by Rachel Kendall
It’s been a busy and culturally inspiring start to 2015 thanks to Andy Warhol at Tate Liverpool, Witches and Wicked Bodies at the British Museum and Terror and Wonder: the Gothic imagination at the British Library.
There was a time when every day would be cause to seek out an artistic treat, be it in the form of film, theatre production or exhibition. Sometimes there were gigs, but a growing discomfort in being close to strangers in dark places means it’s been a while since I entertained that notion. If I wasn’t seeing/reading/analysing art, I was making it myself. I’d go off with my camera and forage for that perfect piece of life to capture in two dimensions. I’d scribble poetry and fiction (always writing, taking snippets found in others’ conversations, observations of life on the outside), daub paper with paint, spend hours cutting and sticking to make collages, zines…
Having a child obviously means you do things differently. You can take a baby to some places but as they grow the possibilities for a ‘grown-up’ art thing diminish. You find yourself in the museum of Science and Industry, watching as the kids run riot through the ‘interactive’ section. You sit cross-legged at rhyme time, singing Dingle Dangle Scarecrow at the top of your voice along with the other parents while the kids invade the toy box, looking for more interesting things to do. You sit and watch while your daughter finger-paints, nervous and ready with the wipes for the moment the paint pot gets knocked over. Because it will. You compliment on colours kept within boundaries and ‘oh what a beautiful flower’. Oh, it’s not a flower? Ah, it’s mummy. Well done! And you proudly display the pictures, sculptures and ‘found objects’ around the house until it begins to look like a nursery and/or the seaside.
It’s all art. It’s all that creative stuff. It’s just that you’re supervising someone else, or colouring in alongside them. It is no less important just because it is private and will probably never see the inside of an art gallery. Having said that, my daughter did sell her first short story last week. The two page story she wrote about heroes and villains (it’s not a short story mummy, it’s 2 pages long) on the train on the way back from Liverpool was sold to a friend for 20p. Her first sale. Ker-ching.
There are some artists whose work could be of interest to children. The kids enjoyed Warhol’s bright cartoonish images at the recent exhibition, and some of Grayson Perry’s tapestries are big and bold and the messages go way over the head of a four foot child!
One thing the kids loved most at that exhibition was the room of Warhol films. With different films playing on each of the four walls, and a Velvet Underground soundtrack, it felt like one was actually inside Warhol’s head. People sat and soaked it up. Others scrutinised the space, the black and white images floating larger than life. The kids watched the moving pictures, touched the walls to let themselves become a part of the film, and shone the torches (provided as part of a pack to keep kids entertained) onto the walls to make their own changes to the medium.
But other exhibitions are a definite no no, such as Paper Cuts, the collection of beautiful and fragile dissections of paper exhibited over wall and floor space, or the recent British Library collection – Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination.
This was a fantastic exhibition whose timeline ran from the first ‘Gothic’ novel, Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, to Martin Parr’s recent photographs of Whitby’s annual Gothic weekend. I was pleasantly surprised by the sheer volume of books, images, artwork and film excerpts intrinsically caught up in the genre, from Frankenstein to The Wicker Man to the recent spate of horror parodies (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies etc)
Photograph by Martin Parr
I love to surround myself in art, and one day my daughter will be old enough to appreciate much more of it with me.