Sunday, 14 February 2016

Pattern and colour and colour and....zzz

All pictures: Betty Woodman, Theatre of the Domestic, ICA

Pattern and colour. Colour and pattern. Pattern and colour.

I have written those words so many time that I am bored with them.

At the end of each semester of my degree course (and it was a part-time so there were 18 of them), in the section of the self-assessment form that required me to state my interests and strengths, each time I wrote "colour and pattern". I saw no reason to disguise what had driven me, drives me and will continue to drive me.

These words are what you first see in the "about me" section of my blog, and what appear in my Prism profile.

I may be bored with the words but I find endless excitement in the concepts. Pattern and colour determine how I dress, what my home looks like and how I approach my own work.

It also dictates what I am drawn to in magazine listings and art exhibitions. At the Agnes Martin show at Tate Modern last year, which I dutifully went along to, I was through one door and out the exit within five minutes max without pausing, her monochrome, geometric minimalism too much to bear. Does that make me a bad person?

I am drawn to colour and pattern. I can't help it.

And so when I came across a listing in that hard-core porn magazine World of Interiors about an exhibition at the ICA of the ceramics and paintings of the American artist Betty Woodman, promising to "see out the winter months with a burst of colour", although I had never come across her work before I just had to go along.

The title, Theatre of the Domestic,  made it all the more delectable. Here, as I was contemplating the redecoration of my own house, were "wallpaper" and "rugs".

But like the clothing that never looks the same outside the glossy pages, with a double chin, a bad hair day and boots that need cleaning stirred into the mix, interior magazines always lie. (When I worked on a women's magazine in the early 1980s I was involved in a feature about a couple's idyllic country cottage, all dried flowers and bare beams. By the time the magazine came out, they were divorced.) How often have you seen a picture in a home magazine that features a TV and a bookcase filled with real, mismatched books?  Let alone a carpet that cost a lot of money and you can't afford to replace, and a heavy pine cupboard that was so difficult to get up the stairs that you can't face struggling to get it down again, however ugly it looks?

Which is why art is so wonderful. And important. And so very necessary. Even when pretends to ally itself to the domestic and the quotidian, it allows us to soar and fantasise and grasp at something beyond the ordinary. The unadulterated concept flies above the lifestyle magazines that leave us frustrated and inadequate.

Pattern and colour, pure and simple and lovely and liberating. And that left me bursting with joy.