their number who was not attending.
Eventually my amazed gaze got to them, and they sidled off to join the rest of their party. In the tea rooms, probably.
It’s a day’s work, going to an art exhibition. And a day’s work writing the review. So I’ll stop here
and get on with it.
These days I draw without passion or compulsion. I do it with complete acceptance and absolute commitment. I don’t have to do it. It’s not a problem.
Drawing is a conversation between me and the world. Everything I see is a potential picture. When I’m drawing (I sometimes use water colour and coloured pencil) I feel I’m connecting with the subject, and with the space around and between us.
These are moments of being.
Drawing is handy when not much is happening. There are always interesting shapes to look at and do something with. Station platforms and hospital waiting rooms are excellent places to see people shapes. Parks are good for trees and dogs. Gardens give me cats and birds. The view from my window is all roof tops and cars.
Occasionally I draw from imagination, old photographs and memories. But the marks in these pictures always seem to lack the vitality and variety of my ‘seen’ work. I’d like to make pictures that say something about disability, but it’s a struggle.
Writing is different. Words are like the cartilage in my joints, the oxygen in my blood, and the pigment in my skin.
Words give me direct lines to people I love and need.
Words come from a different place in my head. It’s a word-eat-word world in there, a jungle of thoughts running and jumping around. Like wild beasts who have been caged for too long, they’re ambivalent about freedom. I won’t throw away the key yet though, just in case.