Richard Deacon @ Tate Britain

I went to the Tate Britain with one thing in my mind. I asked at the information desk where I would find ‘The Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke’ and the well-informed chap told me in what room I was likely to find it. The reason to find this oddly titled painting is explained in a previous post.

I found the room, but and although the kindly gentleman had told me that it was a rather small piece (TWSS), I initially overlooked it. I resorted to asking a bored looking member of staff who was perched on a stool reading a no doubt pretentious book. She deigned to converse with me and dismissively told me exactly where to look, but unlike a supermarket worker felt no obligation to lead me to the exact spot.

Anyway I got a good look at the painting and so did Siggy who pointed out the interesting nature of the thing – a detail you won’t get from looking at the (copyrighted and therefore not featured in this post) picture on Wikipedia – which is that the paint is applied in layers to such an extent as to give it a three-dimensional quality rendering the fantastical characters featured in the magical snapshot glimpsed from behind blades of grass more lifelike.

Mission accomplished I turned my attention to other things. I have seen the permanent collection once too many times and after a brief flirtation with John Singer Sargent’s ‘Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose’ and ‘The Lady of Shalott’ by John William Waterhouse I went and inspected the renovations – the spiral staircase is particularly impressive.

Onwards it was then to Richard Deacon’s sculptures. Deacon has been knocking stuff up for 40 years after studying at Saint Martin’s School of Art, but was unknown to me, Philistine that I am. I endeavoured to correct this issue in the six-room exhibition. Hot on the heels of the mixed bag of Martin Creed’s work at the South Bank I had quite low expectations, (see previous post) but then I recall that most of the good stuff I have seen in London over the years has been at Tate Britain exhibitions – Jackson Pollock and the aforementioned John Singer Sargent immediately spring to mind.

With the exception of Room 4 which involved small pieces of ‘art for other people’ I was duly impressed. Deacon’s work was represented as large pieces of wooden, metal and ceramic sculpture. The deeply green glazed wet looking ceramics were akin to something out of a Necromonger’s  bathroom. ‘Struck Dumb’ like a giant steel coffee bean / beetle carapace mix which looked like it had been tipped onto its side. ‘After’ like a huge lattice-worked wooden snake eating its own tail and held in position by a stainless steel strap reminiscent of a wooden WWII bomber before they put the outer skin over the frame. In fact most of the large constructions brought to mind accidents at an aeronautical engineering factory and I was surprised therefore to see screws rather than rivets holding the steel plates together.

Deacon seems very eager to show his audience exactly how these creations were constructed and I admired the amount of sheet metal-cutting and wood twisting that must have been involved. His works however held very little mystique because of his overt display of the fastenings and engineering involved. Still, it was a much more satisfying experience than looking at a blob of Blutack stuck to a wall (no mystique there either) and on a par with dicking about in a room full of balloons.

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