Monday, 25 August 2014

isms... Understanding Modern Art by Sam Philips

"I bet it's because we've got a membership", is a familiar phrase from C when I cheerfully announce "We're off to [X] gallery in [Y] town (which is generally not really all that close to where we actually live) to see [Z] exhibition of the work of someone we've vaguely heard of, and who the kids might have studied at school.

Well, yes.  I do like to get my money's worth out of these things.  This is why we've explored every square inch of the Tower of London over the past 18 months, drinking it all in until BabyM is old enough to appreciate it, and then we'll probably get another membership.

I had membership to the Tate galleries for my birthday.  A is absolutely thrilled about this, being a bit of a proto-art critic.  She collects exhibitions in her memory, and, even if she doesn't particularly like the art, enjoys adding another exhibition to her list (I used to enjoy visiting football grounds in deeply unpromising parts of the UK, watching extremely average football for the same reason.)

Anyway, it turns out Liverpool is a bit too far from where we live for a day trip on my own with three children.  Lesson learned, next time we'll book a travel lodge.  We were also a tiny bit unconvinced by Mondrian.  "It's kind of like, meant to be the city, and one plane is horizontal and one vertical, so it's kind of showing how the city is a bit bleak", said A, trying to get her proto-philistine brother to show a little bit of appreciation.  "Yes", he replied "but he even used masking tape, which is really, properly cheating.  If he'd have done it without a ruler, I'd have liked it more. Now can we go and do the craft activity?" The craft activity turned out to be C's saving grace, as they had Sharpies in all sorts of different colours, which was worth the two hour journey each way alone. 

I found myself agreeing much more with C's assessment of Mondrian than with A's, which prompted my purchase of the above book in the gift shop. I love visiting the Tate galleries with the kids - the activities for the children are absolutely great.  For this one they made Mondrian pop-ups and acetates to put in their window.  Once at the Tate Modern I had to show them how to record their voices on an old cassette recorder ("Now hold and press play and record at the same time.  No, I don't know why, it's just how you do it.  No, I don't know why you don't just press record - technology was more complicated in the 80s").  They recorded a story which became part of a sound installation, and they were both so excited about it, they still talk about it fondly now. I also love looking at the exhibitions, although I often haven't got much of a clue what I'm looking at.  This book is great for putting many different modern art movements in context.  It will come in very handy for secondary school art homework, and it gives suggestions of where to find out / see more.  Highly recommended.

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