Saturday, 15 August 2009

A day in London

My day in London was peculiar from the beginning.

I peaked into the ticket office at the underground. No one there. As I delved into my bag for money, suddenly he appeared as if from nowhere and I jumped.
'I thought I was in Harry Potter', I laughed.
'I'm not that ugly', he said.
'Did you use flue powder?', I asked, and we laughed. He was so helpful and as I left, he asked seriously,
'Are you an actress?'
'Many say I am a drama queen, but no'

Hysterical! It cheered me up.

I set off for The Hayward Gallery.

As I waited for my train, I took these pictures at Euston underground

I was wandering along the South Bank towards the gallery when a woman accosted me, squinting at me sideways and pointing a finger, she said.

'You're a film star, aren't you?'

I insisted I wasn't but she wasn't convinced, pointing and looking at me knowingly.

I then bumped into a friend from Dolton, the village where I live. I told her my weird happenings and she said she wasn't surprised. She said I really stood out and looked special. And there I was in my usual scruff gear. Perhaps it was because I was at a Healing Weekend and had been soaking up the energies? Who knows!!

I had been drawn to 'Walking in My Mind', a huge exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, after a friend told me about it. I had been delving into the deepest recesses of my consciousness in my studies of 'Zen' and was confused about conceptual art. No photography was allowed, except outside, which was a shame.

There are just too many exhibits to discuss but

Thomas Hirschhorn's endless series of cardboard caves covered in brown parcel tape was an uncomfortable, almost fairground experience with uneven soft, disorientating floors, figures covered in silver foil with extended 'umbilical chords', an inner environment of about ten caves.

'To me, the cave is in your brain, the cave is in your mind...You have to build this cave in your mind and to struggle with what happens in this cave, in confronting it with the world'.

It was the work and mind of Yayoi Kusama which most captivated me though.

Here I am in Yayoi's room of scarlet balloons and white polka dots, a stolen photo before I was pounced upon by security.

'My artwork is an expression of my life, particularly of my mental disease. My art originates from hallucinations only I can see. I translate the hallucinations and obsessional images that plague me into sculptures and paintings'.

Eventually, after showing her art in America, in 1973 she returned to Japan where she chose to settle permanently in a psychiatric hospital in Tokyo.

Kusama started painting polka dots when she was about ten years old. This motif, which has remained a central feature of her work, emerged as the result of recurring hallucinations in which the artist found herself and all her surroundings covered in the same pattern. She has said that the experience made her feel as if she was revolving 'in the infinity of endless time and the absoluteness of space' and sees her life as a 'dot lost among a million other dots'.

There was something more than disturbing about the work. Something questioning. To be so immersed in her psyche, her life of polka dots, was uncomfortable, but powerful too.

Chiharu Shiota's gallery was an oppressive spiders web, a huge cat's cradle, someone else's walk through nightmare.

'''when I dream...I feel the dream as reality. I can't distinguish between dream and reality. When I wake up, I have the feeling I'm still dreaming'.

There were many others, and I left the exhibition almost questioning my own sanity. 'what is normal? What is acceptable? I left with the understanding that in art, one may delve as deeply into the subconscious as one wishes or needs.


In the afternoon, my main reason for my visit to London was to explore New Designers.

I love 'New Designers' because it is such good research of what is being created in Art Colleges. I was obviously interested in seeing the work on the Falmouth University College stand, which I felt compared very favourably with other colleges. I love to look at Farnham because that is where I did my B.A. and Bath, where I studied for one year. I took two photos only, I think of Bucks University.

But what I took from the day, after enjoying exploring the stands, wondering at the diversity of the work; the excitement and anticipation of the students and opportunities which had already presented themselves, was that almost everything has been done before in some form or another.

We, as designers, should never be restricted by that familiarity, or that our idea 'has been done before'. Our interpretation may develop into something unique and exciting, innovative and unusual. We must always 'follow our noses' to see where it leads us.


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