Oh, what a month

The Edinburgh Fringe festival, the mother fucking pinnacle of arts festivals world wide. A glorious consortium of drag, performance art, singing, theatre and those forms of art you don’t quite understand and definitely can’t categorise. Overall its an absolutely incredible month for those visiting, those performing and in my case for those working.

The extent to which the world of the fringe is all encompassing can be summarised by the fact I am writing this blog post as a form of catharsis. An affective love letter to the month in which Edinburgh becomes the most beautifully vibrant, liberal and welcoming city. Admittedly my month was interjected with drunkenness, disgruntled members of the public, more 6am finishes than i would care to mention and at times literal shit. But by god it was good. 

I’ve noted before the extent to which I believe the art world on the whole to be leaning towards elitism, nepotism and exclusivity. That for such a supposed platform of freedom of expression for all, it doesn’t necessary get its voice across to everyone. Due to the continual lack of accessibility for artists and patrons alike. However within this particular set of circumstances, that is the Fringe, my world view has been shifted. What fringe festivals offer, with their very name implying their resonance with the fringes of society, is the opportunity for artists from all backgrounds and varying levels of success to collaborate and perform on the same stages. Whether individuals perform under the big 4 (Gilded Balloon, Under Belly, Assembly and Pleasance), within smaller venues or for the free fringe they are all contributing to the tapestry of events on offer. 

The acts stem from an incredible range of backgrounds. With a significant amount of representation of minorities whether that be ethnicity, religion, sexuality, gender or disability. A phenomenon which could be argued to positively correlate with the diversity of patrons who attend the fringe. 

This inclusive atmosphere could be seen to permeate everywhere. Admittedly working front of house meant that I inevitably met some utter twats. But it also meant I had the pleasure of meeting and working with the most wonderful people from all different walks of life who came together as a family.

I think if I have come away with anything from this month, bar the yearning for next august to come around quickly, its the ideal that the art world should always function in such a way. It should always be inclusive, liberal and welcoming. 

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A year to learn french- une année pour apprendre le français

Je neigh comprond pas je swee Anglays *Please read in a Yorkshire Accent* 

(Je ne comprend pas je suis Anglaise)

A pitiful excuse I whack out whenever an individual who speaks french tries to engage in conversation with me.

Like so many people my endeavours into learning a foreign language never did extend beyond GCSE years. And even then my pitiful attempt at German couldn’t really be classed as an endeavour. As a non-shallont 15 year old me decided another language definitely wouldn’t be necessary in the future, (disclaimer: it is). 

Overall my language skills don’t extend beyond please, thank you, and hello in a few languages, ordering baguettes and quoting the history boys “En Votre pantalons s’il vous plait”. However, now I’m a little older (and slightly wiser) ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

At this point its not only an aspiration to learn another language, but theres a deadline. Next summer I am embarking upon the first trip to France by myself. Although I’ve been going to France since I can remember with my family, this will be the first time I can’t awkwardly hide behind the menu when food is being ordered. 

I have a timetabled couple of months in mind, hopping around the beautiful country in a series of Volunteering pursuits. There are lots of incredible opportunities to live your best life in French Chateaus, farm houses, artist retreats and even such incredible artistic pilgrimages as Monets House in Giverny. As you are given a bed, food, a cultural exchange and a new family to welcome you in exchange for helping them out with their projects and ambitions. All in all, as an accessible, achievable experience set within a landscape which so inspires me artistically it seemed like a no brainer to sign up.

However, as ever there is a catch. I need to be able to speak passable french. Not fluent, but enough to converse and not butcher the beautiful language with my northern tongue. So here goes, a gal who had previously consigned herself to forever utilising the excuse “I just don’t “get” languages” is going on a linguistic adventure. 

Am I a dreamer, maybe. But more likely Je suis un rêveur.

Political Art- the only way forward?

Within a world permeated by political jargon. With Brexit on the tip of everyones tongue, no conversation being complete without criticising Trump, and Vladimir Putin slyly reinforcing a tsarist regime. Is there any place for light hearted, comedic and carefree art? Or, is it now more than ever we need the arts to offer us something more palatable.

I have often found pressure in my art work not being “political enough”, not making enough of a statement and not contributing enough in the fight against societies oppressions. Although, as my opinions and ideas become more formed and I in affect become angrier at the world. I am starting to try and express my disdain of the “system” pictorially. I do however keep on coming back to dogs. Not just dogs, illustrations of animals people and and places as well. But at the moment, mainly dogs. 

This is because dogs make me happy, their little quirks delight me, I love illustrating them and capturing their personalities and my dogs are as cute as they are stupid. It makes for some wonderful expressions. But am I being somewhat selfish primarily sticking to these story book illustrations? Should I be using my art to engage in bigger and better things and contribute to “the fight”? 

The term “mimesis” is often used when talking about art. Mimesis is the imitative representation of the real world in art and literature. An implication that art is intrinsically linked to society. Thus within a world which is currently as politically fuelled as the cold war. Surely under this idea, art should be reflecting the political climate of today. 

There are of course many artists under taking this role as there always have been. Politics has often utilised art as much as art utilises politics as a muse. But with the very nature of art being a freedom of expression it is the reactionary and arguably revolutionary art which stands out against the background of political propaganda posters. A piece that comes to mind is Dimitri Vrubels “My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love” or «Господи! Помоги мне выжить среди этой смертной любви» commonly known as “the Fraternal kiss”. This giant graffiti image adorning the Berlin Wall depicts Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker in  “fraternal embrace”, an artists depiction of  the photograph which captured the moment in 1979. This image is an excellent example of reactionary art work. In this case it was a post event reaction to the communist rule of East Germany, the Berlin wall and aimed to underpin the two political bodies in a mocking tone as the artist depicts their “love”. All the while making a direct comment against the massive negative impact the division of Germany into East and West, and the Communist rule had at the time. It is overall a brilliant piece of art. With its position on the Berlin Wall itself, it was positioned at the heart of the political warfare and “love” and consequently had a major impact. Excellently exemplifying the desire and need for art work which bounces back against the political climate and events at the time.

The Socialist Fraternal Kiss between Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker 1979 2

Vrubel Dimitri- “My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love” or «Господи! Помоги мне выжить среди этой смертной любви»1990-  https://rarehistoricalphotos.com/socialist-fraternal-kiss-leonid-brezhnev-erich-honecker-1979/

However, as blatantly important as art spanning under the political genre is. Surely we could all benefit from a break with politics. Within the midst of religious, monastic and propaganda art works the likes of the Sublime, the Picturesque and the Mythological all attest that art has of course, along side acting as mimesis, acted as a form of recreational pleasure. A chance to remove yourself from the negative events happening around the world and to be transported to alternative realm. 

In my eyes art isn’t just about making you think or “how does it make you feel”. But it should also be allowed to be fun, silly, adventurous and exciting. It does’t have to make a political statement, it doesn’t have to make you make you think it can in fact just make you smile. Personally this is why the works of Hockney appeal to me so much. With his vivid use of colours capturing the pleasures of the world around him. As he depicts the vibrant tapestry of the Yorkshire landscape, as well as his iconic pool paintings which leave the viewer to drool over this paradise like L.A. lifestyle. His work en-captures the delights he sees within his every day life. A positive reflection of the world around him. Art that makes the viewer smile. 

david-hockney-garrowby-hill-yorkshire-1998

Hockney David “Garrowby hill (Yorkshire)” 1998-  https://curiator.com/art/david-hockney/garrowby-hill-yorkshire

And with that in mind, I think I’ll keep on plodding on with my dog illustrations, even they are broken apart by a smattering of reactionary works… 

The closed doors of Art Institutions

Following on from the Art fund Museum of the year prize ,which saw Tate st Ives being granted £100,000, I am once again led to question the elitism, and overall inaccessibility of the “Art World.”

Tate st Ives is a gallery which had already received a massive 20 million pound extension. A large sum of money for a gallery already ingrained within a large institution. As the very name would suggest it harks from the grandiose Tate establishment and includes itself within the “Family of four” art galleries around the UK. Its very name has a worldwide reputation which brings in millions of tourists, globally, every year. And its a body which does not appear to be strapped for cash. 

Whilst an already wealthy and acclaimed institution with guaranteed following and visitors gained. Other smaller, intimate and beautiful museums such as the Glasgow Women’s’ Library were once again shoved under the bus. As the Art World said fuck off to those smaller keen institutions and individuals and praised and gifted one of its favourite children.

These small institutions are the very same which also buck the trend of inclusivity and diversity within galleries of today. Bar the odd individual exhibition of a minority artist; (race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, gender). It is more often than not that the larger art institutions fall back upon the canon of art history. As again and again we see white male artists (albeit brilliant ones) such as Turner , Liechtenstein and Warhol adorn the walls of the forefront galleries of today. With a continual merry-go-round round of “The Impressionists” and “The Surrealists” exhibitions hopping from gallery to gallery. Where the feck is the diversity. 

In contrast to this, smaller galleries such as that of Cartwright Hall in the city of Bradford can be seen to offer a collection well beyond the canon of western art. With an eclectic mix of pre-Raphaelite, monastic Indian portraits, Yinka Shonibare, and Hockney along side the like of Warhol. In fact this gallery is accredited for its broad diversity and inclusivity as all the works are curated together within the same chronology. A device which can only be seen to benefit the footfall of visitors to the gallery, within such a culturally diverse area of the UK. Whereas a large proportion of galleries champion a “need to be in the know” attitude illustrated by the fuck off tiny white plaques, full of lingo not everyone can understand. It is these small institutions that are championing the notion of Wilkommen. Along side the stupidly simple idea that art is for everyone, culture is for everyone and no one should feel excluded by the increasingly stuffy and stale air of galleries today.

But there is change in the air. This year saw the 250th anniversary of the Royal Academy Summer exhibition. And once we move past the glitzy celeb filled preview party which might as well spell out exclusivity in diamanté. What Grayson Perry has put together is a beautiful amalgamation. A miss match of prominent artists from around the world. Not separate by country, chronology, or culture but under the slogan “Art made now ” they sit side by side, along with aspiring artists of today. As the royal Academy summer exhibition opens its doors to all, both artists and visitors alike. Maybe there is a glimmer of hope peeking out underneath the closed doors.