Monday, 18 October 2010


Hello everyone

Although I'm a die-hard fan of sculpture, drawing and painting, I do often think that some conceptual and installation art can be very beautiful and powerful...when done well.

For me, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei's "Sunflower Seeds", currently showing at the Tate Modern, is ticking all the boxes! The work consists of 100 million individually made porcelain sunflower seeds.

So I was very disappointed to hear that officials at Tate Modern have decided to stop visitors walking on "Sunflower Seeds", believing it be a possible health hazard. I feel really sorry for the artist Ai Weiwei, and all the others involved (it turns out that each of the 100 million seeds were hand painted), as the interaction with the work is clearly a fundamental part of the experience. It still is a very special piece of work, I just think it's sad that its chances of being a brilliant and iconic work have been taken away.

The officials at Tate are concerned that people walking over the work will cause "dust clouds" that could be damaging to health. Hmmm....there are a couple of things here: 1. Surely you would need to inhale an awful lot of the dust and do so for a prolonged period of time for it to cause any harm? 2. Could they not just had out white dust masks, which you can pick up for pennies at B&Q, to anyone concerned?

Ai Weiwei and his "Sunflower Seeds".

The timing of this is also rotten. Anyone working within the Arts will be feeling nervous about this week's Government spending/slashing review. It's a foregone conclusion that the arts will get shafted.
Having said that, the Tate officials will be relying on good old Ai Weiwei and his humble sunflower seeds to pull in the crowds. With these record breaking numbers comes money: money that will benefit the economy and surrounding businesses. Much like here in Edinburgh, The National Galleries' exhibition of the Impressionist Gardens has been pulling in the crowds. These visitors will benefit the whole city. Art has its uses.

The scenario at Tate Modern got me thinking about The Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. The Spanish have got it right! The Sagrada Familia is visited by masses every single day and is effectively a building site. The difference is that you are encouraged to get in amongst it all. There's not a safety helmet in sight available to visitors and as for the just adds to the experience. The officials at the Tate would be having kittens at the sight of the bulldozers, but the Spanish adore Antoni Gaudi and the Sagrada Familia has become a temple to this incredible man.

Myself and some other excited visitors at The Sagrada Familia a few years back. Look at all those bags of scary dust on the ground!! They say the last brick will be laid in 2026. What a momentous day that will be.
I feel better now I've got that off my chest.....the dust is beginning to settle.

Speak soon x


  1. Hear Hear! Here's to a much more more informed and sensible approach. Health and safety has no place in art. Come to think of it, health and safety has no place anywhere, if you ask me.

    Free us from insipid pen-pushers and let's all get our hands dirty again.

    You should stage a protest. You could all turn up wearing hand-painted particle masks! Do it!

  2. We speak of going to the countryside to “re-charge our batteries” or gaining inspiration from “being near the sea.” Nature is a common denominator to us all. Cities are man-made, divide us, yet in the harmony of nature we have a common heritage.

    One of the paintings in the current exhibition is "Winter Solstice in the Strath" by Hazel Cashmore. The Solstices and Equinoxes, far from being a pagan rite, are a simple scientific observation – the sun’s turning point – when the earth and the sun’s heat, on which we depend so much, reaches a point of change. Our awareness of nature strengthens our awareness of belonging. We belong to the earth, like it or not. Even if we conquer it, it becomes the tools we forge and through which we express ourselves.

    So why painting? Is a painting of nature a mere substitute? An unfulfilled longing? But a good painting is more than a copy or semblance. “A pretty picture” may have little value. But a great painting rises above photographic remembrance. Actual places may be tainted with memories. Or associations. Incursions of unwanted thought. Yet a painter can capture and remind us of pure essence. The thrill of water rushing through a gorge. A calm lake. Dark clouds hovering. The beauty of the unspoilt beach or the open ocean. Landmarks II invites me to experience. And then use those emotions to forge my day. A rush to get things done. A calm peace behind the frantic energy. A knowledge that there is unfinished business on my desk even if things seems OK. And the enjoyment, running through it all, that life is more than the sum of its parts. My day becomes a canvas. There is a difference. Recall the ancient Egyptians toiling away. Ask him what he is doing. One might say, “I have to carry all these stones across the sand, move them into position until my back aches, and get little thanks except the king’s wine at the end of the shift. Another might say, “I am building a monument that will stand through generations, one of the greatest feats ever accomplished by man, one that will be admired throughout the ages – I am building the Pyramid of Giza, and it will inspire all that come after me.”

    That’s what art can do. It can let us feel the essence. And when that happens, we have wings.

  3. @ Gin. Thanks for your encouragement and support! There is now talk of a bare footed protest at the Tate....perhaps you would like to join us? Will keep you posted.

    @ Exit. What lovely words...reminds us why we are here. It's fascinating to think that all the beautiful paintings currently hanging in the gallery will still be around long after we've gone. Many thanks.