Tate Britain is one of those places that really ought to be compulsory viewing for anyone with half a brain, just to be able to regain a sense of perspective in these times as to how Art has reflected, recorded and influenced the way we live and provides a welcome path through the cultural morass and diaspora of centuries old Art.

Fiona Banner’s commission in the Duveen Galleries are the spectacular decommissioned shells of fighter jets. A Sea Harrier is suspended from the ceiling like a dead bird hanging from a tree, stripped and polished but devoid of purpose while the Jaguar Jet lies prone on the gallery floor, mirroring all around it with almost a femininity about them but in those basic metallic bodies we can see how even a war machine can be an important reflection and influence on the fashions and style of it’s time down to everyday objects (the tail fins of the first generation US fighter jets, the 50s Cadillac and the ‘Flying V’ electric guitar were designed in part by the same people) but for me I just wanted to get a giant Humbrol paint kit out and give it a camouflage job and be a kid again when life was about Airfix kits, kicking a football and falling out of trees-not bleeding Facebook.

The vast amount of Art in this building from 1500 to 2010 is quite staggering from the sanguine but formal 16th and 17th century Tudor and Stuart Portraiture, the Pre Raphaelites, Monet, Rossetti and Millias, Gainsborough,  Turner, and Hogath to our very own modern day, wait for it, Damien Hirst. It’s an absolute feast for the mind, so I’ll just touch on a few of my home grown favourites and perhaps lesser knowns.

Portraiture 1660 -1800, classic Gainsborough, Joshua Reynolds and William Hogarth, probably one of England’s first great painters whose depiction of 18th century London life and genteel family portraits reflected the importance of Europe’s fastest growing city (room 3/4).

Sir Thomas Lawrence & John Singer Sargent, portrait painters of Regency and Edwardian Britain (room 5).

Art and the Sublime – A wonderful collection of dramatic scenes of calamity of biblical proportions by Turner, Rossetti, Seddon and Millais (room 9).

John Constable, perhaps sadly forever more to be known solely for his Suffolk landscape ‘The Haywain’ adorning the walls of every chip shop, pub and council estate living room during the 70’s  (along with the ‘crying boy’) offers much more here in his landscapes of Hampstead Heath and Dorset (room 11).

And last but not least, tucked away in a corner of this magnificent building is the Modern Art section where we find the Damien Hirst room; well we are actually in his Pharmacy to be correct with a pickled sheep and an anatomical plastic model which I swear my dad bought me when I was a nipper (funnily enough Humbrol Toys who make the model thought so too, and settled out of court with Hirst) so maybe he emptied his old toy box one day and thought he’d made it?

On the way out is a gruesome picture of Hirst posing with a man’s severed head, you’d think at a glance it’s from a film set until you read the credit, ‘Damien Hirst with Severed Head, Leeds Morgue, aged 16’ and thus explains a lot – thank God he took up Art or whatever you want to call it or he’d probably be sharing a cell with Dennis Neilson by now.

If you haven’t been to the Tate in years or have never been, now is your chance, a welcome refuge and haven from the Eton Tories only a mile away in the Houses of Parliament, eagerly plotting away to recreate  a proper class divide; taking our child benefits away, increasing tuition fees so only the well off will get a university education, taxing the poor and rewarding the rich whilst proclaiming ‘We are all in this together’ – so hurry along before they withdraw Arts funding and it costs a tenner to get in (and a side entrance for poor people).

Pretentious Modern Artist of the Month.

This month’s award has to go Grayson Perry and his motorbike.

Turner Prize winner, Grayson Perry, is to make a pilgrimage with his childhood teddy bear ‘Alan Measles’ on his customised motorbike (complete with shrine to the bear) on a tour of Germany. “When I was a child Alan Measles enemy was the Germans so now it’s time to lay that metaphor to rest”.    

This bloke does my head in. I have nothing against trannies and cross dressers, in fact I have previously stated how odd it is that most transvestites dress like their old aunties when I’d dress like a right little tart and go out on the pull but this geezer dresses up as a little girl in pigtails.

You can only imagine  what it is like at bath time in the Perry household with him splashing around in the bath with his dingly dangly hanging out and ‘mummy’ trying to wash him, gawd, pass me the sick bucket or rather a Grayson Perry ceramic masterpiece someone.   

What really gets me is that I used to go out with a talented and struggling ceramist many years ago and I know just how difficult it is to try and make a name for yourself in such an unfashionable artistic medium, so this reeks of a gimmick whatever he says. Do us all a favour Grayson, when you get to Germany just keep going (and don’t forget your skipping rope).

© Words - Dave Cairns/ ZANI Media

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