I was lucky enough to spend a little time recently in some
galleries and museums. I say lucky because I think of it as a lovely treat to myself, something special - to get to the city and have time to savour a bit of culture. Whilst wending my way between the exhibits, stopping to “ooh” and “ahh” at some, to be curious and intrigued by others, or simply remain nonplussed at a few, it occurred to me how much I’ve changed since my student days. Seeing a few clusters of chatty teenagers whose pink hair or unconventionally combined items of clothing screamed out ‘art school trip’ reminded me of my own student group excursions. We all loved those days out to a place deemed to be of sufficient cultural and educational merit for the tutors to organise a special coach to the Smoke – but not for the right reasons. London
Trips to the Barbican, the Tate and the like presented opportunities to do three main things: pose, skive and drink. We did at least appear well-intentioned on first disembarking the coach, glad to stretch our legs after the dull drive down the M11, having been cramped into the seats of rough textured orange and brown fabric, with flat, matted bits that had resulted from the unsociable chewing-gum-disposal habits of previous occupants. Stepping into the fresh-diesel air from the stuffy vehicle with its smeary condensation-wet windows, we’d be ushered into whichever exhibition space we were visiting and, at first, it would all be very interesting and exciting. I have a particularly fond memory of a show at the
in which I was smitten by a mock-up bathroom painted, tiled and kitted out entirely in black (it went with my taste in clothes at the time). The National Portrait Gallery was appealing too – I’ve never been able to resist looking at and enjoying faces. But after we’d walked around once and the tutors had disappeared (doubtless to the nearest pub) we had other things on our agenda. I’m sure I could have learned so much more had I not been as distracted by other attractions but, as they say, youth is wasted on the young. Hayward
A trip to the
could end up with a wander down the Kings Road, having first bought cans of Skol that would be swigged from as we peeked in the doorways of posh shops we didn’t dare enter. A morning at the Royal Academy meant an afternoon at HMV and the small, musty-smelling record shops tucked away down nearby back streets. We ventured tentatively into pubs - classic ICA dives with large central bars, high ceilings and flock wallpaper, so different from those in our suburban home towns with their copper kettles nestling amongst vases of dust-grey dried flowers. Some of the nudes we viewed in the metropolis were not just the marble statues or Modigliani models, but the garish photos in London Soho shop windows that made us giggle blushingly, and the front covers of magazines which I’m quite sure they never stocked at my local Martins. Well, I suppose in some ways I did learn a thing or two.
I’d come home not so much with a head full of culture as with a throbbing lager-fuelled ache, a seven inch single in a paper bag, a new T-shirt or earrings and my one concession to the reason for the trip in the first place - a postcard of a Picasso perhaps, from the gallery’s over-priced shop. The coach journey home was always a far more subdued affair than the outbound drive – the windows misted up with our beery breath this time, as we drowsily added new patches of over-chewed Wrigley’s to the existing ones on the upholstery. Teenagers, eh?
Anyway, I’m very glad to report that my last trip was a cultural pleasure and made up for all those wasted opportunities. I came home with a head full of imagery and experiences that educated, inspired and delighted and made me so glad I could go and fill my boots this time in an altogether different way. I bought a couple of over-priced postcards too – well, you have to, don’t you? I must say, I don’t really miss the student jolly. This way was far preferable.
(...life is the art that you make...)