22.9.11

It's raining men - Magritte at Tate Liverpool

Tate Liverpool

René Magritte was my first favourite artist (after a brief flirtation with Douanier Rousseau, thanks to my inspirational school art teacher Mr Barker) so I thought I knew everything about him, and I confess I nearly didn't bother to go to the Tate Liverpool exhibition, but I'm so glad I did. Not only did it reacquaint me with an old friend but confirmed that he is still one of my all-time favourites. I suppose the Surrealists (along with M C Escher) would appeal to a lad interested in both art and science, but Magritte's imagery has become so commonplace - on album covers, parodied in cartoons etc - that it's tempting to take him for granted. And although Dali was slicker with the painting technique, when it came to ideas, Magritte was the Daddy.

The exhibition on the 4th floor of the Tate is themed - bowler hats in one room, blue skies and clouds in another - and I really don't mind that, it gives you pause to compare and contrast, and see how an idea developed. There's one room with just two paintings in it - two almost identical versions of 'The flavour of tears' - the bird-leaf one, showing that like William Holman Hunt and other Victorian painters he did often paint the same image over again. What came as a surprise were the paintings from his garish comicbook-inspired 'Vache' period, with which he invented Pop Art - in 1948, his non-surreal commercial work, including some beautiful Art Deco posters, and his very rude erotic drawings for Georges Battaile's Documents, in a darkened room behind black curtains with a notice outside warning punters that they may find these pictures 'challenging'.

It's a big exhibition, and also includes film and photographs, along with sketches, notes and Banksy-like sculptures (a painting of cheese under a cheese dome, nudes on bottles). Once again, the postcards were disappointing - on show is the English version of 'This is not a pipe' but the postcard on sale is the French one, not in the exhibition. The £20 catalogue is good value too, but strangely organised A to Z. It's on until 16 October and cost me £8.50 to get in. You can get a C2 Cumfybus from Lime Street station to the new Museum of Liverpool (not yet fully open) nearby. The rest of the Tate was a pleasure to whizz round with guest-curated rooms full of treasures - and there's a nice friendly cafe overlooking Albert Dock.

Austerity tank at Heywood

I was Up North for my favourite niece's 40th birthday celebrations, but I took time off too to visit the East Lancs Railway for a round trip to Rawtenstall (via Ramsbottom, where Steve Cropper was playing the festival there) and to Heywood and back. The ELR is currently short on steam locos and I was pulled by a Austerity tank (WD 132 Sapper) and 'Thomas' (Manchester Ship Canal 32 Gothenburg) double-header through the rainy Lancashire countryside. A pint of Black Witch in the Trackside bar after was most welcome. Hope they have some bigger locos on for the Autumn Steam event in October.
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