Finally went to see Lines of Thought, the British Museum’s touring exhibition currently in the Brynmor Jones Library exhibition space at the University of Hull. “The greatest gathering of artistic talent ever seen in Hull, in one exhibition,” revealing some of the creative process of Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Dürer, Degas and a load of other big names.
Having stared up at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel a couple of weeks ago, I’m still going through a period of reacclimatising when it comes to looking at anything not on an epic scale, but it was very interesting to see these drawings, etchings, sketches and doodles. I had to stop short of telling everyone in the room, as a I looked at Michelangelo’s Studies for the Last Judgement, that I’d seen the finished product, and it was a lot more mind-blowing than the black chalk on paper I was looking at.
I was most enamoured by the work of a writer. Victor Hugo produced nearly 3,000 drawings in his lifetime, which provided the impetus to let his imagination run riot when it came to putting pen to paper and his words in the right order. I love his choice of materials – soot, the occasional bit of ink and, most impressively, the dregs of his coffee.
I said to a woman staring at Hugo’s Landscape With A Castle (1857) that I now knew what I could do with all that leftover coffee that lurks at the bottom of mugs I have next to my laptop. “Ah yes,” she said, “but could you do something that good with them?” She’s clearly not seen the self portrait I did for #challengehull otherwise she’d have known the answer.
Worth remembering, in the clamour for tickets…
“I am afraid that our eyes are bigger than our stomachs, and that we have more curiosity than understanding. We grasp at everything, but catch nothing except wind.”
Michel de Montaigne, The Complete Essays
We’ve got another Heads Up Festival on the way. This will be number eight and the festival’s now in its fourth year. Yeah, we were doing culture in Hull before it was fashionable. Tickets are on sale. Theatre Ad Infinitum, Tom Penn, Shannon Yee and Will Dickie are all coming to Hull because of us (and Battersea Arts Centre, and the desire of those artists to rock up here). And we’ve also got Theatre Hullabaloo, Blazons and Indigo Moon too. Not too shabby at all. www.headsuphull.co.uk
So off we trotted to the Ferens, to see where a £5.2m revamp and the £1.6m acquisition of a 14th-century painting by Pietro Lorenzetti gets you.
We’ve been in Rome, so everything seems small, especially a panel from an altarpiece. And the lighting ensures there’s an inescapable glare that means you have to look at Christ Between Saint Paul and Saint Peter side-on, or squint a lot, to actually see the thing properly. But I like it. And the pieces of work in the room around it provide the context to its value. Obviously the money would have been better spent on ensuring bin collections in the city are increased*.
The gallery does look and feel fab, I like the re-positioning of the shop and the entrance feels more welcoming and open but the Ferens also remains the familiar old place that we’ve slid around the floors of for years. Can’t help feeling that paint’s more expensive that when I last purchased any but whoever picked from the swatches at the DIY shop made the right choice of colour for the walls.
If this feels like a not very well-considered reflection on a multi-million pound reworking of a publicly funded asset, that’s because it is. We dashed in 90 minutes before closing time, and had one of those difficult to please child units with us who did, actually, embrace the hands-on, tactile offerings and things filled with coloured liquid (see above image) that wheelchair users are invited, by City of Culture volunteers, to ride over in the new space where the shop used to be. And as much as I love the essential open exhibition that’s on at the moment, I’m not sure if it shows the temporary exhibition spaces to their best effect.
We need to go back, and have a more mindful few hours in the place, really. But I’m impressed, generally, with its aceness. Go along when you’re next in the city – the Feren’s full of most excellent works of art and the place will surprise you.
*The reliability and quantity of bin collections by Hull City Council are the standard unit of measuring the worth of spend on artistic work in Hull.
I still have no idea why but I was summoned to a photocall, along with just about everyone else that makes theatre in the city of Hull. It was a veritable who’s who of relatively recent University of Hull graduates, and us. And it was far too early in the morning for anyone to make sense of why we were there, or even talk coherently. One free cup of Thieving Harry’s coffee was not quite enough.
We were told to not “wear any massive Pepsi/Nike etc logos or anything like that.” Everyone complied with this request, probably as it was too late to go out and purchase brands that we’d never go anywhere near. And we got to fuck about on the rooftop garden of the new Humber Street Gallery and lean on walls and doors down Humber Street while we pouted theatrically in the direction of a camera lens, looking mean and angry and subversive and revolutionary. Which is, of course, all fake.
There was no real drama of which to speak, just a lot of what the excessively large in number gig-theatre evangelists Middle Child (Hull theatre’s most successful five-a-side football squad. A lot of strength-in-depth on that bench) would refer to as ‘bantz’, which no doubt bodes well for the future.
Hull 2017 have teamed up with 64 Million Artists and community groups and organisations across Hull to set a weekly creative challenge to encourage everyone in the city to try something new.
This week’s challenge, courtesy of Hull WI – Apple Crumble and Stitch, is to ‘create an inspiring message’. So, in the true spirit of cultural theft, I’ve taken the important and inspiring Japanese idiomatic phrase (which sits atop this very site) and expanded my thoughts on it a little.
A creative life doesn’t take you down a linear path. There are lots of obstacles to climb over, lots of doors to break down and walls to smash through. You’ll be asked to make compromises. Inevitably there are going to be setbacks and rejections. Well fuck that. What’s important is how you channel your energy. You get knocked down, you make sure you get back up, kicking and screaming. It’s all worth fighting for. If you get knocked down seven times, be the one that gets up eight. Keep going, never give up. You’ve got something unique to say, it’s worth saying and that’s the only thing that matters;. nana karobi ya oki 七転び八起き
We did our #challengehull dance in Basilica S. Pietro in Rome. Channeling Footloose.
A massive turbine blade, manufactured by Hull employees at the new Siemens factory in Hull, was transported overnight to Hull’s city centre. As Made in Hull was packed down, the blade was en route to kick-off the next phase of Hull 2017 – Look Up. But it wasn’t just any old blade. It was Blade. A temporary, readymade artwork, we’re told.
Conceived by artist Nayan Kulkarni, Blade has been created as the first of a programme of temporary artworks that will be thrust into and around the city’s public spaces and places.
Blade uses one of the first B75 rotor blades made in Hull and changes its status to that of a readymade artwork. At 75 metres it is the world’s largest, handmade fibreglass component – cast as a single element. According to the Hull Daily Mail, Blade weighs the equivalent of four bull elephants squeezed together on the same scales. Not sure why you’d go squeezing bull elephants on to the same scales, but it makes a change from comparing large things to football pitches and Olympic-size swimming pools.
Is it art? You decide. I think that’s the point. As I tweeted, I’m impressed by the bull elephant scale of this hefty public intervention. It is an enviable and undeniable feat of engineering and an interesting talking point. If it gets us questioning the relationship between corporate sponsorship of arts and cultural events (which will increase, as public funding declines), that’s also a worthwhile by-product.
We went to bid farewell to the Made in Hull installations because they’re so gob-smackingly superb. We knew there’d be a crowd, given this was a final chance to see them, and that word had got out beyond the city that it’s well worth coming here for a look. But, blimey, there were so many people on the streets of the city centre.
Earlier, in the projection-free daylight hours, I bumped into Martin Green, 2017 CEO and Director, on Jameson Street. As he puffed away on a fag, I told him how great it was that Made in Hull – “the story of a city and its people” – had struck a chord with so many people. Mr G already seemed quite taken aback by the response that this opening week has had. I like that he’s as overwhelmed as the rest of us. So I do hope he was in a big blubbery mess at the turnout tonight. Such a buzz, such pride, and such a great job done by all the artists involved. It was a very special week that built to something that transcended everyone’s expectations. Go Hull, is about all I can say.