Inside, Outside, and Upside Down.
Whitechapel Gallery East London 7 May 2006
To enter the “Inner Worlds Outside” art show at The Whitechapel Gallery in East London, you must part with £7.50. This caused Mrs Monk to pause and then to disappear into the toilet to escape the embarrassment of appearing cheap. It was there that she would contemplate and consider our options. Should we remain outside or pay £15 to see the “Inner Worlds Outside” art show,.... inside, .....as it were?
From the toilet on the first floor, Mrs Monk called me on her mobile phone.
“Hello”, I whispered since I was in an art gallery.
“Hello, Speak up I can’t hear you.” I heard her say through my phone but she need not have bothered with the phone since I could also hear her without the phone and so could everybody else on the ground floor; the stairwell may well have acted as a giant trumpet.
Since she could not hear me whispering, she compensated for this by raising her voice even further.
“Listen, I’m not going to pay fifteen squids, I’m just going to have a cup of coffee and call it a day” she bellowed.
Every head looked up the staircase and wondered just who it was being so demonstrably frugal.
Nevertheless, I bought two tickets, and tried to do so with a flourish, and not a whimper.
It was after all, Mrs Monk who had heard about this show and recommended it to me. She had made this sketch from a folded blot of ink on a sheet of paper, her very own Rorschach test. She did this in the passenger seat of the car as we made our way to the gallery. She had asked me what I saw in it, as if she were psychoanalysing me.
“Two people looking away”, I had said, “But you are the artist, what do you see?”
She said, “Its upside down and the two people are looking in”
I had been happy to see this as an abstract sketch, but Mrs Monk’s amateur psychiatry was prescient, since much of the art in this show that we were about to see was produced by artists who had a variety psychiatric issues to contend with, and that is ostensibly what set them apart for consideration by the show.
This is an ambitious show with work from around the world, and which is perhaps exemplified by the work of the featured local artist, Madge Gill who worked compulsively and driven by spiritual delusions, (She had worked obsessively and then refused to show the work, which was only uncovered after she died)
It seems to me that what separated these artists from the rest of us is their apparent detachment if not their isolation from the modish inclinations of the art world. No established artists from Damien Hurst to Lucien Freud, could possibly be understood without reference to their place in the History of Art, but this cannot be said of the artists in this show.
This is a remarkable exhibition that leaves you buzzing with the idea that art may well thrive in the cuckoos nest, while elsewhere it is diminished by fashionable critical sophistication.
Mrs Monk made the drawing, Some Critics Are Taller, in 1994, and we were surprised to find something like it hanging on the Whitechapel Gallery walls in this exhibition.
Mrs Monk was more than satisfied with our investment and the show is highly recommended.. Shoestring Chronicle