I stroll across the Millennium bridge with my back to St Pauls heading towards the Tate Modern on the Southbank. Today is my last chance to see the Andy Warhol exhibition before the second lockdown closes its doors (today is also the USA’s presidential election — no relevance to this blog whatsoever — just thought I’d mention it!)
The brightness of the morning and clear blue sky belies the mood of the day. I am sure I am not alone in feeling gloomy as the nation is preparing to plunge into another lockdown tomorrow. But the sparkling water of the Thames lifts my spirit.
On my way to the Tate across the Millennium Bridge
I pause to watch a police boat, its wake leaving a graceful glistening trail behind it. I take a deep breath of crisp fresh air and catch a scent of the sea that has travelled into London upon the tide.
If you fancy watching a short ‘mindful moment’ video clip of it, watch it here
*If you watch the clip to the end you will see a sea bird fly in a perfect horizontal line with the top of the frame – what filmmaker would not cast such a seagull that takes direction so well?
London Police Patrol Boat ‘a mindful moment’ video clip
The coronavirus infection rate is rising and I have booked an early slot for entrance to the exhibition to avoid mixing with as many humans as possible. I put on my mask and enter the Tate’s Turbine Hall relieved to see it is uncrowded and there isn’t a queue. There is however, an enormous sculpture of a shell!
Once through the initial check-in and a glance at the shell I am directed to the ticket hall.
Who is the Invisible Woman?
The invisible woman is me!
I have many stories to prove this. Here follows one such story of what happens to me on a regular basis. And it happens here at the Tate.
*you can skip this bit if you want!— it’s just me having a bit of a rant! But what’s a blog for if you can’t have a rant on it now and again?
Having a bit of a rant!
I am invisible in a queue
There are three ticket office windows, all of which have a person inquiring about something or other, or a ticket perhaps? I am the only one waiting in an empty queue for a window to become free. I wait a long while. During which time, a few others join the queue.
At last there is a vacant window. I move towards it but the man to my left (who only arrived a Nano second ago, I might add!) goes towards the vacant window.
‘Has he not seen me standing here waiting? Am I invisible?’
The vein in my neck goes purple and starts to pulsate.
Sometimes, I allow a usurper in a queue to jump ahead of me. But, after waiting so long, I wasn’t in the mood to let this chap steal my place without a fight.
“Oi!” I shout (Actually, I didn’t shout Oi, I said ‘excuse me’ but in a tone that meant “Oi!”)
‘Excuse me!’ Did you not see me waiting here?’ I start to simper and speak in a more gentle ‘polite’ cajoling voice, ‘I’ve been here rather a long time, you know…’
Well! How do you reckon he responded? Yes, you guessed it! In such a way that causes the ticket person waiting behind the glass to raise his eyebrows and drop open his mouth in disbelief.
Anyway, the poor open mouthed ticket person (what do you call ticket people in box offices? Clerk? Teller? But that’s for someone in a bank, isn’t it?) mumbled something about not noticing who was in the queue first. I summon up my best theatrical stage voice (using my diaphragm as trained to do) and said, ‘I was!’ in a depth of tone the legend actress Dame Edith Evans would have been proud of. Then, turning towards the ‘queue-jumper’ man, I ask in a lowering voice, which, to my surprise – sounds like a loud boom! (heads turn, perhaps thinking that a wild bittern might be loose in the hall?)
‘Am I invisible?’ I ask and thrust my phone through the window (showing an assertion new to me). With my ticket in my hand, I take my leave before the ‘queue-jumping’ man can stutter any more hostile oaths.
I walk away mumbling, feeling irked and rankled and questioning why this has happened to me yet again, ‘How can this be? Why can’t anyone see me when I am waiting in a queue? Why is this?’ Whenever I am in the company of my bulky 6ft tall partner Andrew there is never any queue-jumping! Never! But when I am on my own it happens all the time! Why?!
It’s because I’m small, isn’t it? And walk under the radar beneath most peoples’ eye-line?
(btw, when referring to people of low or short stature, I prefer the use of the term ‘petite’).
Maybe it’s time to change my discreet wardrobe and wear hi-vis flashing luminous jackets instead!
I shall end this rant now about prejudice towards short petite people or the blog post will be all about my whining and whingeing and not about Andy Warhol at all! Let’s move on into the exhibition.
I enter the gallery and one of the first paintings I spot is the famous Marilyn. I’ve known of this picture all my life, but this is the first time I’ve seen it for real. In a fit of excitement I jump up and down (it’s alright, I’m not making an embarrassing spectacle of myself! Nobody can see me. I’m invisible, don’t forget!)
Screenprint, on canvas with gold metallic paint.
Screenprint ink and acrylic paint 1962
Andy Warhol produced his first paintings of Marilyn shortly after the death of this iconic star by drugs overdose on 5th August 1962
The artist had found a way of painting A-lister celebrities in a commercial screenprint replicative style which helped put him at the forefront of Pop Art of the 1960’s.
Warhol created contrasting images of the First Lady taken from newspaper pictures — showing her before and after the assassination of her husband.
I’ve taken the liberty of adding my own self portrait à la Andy Warhol among these illustrious paintings. No one can say I’m not influenced by the exhibitions I go to see!
The oxidation series of paintings or so called ‘piss paintings’ were created by using a combined medium of urine and copper mixed into paint.
Andy Warhol and his assistant Ronnie Cultrone would urinate onto a canvas that had been primed with a copper mixed paint causing an interesting chemical reaction. The result of which you can see in this large work. Warhol loved the change in colour made by his assistant whose pee created a different colour effect affected by his personal intake of vitamin B supplements.
I suppose it would be perfectly legitimate to say that this is a shit painting? (No offence intended!)
Ladies and Gentlemen
Local drag queens and transgender were recruited by Warhol from local bars to model for his theatrically named series Ladies and Gentlemen. He took over 500 photographs and worked with bold brushwork in contrast to his former style. These paintings are personally new to me and I really like this technique of thicker use of acrylic paint.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Ladies and Gentlemen
Wilhelmina Ross was a favourite model and Warhol painted 73 paintings, 29 drawings, 5 collages and 10ft giant canvases of her. One of the 10 footers is included in the exhibition and shown here in my photo — and possibly laughing with the masked girl (temporary exhibit) in the red shoes raising her phone?
Ladies and Gentlemen
Ladies and Gentlemen
Warhol’s self-portrait watches you as you enter into the final gallery
Andy Warhol’s ‘fright wig’ self-portrait watches you as you go into the final darkened gallery where you see multiple repeated Da Vinci last suppers (sixty in all) stacked up as if on shelves in a sombre laboratory or cemetery.
Sixty Last Suppers
This turned out to be Andy Warhol’s last work.
The exhibition is on such a scale too large for one meagre blog post.
There comes a point in every blog when you have to decide it’s gone on long enough. I have now reached that point and I congratulate you if you’ve come with me this far!
The Andy Warhol exhibition has surprised me! It is more interesting than I expected it to be and I have really enjoyed it (despite the contretemps at the ticket office).
I am sorry I have only covered a small part of it in this post and haven’t even begun to tell you about when the actress shot him! Or about his nose job or his wigs or his bananas or his vacuum cleaning or his soup cans. Nor have I mentioned his filmmaking! Or the silver clouds.
So there you have it! I’m off home now—
But not before I catch a glimpse of the invisible woman in an exhibit in one of the permanent collections on my way out…
I don’t know the name of this work or the artist — I’ll have to return to the Tate Modern after lockdown to find out!
On my return home across the bridge life appears normal with beautiful oriental bridal models posing as usual on the bridge…
and again more bridal posing as I walk through the churchyard garden of St Pauls…
A semblance of normal life in the City. I walk on by…
The sun is shining and I wonder if there is any news as to whether Trump has been ousted from the White House yet…
Take care and stay safe