It was all a bit of a last minute decision to trundle down to London yesterday to visit this year’s Frieze Art Fair. I reached the point a few weeks ago where I thought I’d left it far too late to get a cheap train ticket, and this thought persisted in preventing me from even trying until two days ago. In fact, relatively cheap tickets were still available, with however no spaces in the quiet coach. But the prospect of viewing a wonderfully wide range of contemporary art trumped the prospect of noisy commuters shouting into mobiles, and I clicked the confirm button.
Of course, I always forget the hassle involved in planning serious day outings to Our Capital. To avoid car-parking costing more than the return journey means a bus ride into town. To get a bus early enough means walking the dog in darkness. Walking the dog pre-dawn means crawling out of bed at a time which the New Woman in a Dressing Gown would prefer not to think about. All in the cause of Art.
I was quite happy about it all, though. I have to admit a love of train journeys of any distance. And in this post 9/11 era, a train is all the more attractive because I’m not required to traipse barefoot through the barriers or suffer a feather light grope from security officials. As an intently curious visual artist, I also love the opportunity to peer into unknown lives blurred by speed and dirty windows. Even better, I have all my fellow passengers trapped in seats for over two hours providing a diverse range of free models. The combination of sketching strangers and tweeting for a few hours is quite irresistible.
What with the excitement of the Great Eastern line, it was lucky that Frieze was not a disappointment. The opportunity to encounter such a huge variety of contemporary art is always welcome. But for any regionally based artist, it is heartening to see that the best London and international galleries do not have a monopoly on great contemporary artwork. More inspiringly, I love those moments when the eye is caught and drawn in by a beautiful drawing or painting or other piece, and in the same instant you see all around are similarly stopping, pausing, looking. For example: (and just one out of many) some unattributed watercolour drawings presented by Breeder Gallery in Athens. It wordlessly answers the question of what good art is; something which is hard to define, easy to argue about, but recognisable as such when it is ‘there’. At a time when the value of the arts in England is falling under close scrutiny, I like the fact that an intangible aesthetic experience can engender an almost universally appreciative response. To anyone trying to argue that much contemporary stuff is inaccessible to a broad public, or to anyone who thinks that broad appeal necessarily must mean lesser critical worth, these moments are very welcome.
The downside though of a large art fair is seeing so many of one’s own ideas already brilliantly executed by others. Darren Almond’s “The Principle of Moments” shown through White Cube, London, comprised tiny moment-by-moment imperceptibly changing photographs of a place. My own interest in changing perceptions of ‘reality’ through fractional successive instants in life led me to experiment last year with a series of moving digital paintings, one of which depicted a garden through a 24 hour period. There is much more I want to explore on this, but I am forcefully reminded that the idea is only the beginning, and making, making, making, is the only true path to real creativity.