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Updated: Feb 13, 2020

Yeah. I know. Hiya. It’s been a while.

You see, I am capable of much. I can achieve great things. I have achieved great things! And yet, how can I get on with ANYTHING when the bathroom needs cleaning? When the beds need changing? When the house needs rendering and that teaspoon needs washing up? When there is tea to drink and house prices to be guessed on ‘A Place in the Sun’? You see, the truth really is that I’ve been trying to write for so long, because actually I have so much to say, that I couldn’t work out where to actually start.

I want to write a really meaningful and thought provoking piece on some art or a place that resonates with me. But how can I do that if I don’t go to the real thing and look, stand in front of it, look - really look - at it. To have that experience, to be moved to my very boot leather by a fat baby Jesus or a flying buttress? We can look at, pretty much, anything created artistically and displayed (or not - see Duchamps!) anywhere in the world. We can gaze back at the Mona Lisa or marvel at Michelangelo from the very same place we watch Netflix. So what's the point in going? And furthermore, why would we want to go to those places, if it’s just for that authentic experience?

Spoiler alert!

I don’t have all the answers. I know. Sorry. But what I do have are the very real reactions I get when I stand in front of an artefact, object, painting or building that impresses me. That, through whatever means, have truly impressed me. It could be on a massive scale, like a Cathedral built over 700 years ago. Imagine that! Take away the heavy machinery and technology we have now and just stop to think how a phenomenal structure like Westminster Abbey was pushed up out of the ground. Anyone who has tried to put up a tent in a windy field in Weston-Super-Mare can maybe have an idea perhaps… Westminster Abbey is still standing. My tent didn’t see 6am. Or perhaps the feeling I got when I stood in front of a real-life Botticelli painting, a really famous one, in the Uffizi Gallery, and getting a feeling like I was meeting an old friend, of instant recognition and saying ‘I know you’! I was so overcome, I got a bit angry at a woman who turned her back on it, whipped out a selfie stick, asked me to move out of her perfect shot (I didn’t), pouted and promptly proved to the world that she was there, right next to, like, some really famous painting whatever. Showing her online followers that she was indeed down with this culture stuff, has indeed appreciated it, experienced it, learned a bit about it, grown significantly as a person. Only to then instantly forget about it once enough people had ‘liked’ it. Gosh, aren’t I judgey?

I am all for technology actually. I love that kids can access art works and engage with art on a new and different platform. I believe there is a place for it, absolutely. Please don’t judge those who are sitting in a gallery, gazing at their phones. Galleries now work really hard on making their spaces accessible and welcoming and using all possible means to get people through the door. And here they have succeeded - they’re through the door! There is so much more information about an art work online that a gallery could ever squeeze into a caption on the wall. So that person may not be actively experiencing the painting in the same way you would. And that’s OK. Maybe they’re just donating a load of money to the gallery because they’d just been blown away by the mosaic flooring in the National Gallery foyer (ever really looked at that?) But honey, don’t turn your back on Botticelli.

And so a short piece about the roots of my art history obsession is turning in a few short pieces about the roots of my art history obsession… so brace yourselves, folks. There is some unashamed nostalgia and self reflection coming but I totally and utterly promise it will be liberally applied with nice things to look at.

So go to galleries - come with me if you like! Take photos as much as you want of all the lovely things you’ll find there. But only if you are going to look back at the photo, many times, to remind yourself of why you took it. To remember how you were feeling when you did. I suspect you took it for a number of reasons but one of them may just be that you were simply impressed by it. That it made you feel something. That for a second you was in awe of how somebody created something that looked so real, or used paint so cleverly that you just wanted to wear that silk dress, jump in that clear blue water or ride that beautiful horse. And have a good old look at the real thing too, especially if it's right in front of you.

I leave you, for now, with the great man himself. Sandro Botticelli painted ‘The Birth of Venus’ (recognise it now?) around 1485. Westminster Abbey was already a good 200 years old by that point, or there about. Venus is packed with allegorical references from Classical antiquity, Ovids Metamorphoses in particular. It is this re-discovery and use of Classic references that mark a shift in the Arts that begin to emerge, or be reborn, from the dark ages.

Want to know more about this painting and Botticelli? Leave me a message below or pop into the forum to let me know where we go next with this.

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