Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Bad Romance

Tate Britain was once known as The Tate. A magnificent old building overlooking the Thames with views across the river to the big spy building (MI6 or MI5, I can never remember). But then the The Tate expanded, and there was Tate Modern - housed in a wonderful old power plant and Tate (insert regional city name here which you probably wouldn't want to visit) and so forth.

Tate Britain specialises in British artists and rather confusingly includes modern works. But most of them are too good for the Tate Modern which specialises in spectacular rubbish mainly - with occasional pools of really good pieces in their collection. And even though I walk past Tate Britain regularly on my way to work meetings, I rarely ever go in. In fact, I haven't been since their Hogarth Exhibition, almost four years ago - except for stopping in to use their loo.

Since we currently have a visitor, I can use this as an excuse to do the tourist thing. He's never been to Tate Britain and I'd been meaning to go since they re-organised their collection of Pre-Raphaelite works. But somehow we ended up in the Romantics section which was being billed as a new exhibition- an easy to mistake to make, since I tend to view the style of pre-raphaelite art as romantic.

But no, Romantics at the Tate means Turner and associated artists. Which I had forgotten. Which put me in a very bad mood.

Confession time: I hate Turner

Turner is one of two British artists whom the Brits hold most dear. Him and Constable. Whom I also hate. To me they produce stuff like a camera with a white balance gone horribly wrong. I hate Constable's speckiness and cutesyness. I hate Turners smudgy figures and white shwooshiness.(You can see a whole bunch of that here, if you must) I can't really explain quite why I hate them so much. Or rather, I can explain why I don't like them. Maybe the hate seems to spring mostly from the fact that I just don't get them or why they're so loved. And perhaps after having lived in a country for so long and just not getting why everyone else loves them but I think they're rubbish, it makes me hate them. It's a sign that no matter how much I acculturate, I can never truly fit in.

It's not that I hate all British painters. Not at all. I can wander round Tate Britain and find much to admire and some to love. But not Turner and not Constable. Blechhh.

And I'm afraid I didn't hold back. I grumbled about Turner and demanded that we move on. People looked at me like I had spit on the Queen. Except that there are some republicans in the UK and people who hate the monarchy, but it seems that everybody loves Turner.


Some things go both ways. I've generally found that Brits don't like the works of Andrew Wyeth who I think is a genius.

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