Monday 29 April 2019

Life imitating art

With a few hours to kill last week whilst the Tense-mobile (an actual car, not the dragonfly ornament) went for an MoT, I visited a tea shop and an art gallery (very much in that order of priority) in Stromness.

Still recovering from my bout of under-the-weather, I took a gentle stroll around the sheltered harbour of Hamnavoe, refuelling in Julia's Cafe, before ambling into the Pier Arts Centre where there were several exhibitions in progress.

Many have said that I am a bit of a philistine in these matters, although I heard the phrase as 'fils en Tyne' so I wasn't too upset. See? I can do cultural jokes. Although I was actually born by the River Wear.

With my lack of couth, I was momentarily flummoxed by a broken window, wondering whether it was part of an exhibition, a bit of ongoing street theatre or an actual smashed pane. However, it did prompt a sudden experimental urge to explore my Mondrian phase. Thank goodness I wasn't carrying a red felt tip pen.

In a corner of one gallery was an old wooden chair. As I perused various serially-baffling artworks, I couldn't help repeatedly glancing at the chair. It was very familiar. I don't mean that it sidled up to me and tried to borrow a cigarette and twenty quid, but I had the distinct impression that I had once owned it. If this was art, it was freaking great art, because it was speaking to me!

Y'see, years ago, we inherited a set of chairs like this one, from an old lady who had been a big part of my formative years. Although the chairs didn't sit well with our more modern furniture, their provenance gave them unconditional space in a conservatory, where they were pressed into occasional use when we needed additional seating. Being completely anti-social scrotes, this wasn't very often.

When we moved to Orkney, the down-sizing nature of our plan meant that some serious decisions had to be made. Not quite as harsh as 'if you haven't used it in the last six months, it goes', but not far off. So, all but one of the chairs were donated to an environmental charity who had a re-use yard in Stromness, with the remaining chair relocating into the garden shed in case Our Lass ever stopped being a horticultural whirlwind for five minutes and needed a sit-down. To date, dear reader, she has not.

This means there's a real possibility (although this style of furniture must've been manufactured in their thousands) that the chairs had indeed found a re-use, and I had once been very well-acquainted with this very chair. Does that make me an arse-supporting supporter of the arts?

One of the exhibitions concerned landscape, and I was rather taken with the works of the late Bet Low. Her depictions of Orkney landscapes were uncomplicated and often quite simple, but were able to communicate some essential quality of the scene to this unseasoned heathen.

There was one I really liked, it was huge and I couldn't stand far enough back from it to take a photograph. Instead, I tried to photograph a smaller painting of hers, but the light was against me, which I think may be ironic in a painterly way.

It is called Red Rysa, which shows a view of Rysa from, I think, somewhere in Scapa Flow, with several of the hills of Hoy in the background.

Here's a more viewable version of it (scavenged from the interweb).

And in one of those strange quirks of Fate, that has you questioning your faith in free will over destiny, as I wandered back to the garage to collect my car, I bumped into a retired lighthouse keeper who was, and probably still is, a regular customer of the re-use yard. I don't think there was a day went by when I worked there that he didn't pop in for a look around. Stromness is that sort of place.


Spadger said...

Dear Phyllis Tine
Was you not even tempted to point out they had a broken window just for a giggle? Don't know as I could get used art like that. I've mellowed a lot into actually liking the more abstract efforts but your Red Rysa does nothing for me on this occasion.

The chair is a bit spooky - I bet it was one of yours.

Imperfect and Tense said...

The next time I'm on the ferry to Hoy, will have to make a special effort to work out the perspective of where this view is taken from. Admittedly, even with the ever-changing lighting conditions up here, the colours are unlikely to be as represented, but I have a weak spot for sequential horizons.

Spadger said...

A Postscript
Well I just happened to look to see if there was a new blog - only to have my hopes dashed! However, I was suddenly reminded by the picture of the 'broken' pane of what one of my double glazed unit looked like last summer. This had to be replaced but its demise was a great mystery which I still think was something to do with the bloke next door - although it was denied.

Imperfect and Tense said...

Perhaps your neighbour works at The Shard?

Spadger said...


Martin said...

My parents still have at least two of those chairs.. if there are more than two they are buried (under stuff, not in the garden).
I like the art, but would want more jumps or detail to own it.

Imperfect and Tense said...

I wish that I had photographed more of the art to share with you, Martin. Although I haven't clue what you mean by 'jumps'!

Martin said...

Spelling error! For jumps read 'humps'. A hillier scene would be more appealing to me if the detail is smoothed over.