Blackpaint 161

The planes at the Tate

To the Tate Britain to see Fiona Banner’s ultimate readymades.  One is a chrome-plated Jaguar lying upside-down on the hall floor like a discarded toy.  It’s smaller than I expected; a lady passing with a young child asked me if I thought it was bigger or smaller than a dinosaur.  As an expert, I told her smaller, confidently.  With this abandoned air, it had something of an electric toaster about it.  I peered into a large, box-like attachment on the fuselage – nothing but darkness.

The other one, the Harrier, hangs nose down a little way away.  It is grey, with swirly marks on the wings (made, I think, by Banner – so, not entirely readymades, some artist input beyond the choice); it resembles, quite strikingly, a giant ray or shark, hanging from a fisherman’s gibbet, or gallows or whatever they have.  The glass or plexiglass of the cockpit was smoked, like a blown lightbulb.  The grey body looked organic, with bumps and scars and blisters.  I didn’t lie underneath the nose lance, like Adrian Searle, although there were plenty of amateur photographers lying about, taking artistic views.

I thought the information about the exhibit was quite funny, in an ironic way: Banner apparently does a lot of work relating to language and communication – the blurb said the two planes represented a “lack or breakdown in communication” – if you imagine these objects tearing through the skies towards you with destructive intent, you can see what she  means.  i was most struck, I think, by the contrast between the tinny shininess of the one and the organic, fleshy greyness of the other.

Of course, this is not the first time a plane has been on show in the Tate Britain; just a while back, Roger Hiorns had a powdered jumbo jet there, as part of the Turner Prize show. 

Gillian Ayres

One of the portals off the main hall perfectly framed her “Phaethon”, and I suppose the contrast worked to enhance the impact of it; the thickness of the slabs and squiggles of lurid colour seemed to be a sort of exaggerated denial of the clean(ish) lines and hard(ish) edges of the planes – as if she was saying, “No, that’s not art – THIS sort of thing is art!”

St.Ives Room

There’s a new Bryan Wynter – “Riverbed” has been replaced by another, very similar, Wynter.  And I noticed, for the very first time, that Lanyon’s “Lost Mine” has two human figures in it – presumably miners.  They are huge and quite clear; impossible to miss, really, and I’ve stood in front of this painting for probably 30-40 minutes, if you add up all the times I’ve been there, and not seen them.  Maybe I was distracted by the Orion-like shape of the central motif (well, it isn’t the central motif, of course, but was to me until I made out the figures).


Which brings me to the last thing this visit; there’s a little exhibition in a side gallery about Lanyon’s painting of this picture.  it took several months and was meticulously planned with a number of sketches, photographs, and maquettes of different aspects of the town – several of them lovely drawings and objects in their own right.  You really get the feel of Lanyon’s meticulous, engineer’s approach.

Listening to Faithful  Departed, Christy Moore.

“Faithful departed, we fickle hearted,

As you are now, so once were we,

Faithful departed, we the meek hearted,

With graces imparting, bring flowers to thee.”



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