On My Travels

I’ve been working… as a waitress. A new venture for summer 2010 to gain, not in this case careers experience, but money. I offered up one and a half solid months as a sacrifice to my consciousness, expecting it would be a loss to my freedom of the holidays and thus art activities. But here’s the interesting bit – I’m not working at one restaurant, but rather a company that staffs for catered events in venues around London. In May I worked at Christie’s Auction house on Kings Street, and in June, so far, phase one of the opening of the new Ceramics Gallery at the very top of the Victoria and Albert museum.

Quite literally on my work travels, eyes poised and expectant for interesting looking exhibitions, I pause in front of posters for galleries on the underground platform; or let my pupils dash from side to side, as we pass one on a train in motion. I’ve never quite understood the objective of the Art on the Underground project. I like the idea, if it is this: to turn more of our public spaces into galleries; to decorate ugly walls with beautiful art; to expose thousands of people to exciting aesthetic experiences – to educate all evenly and inclusively in art. But, it’s never quite felt like this. Not helped probably by a lack of real name dropping (comparable to a mediocre musician ‘Feat.-ing’ Paul McCartney) by TFL. You need big name artists to be involved for people to realise it is art, and not just advertising. But then probably these, unless we count Banksy, would find the often dirty and sweaty setting, especially in summertime, of the underground a bit demeaning a place for high quality art – It just isn’t practical for safe, or fully appreciated viewing.

Is it just then, as it has seemed over the past, trendily designed instruction to London underground etiquette: especially useful for the tourists to which pictures communicate more efficiently and clearly than words. The first piece I’ve really appreciated is Linear: 60 portraits, pencil on paper by Dryden Goodwin. It is high quality art on the theme of the underground – the sixty subjects are underground staff for the Jubilee Line – so it seems highly appropriate for its intentions.

I remember introducing myself to a colleague at one of my first events, as an art foundation student, and so she proceeded to tell me how awkward she felt because the entirety of her journey there, she was being watched and drawn. I’m surprised not more of my London friends have complained to me about this, for, numerous tutors have advised me, and no doubt will continue to do for all time (as drawing from life will always be an important and valued skill), to sketch people on our journeys – Piccadilly, Jubilee, Northern Lines of the underground of course being perfect for this. Goodwin’s drawings are a collection of portraits I really appreciate. Simple, tangible, true to the medium, character-oozing and collectively cohesive.

All completed in under one hour, it was a task I tried myself in an art project, and carried out in a similar manner. On the online video you can see this best, that Goodwin chats to his models about themselves, and through the learning of his personality, almost like a less synthetic, more fleshy caricature, he moulds their face of life from this. Additionally clips of their conversation are run through the speeded up version of his drawing. This is the kind of art I want to see on the underground, where it can be heralded as the talent of Britain to guests from a far.

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