Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.
My girlfriend lived in Muswell Hill, and was a member of a semi-professional orchestra. They went out to Swaffham, in Cambridgeshire, for a concert, and I tagged along. I thought it heavenly- clean air, open space, quiet, everything I had been missing for the previous two months. Some of the fiddlers thought it horrible. How could anyone bear to live in such a dead quiet place?
Now, at the Royal Academy, right in the heart of Dill-pickle, Londoners can have precisely what Johnson’s London missed: the view of the countryside. The exhibition begins with three beautiful trees, painted in Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.
Here are the Woldgate Woods, from November 2006. The picture is of course copyright to the artist: I hope I might use it here as part of a legitimate criticism of the exhibition- which I wholeheartedly recommend. That is the argument Wikipedia uses. The room at the RA where it now hangs has many such paintings, containing the same trees painted from the same spot. That tree on the left shows many different colours, and the more I look the more subtle differences I see in each tree. The shadow is different, the light is different. The effect is that I get to know the place, and learn to see better. I could see not the same tree, but the tree as it is in this precise moment. As the artist says, “it doesn’t have to be Woldgate. Your own garden will change as much”. The title of the exhibition, “A bigger picture”, relates to the size of the works, up to seven metres in width- but also to the new perspective the art gives. It is so popular that it is open to midnight, and at 9pm on Friday it was crowded.
I love the rich reds of the buildings on one painting, the heightened sense of the artist, is it that the picture gives the viewer the impact of the scene which it has for the artist? I love the thick confident lines and the lumps of dried paint, and the fine painstaking detail, and the trails of paint running down occasionally- the accidental or contained movement of the drips adding to the picture. I had to be chased behind the lines on the floor. I love the curve of that road, a vertiginous descent pulling me inwards, looking out to the plains below- very flet, Yorkshire, in parts of the East Riding. Close up, the paint glisters in the light of the gallery.
I like the jokes in the earlier work. In Nichols Canyon, there is a road with “Nichols Cyn Road” written on it, like in a map. What kind of representation is this? I love the way so many roads lead into Light. I was struck by Salts Mill, a model, humane place of employment in 1853, and the narrow backtobacks and cobbled streets of Bradford beside it. Not a pleasant place to live.
Near the end, we have a video wall, like the paintings arrayed in panels, moving slowly past leaves in the wood. I am fascinated by a single leaf, in the moment instantly, and people gaze, hypnotised.
Sardined on the Tube, going there, I actually got chatting to a man, over from Indiana where he works for Rolls Royce. That shows what an outsider I am.
Thanks to Hermes 7 for the invitation. The art and the company were alike wonderful.