Modern Gardens @ RA
I feel like a lot of my reviews start like this, but I went to this show with my boy. We held hands and I asked him how the paintings made him feel. He said "I could totally take a nap here" a lot; which I liked. There was an at-easiness. It was all very comfortable. We slipped in and out of the spaces.
Sometimes it's nice to look at things that make you feel nice / and then that's it / there's no feeling of: *oh. This is what it means* no deeper weight than the flimsy surface. Sometimes you don't want meaning; you don't want the political, even though politicism of artworks is super important and necessary to talk about. Sometimes it's nice to take a break and look through windows and not into mirrors. Sometimes I thank Foucault and praise God for heterotopic spaces.
We did try to find political meaning: we saw some dark shadows of flowers that looked like they had eyes in a painting of an artist that looked like Colonel Sanders the KFC man, and the boy loudly said "I think these dark shadows r meant 2 b golliwogs, how FUQIN RACISTE GOD WHITE PPL R AWFUL" and the whole gallery full of white ppl turned round and looked while I laughed loudly and pointed. And an old white lady laughed along with us; not sure why? But even though it was 4 o'clock on a Thursday and the RA was full of old white ppl, there was a comfortability. I didn't feel alienated or out of place. I didn't feel like the art world was laughing at me for sticking out or not understanding; because there wasn't anything to understand.
People politicise the past like nobody's business. "MANET PAINTED THIS BC OF THE WAR" or whatever. And maybe that's true (whether I care or not). But ultimately like, most of these paintings are still from an era when art was going through the transition between decorative object and container of functional or conceptual meaning (that obvs can be politicised). And they hold both within them. Art gets very monumentalised. It's this big Thing that happens and it expects to be the central pin in our day. But not today.
It can be laughed at. It can be ignored. It can blend into the background while the boy asks me if his beard smells different to other days and I (graciously) sniff it.
We held hands in front of paintings and side-eyed people that said pretentious things about Pissarro. We both agreed that neither of us understood Cath Kidston (why does everything have to be waterproof???)
We sat on benches and he said the lighting in one particular painting reminded him of the lighting in his dreams because all his dreams take place at dusk; in the transition time between day and night; the grey area the in between space. I said that it wasn't in between, it was just before things end; that night is an end.
But I love the subjectivity, the personal place that reaction came from. Paintings can sometimes alienate people of colour; by not representing us, by depicting us as savages, by not speaking in the same visual dialectic that we do. But form and colour are universally understood (and I don't think that's truly a false universality. They're just abstract concepts that don't hold any real meaning unless they're in relation with other things. Like the word ''the''). And florals are in between representation and abstraction. As we were walking around I understood how Jackson Pollock happened and like Rothko and all those countless white men my GCSE art teacher taught me I should revere.
Art is entirely subjective. It sounds trite but it's true. We might all try to ignore the influences of our everyday on our perceptions; but honestly speaking, if I didn't go with my boy I would have thought this was so dry. But he brings out a critical authoritative side of me that is sure of what I say; I don't doubt many things. We were able to say "I don't give a shit about what Alistair Sooke says about Matisse or fucking Cezanne; this painting makes me feel like this way and I don't care about what other people have said about it" and that takes a certain strength.
I liked this show because we held hands as we walked on through, he kissed my cheek while I was looking at a Renoir, he offered to buy me a ridiculously expensive and useless present from the gift shop. (I said no like 50% bc I'm an independent woman and 50% bc £793937 is too much to spend on a felt clutch bag)
I thoroughly recommend this show as an art-date 4 u and ur 👯 because it is truly romantique. It gives you space to be that way. It allows you to zone in and out. There's no moment where you think "oh shit, I should probably pay attention or I'll miss an important bit" because none of it's really that important. And that's banal and boring when you're on your own. But hold hands in galleries. Pretend he's kissing ur head but instead ur using him to hide from the gallery attendant while taking sneaky photos. Let the art blend into the background of your special day out, and talk about anything but the art after you leave. Get lunch and move on with your day. Let it be a nice break and nothing more. A nice break to spend time and be anything but busy with a person who makes you forget how busy you actually are.