Engineer vs Art

He named his favourite piece of the day Yellow Splodge, White Wall. 


Let me introduce you to Zac. He’s a pretty talented lad with many skills including but not limited to: doing equations in his head, eating seven schnitzels in one meal, knowing how cars work, and playing Smash Bros video games.
Despite these obviously varied skills, he is lacking in the part of his brain that allows him to tell Picasso from Poussin, Giotto from Gainsborough, and Tracy Emin from a crumpled duvet (although most people may struggle with that one).

So it was always going to be an interesting trip when he proposed we go to the Parallax Art Fair in Chelsea. The struggle began the night before when I instructed him quite clearly to dress nicely, I mean it’s Chelsea after all. If I ran into the casting director of MIC or Mr Saatchi himself, I didn’t want my boyfriend’s tracksuit bottoms to be my downfall. He managed to avoid that, but alas, still turned up on my door-step wearing grey trainers and a House Party T-Shirt. You know the ones I’m talking about. They have some type of abstract splodges on them, a few geometric shapes, some vaguely exotic photo printed on the front, and random cities- Amsterdam. LA. Paris- typed in an industrial font. They most commonly have a Primark label. Great for Year 11 house parties. Not so great for The Borough of Chelsea and Kensington.

"Stand over there, you match the confetti." 

Anyway. The first part of my rant over, we headed for our destination. Zac and I have been to a gallery- the National Gallery- once before and our relationship managed to survive. Yet, this situation brought more challenges, as the majority of the artists in the art fair are sitting next to their work, beaming out at you, ready to engage in conversation. This meant that when Zac thought something was terrible or simply could not understand why it would be worth £1000, he couldn’t say it out loud, so he’d have to kind of wince instead.

Art connoisseurs. 

Most of the art was pretty impressive. Our favourite was Ian MacLeod’s geometric drawings of animals, we had a chat with him and he took this photo of us with his bear. AND we ended up PURCHASING SOME ART. Okay, they were just these mini £5 prints, but we now officially have one foot on the international art dealing ladder. Lucy Jean Green’s kinetic paper sculptures were also mesmerising. Finally a collision between engineering and art, although Zac was quick to point out to me it was probably just a simple mechanism blah blah blah. 

Lucy Jean Green's paper sculptures of birds have wings that move 

I also loved Ken Okoye’s stunning photos of the human body, cropped to increase the interplay of shadow and light, form and movement. I was really sold by David Stein’s less figurative pieces, but Zac was less convinced.

Ken Okoye- Abstract Beauty (2013-14) 


David Stein, A Quick Peek, (2017) 

I stopped to talk to a lot of the artists, and after hearing me Talk the Talk for a bit, Zac wanted to join in. After all, it’s not often you get to talk to the artists themselves. I prepped him a bit on the types of buzz words he should use. We wandered over to a particularly abstract artist.

The conversation followed thusly…
Zac: “Hello there, are you the artist?”
Random Woman: “No, she is.”
Zac: “Oh sorry… hello there, are you the artist?”
Artist: “Yes, can I help you?”
Zac: “I was wondering what the inspiration was here, this work really speaks to me.”
Artist: “Oh really, what does it say to you?” (I had not prepped him to answer this.)
Zac: Stunned silence.
Artist: “What do you see in it?”
Zac: (staring at a canvas covered in orange and yellow splodges.) More silence.
Me (saving the day as always): “I see the rampant movement of animals in the undergrowth.”
Artist: “Oh, it’s actually the urban landscape.”
Zac: “Yeah I saw that.”

But his artistic education was not over yet. After lunch we went to Saatchi Gallery which had an exhibition on about selfies- From Selfie to Self Expression.

His eyes are on fire from all the lit art he's seen. 
This was actually the perfect place to take this inartistic engineer. The exhibition is so relatable and interactive. In one room there is an amazing machine that senses the person in front of it and creates their image in little balls of wool. Zac walked right past the front of it and stood at the side, staring intently at the mechanisms behind it. Obvs he’d find the one bit of engineering in the entire exhibition.
He did say some stuff about mechanisms or something, but I didn't listen so I can't quote him. 

We spent a good 5 minutes taking panoramic photographs in one room, which is completely acceptable in this exhibition as we could argue it’s a response to the conceptual nature of reflecting on our own place in society as accessed through social media and technology. But really, we were just trying to get photos of us running into ourselves. Exhibit A below. 

This is just us appreciating art. 

The problem with Zac is he is not quite accustomed to gallery etiquette. At one point I’d left him to go wander alone. As in most galleries, there are a collection of pieces and then a small bit of writing on the wall to explain their relevance. Most people read this standing in a little neat semi-circle so all other visitors can read it too. Here is how Zac was standing when I entered the room... Except, surrounding him was a group of about five people, all straining to see over his shoulder to read the crucial bit of text to explain the whole room. They were all looking at eachother uncertainly. Was this guy drunk? Was he asleep? Was he really short sighted?
No. It’s just Zac.

Please note the matching nike bag and shoes. 

The final room we entered was clearly empty and not part of the exhibition. But Zac was now in a state of liminality- the kind of mental phase people go through in galleries where they see everything as art- and strolled right on in, hands clasped behind him, gazing at the empty walls. He named his favourite piece of the day Yellow Splodge, White Wall. Unfortunately, a lot of other people strolled on in with us, and it took them a few moments to realise there was actually nothing to see here. Awkward.

video

Which brought us to the end of our pretty informative trip. I don’t think Zac will be changing course any time soon, but one day when he needs to practice some trigonometry he’ll have a little picture of a bear to help him.

Ian MacLeod's bears 

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