Guest post: “London: A Place for Flowers & Buying Shoes” – by Gill McGrath

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Sunday 26 January, 2014 by Uncle Spike

In addition to sitting back and dumbfoundedly observing the size of my ears expand, I continue my ‘middle age’ quest for a bit of much needed class… even if not in real life, I decided at least my blog should be a bit more ‘growed-up’ at times (yeah right).

And to that end, Uncle Spike has managed to snag another guest blogger with a difference for you this week; please click your mouse buttons in unison for our very own artist and dare I say, critic… Gill McGrath

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I am often find myself in London, in the name of art! Here is a little piece I wrote in my ‘diary’ two years ago; twelfth night; winter; and deals lightly with the pluses and minuses of that particular winter’s day……….

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“London: A Place for Flowers – and buying shoes”

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The day was meant to be a wholly light and frothy treat for me after all the fuss of Christmas done and dusted. Even the dustbins were back to normal so a trip into the Capital was in order to catch up on one particular art show, about to close in just a few days. A delightful prospect! Unable to get there earlier; I had been asked to ‘do’ the exhibition before Christmas and I still hadn’t read up on it. All I knew of the artist was that he was a London based Turkish-Cypriot Mustafa Hulusi born 1971, and that he was a flower painter. Looking at flowers, would be a breath of spring on a cold winter’s day. Today I could take in the shops and buy a pair of shoes on the way back. Wow! With all the fuss of Christmas over, it would be delightful to sit on a bus, do the exhibition, and get ‘the shoes’ from good old Selfridges, before taking the bus home. First I had to find the gallery…..

If you take a walk in London through busy New Bond Street, choc a block with taxis, vans, people and building works, you might just miss Max Wigram’s Gallery, unless you are looking out for it!

I found the door to number 106 sandwiched between two shops.

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1 The Gallery in Bond St London

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So I opened the door and went upstairs.

For me, it was late already when I found the door to the exhibition space on the first floor which opened it onto a huge, rather alarming black and white wall painting in front of me.

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2 Wall panels confronted me ina pristine space, no labels

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So big and so striking and so black and so white, the painting nearly knocked me over. There were no labels, no clues to say what it might represent, no mention of materials used or anything about the artist, and no flowers. There were no ‘Do Not Touch’ signs and no attendants; a pristine space indeed; I was on my own.

Not quite alone I suppose; a recorded voice was bidding me to take a look in the space behind the painting panels; a lilting Turkish voice, and so I found the film.

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3 lilting voice behind

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I couldn’t understand the rolling commentary of course. There were no seats, so I stood for a time in the darkened space and watched the beautiful ideal landscapes in front of me, void of people and full of sun. The stills would make a beautiful winterless calendar I thought, or even a good holiday brochure. Bees buzzed around paint stripped hives. Coastal beach scenes, the sea, rickety bleached buildings, an abundance of wild flowers bobbing in the fields…….. yes, heaven.

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4 just wildlife inhabit the island

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Then I caught the subtitles:

“…… this ten thousand year old island civilisation……… over a period of five years, already an economically struggling population……. was decimated…..”

So there are no people here. The island lays untouched. A picturesque boat by the broken pier has been abandoned, forgotten, and shows the serious scars of time, stripped of paint, fossilised. The picturesque bleached stone buildings, I now realise are abandoned. Those holiday cottages, still falling to pieces are disappearing with no time or energy even for graffiti.

What happened?

“Can you imagine a point out there into which we might disappear or be erased?” asks the voice gently, now with a blank screen, only subtitles in focus.

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5 imagine disappearing

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Erased?

The subtitles and voice rolled on. It seems that without warning, the population had become endangered and this idyllic island had been abandoned when a plane had crashed there with its poisonous load, more than forty years ago. The holiday makers and the local inhabitants found they had no other choice but to escape; to abandon everything. The island was quickly closed and quarantined, and silenced. It stood still and its ancient civilization disappeared. Empty now. It is a place, without humans.

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6 ancient civilisation

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So the black and white wall panel paintings which had hit me when I first came into the gallery had been a warning sign, about human vulnerability.

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7 imagine mirrors

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The pattern repeated on five narrow panels with a half panel at each end, could logically go on ad infinitum……just imagine a long mirror at each end facing each other, with panels reflected between…. there is no end to the warning message about our vulnerability. We could be all erased. Devastating acts do not need to be deliberate. We live on a knife edge. We have been warned. But here we see, almost fifty years on, that wild life and flowers clearly triumph on this island, without its humans.

Down the stairs and back on to the street outside number 106 and soon into busy Oxford Street in the failing heavy light of late afternoon, this had been no easy exhibition and the white Christmas lights on the trees outside Selfridges look tired, miserable and surprisingly toxic.

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8 Selfridges in  failing light

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Despite the cold and the swarms of people, I became preoccupied with a field of ox eye daisies underfoot as I walked to the bus stop.

Half way home I suddenly realised I had forgotten to buy shoes…..

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Credits: The photos are those I took on the visit Jan 2012, and the words are my interpretation of the exhibition, and entirely my own. Gill McGrath 2014

Thanks: Thank you to the artist Mustafa Hulusi who has inspired much of my own recent art work. And thank you to ‘Uncle Spike’ for giving me the space to write about it here on his blog.

Artist: Below is a link to a 3 minute short film where Hulusi talks about the exhibition with some scenes from the film.

>> Mustafa Hulusi interview: The EMPTY Near East <<

Exhibition: Mustafa Hulusi. ’The EMPTY, Near East’ took place 7th December-14th January 2012 at the Max Wigram Gallery, 106 New Bond Street , London.

Website: maxwigram.com       Twitter: @Max_Wigram

It was worth the walk!

written by: Gill McGrath

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Gill McGrath  13 jan 2014My name is Gill McGrath and my blog is ‘In touch with Emma’. It’s an art project in progress. There is only a little of painting there as I have discovered the camera. But painting is my thing and my blog says:

I am an artist and a writer and I am in a good place when I can draw write and read and think (not always in that order or at once) and especially so when combined with my idea of heaven, which is to sit in a not too crowded bus travelling to London on my own! preferably by a window. It gives about two hours of glorious idiot time, staring at the fields, the house the sky and the clouds and time to watch the forever changing reflections in the windows. Then sitting at a table with a coffee somewhere busy enough, no one notices you are there. A Perfect day for a simple soul!

I should add that I am married with a grown up family and I am often find myself in London, in the name of art!

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A hearty bunch of thanks go to Gill for this week’s cultural delight in the form of our guest post to start off our Sunday reading. You can read Gill’s blog here: ‘In touch with Emma‘.

UNCLE SPIKE

6 thoughts on “Guest post: “London: A Place for Flowers & Buying Shoes” – by Gill McGrath

  1. GrahamInHats says:

    I do like the composition of the first picture. The fragrant and the picturesque. The viewer can choose which is which. 🙂

    Like

  2. […] “London; A Place for Flowers & Buying Shoes“ […]

    Like

  3. […] McGrath from the blog In touch with Emma, I think we can also now state that as well as being a Guest Blogger here, you are now the proud Aunty of a ten month year old Turkish […]

    Like

  4. restlessjo says:

    It kept me captive to the end. An odd little story 🙂 And no shoes!

    Like

  5. Gill McGrath says:

    Reblogged this on In touch with Emma and commented:
    Thanks to Uncle Spike for giving me the space on his blog for this article https://unclespikes.wordpress.com/

    Like

  6. I am traveling to London next month, and I absolutely love art. Have any suggestions, secrets, tips or tricks about artful things in London?

    Like

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