If only I’d realised
I parked my car at the station yesterday morning and caught the train to London. There were about half a dozen useable spaces left and some where adjacent cars had been left so close to the line that there wasn’t really enough room left for anything but a tiny vehicle. There was no one about and I had plenty of time, so I shunted backwards and forwards in a parking space until I was happy that I’d not overstepped my mark before going over the bridge to the platform.
I was meeting my friends Nita and Paulene to see the exhibition of Ai Weiwei’s work at the Royal Academy and as we hung around outside under the “trees” in the yard outside, I found Joshua Reynolds’ gesture towards the exhibition banner amusing. Just what would he have made of this, I wonder?
There were quite a few people in the gallery, though thankfully, not so many as to make viewing difficult. We began at the beginning, of course, in gallery 1.
Once we’d read the explanation of the shaped surface of the wooden “bed” (it’s a map of China), it took on a greater significance and then, just as we were about to move on, my attention was drawn by Nita to the circular “frames” on the wall.
They too were an exhibit, each one different and each one representing a section of the map profile too.
Rather than offer a blow-by-blow walkthrough, I’ll simply record a few of my favourites, including these stools which were arranged in such a pleasing shape, creating – as Penny observed on my FB post – one of those arrangements art teachers create for their students. I hadn’t realised that many of these installations are recreated in different, site-specific formats and only on googling when I arrived home, did I see an enlarged version of this work.
I really loved this tightly packed composition, reminiscent of the piece we enjoyed in Minneapolis this summer, though of course, it was entirely different. This was a solid block of timber, created from waste pieces from other projects, framed within a pair of parallel bars from a factory gymnasium. Once again, Ai Weiwei loads his work with political comment.
Not every stunning thing was part of the exhibition. The gratings in the floor are so well worn and catch my eye every time I visit!
It’s always good to see people working in the gallery too. There were a couple of large groups of highly focused students drawing and making close observations. What a great opportunity!
I think I expected this piece to leave the greatest impression on me, for it was the one installation I’d heard the most about. Sure enough, in the same way as the sunflower seeds had captivated us, it was the sheer quantity of steel bars here which struck me as I stepped into the room.
The bars were carefully arranged in layers, creating strata and fissures in the surface. All around the gallery were lists of names, of the children killed by the earthquake which caused the shoddily-built school to collapse. Another heartfelt statement, expressed with such impact.
Another large-scale piece which bears a closer look to appreciate the intent.
Around the corner in the next room was the crab house, created from the artist’s studio, compulsorily demolished and the heap of ceramic crabs in the corner representing the role of censorship – a play on the chinese words.
And there, up on the dado rail, the one “outcast” crab, the individual, set apart from the mass.
Other favourite pieces included this structure, created from substantial pieces of old timber in an arrangement said to be a map of China when seen from above. Who knows? It wasn’t possible to view it so and I’ve been unable to find an overhead photo of it, so we will simply have to take it on trust.
These two stools represent Taiwan, by the way.
I very much liked one of the “metre cubes”, the one which was like a Chinese puzzle with secret drawers and openings.
The room with the “statement” pieces of ancient pottery was interesting too. There’s a discussion to be had on that topic alone, not to mention the room full of “vitrines” and the Sanctuary gallery. I think the marble gallery was the least successful in my mind – though I “got it”, for me it was those pieces which had the least impact.
It was the magnificent chandelier which kept my camera busy for at least ten minutes. Each time I stepped back and looked from a different angle, there was another pleasing arrangement, a different kaleidoscope pattern to see.
Just as well we’d planned lunch, then!
It was one of those lunches that could have continued into dinner. Friends with much catching up to do as well as art to talk about. Travel plans to discuss, ideas to share and simple pleasure to be had in each other’s company.
Of course we had time for dessert.
As I returned to my car later in the evening, I was sorry to find the car next to mine had parked so close that it was impossible for me to get in. I stood around a while, hoping the driver was on the same train, but no joy. What to do? I couldn’t wait an hour for the next train – after all, they might not even be returning this evening. So I decided to get in through the passenger door and try to squeeze over the central tunnel into the drivers seat. Most undignified, especially as in doing so I got stuck! Thankfully, there was nobody left in the car park by then – just as well. I managed to get myself out and tried again, putting both driver and passenger seats right back and finally made it, cricking my neck in the process.
When I thought about it, I’d noted how tightly packed the cars were this morning and the danger of not being able to get into a car had flitted through my brain. But surely, anyone would consider that before leaving their car, wouldn’t they?
It seems not.
If only I’d realised when I parked my car, I’d have ensured that I parked driver’s door to driver’s door, making sure it’d be ok when I got back. But there really is no guarantee that some thoughtless person won’t do that again, is there? (I’ll worry next time, that’s for sure)
For now, I’m simply at home wearing one of those microwave neckwarmer things, looking a bit as though I’m aping the guy from Bo Selecta. As long as it doesn’t impede the grey matter later when Avening WI will compete in the county quiz final, all will be well!