Until i was 9 or 10 the only art gallery i knew was The Grundy in Blackpool, a wonderful Edwardian building attached to the central library. I couldn’t begin to estimate the number of times i wandered round it once i was old enought to explore the town centre on my own and through into being a teenager and art student in the town. I had my first piece of artwork hung before the public there -in the annual ‘seasiders’ exhibition… (a pencil picture of a piece of rope that my history teacher bought off me for a tenner to hang in his dining room)… I also spent a fair amount of time keeping warm in there and snogging boys (in the wonderful days before cctv).
Mostly the pictures didn’t change much…. not that I can remember and upstairs was a gallery beneath the cupola that had a collection of ivory carvings.
There were pictures in there i could look at for ever… and some I’m sure i’d have zero recollection of if you showed them to me now. I’m still the same with art galleries… I’ll walk round at top speed until I find something i like and there i’ll stay.
So thats the preamble…
My favourite picture was a painting of a house interior, a landing in sunlight.
the feeling it always gave me then and in my memory was of total peace…
crack on until last year and I was reading around English Impressionists and I suddenly decided I needed to know who that painting was by… so i started googling. Swift came to the conclusion that googling for a picture based on a mental image alone is pretty difficult so rang the Grundy.
the conversation ran along these lines
“I’m looking for information on a particular painting in your collection”
“ah… whats it called?”
“I’ve no idea”
“do you know who its by?”
“erm…no…. look… if i describe it you may still be able to help”
“okay lets try”
“turn back the clock about twenty years and walk through the entrance hall into the main gallery, turn back on yourself in to the left of the doorway theres a picture of a landing, i think, its a landing with sunlight… it’s beautiful”
“ah.. that’ll be ‘landing in summer’ by Mary D Ellwell”
Fantastic!…. she went on to tell me its no longer on display… and no they don’t have a digital version of it, nor a postcard I can buy.
Now, there was a point when Dali’s Christ of St John of the Cross was my favourite picture (it’s still one of them).
It was in the days before internet so I got a train to Glasgow from Nottingham with my friend Jon… we went to the art gallery to take a look at said painting… where i stood and looked at it for a long time and then we had a pint and a scotch in the pub and went home again.
Mary Elwell, however isn’t quite so well known… and I soon found that there isn’t a version of The landing in Summer on the internet. (though i’m very happy to be proved wrong).
The best I could do is buy a book called stepping from the shadows which i believed had a copy of the picture in it. (it does)…on the inside of the back cover. (not the front cover shown here- which is probably ‘hallway with dog’ or something equally as imaginative)
In these days of ‘everything’ being presumed accessible on t’internet i’m not sure if I’m happy or sad that the picture is unavailable to you. I kind of like the feeling that i have a secret picture that not many other people can see.
My picture is beautiful, it has the same feeling of peace it used to have… its not like looking at the original… but its comforting nonetheless.
A bit like the Roger McGough (internet available) poem (to leap around in time, space and the arts)
in a corner of my bedroom
grew a tree
a happy tree
my own tree
its leaves were soft
and its birds sang poems for me
with understanding smiles
made cut of forged excuses
came and chopped it down
or the day before
I think it was the day before.
I guess theres some topicality to be gleaned from this blog about the nature of our lifes dreams and privacy in a computer age…. but too many people tell me they don’t read my blog for the trans politics… so I’ll keep my picture but giving you words and a last quote this time from Brian Patten (yes another mersey poet) from his poem about finding a dragon in a woodshed.
“If you believed in it I would come
hurrying to your house to let you share my wonder,
but I want instead to see
if you yourself will pass this way”.