Bad Art

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I had an all day meeting a few days ago and it was held in a building owned by a Christian community.

There were several faded items attached to the wall which were ‘bad art’. OK: I am not an artist, or an expert on art, but they didn’t look like a major gallery owner was going to want them very soon.

I was mentally composing some sarky tweets, when I stopped…

Thank God (I mean that phrase) for bad art- particularly that which is prompted by facing up to life in all of its pain, despair and glory. Thank God for those who take risks and spew this out through paint, craft, clay or any medium. Thank God for the courageous who pour their souls out in this way, encouraging others to do the same.

And sorry from one of the buttoned up repressed who don’t.

Some art…

I saw this at the weekend:-

It is actually an artwork, although it is hard to tell; to distinguish it from tree roots. Next to it is an interpretation board with a quote:-

You cannot simply put something new into a place. You have to absorb what you see around you, what exists on the land, and then use that knowledge with contemporary thinking to interpret what you see’ (Tadao Ando).

I am wary of waxing lyrical about ‘modern art’: I don’t feel I have the language and when I hear someone doing so- the voice dropping slightly whilst becoming yet more earnest, I stifle a desire to hit them, swear profusely or make ‘fart’ noises. Call it misspent adolescence reading ‘Pseud’s Corner’ in ‘Private Eye’.

But I liked this piece of art. I liked it as there were warning signs telling you to slow down lest you tripped, I liked it as you had to look carefully- it was not ‘immediate’, I liked it as my son kicked it to see if it was real and no one minded.

However, I think I liked it most because of the quote above and the philosophy behind it. I am getingt more than a little weary of the ‘pioneer leader’ who comes into an organisation to ‘shake it up’ and change it radically; usually in the process dissing their workforce, forcing people to work ‘harder’ as they are lazy/not with the project/don’t see clearly etc etc. I agree we all need to grow and change, but I see too many victims of this kind of leader. Sometimes I wish that managers/leaders/Government ministers etc, would just stop,listen and think…..and assume that what is there however puzzling or strange had a reason once…and go carefully and slowly after listening for a while.

And don’t get me started on vicars/ministers/priests/pastors etc who do not listen because only they hear directly from God, but impose/hector/patronise as ‘people ‘need’ shaking up, all the time telling stories where they are in the centre as ‘messiah’; rather than stop, listen- to people, to God, to the culture and absorb…& then slowly use that knowledge/hunch/random thought to humbly build and try something…


I had time last week just to sit and look at pictures. We try and go to MIMA (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art) from time to time, but this is the first time I went on my own and sat, and watched.

I never did art at school and know very little about it, but as I have got older; the visual speaks more to me.

There was a William Tillyer exhibition on. One of the guides told me, that although he was known well within the art world, he was not as well known as he could be. This seems to be because all through his career, he has switched mediums and forms; the world seems bigger and wider than one form and to be confined to one form would restrict his exploration.

There was something about his story, and his works that began to hit me and after a while I opened the notebook on my phone and began scribbling. I could see so many parallels between what he did and what I am called to be. I am putting these unformed scribbles here: I realise they may sound a bit like ‘Pseuds’ Corner’:-

…..To have time/ confidence to let the work/inspiration of God grow…without forcing it into cultivation or pruning into shape. To notice. To look longingly. To wait with patience. Sitting in art galleries: you can’t ‘do’ anything or speed perception. …you just have to watch,  wait & be aware. …..this is how I would like the confidence to be’.

”Twelve Clouds 1968′. Shapes in the sky,  gone in a moment, passing, hardly noticed, barely remarked upon; yet immortalised here forever by one who stopped,breathed,saw and etched so that we could also see…’

‘Random shapes and forms, materials & mediums. Never stopping in one place, always changing. An eternal dilettante or one fully alive; laughing & dancing? Good artists are not office workers doing a job & ticking boxes but people who help us see the wonder that we have allowed to be humdrum’.

‘This is a man at play; who is unselfconscious’

On art galleries.

We went to an art gallery on Saturday.

I don’t make a habit of this: I grew up very ‘right brained’ and I just didn’t ‘get’ art. I still don’t ‘get’ it or feel it that much, but as I get older the left side of the brain means more. I no longer want to know the ‘logical truth’ (if that is ever possible) as a first priority and sermons with 5 alliterative points that talk about God heavy on precise words do not fire me anymore- if they ever did.

Story moves me more, and image and things I can sense and touch. So sometimes we visit art galleries and take our children: we all get to see something that stretches us, sometimes puzzles us, exasperates us and sometimes make us say ‘wow’ or ‘I never saw it that way before’.

And that sense of wonder, mystery, outright bemusement or not fully knowing the answer fires me more and more.

No epiphany? Perhaps….

Spent a bit of time at MIMA (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art) during the holidays. Some of this was art work snapped badly with an i pod. Some of this was by my sons.

I liked the time there immensely. I liked the creativity coming from someone who says he ‘can’t’ do things like this.

I like most of all unplanned times that turn into something greater: ‘nowhere better than this place’….

I don’t know a lot about art…

On Saturday we went to Mima (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art) because it was there.

I know probably less about art than I do about poetry. I love the building though: so un-Middlesbrough- distinct, white, angular, lots of glass. I feel better just being in it.

I tend to go about every 6 or so months; to have a look what is there, to stretch my mind and be baffled by things I cannot understand. Plus it has good coffee in a cafe with wall to ceiling windows where you can watch people coming out of the Law Courts, fight, mooch aimlessly and swear aimiably at passers by (ok-I made most of that up). As a bonus, there tends to be something that kids can do.

Two things I noticed this time:-

(1) I don’t do art myself- I shied away from it as a child. I feared the blank page, the empty space. As my children were encouraged to draw, I did to and got ‘lost’ in it. I liked that very much.

(2) We visited the current exhibition and did not understand it. Then a guide began to explain some of the things to look out for and some of the world view of the artist. It only took 2 minutes, but suddenly we saw and began to make connections ourselves. I’m musing on ideas of the Jesus-follower/communities of Jesus followers providing mini explanations/insights/signposts for people who are genuinley bemused at this vast thing called Life and being open to people asking (instead of sat around talking to other guides and viewing the visiting public as ignorant and somehow being in the way).

I did notice a third thing: we wandered into another gallery the next day….. I’m musing on the effect on two under 10s of their parents’ obsession with culture and education………

And another thing from last Sunday…


I live in an area with lots of places within a one hour’s drive that tourists visit. I rarely visit them. I think you take them for granted. At least I do.

We went to Ripon last week. We went to the Cathedral, solely to see an art installation (wowee what a fun filled home for a 6 and 8 year old...). It was called ‘6 million +’ and was basically 6 million buttons mounded across a spce of the cathedral floor. In the middle of this were 5 perspex chimneys, also filled with buttons.

It had been conceived in West Yorkshire and all the buttons collected locally- some sent in individually. There were stories of how the buttons came to be donated. Some had been sent in by the relatives of the 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis. There was a video loop, with elderly survivors who are now British talking to recently arrived refugees of a similar age to what they were when they arrived in Britain.

‘Moving’ is too trite and easy a word. It went beyond that and my 8 year old was moved to write something on a luggage label and attach it to a display.

One thing happened made me furious and unleashed a feeling of anger in me that I rarely get. An orchestra was practicing in the cathedral. One of the players could not get past someone in the 1 second she had allocated to the task. So she simply tramped over the installation on top of the buttons.

For a moment, I wanted revenge and not mercy. For a moment I realised what part in us, all of us, easily forgets the Holocaust and continues to ethnically cleanse/cause refugees/murder/maim etc….it’s just more convenient that way or they are in the way. And my desire to wreak revenge, to smash her stupid @:(*&$?% instrument on her head in return….. well that was only righteous anger, wasn’t it?