Phantom Ride and Caulfield at Tate Britain

Interior: Noon 1970-1 by Patrick Caulfield 1936-2005

Interior: Noon 1970-1 by Patrick Caulfield 1936-2005

Up at the Tate on Saturday to see an exhibition by Patrick Caulfield. The main entrance is closed for some reason and so I entered through the side and Caulfield’s stuff was in a nearby gallery. Colourful but with a very limited pallet. Slabs of colour. Little tonality. Cartoon like and yet, the representation of light is very effective. Interesting to see that this stuff was painted in the 1970s. The Caulfield ticket also got me in to see Gary Hume. Wasn’t struck by his stuff at the time.

Then up the stairs, searching for the main hall which I have meandered around many times often encountering wonders. I recall seeing a work by Anish Kapoor. A block of rock with a gaping dark hole so dark that it seemed to disappear into another universe. I remember once leaving a little spherical geode in a crevice in Umberto Boccioni’s fantastic Unique Form Of Continuity In Space hoping that it would be considered part of the sculpture by the gallery staff and stay with it. Sadly, when I saw the piece again in New York some years later, it had gone.

As I entered the main hall I was impressed as usual by it’s fantastic solidarity. The high walls and light entering from the top gave one the feeling of entering a giant box. Which I was. To my surprise the hall was empty. Which in itself was interesting. A chance to appreciate the space itself but there was a sound like pushing a vase across a granite table. A low rumble. And further down, an enormous screen.

Projected onto the screen was a view of the hall from high up. Near the ceiling. A moving picture. A film. Slowly and relentlessly, as if on invisible rails, the camera tracked down to the floor and circled systematically around to an art work, a machine gun. Then on up high to a corner, then around and down to another exhibit. I watched entranced. The camera moved around the gallery so freely that I wondered whether this was a computer generated render. The result of a digitsied 3D model where the camera can be placed anywhere. As the camera zoomed in on a statue hanging in free space I thought this must be the case.

A conversation with one of the staff convinced me that this was filmed. A special “motion control camera” on an arm like device had been brought in at night. The hanging art works were indeed CGI but digital replicas of works that had previously been exhibited in Tate Britain. The film was entitled Phantom Ride by Simon Starling. Fantastic!

Then wandered into a side gallery and encountered Epstein’s ‘Jacob and the Angel‘. The blurb read something about Jacob struggling against an unknown enemy (in reality God) and an angel blessing Jacob for not giving up the struggle. Always uplifting and it occurred to me that some art works become like old friends. We meet them and are enthralled then part. Years or decades may pass and then one day, on a whim, we visit a gallery and they are there waiting for us and how they’ve changed. How we greet them with renewed interest.

Further on, I think in the BP Walkthrough of British Art, I came across Barbara Hepworth’s Pelagos. A ball of wood carved out to imply wave like motion. Excellent stuff. One of Bridget Riley’s too. Can’t remember which. Swirling coloured lines. A quick glance in the Constable room, must have a proper look at that one day, then out. Worth a visit just for the film.

st malo beach

St Malo Beach

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