Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Quiet Day

Saturday was a great day to be in London. I walked through the city and had the place all to myself, what with many thousands departing for the weekend for various festivals including The Big Chill and many others hanging out in Regents Park for Fruitstock and the protest in the West End. The City was empty and I took the opportunity to visit a couple of exhibitions.

On Charlotte Road the Counter Gallery was showing their latest group show, I particularly enjoyed Anya Gallacio’s durian cast in yellow glass.
On Old Street I stopped for a beer in The Reliance and settled down to watch the world pass with the unique pleasure of having a Hoxton pub to myself for once. Upstairs the Approach gallery’s new Reliance space was showing Germaine Kruip’s mirrored kinetic interventions, unfortuanately the main piece installed in the two front windows had broken down and was still. I will have to return.

The Bloomberg Space was showing it’s current group exhibition ‘To Here’. The theme of the show was to ask the seven participating artists to create a work based on the journey from their homes to the Bloomberg Space at Finsbury Square. Some of the works didn’t particularly engage me, Mark McGowan’s film of his celebrity fancy dress race grabbed my attention, made me laugh and infuriated me at the same time. However, two pieces really stood out. Firstly Anne Talentire’s 16mm film of the car journey from her Camden home to Finsbury Square, I was entranced by the broad blue screen which gently fizzed with granular light, without reading the booklet blurb I waited for something to happen. After an indeterminate period of time something moved from the top to bottom of the left hand of the screen, not fast but not slow enough for my eye to grab enough visual information. This movement had keyed my mind into reading the granular light into the gentle top to bottom panning of the camera. At either side of the screen things ran from top to bottom, firstly a street light protruded into the screen edge and then roof edges and treetops. Talentire’s film traced her journey in real time as the camera placed to receive the view straight up into the sky. Any sense of time was lost as I was captivated by the need to catch these moving glimpses of intermittent visual information.
Further into the exhibition are three photographs by John Riddy. The photographs were taken in various parts of the city during his journey taken at a quiet time of day, the dawn light creeps into the photos to show us three different scenes. The first is a statue of Sir John Soane that stands against the wall of an imposing city building, the streets are still damp from overnight rain and creates a shiny darkness to the usual matt tarmac, the whole image of the street shines despite the flat low level lighting. Secondly is the view of a café under what appears to be a railway arch, the grubby brown yellow bricks are interrupted by a canopy bearing the words ‘coffee house’ and two hand written menus appear on either side of an opening in the wall which emanates a light from the small counter/serving point. A loose bulb provides some light to the exterior and 2 plants in hanging baskets and a plant in a pot on the floor can be seen. This rudimentary interruption in the fabric of the city is strangely reassuring despite being free from any notion of permanence. The third image is as charming but much more generically familiar, the view of a fifties style council estate with a Portuguese flag hanging from one of the windows, the most telling in this photo is, once again, the flatness of the light. No people can be seen but their presence implied by their absence as we assess the empty scene through the dawn light. This third photo should resonate with any English city dweller especially Londoners. I revelled in this scene of an empty street at that time of day, anybody who has to regularly walk the streets of London at dawn for reasons of work, insomnia or returning from a big night out will recognise this view of melancholy twinned with the joy of savouring moments of quiet in a usually insanely paced city.

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