I’m Henry the Eighth, I Am (and the Turner Prize)

November 14, 2006

Lady Geezer of Dodgenshire, my glamorous wife, is a big fan of the Tudors.  Not that she wants to bring back public executions for treason, but she loves reading about those wacky guys and gals.  Naturally this means we had to go and see the Holbein In England exhibition at Tate Britain.

It was pretty cool.  Personally I was much more drawn to the pen and ink sketches than the paintings – as incredible as some of the paintings are.  By the way, did you see what I did there?  “Drawn to”?  Eh?  I’m pretty good aren’t I?

But yeah, getting back to the exhibition.  If you manage to get there and look around look out for the pen and ink sketch for the painting of Thomas More’s family.  It has notes scribbled on it, little lines pointing at stuff, and yet here you can see the artist at work.  To me it just seemed so vivid.

I learnt a few things:

  • If you pay a small fortune to get your portrait done then get your name on it somewhere.  A lot of the guys had paid to be immortalised in oils and nobody knows who the hell they are.  I guess they didn’t have Dymo label printers then
  • The appearance of braying city traders hasn’t changed much in five hundred years.
  • Priests looked like they’d eat your baby as soon as baptise it.
  • A lot of people in Henry’s court got executed for treason.  A lot.  Either the bar for treason was pretty low or Henry was a really poor judge of character.

After this we went and checked out the nominees for the Turner Prize.  For those who don’t know, the Turner Prize is a cash reward for artists who can do the most to outrage the national press with their stupid ideas.  This year the competition is very tight.  Here’s a run down of what we saw (in order):

Mark Titchner: Mark likes slogans.  In neon colours.  I imagine his student bedroom was covered in Chumbawumba posters.  All his little pieces are connected by guitar cables and there’s a constant background hum.  To be fair I think the guy has some ideas but it all seemed terribly dated and old hat to me.

Rebecca Warren: She sculpts.  And by sculpt I mean she piles fistfuls of clay on top of each other.  Not great.  She then puts some of these rocks in badly made cabinets with some shit or other she found around her squat.  Still not great.  I think she’s trying too hard to not try.

Tomma Abts: Not only does she have a very cool looking name but her art is pretty cool.  Sort of.  She paints on… wait for it… canvas!  Yep, the Turner is now so ridiculous that using canvas can seem like a revolutionary thing to do.  The paintings are very precise, to the point they look like they might be computer generated.  They look very appealing indeed, but I can’t help but feel that they seem like the sort of thing a CEO might have in his office because they’re pretty but entirely inoffensive and without emotion.  Well I guess it never hurt Mondrian.

Phil Collins: Well at least his name is memorable.  It’s just a shame it’s someone elses.  And that someone is a twat.  Phil has an installation that is about how reality TV shows exploit people.  He then interviews people who’ve been exploited by reality TV on camera so they are once again exploited.  This teaches us that people are really stupid.  Now, this might have been a much bigger hit except the people he interviews are Turkish.  There was one guy who looked like Borat in a disco suit complaining that he can’t walk down the street without everyone mobbing him and I was left, quite-frankly, a little bit baffled.  So in a word: shit.

So, what was my highlight?  Ms Abts perhaps?  Nope, it was the comments wall.  At the end of the exhibition is a room covered with little bits of paper where folk can leave their comments on the work they’ve seen.  The end result is swearing, to-the-point criticism (featuring more swearing), rude drawings, even more swearing, some attempts at well-reasoned criticism, swearing directed at the well-reasoned criticism and other madness.  But mostly it was comments saying that the comment wall was the best thing in the exhibition.  Quite true.

Naturally I added to the comment wall:  “Needs more cowbell”

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3 Responses to “I’m Henry the Eighth, I Am (and the Turner Prize)”

  1. jean Says:

    Hilarious Dodgy! It's so neat to hear about your weekend, so far away.

  2. deborah Says:

    Lady Geezer has good taste. For some reason I'm also drawn to the Tudors (have lots of books about them). I don't supposed you have an extra plane ticket lying around somewhere? Hmm? Guess not. Anyway, I'd have to agree that Henry VIII was a poor judge of character. Look at all the wives he divorced or killed (divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived). Me, I would've said "thanks, but no thanks" to a proposal, king or not.


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