Issue 211
Winter 2019/2020

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Feb 19, 2020

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Editorial Comment

Artwork PO Box 3 Ellon AB41 ::

The art gallery it deserves…

IT ISN'T ALWAYS, sadly, that these columns hand out praise. It isn't just that we're a crabbit bunch of old moaners (which we probably are) but in this era of fake news and relentless instagram image building, someone has to be standing on the sidelines and saying – "Yes…but."

So it is doubly satisfying to welcome a major arts development on our editorial doorstep with few if any ifs, and virtually no buts.

The re-imagining and re-creating of Aberdeen's Art Gallery has taken time and, predictably, money – lots of it. Though Aberdeen could rightly lay claim to have been an energy epicentre of the world, too few of the many billions of £s and $s that have flown through its docks, offices and heliports have rubbed off on the city itself,

Cannier minds that secured for Norway a sovereign fund worth many thousands for every citizen might have struck a harder bargain that could have rewarded the city for the welcome it has always given big oil.

But that was then, and this is now. And somehow or other, by begging and borrowing, the money has been found to give the city the art gallery it deserves.

Wisely, the attention seems to have gone into the visitor experience rather than the exterior show. The elegant exterior (see picture opposite) remains the same. but a great deal of thought has gone into making the interior more user friendly, while respecting the essential elegance of the building.

As with so much on the cultural landscape, there is a need to look beyond the 'captive' market of the middle aged, middle class cultured elite. As with our concert halls, all too evidently filled with the grey hairs of advancing years, so our art galleries need to bring in younger, darker heads.

Active encouragement of visual role playing with imaginatively equipped 'selfie stages' is a stroke of genius.

What more can be done? Championing as it tries to do, the oh-so- difficult role of the producing artist, this paper would like to see more active involvement of artists in the showplace of their work.

What about a continuing roster of a number of artists-in- residence? Always around to meet and talk to visitors and help explain to them the mysteries of their own art and that on display in the gallery.

Besides all else, in a time of even greater hardship than usual for producing artists, it would give them a welcome source of income.

Sound case for creativity

IT'S A SORRY indictment of our times that there even has to be a report from the Durham Commission on Creativity and Education.

It makes the case for creativity to be central to education, because it enriches personal, social and academic development, and will enable young people to change this country for the better.

Back in 1666, the young Christopher Wren took advantage of the opportunities for creative renewal resulting from the destruction of the Great Fire of London. In some ways Wren's times were not so very different to ours.

He lived through Civil War, dividing the country, when Parliament and the role of the Royals were questioned and changed, and Scotland sought independence. As his epitaph in St Paul's Cathedral put it in 1723, "If you seek a monument, look around you".

Now, looking around a country reeling from economic, social, physical and cultural damage, we see the legacy of the devaluation of creativity by successive postwar governments.

With the planet heating up fast, the dream that progress brings freedom is turning into a nightmare, costing the earth. Wren could not have transformed London without the learnt skills of artists, and makers.

Time to read and act upon the recommendations of the report from Sir Nicholas Serota's team, and to recognise the value of creativity to wealth and wellbeing. Time, again, for the creative imagination of our artists, scientists and thinkers to bring meaningful renewal, and a practicable response to today's challenges.

As the writer Lemn Sissay puts it: "Art is life. Take away poems, songs, paintings, music and leave citizens bereft of expression. There madness lies."

Space oddities

AS NOTED ELSEWHERE in this issue, a strange binding factor links many of the ultra rich on this planet – they seem to want to get out into space and occupy another planet.

From "Sir" Richard Branson's ludicrously costly and wasteful galactic journeys to experience weightlessness, to Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk's desire to live on Mars, they all pale into rather pathetic insignifcance when measured against the incredible achievement of the Voyager 1 and 2 missions.

Launched in 1977, with the onboard computer power of a modern car key fob, they have long since left our planetary system having captured incredible shots of the farthest out ones and are now destined to continue travelling with their golden discs of Beethoven, Bach et al on board long after live on earth has ended.


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