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I haven’t kept the blog regularly updated recently but I have good reasons. I just moved into a flat two weeks ago and have been without internet for a while. On top of that I seem to be working all the time at the absolutely fabulous Dorman and Captain Cook Birthplace Museums and recently the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art. So you will let me off the hook?

Today I would like to talk about art. I am not artistic – I am creative. I am I guess an ideas man, able to see the big picture but struggle with the details. As a result plotting stories I can do all day long, painting the eiffel tower I can’t. We tend to dislike that which we struggle with. Yet I have regularly told my fiancé that one day (dreamy sequence..) I will take up painting in our czech log cabin. I recognize the relaxing aspects of art, music, writing, cooking. Since my problems with anxiety and depression I have moved to include avenues to relax in my day to day life – buying a guitar, cookery books, adapting a graphic novel idea to novella format – painting was another avenue but for the future. Well on Valentines Day this year, my sweetheart gave me an acrylic painting starter set and told me simply – “Why wait?”

The result of my first experiment is attached for you all to see. So okay, the Great Artists have nothing to fear from me. But it was a first go, and was fun. I have a target painting that I might mention in another post, which I am gradually trying to build my skills before attempting. Its a project and that’s good for me.

Art has grown into my life in more ways recently after being given the chance to work as a Gallery Assistant for the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art. Now my idea of art has always been the traditional landscapes and portraits. A string of lights by Felix Gonzales isn’t art, its a crime against the environment burning energy and costing taxpayers. What does a room of monochrome pages offer as art? Nothing to me. And the physical construction of a hospital day room inside an art gallery? Now we are wasting time!

Perhaps it has been the weeks I have spent staring at them lately as part of my job… But my opinion is changing. I now recognize it as art, understand what the artists intentions are after listening to people chat about it and watching educators with school groups. I still may not like it, but I’ll acknowledge it as art. One persons ‘modern art’ I have grown to really like has been that of Anish Kapoor. He likes to play with space, illusions almost, and uses pigment and mirrors in a lot of his works.

I worked the launch evening (invite only) of Mr Kapoor and engineer Cecil Balmonds TENEMOS public exhibit at MIMA. The giant funnel/web like sculpture stands over the Middlehaven Dock site in Middlesbrough transforming the visual landscape. I will take photos when I have a day off. They gave a fascinating insight into their work relating it to the ancient greeks (as a historian I instantly became more interested) obsession with geometry. If I had been taught by an artist or engineering teacher like Cecil Balmond, there’s no doubt what discipline I would have followed. He was such an inspiration over an hours talk, highlighting the limitless possibilities. I recommend you google both men and check out their works yourself. Teesside isn’t finished with them yet as they are committed to producing another 4 giant sculptures for the region over 15 years.

Part of the problem people have with modern art is its need in some ways for an interpreter. Landscape paintings do not need explanations, you look and understand immediately. Modern art, abstract and sculptural is produced in such a closed world that the average joe may not have the tools to fully experience it intellectually. As a gallery assistant part of my job is to talk to people and guide them if they want me to, in order to understand what the artist is attempting and then to make their own interpretation. Alongside my teaching, this work has surprisingly become some of the most fulfilling work I have done.

What is art? An excitable little german lady asked me looking at the monochrome watercolours. She continued:

“I don’t know. I don’t know what to think of this. I know I respect it. It is art, it is art. But I cannot say I know what art is”

Neither can I. But we stood talking for twenty minutes. Maybe that, after all, is the point of art.

Themes of Interest

And in the Twitterverse…