Galleries spaces are some of my favorites. Living in London, there are many and varied exhibits on offer and so there is always an excuse to visit. I like to go early, just after they open. I like to wander round, free to linger, free to move on. But it’s not just about time with the art, it’s also time with the gallery itself. As I said, I like gallery spaces. I like what they stand for. I like the fact that they allow you take the time to look properly, that they focus you in on the art, that the actual act of visiting a gallery is a commitment to this process and that the gallery in return provides you an accommodating space to do this. Or at least the good ones do. But there is something else about galleries and it’s the ambience, and going early gives you the best chance of appreciating it.
Take the Marion Goodman Gallery in Soho. With cold stone floors downstairs, bleached wood upstairs, austere white walls and the mix of understated, tasteful modern fixtures with nods to the building’s original features, its every bit the professional high-end gallery it sets out to be. The staff are welcoming yet discrete. They know what they are doing. Get there early and you will have the place to yourself. Wander, look, enjoy. The gentle drone of the air-conditioning keeping the environment just so, the occasional murmur of staff, a door gently closing, the echoing of someone’s heels on the floor (not mine!) That’s the soundtrack to view art by.
This weekend, I went to the National Portrait Gallery to see the William Eggleston Portrait exhibition. They were every bit as good as I thought they would be. Better, actually. Rather than leave by the exit, I always walk back through the gallery, just one final reminder, and leave through the entrance (rock’n’roll or what,) and as I did so on this occasion, I noticed a large number of people with headphones in. Irritated by this more than I ought to be, I sat on the tube on the way home and wondered just what I would consider listening to while in a gallery. I couldn’t come up with anything.
I won’t even listen to something on the tube. You can’t hear it properly. You can’t really listen. And that’s the thing. I like music that you have to listen to, not just hear, and which, by itself, prompts some response. And if you are really listening, you’re not really looking. Better to have the natural ambience of the gallery itself.
But, I could be wrong. It’s been known to happen. Certainly IIKKI Publishing think I am. This new French publisher has the aim to produce projects that are, “the result of a dialogue between a visual artist and a music artist.” With a schedule of three fine art quality books and accompanying vinyl releases a year, the idea is that the art can be appreciated by itself, as can the music, but that they should also be enjoyed together.
IIKKI’s initial release is called Stills and is a collection of photography by Katrien De Blauwer and music by Danny Clay. It comes out in a variety of combinations tomorrow, Monday 19th September. De Blauwer is primarily a collage artist who uses grainy black and white photographs and I suspect Stills will be more of her personal yet slightly enigmatic work. More than that I can’t say as I haven’t seen it.
I have, however, listened to Stills by Danny Clay quite a lot. Twelve tracks of varying length over forty minutes, it too feels personal and enigmatic. It is gentle and quiet with the tracks all sharing a similar melody and atmos yet there is much going on. Gentle vinyl hiss, fuzz, bumps, close-mic fumblings never intrude but are always there. Toy instruments tinkle. There is even humming in places. I like humming. I like this album. It’s contemplative and nostalgic without sounding forced. It sounds like it was created with great care and that it has succeeded in sounding exactly as its creator wanted. (If you want a rubbish comparison, it’s like the excellent The Boats circa their Our Small Ideas phase, certainly before they went bonkers techno.) And, with total disregard to everything I wrote earlier, it sounds like it would complement De Blauwer’s work perfectly.
Pop over to the IIKKI website to order: