Me and Mr Hyde but not really me

I have been on the hunt for thank you cards this week and so I paused and doubled back after walking by a stall at the Harbourside Market. Minimalist and elegant from afar, the set of cards and magnets being sold, were all of a sudden hilarious, ingenious, amusing, tender and to the point, up close.

I bought three cards and two magnets because that’s all I could afford. I was given a third one free as I was walking away and now I want more. I love them.

Me and Mr Hyde - Daddy, mama and baby

The website doesn’t have any pictures on it yet and Me and Mr Hyde isn’t on twitter but you can probably email him and find out where he will be. Scientist by day, elusive artist by every other night, he is certain to be very sought after soon. (Which means he will be more expensive.)

Me and Mr Hyde - Ninjas hate snow

Me and Mr Hyde - Magnets

That middle magnet says “the results are in, you’re a dick”.

The crying game of aspirations

Sitting on one of the benches outside near the RWA, while eating my £3.95 chorizo, goat’s cheese and rosary goat’s cheese baguette, from Papadeli cafe, I have the song Crying Game running through my head.

It’s not playing because of the vandalised art work which is one third still standing, wrapped in bubble wrap, and two thirds down on the ground, wrapped in canvas, like a body about to be taken to a morgue. I just misread someone’s tweet about the waiting game.

I had a brief vision of the shocking end to the movie where the person you thought you loved was not in the right body after all. Now, as I watch, the body is covered by blue tarpaulin and then undressed again so Sabet Choudhury can report on it for Points West this evening.

The bronze sculpture ‘Aspiration’ by David Backhouse was worth £40,000 and showed three girls in bronze, one higher than the other. It will now probably be melted down but it was meant to inspire and bring beauty or at least a different filter on reality.

The reality of having aspirations in this day and age, however, is a lot different from any of the other decades in the 70 year old artist’s history.

Tracy Emin may seem like a fool for claiming that the Conservative party, which has cut funding on so many things is the only saviour of arts funding, but she does have a point. Who do you think buys art, she asks? It certainly isn’t the Labour philanthropists.

I question the use of the word philanthropists, which means lover of people, but agree with her contention that it is the ones with a lot of money who can afford to purchase art.

The horror of the cost of some of these works is one more example of the distorted value we place on things. A young pair of siblings have £600,000 to spend between them on a house, footballer’s wages can pay for a school but instead fund private planes, and as Del Amitri sing, Van Gogh paintings sells for the price of a hospital wing.

I am not questioning the value of the arts, indeed I think that without culture, in all its different manifestations, we become isolated and lacking in an understanding of how we all view the world differently.

We need some beauty and art to expand and inspire our lives, don’t we? Outside the RWA was a piece of art that was worth a lot but was available for 22 days for free. It was then torn down.

Next up will be work by artist Damien Hirst whose previous creations have included the diamond encrusted skull For the Love of God which was priced at £50 million. The cuts to the art world this year were worth £19.1 million and taken away from 206 organizations. The price of art like Hirst’s is sublimely ridiculous.

And why was I sitting outside to eat my sandwich instead of inside the cafe? Because I saved 20% by taking my food away with me. At a cost of over £8, my delicious meal was not cheap. I’ll happily treat myself once a month but it does make me wonder which art is for me and which is for the ones who can afford it?

Art became untouchable a long time ago and it was up to art galleries, museums and libraries to keep it safe for a while. Their upkeep has changed to a model which cries out for donations and volunteers and it is the Conservative government’s dream that this is what the Big Society will be.

The mistake here is in the definition of art and of society. Emin is not talking about the kind of art which inspires and builds aspirations, she is talking about the kind that brings in a lot of money for a select few. In the same vein, the coalition government are cutting funds from activities which they as individuals can already afford.

We are moving away from a society where we used to be able to share art and public goods to a place where you need to purchase in order to enjoy anything. Public art becomes private viewings, private care, private schooling and all the things most of us can’t afford.

Maybe it’s more fitting than ironic that it was Aspiration that was knocked down this weekend. Just have to wonder whose aspirations.

I thought I was the audience…

… and then I looked at you.

by Ruth Claxton

The exhibition took place at a gallery at the University of Essex in 2005. A room full of small figurines all around the shelves on the edges. From the centre of the room, the dolls would be all staring at the audience if their eyes weren’t covered up. Streamers, a flower, green extensions, big sunglasses and all types of items provide the cover. So while we’re looking at them they are quite specifically not looking at us.

Another of Ruth Claxton’s exhibitions is on display at Spike Island in Bristol according to her website. It was last dated 2009 so I’m not sure if it’s still there but I’ll happily go and find out.

Update: I found out through the Spike Island web site that the Ruth Claxton exhibition took place between 31 January – 15 March 2009 and was called Land’s End.

Stokes Croft Streetfest

The urban cultural area of Bristol, better known for graffiti and Tesco protests, is set to become even livelier next week. A few days ago, a friend from Cheltenham asked if I was going and at that point I hadn’t even heard of it. The flyers are starting to appear around Bristol however or it could be that I’ve only just now had the time to notice the publicity.

The event is the Stokes Croft Streetfest and it takes place around most of that area on Saturday 22 May. Following a public consultation in February, the one day festival was organised in the hope of bringing together the many people who live, work and play there. The aim is to help raise the profile of Stokes Croft’s positive aspects: the art and creativity, inclusivity and diversity.

Activities, described as an ‘eclectic mix’, are arranged over two periods of time: day and evening. During the day, from 12pm to 6pm, there is no entry fee for performances, street theatre, art installations, indoor and outdoor markets which will take place in open areas such as King’s Square and the ‘Bear Pit’.

Events at night, from 6pm to 6am, are accessible with the purchase of one wristband at £5 in advance or £7 on the door. Just Jack at Lakota, the Ten Pound Suit Band at Leftbank and Brazilian Beatz at the Croft are just a small sample of the many acts taking part.


For more information visit Tickets are available from the Bristol Ticket Shop, Rooted Records, Canteen and all usual outlets.

Bristol Temple Meads, the site of the Affordable Art Fair

Bristol Temple Meads, originally uploaded by still awake.

Leaflets for the Affordable Art Fair are distributed at the front of Bristol Temple Meads in the days leading up to the new exhibition at the Passenger Shed. There are also some on display at the Starbucks on Temple Quay and there is much promotion in the local newspaper and around Bristol.

The thought of art being put on display and promoted is a positive one, the idea that a ticket needs to be bought means I won’t be going. There are over 20 art galleries in Bristol and they don’t charge for entrance. The most thought-provoking displays I’ve come across have been at the Arnolfini which also charges no fee for the opportunity to marvel at other people’s creations.

The Affordable Art Fair is at the Passenger Shed, right next to the station this weekend from the 14th – 16th May. 55 galleries will take part in the exhibition of contemporary paintings, sculpture, photography and original prints – and the items are priced between £50 and £3,000.

I remember being hugely offended when someone gently mocked a tour of the Arnolfini as a middle class endeavour. Art is not middle class, I protested, and it’s free to all. There is no privilege being purchased here.

The Affordable Art Fair is not free, although it is half price with a train ticket, and is limited to those who would pay. I would just question, affordable for whom?

Bordeaux Quay & Manos: lunch, coffee and art

Saturday lunchtime and we’ve just had lunch at Bordeaux Quay. I had the fish pie and was warned that it would take 20 minutes to arrive, it took just under that amount of time. The fish content was a selection of the daily catch including cod, salmon and grey mullet in a creamy sauce and topped with soft, but textured, mash potato.


The small but rich little dish lasted quite a while and was accompanied by a freshly squeezed orange juice. My friends ordered the loin of pork on mash and the chicken orviato, respectively.

The pork loin was finished first and both dishes were highly praised, especially the sauces. Bordeaux Quay was all out of stouts so the guys drank Bath Ale Gem. The delicious desserts were left for next time. The chocolate pot with honeycomb and shortbread, the lemon meringue trifle and the bread & butter pudding with creme anglais, were left behind as we headed for coffee up and past Park St.

Browns was quiet and stuffy so we headed to Manos for a more Bohemian experience. A range of biscuits, cakes and brownies lined the counter top at Manos and the selection of drinks is made from a range of hot beverages, beers, spirits and cocktails. My coffee was limited to just black because there was no soy milk. I would have liked to try the gingerbread or vanilla latte, the caramel machiato, or the mint hot choc but didn’t fancy the milk.

The drink choices were a Gem beer, a Corona with lime, and a black coffee. The latter was my choice and I had a second one as well. The music was funky and jazzy. The walls were lined with pictures by Kochy. Glimmers of outdoor scenes helped lighten up the deep-set room and the grey atmosphere outside. Bright distractions of mopeds, a cabriolet VW bug and a cat on a couch helped place the mood in a slower time period where it was perfectly reasonable to spend three hours drinking coffee and having a chat.

This visit was the first time I’d been in Manos and it was a relaxed and friendly experience. We sat at one of the couches towards the back and looked out to the room and the street outside. The few visitors, during the time we were there, seemed to know the guys behind the bar. The rest, including us, sat about quietly with one or two outside in the small courtyard towards the back.

Even though the sky was grey and it was raining outside, the art, the coffee, the atmosphere and the company inside, provided a mellow little break away from reality. Most mellow and a great place to unwind.

Manos is right in the heart of the ‘West End’ on the Clifton Triangle between Whiteladies Rd and Park St. 0117 929 4323,, 55 Queens Road, Bristol BS8 1QQ

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