von Mark Burrows
In a small beach-side town where the queues for the outdoor showers are longer than the entrances to some major exhibitions I have visited, the simple life of the south of France was an interesting place to start for my little discovery of art in an area of France famous for its film festival, wine and the high-life. Ste. Croix boasts a number of camp-sites all close to the beach. Ours was filled with small, green wooden chalets with a veranda much smarter than those of the stereo-typical banjo playing shacks of America that I pictured before I arrived there. This small area of France is really the simple-life. A typical day is spent on the beach.
A typical night is spent on the beach – everything is on the beach. If it`s not on the beach, then its up the hill which surrounds it and offers shade under the large pine trees, the ones which often catch fire from discarded cigarettes. Therefore, in a place where tourists, the majority of which are French, would prefer to spend their nights playing beach football using their flip-flops as goal-posts, and then light small fires on the dark beach playing their guitars, than pose in the over-priced restaurants of the more famous resorts of the south of France, it can be of no surprise to find no evidence of art there at all. Surely some tourists would love to take home a small water-colour of Ste. Croix and admire it over the winter bringing back happy memories of the relaxing time they had there – I know I would, but luckily I can create my own from the small sketches I made on that beach.
The question is then, why is there no art in Ste. Croix? Is it because most of the holiday-makers are too local, and can visit Ste. Croix as often as they like, so they do not need that painted reminder hung up in their lounges? In a busy city, where most of La Croisette beach is owned by the posh hotels and restaurants, and costs a small fortune per day to have the privilege of bathing there, it is of no surprise that art will be found all over Cannes without having to search for it. The reason is, of course, money. Take a leisurely walk down the main shopping street, Rue d`Antibes, and you will discover several small art shops selling mainly typical Provençal scenes of sun-flower and lavender fields, vineyards and run-down barns in fields – all displayed in expensive-looking frames. At night, you will find amongst the craft sellers and portrait artists in the flower-market, easels filled with canvases of the same Provençal scenes and un-framed water-colours of all sizes of various different scenes including those of Cannes and seascapes. This diverse style and presentation of art caters for the diverse tourism of Cannes. There is something for everyone, expensive art for the beach-paying rich, and water-colours of different scenes of which to remember your holiday by for the on-a-budget tourist like my wife and I. However, in comparing those water-colours to the standards of the canvases, I can also see the diverse standards of art in which tourists are subjected to. It is true to think that on holiday one would buy a painting of your favourite place because it is simply – of your favourite place.
The standard of the painting may never be questioned because every time you admire it in your lounge on those cold winter nights back at home, all you see is memories of your holiday. The question is therefore, does it matter if poor standards of art are sold, if the subject-matter fits in the place in which it is sold? If an out-of-perspective seascape was displayed, un-framed, in an art shop where I live in England, it would not get a second look. The second question is: does art exist, which can be admired equally by the local and tourist alike? This answer is described using two of my favourite things in life: art and wine. Art-et-Vin happens every year in the months of July and August in some of the independent wineries of the country of Var, Provençe. We discovered Art-et-Vin purely by accident two years ago when we were wine tasting in the area. I love the whole process; arriving through the grand gates of the entrance, driving down the dusty orange track lined either side by the luscious green vines dancing in the wind, and arriving at the blue, shuttered windows of the chateau with a great sense of excitement. Upon entering the chateau, you immediately are surprised with easels full of paintings everywhere. That year I visited five such vinyards in the same day and was impressed with the diverse subject-matter on display. Some display the typical Provençal scenes, one displayed old-fashioned sea-scapes. Looking through this year`s brochure you can see the diverse subject-matter of the paintings exhibited – a nice purple lavender scene featuring a large tree and run-down barn by Luc LePlae, to my favourite, a brightly painted female figure, using pinks, reds and oranges which really looks electric by Marie-Noelle Deletoille. Art-et-Vin is a fine example of art representing the south of France which can offer something else to tourists like myself taking part in the novelty of wine-tasting and also adds an exciting date to the calendars of the locals who visit these vinyards frequently to stock up their supplies. As we have discovered, tourism affects art in many different ways. It affects the standards of the art we chose to purchase, and the standards of art presented for us. Why then, do exhibitions such as Art-et-Vin have such a good standard of art? They could easily sell those mass-produced seascape prints cheaply to tourists who may have visited one too many vinyards on their tour, and not spitted out once! How does tourism affect art?
See www.art-et-vin.com – or if you are in the Var area visit the local tourist office. They have a small brochure displaying the names and addresses of the vineyards taking part, and have small descriptions about each artist and a colour photo of one of their pictures.
von Mark Burrows
Every year Leeds City Art Gallery kindly posts an information leaflet to my address with all of the relevant details, including a submission form. I am on their mailing-list, and this year was my seventh year running visiting the “Artists Show”. The display of art is very poor, where is the space? For an annual artist`s show, one would expect a bit of a fuss as hundreds of artists have painstakingly prepared paintings especially for this event and kept a space in their diaries since the beginning of the new year looking forward to the summer-time event. I have wandered and pondered over hundreds of fascinating works produced by the artists who reside in Yorkshire and Humberside. This year, there were needs. Take the entrance to the exhibition. I expect banners attached to the building advertising this two month event (this year between the dates of 10th July to the 17th September, 2006), there is nothing. Even inside the building it is quite a search for any advertisement regarding the “Artists show”. I eventually located a small, A4 sign advertising “Artists show upstairs in the North room” written in a rushed looking word-art printout displayed on a small stand at the bottom of the first stairs as you enter the gallery. I headed up the winding stairs, and searched for the “North room”. This room, however, is not marked (or was not when I visited in August).
I entered a room by chance (as I had left my compass at home), and had to search for an indication that this indeed was the location of the “Artists show”. The search itself is a major distraction from the art displayed. As I entered, instead of looking straight ahead, or to my left to start the natural clockwise tour of the room, I looked around for the “Artists show” sign. I eventually discovered the A5 leaflets marked with the exhibition`s name, so I picked one up and commenced my delayed tour. Let me take you on the tour patiently browsing, waiting for the moment to be dazzled in the face like looking into the sun, when that amazing painting leaps at you, and calls your name from the other side of the room shouting “hey you, look at me, I have the WOW factor, I`m brilliant, come closer”. I was hit by the striking red bricked colour of a red bricked building entitled “Lady Ann”, by Tony Noble.
It was one of those must-look-closer paintings, where the detail of each, individual brick was painstakingly painted. During my admiration, another painting shouted at me from the opposite side, I couldn`t quite work out what it was saying, but it must have been jealous. This was entitled Underpass, by David Patrick. Despite the brilliance of this painting, I was immediately distracted by what I thought was extremely poor positioning. The long, narrow painting had been hung at the lowest, possible point. The paintings above took attention away from Underpass as they seemed to stack on top of it. This painting really did have to underpass the ones above, but definitely surpassed the ones above. The minutes passed as I was attacked by something slimy. This was in the form of a small white canvas, with a snail slowly, sliding in from the left. It was nicely framed with dark wood, complimenting the colour of the snail. On closer look, I could make out the pale, yellow stain from the snail`s trail around the canvas. It had been on quite a journey. This was called Feeling Slugish. It missed a little something, a ‘g’ perhaps.
I certainly felt sluggish as I moved away wondering where in the purchaser`s house it would be displayed. Continuing our tour, the main room of the gallery leads to a small, cramped area. Watch out as you weave around the other visitors. I chose an anticlockwise journey, and was in voting mode as I passed the YEP sponsored “Have Your Say!”, when I discovered Bandita, a fascinating annotated typed sheet under a red ink drawing and a red pen displayed together. Continuing anticlockwise, I stumbled upon Bathplug. A pencil drawing of a bath plug on a white background. Like Feeling Slugish, this one had also been sold which raised further questions of the purchaser`s intentions of the location of display. Where else apart from the obvious place? As we prepare to leave this cramped area of our tour, my “Have Your Say!” winner will attack us like a laser beam from those retro computer games I played years ago. I could almost hear the explosion of the bright beams of light leaving the canons of the futuristic machine. This exciting, colourful, spray-paint on canvas was called JMAC/2004-0535, by James MacLeod. Let`s grab a joystick, and attack its nearby enemies! After I “had my say” and headed back down the stairs out of the building, I couldn`t help thinking about the amount of art lovers who would miss this event because of lack of simple signs encouraging drop-in viewers from the many passers by in the street. I was impressed with how many were sold though. On my visit in mid-August, nearly one in four had those little red dots attached next to their proud pieces. But with only 73 items chosen out of over 500 this year (compared with over 90 from 430 last year), it raises the question … what were the other 400 or so paintings like? I would love to see a massive exhibition displaying the unsuccessful works of art. I have seen the “Artists Show” for this year, and now I want to see all those other paintings which were stored, awaiting collection by the disappointed majority. The successful contributors to the “Artists Show” should have a certain prestige because of this, as they have “a little extra something about them…”. “Artists Show” comes around only once a year, I think it deserves a bit of attention. Trusting the panel selected these chosen few because they were outstanding compared with the other contributors because of the “… little extra something…”, then the show needs a little extra to be celebrated as a show. They need to be presented individually, and have as many people as possible visiting these works. Leeds needs to see them, Leeds needs.
von Mark Burrows
A genre of art can be created simply because of where the genre is located, and displayed. It doesn`t matter if the quality of the art is poor, because the experience of sitting in a certain place and looking at the art is the most important part of this genre. Like brewing Guinness, this genre of art, I call Grogart, requires many different stages in it`s process in order for it to qualify. The first stage is Location.
On first appearance, the location of the display of Grogart seems to be an unlikely place for art to be displayed. Over seventy paintings and photographs of many different styles hang there, and the red dots that indicate the work has been purchased, shines like a traffic light, and like a red light, people stop and look.
Viewing: Leaving the sharp, autumn winds behind, visitors are hit by the warmth of this place. Take a moment to soak in the abundance of paintings to your right as you enter. Let`s head over to the bar now, and purchase a Guinness. The high-stools in front of the bar are occupied by interesting men dressed in grey suits, some with long, grey beards. They sit close to each other sharing their tales of the day. Greet them as we wait by the bar with a polite out-of-town smile. If you are lucky, you can pass the time by having a small chat about anything they want. As a major contrast to most bars in England, in Ireland, bar staff have the ability to serve more than one customer at any one time. They can ask the order from everyone who waits, whilst letting many Guinness` settle, at the same time as pouring more pints of Guinness, at the same time as remembering to collect their money, and making sure the next customer is dealt with. This skill should be recognised in England, as there is nothing worse than waiting in a large huddle at the bar, painfully watching the bar tender slowly following the settling process of another customer`s Guinness, as it gradually creeps up the glass, millilitre by millilitre.
Our Guinness is now ready, say goodbye to our new friends, and let`s take a seat over in the corner and start looking at some art.
The experience: Before the smoking ban in Ireland, these paintings were hidden by the clouds of smoke which lingered atmospherically like thick fog over damp hills. Every so often, a painting would leap at you as the fog lifted. Now, everything is clear. This difference in atmosphere enhances the Grogart I first saw years ago.
Choosing a favorite: A favorite of mine currently hangs above the door. It`s called “Ah-Don`t” – say it in an Irish accent. By Deidre Boyle, the subject of this painting is a modern pub-scene, with a man holding his hand stretched out in front of him trying to prevent a group of cackling women in the opposite table taking a flirtatious picture of him on their mobile phone.
The display changes every time I visit Dublin. Grogan`s is a pub to be found, and not to be directed to. If you do stumble upon it, pop-in, buy a drink and … don`t bypass that joint, my friend … order another one, just like the other one. Grogart is to be experienced, and not just to be seen.
von Mark Burrows
His busy city lifestyle suffocates his comfort whilst sailing in the Whitsundays. With my nose gripped tightly my mouth takes a long intake of breath, I hold it for five seconds, then release slowly. The air rattles through my snorkel and sounds like I am breathing out of a scuba diving mouthpiece. I am hovering above the strange shapes of coral which flutter in the gentle waves. The colours of orange, red, purple and green appear through my cloudy goggles which add pressure on my face as I float further into deeper water. Fish of all different shapes, colours and sizes swim near me as if I am not there. I feel part of nature and for that moment the outside world was far away from my mind. Then a giant blue arm splashes to my left and my teeth slightly lose grip of my mouthpiece. I throw my head out of the sea spluttering the salty water out of my mouth and quickly move the goggles up to my forehead. Panicking about the thought of standing on something unknown, I turn around and splash the short distance towards the shore. Staggering out of the shallow sea, a blue wetsuit-ed figure greets me, ‘are you getting the hang of it now Mark?’ My wife Aneeta asks. ‘Yeah. That was the best go yet, I saw a massive purple fish – it was this big.’ My hands apart indicating a fish of at least four feet long! ‘Well done!’ Aneeta replies holding back her laughter. ‘Are you off in again?’ I ask. ‘Yes. I think one more go, I’m getting cold now. The others are over there behind that rock if you’re done.’ This small stony beach is on the remote island of Hook Island, one of the seventy-four islands that make up the Whitsundays, in Queensland, Australia. The coral is good here because it is so close to the Great Barrier Reef, our captain informed us early this morning. Five of us sit on our beach towels and look out to sea towards a clipper ship a few hundred yards away. A droning engine-noise pollutes the pleasant sound of small waves splashing against the rocky shore, and out from behind the clipper ship a small dingy speeds in our direction. We rise, roll up our towels, and emerge from behind the rock to join the remaining six wetsuit-ed people shivering towards the front of the beach. As the dingy arrives I feel like my freedom has been taken away from me. I had enjoyed my first snorkelling experience so much I had forgotten that I would have to eventually return to the cramped conditions of the ship. Down below deck I slide the door open of our three-berth cabin and squeeze into it. I stand sideways and reach up to the top single-berth to open up my backpack. My wife lays on the double-berth below reading a book. Suddenly Ger hurries into our cabin, ‘Hi guys . . . just getting something out of my bag, how are you both?’ He asks towering above me. I’m over six-feet tall, but Ger must be at least six-inches taller. ‘Not bad thanks,’ I reply. ‘Are you feeling any better?’ Aneeta asks. ‘No. I’ve come for some more pills. I’m telling you, you were so lucky having the three-berth to yourselves. Ours is just so cramped. There’s no way I can fit on our top berth.’ ‘Does Paul have much room sleeping in the same bed as you? Aneeta asks. ‘Erm . . . well, not really. But we have no choice. Only Siobhan is small enough for the top berth . . . I’m not going on that top berth. Anyway, see ya later honeys.’ Aneeta laughs as Ger slides back the door. ‘I can’t believe Ger thought these cabins were going to be en suite.’ ‘And with fitted wardrobes!’ I add. Before we boarded the ship a couple of nights previously, we were laying back on pool-facing sunbeds in the luxurious Coral Sea Beach Resort in Airlie Beach, sipping cocktails and discussing what the ship was going to be like. Ger would only ever leave his sunbed to cool off in the swimming pool. Siobhan would only move to order cocktails from the restaurant’s pool-facing bar. And Paul would only move to turn the page of his book. The city-folk of Sydney certainly had a relaxing time! ‘I will be happy if a group of sexy Swedish backpackers were to share our cabin with us.’ Ger announced. ‘Ooh yeah!’ Paul agreed. ‘Sure. Any sexy hunky backpackers will do.’ Siobhan added. ‘Do you think the cabin will have a Jacuzzi?’ asked Ger. ‘I doubt it. The cabin will probably have some sort of shower-room and toilet.’ Paul said. ‘I’m looking forward to having that bath, and looking out through the port- hole every morning.’ Ger continued. ‘And the Swedish backpackers.’ Siobhan added. As we watched our last Airlie Beach sunset whilst eating our grilled fish sipping it down with white wine, our minds continued to picture what the ship would be like on board in a couple of hours time. Aneeta and I only hoped that our cabin was un-shared as paid for, and not occupied with any surprise Swedes! The ship was moored in an unlit area of Airlie Beach’s marina. Two members of the crew led a group of us down a path in torch-light and guided us on board. As we sat on deck the other passengers were silent. We all faced the crew who were lined up next to the galley ready to greet us. As the last passengers were seated, we were welcomed and instructed to head through to the bar area where we would be given the number of our room. As Aneeta and I headed to our room first, Ger shouted down to us, ‘You forgot your key.’ ‘You don’t get a key darling.’ The member of crew told Ger. Then informed us, ‘hey guys . . . I forgot to tell you about the bathrooms. The one on the left is for men and the one on the right is for women.’ ‘No key! Erm . . .’ Ger looked at the floor with a puzzled frown, paused then continued, ‘the one on the left is for men?’ Aneeta and I slid the door open of our cabin, and clicked a switch. Six feet ahead was a small dim lamp attached to the wooden wall, and immediately to the left was the bottom double-berth, above that was the single-berth. ‘At least we have somewhere to put our bags’ Aneeta said. ‘I’d love to see Ger’s face when he sees there’s no en suite.’ I laughed. ‘And no porthole!’ As passengers were acquainted with their rooms there was a noisy echo of excitement in the corridor. Everyone gradually headed upstairs to the bar, so Aneeta and I left our room to join them. We firstly turned right to see if Ger and the others were coming, and we saw their door half off its runners. It looked like they had been burgled. ‘Ger?’ I shouted. No reply. Upstairs we purchased two beers at the bar and went out on deck to find them. ‘How come your door is like that?’ Aneeta asked. ‘Like what?’ Siobhan replied. ‘Hanging off its hinges!’ I said laughing. ‘Jesus . . .’ Ger said slowly. He jumped up and found the nearest crew member. When he returned he said, ‘When it’s fixed I’m off to bed. I can’t be arsed with all of this. And I’m not playing those pirate games either.’ At seven-thirty Ger went to bed. The sound of calm conversation drifted from inside where most of the passengers were. The deck became chilly as darkness arrived. ‘I’m not going into the bar.’ Paul declared. ‘I can see them preparing pirate games.’ ‘We don’t have to join in do we?’ Siobhan asked. ‘It said in the guest book that everyone joins in, everyone.’ Paul replied. I don’t know if it was the threat of pirate games, or the healthy sea air that made us all tired, but we were all in bed before nine. The noise from the bar echoed down to the rooms all night, and gradually increased in volume as it got later. I woke up to the sound of people shouting ‘Dolphin!’ and heard different people taking turns on the acoustic guitar. I felt like I was missing out. The last time I was woken up was around two-thirty. The last couple of people headed to bed, and the sound of the vibrating generator was turned off into silence. Every morning there is a briefing on deck where the crew inform us of the day’s plan. The passengers who were not already awake for breakfast are woken up by the shout of ‘Briefing on deck in ten minutes, ten minutes guys.’ by one of the crew. Everyone is seated except Ger. The captain, a tall man dressed in khaki shorts and a white T-shirt, his suntan the colour of the deck, starts his speech in a slow monotone voice. He has a strong local accent. His face with an unbreakable grin speaks without his lips moving, ‘In about half an hour . . . we will go over to that beach over there on Hook Island. It’s a stony beach . . . so you’ll need a towel. The coral there is good . . . because we’re pretty close to the Barrier Reef . . . it’s pretty good coral. We’ll have a good snorkel. So when you’re ready, we’ll start loading the first run on the dingy.’ Ger arrives at the end of the speech yawning. ‘Honeys? What’s the story?’ ‘We’re leaving as soon as we’re ready, you’ll need a towel and bring your wetsuit because we’re snorkelling this morning.’ Aneeta informs him. ‘Snorkelling? I’m not going snorkelling. I’ll bring a book and sit on the beach darlings.’ ‘Still not feeling well Ger?’ Aneeta asks. ‘Not good darling. Not good. I think I’m getting some sort of a cold.’ As the third and final night arrives after days exploring unspoilt wonders of the world; beaches which can only be accessed by boat or seaplane, coral with the most amazing colours and wildlife, and islands with no human inhabitants, it was the perfect night to celebrate. It was the night where the thirty-three passengers could all enjoy themselves with the crew. Let the pirate games commence! ‘I’m off to bed. The cold’s getting no better.’ Ger announces at half-seven. All night the crew seem subdued. I think we are too much of a mix for them. There are people of all nationalities and ages, English, Irish, French, South African, a local Queenslander, and . . . the Sydney City Three. The crew simply can’t cater for everyone, and the pirate games never appear, to some passenger’s disappointment and to some passenger’s relief. The next day, Ger is blowing the sails to get us back to Airlie Beach quicker. ‘All I want is the Coral Sea Resort again. What I’d give to be by that pool now. Could this ship go any slower?’ As the crew clean our rooms we dump our luggage in the largest room which accommodates six. That could have been Ger’s Swedish backpacker room, I think as I store our backpacks. He spends the rest of the sail back to Airlie Beach sleeping on one of the berths. As we dock Ger is at the front of the queue ready to depart. ‘Photo time, photo time. . .’ A crew member announces. ‘What is the point? Not one person spoke to anyone else on this boat.’ Ger says rather loud. ‘I just want that Coral Resort. I just want to leave this ship.’ We all pose for the compulsory photo then the five of us are off the ship first. Back on dry land we are ordering food and wine within twenty minutes at Ger’s beloved Coral Sea Beach Resort’s restaurant. His cold has suddenly been cured! He never saw one piece of coral in the Whitsundays, but this was the coral he preferred. It seems the contrast from the freedom of Sydney city life, to sailing the unspoilt natural areas of the Whitsundays was too large. As for tourists like Aneeta and I who had travelled thousands of miles to see this, we of course had the experience of our lives.