14.3.07

Pallant House

A strange coincidence! I took a day off yesterday to visit Pallant House in Chichester before the William Roberts exhibition expired. I took my bike on the train and was beginning to despair finding anywhere to park (I'd already been told off for cycling in a pedestrianised street!) when I came across a post set back enough not to be a danger to blind people. Inside I had a pleasant surprise - it was half-price on Tuesdays (I had meant to come last weekend when admission was free, but there was engineering works on the line)! So, I stopped off at the modern cafe (decorated with a Patrick Caulfield) for soup and a beer. Next door was an exhibition of 1940s prints for schools with a lovely LS Lowry (Punch and Judy) and an hilarious John Nash of farmers chasing rabbits so they could harvest the field. Upstairs was lots of Brit pop art (more Caulfield, Peter Blake, Richard Hamilton) and two temp exhibitions: Bomberg and his crew, with the giant red, white and blue Vorticist piece 'The mud bath', usually at the Tate, dominating. The other works were more Cézanne, and the Borough Group room included a very crusty Frank Auerbach. The three rooms of William Roberts were pure delight. He paints blobby Stanley Spencer type figures with detached limbs (ideal for animating) arranged geometrically right in your face all on the same plane. I loved the last picture of seagulls (I went through his show backwards) painted in the 1970s - a Vorticist to the end! A 'working class' eastender, he painted Brits at work and play, at the cinema, watching telly, playing football and sunbathing. I was just about to leave Pallant House when I noticed a dark doorway. It led into the old house, of creaky floors and subdued lighting. In this labyrinth were even more treasures. Everyone from 20th century British art was represented: Ravilious, Sickert, Burra, Gertler, you name it. Up the stairs (lined with Susie MacMurray's installation of mussel shells, each containing red velvet), I opened the door and was back in the modernist half by a huge rug by Langlands & Bell of an office block in Rio... Wonderful. Out in the sunshine, I had a quick tour round the cathedral (nice Graham Sutherland painting, some Roman mosaics and a patch of grass in the cloisters called Paradise). Then back on a train full of schoolkids to Brighton. My camera was still set to low-light gig photography, so the snaps I took were rubbish! The coincidence? In the evening, I went to the Sussex Arts Club to see my old friend Jackie Wills read poetry. It was jammed full for a poetry gig I thought, and hmmmph the Harvey's was off. I've never forgiven the Arts Club for emulsioning over the 1930s murals (a cloudy sky in the dome and galleons on the walls) from when it was the Motor Yacht Club (it still retains the ancient targetted urinals in the gents, however). Turned out this was an evening organised by Chichester University creative writing course. Despite being tantalisingly called Pie-Fi, there were no pies on sale! We were treated to music, performing arts X-factor style most of it (quite unlike a Pog or Quietcore gig), tho pleasant enough, intersperced by poets, notably by Jackie (who despite a cold held her own with new tales of adultery) and her friend Lorna Thorpe (Dancing to Motown). Jay Clifton read a story based on an Everly Brothers song title, with driving guitar accompaniment, of sex and scooters, and Northerner Dave Swann talked about his experiences working with prisoners. The songs that punctuated, tho, were a bit more Folsom State Prison than Nottingham gaol.
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