The Tate Gallery having spawned offshoots in St Ives, Liverpool and on the South Bank is now known as Tate Britain.
Visiting Tate Britain one lunchtime last week provoked much thought about art and artists. Shortly after entering my eye was caught by two aircraft suspended from the North Gallery's high ceiling. Fiona Banner is the artist.
What was her intention I struggled to fathom. A young female student then made her interpretation of the work clear as she went to lie down on her back on the floor under the Harrier which was hung nosedown by its tailfin. She before visiting the exhibit, unlike myself might have seen a comment about the work reading:
"An irreverent painting on the nose of the fighter-bomber, which read 'Buster Gonad And His Unfeasibly Large Testicles' and depicted Viz comic character Buster pushing a huge testicle on a wheelbarrow, has been removed"
The aircraft exhibits initially provoked in me thoughts about the wonders of science, the futility of war and more bizarrely perhaps about re-cycling. Then upon seeing the student's more graphic and personal interpretation, my own thoughts moved on to beauty being in the eye of the beholder and began to dwell a little on the importance of art in the life of man.
Some cave paintings in France are are said to be perhaps 32,000 years old which shows how mankind has needed to reflect interpret recall decorate imagine and impress over the ages. Despite the wonders of the digital age our needs today or really no different.
Moving from art to artists I began to appreciate what a privilege it must be to have talent as a painter. Personal thoughts are largely abstract and hidden. They can of course be verbally expressed as in describing the impression a dramatic landscape or beautiful face or hideous architecture makes on the speaker yet being able to express such personal interpretations visually is sadly beyond my ken. A photograph can assist but always missing from photographs is that ephemeral extra human dimension arising from the individual mix of imagination appreciation and interpretation seasoned with some understanding. The creations resulting from the work of someone talented enough to create images incorporating her unique ephemeral dimension, stretch that same dimesion in me as the beholder.
Coincidentally also this week I saw a film depicting the life and work of the Mexican artist whose self portrait appears above, Frida Kahio. She appears to have lived a tortured but amazing life.
Having been almost killed as a teenager whilst on a bus in Mexico in the 1920s after which her boyfriend departed for Paris, her Jewish emigre father and local mother encouraged her to paint. She fell for a communist artist who both antogonised prospective right wing benefactors in New York and simultaneously broke her heart with dalliances over artistic models. She then in the film at least seemed to have a fling with Trotsky and had her heart further pummelled by Trotsky's decision to stay loyal to his wife. Despite or perhaps because of all that pain she appears to have had a very full life and her paintings provide Latin American seasoning to my own ephemeral dimension in viewing life, even though unlike her I cannot depict it.
That so many great artists seem to lead lives of tension depression and confusion signifies to me how the privilege of possession that rare talent of being able to depict in painting, interpretations of actual things or abstract concepts, must be associated with the same kind of pains and burdens of another great aspect of human creativity namely that of giving birth.