Going to the Turner Contemporary in Margate is nothing something I can claim as new. Going to the first day of a major new exhibition is, though. This month has featured a fair number of art related new things, and I’m happy that the project has pushed me to get out a bit more.
The Turner Contemporary
Located at the start of the harbour arm in Margate, the Turner Contemporary is a museum you should definitely visit if you haven’t done so before. The views across the North Sea from the large windows on the north side of the main hall are spectacular, and that alone would make it worth going.
The museum always seems to have interesting exhibitions on, and today we went to go see the opening day of a new exhibition entitled Entangled: Threads & Making. It features work by 40-odd female artists, with most of the pieces related to the boundaries of what is traditionally considered ‘fine’ art, and what is more usually referred to as ‘crafts’ like needlework, tapestry and the like. While some of it was interesting, not all of it was too my liking.
I’m not sure about Margate. Part quirky seaside town with little galleries and cute little shop, it also has a deep heart of decrepit poverty. It’s more than vaguely depressing, and every time I go to Margate it leaves me slightly depressed. And knowing that it is Nigel Farage country, it makes me a little bit angry too. Especially on a day where the news from the US become ever more disturbing. Trump has turned out to be as bad a feared, and the UK is trying to catch up with an ever less humane discourse. In many ways, towns like Margate are emblematic of the inequality that is certainly contributing to an ever increasing fear and loathing of otherness. The location of the Turner in Margate, while it makes sense for historical reasons, is not the kind of gentrification that will tackle the real issues in society. Having high society hobnob with a view over the poverty of generations is exactly the kind of thing that is causing the anger and aversion. I don’t know how to fix things, I wish I did. But the last few months have been really disturbing.
Today’s new thing is seeing the William Kentridge exhibition at Whitechapel Gallery, followed by a burger at the vegan burger bar Mooshies. The perfect evening to end the first snowy day I’ve seen in years.
The Kentridge Art
As you may or may not know, I grew up in South Africa. William Kentridge is a South African artist who’s name I’ve known for a very long time. I had never been to an exhibition dedicated to him, though, nor had I been to the Whitechapel gallery before today. So both tick the new thing box quite nicely.
I am not particularly well-versed in art, but I do like to think that I can appreciate things at an experiential level. This is not the time nor place to fade into a long a discussion about aesthetics, especially if you’re of the Kantian bent. From what I know about Kentridge and his work, and I stand to be corrected, I think he would accept people taking the art for what it is. For me, the collection struck a nerve, more than many things I’ve seen recently. It may be that the sounds and atmosphere echo a South Africa that lives in the sub-conscious. Almost like a shadow of the world seen from suburban Johannesburg, as it fades in my memory. If anything, as I write this, the feeling that Kentridge’s work evokes in me reminds me of the work of Ivan Vladislavic.
The work is meticulously executed in a variety of media, but always moving. Either the movement is physical or mechanical, or it is suggested by the nature of the drawing or imagery. There are a number of film installations, as well as moving installation pieces. But then, in the middle of it all, a room with colossal tapestry pieces. It’s fabulous. Go see it if you can, it’s on till the 15th of January.
Vegan dinner? Delicious burgers? Enough said. Go visit it. Awesome staff and reasonably priced vegan junk food. Go get some.
Dulwich Picture Gallery is one of those things I’d been meaning to do for about five years and never got around to doing. Having the added prod in the back to get out and doing things means that today an outing to Dulwich was in order. While there, it was also a good reason to try out a new place to eat.
Blue brick cafe
Cheese pancakes with kale
Dulwich Picture Gallery is a short walk through Dulwich Park away from the main road where the bus from my house drops me. It’s not particularly large, but the collection is interesting. It contains the mausoleum of the founder and it is the oldest gallery in England. The collection heavily features Old Masters. It turns that they have an exhibition of Adriaen van de Velde‘s works, an artist I’d not heard of before, or at least could not recall. There were a number of very impressive landscape paintings, with spectacular clouds. I was particularly impressed with a number of the sketches and drawings. It is definitely worth a visit, even if it was a bit too busy.
A bit hungry after the walk to the gallery through the park, it was time for some food. I’d heard about Blue Brick Cafe, a vegetarian restaurant in East Dulwich. Hidden on one of the side-street off Lordship Lane, it serves a range of breakfast options as well as a list of lunch choice which seem to change daily. The food was great, and incredibly good value. I had a cheese pancake with a kale salad, for about 9 pounds. The staff was friendly too. A much more pleasurable experience than yesterday’s burger drama.
Moment of reflection
Tomorrow it will time for something different, unrelated trying a new food place. Also, walking around Dulwich Park made me realise I would really like to live slightly closer to a park, preferably slightly greener as well. Dulwich is a lovely area, and the street art that has appeared on many of the side-streets of the lane is incredible. If you haven’t been to Dulwich, you should go.
I’ve never spent New Year’s day traipsing around a London gallery. Today we wandered around the new Tate Modern extension, the Switch House. This was followed with a brief trip to Greenwich and Blackheath, before heading home as the rain started pelting down.
The Tate Modern
I’d not visited the Tate since the extension, and it’s well worth the visit. The space is fabulous, with numerous interesting nooks combined with sweeping vistas. Skip the elevators, the stairs draw you further and further up into the pyramid, before exposing what’s probably the most amazing free view in London. The most interesting artist on display is Louise Bourgeois. I’m not particularly good at expressing my opinions about art, but I would recommend that you go see this collection. There a number of very interesting pieces in a variety of media, and I will definitely spend some time in the near future researching her. An interesting.
Thames Clipper to Greenwich
Since we were in central London anyway with hardly anyone about, we hopped down to Greenwich and walked through the park to Blackheath. Instead of messing about with the Tube or trains, we sailed down a choppy Thames on a river bus. The Thames Clippers are a lot of fun and you can use your Oyster card. If you’re a tourist visiting London, don’t take the touristy boats. The Clippers are much cheaper and the view is as good. And they still sell coffee and snacks on board. The trip almost feels like a little holiday. Blackheath is my old stomping ground, and if you want to have a nice lunch with a view of the heath, you should pop into the Hare & Billet – it’s always worth a visit.
A combination of free or nearly free things to do in London is the perfect way to start the new year. I think it’s a much better way than waking up with a hangover at 11am and slobbing through the day. I wouldn’t mind make a gallery visiting on New Year’s morning a new tradition.