Friday, 11 June 2010

The Life And Times Of Milton Keynes Gallery

Mark Leckey, Untitled (MK:G model with green screen), 2010 (detail)
Image courtesy the artist, Cabinet Gallery and Milton Keynes Gallery
Photo (c) Andy Keate

First off, let me say that I don't 'appreciate' art. I see things I like, and like them because I like them; I don't necessarily see what a piece of art might be trying to portray, convey or otherwise, and so I don't attempt to understand it or explain what I see. That said, I still like art and visiting galleries, but for me to enjoy something I have to feel a principally visual, rather than visceral, connection to what I see.

I took Daughters #1 and 2 to Milton Keynes Gallery on Saturday to see The Life And Times Of Milton Keynes Gallery. I'd resolved earlier this year to take them to each new exhibition here, mainly because they do seem to enjoy galleries and looking at pictures and the like, but also because I think trying to culturally enrich their minds is important from as early an age as possible. Plus I think having their imagination stimulated by means other than the TV is even more of a requirement of parents in the modern age. Daughter#1 loved the linear images of the last exhibition we went to see, of Nasreen Mohamedi's works, and both girls were really excited about visiting again.

The current exhibition, organised by artist Mark Leckey and director of London's Cabinet Gallery Martin McGeown spreads across the four principal ground-floor spaces and is intended to act as a celebration of Milton Keynes Gallery's tenth birthday, an event which you'll be forgiven for having missed given that a far better known gallery, Tate Modern, is celebrating the same auspicious anniversary this year.

The clinical, large concrete spaces should have provided ample room for a major retrospective or something more weighty than the slightly tongue in cheek line-drawn renderings of cubes, ears and animals drawn on large curved hanging sheets of paper by Viz cartoonist Lee Healey. These were to be seen in the Cube Gallery either side of what was supposed to be a projection of the revolving pink scale model of Milton Keynes Gallery being filmed in real-time against a green screen; on the projection, images of hypothetical architectural concepts were supposed to appear behind the moving pink gallery image. Except that the camera seemed to be out of tape, leaving just a static blurred image on the wall.

The Middle Gallery featured more Healey images and a video of what could be a computer-generated rendition of the interior of the gallery (From The Long Via The Link To The Middle To The Cube by Tim Bacon). The organic monochrome line drawings and the fast-moving video seemed incongruous together, and like so often with art I couldn't see the point. The room just felt clinical – and not in a good way – and sparse.

Probably the best part of the exhibition was the display of miniaturised excerpts of exhibitions past stuck to the wall in a messy mosaic style in the space known as the Link Gallery. Here was colour, variety, interesting and arresting images. I asked Daughter#1 which was her favourite. 'This one,' she said, pointing at a skull. It was that sort of morning.

The Long Gallery contained a video projection with rapid jump-cut imagery and a booming, computerised voice, all of which felt like a Burroughsian nightmare or a scary wartime propaganda educational film. If it wasn't for the girls getting slightly freaked out, I'd probably have enjoyed it.

So, once again, I've probably totally missed the point of this exhibition, but in my limited frame of reference all I will say is that it felt a bit narrowly-focussed and could have been much, much more than it was. But what do I know? I buy frames from Ikea after all.

The Life And Times Of Milton Keynes Gallery runs until 27 June 2010.

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