the journey is the destination 22/11/13

by maggie



This week i have mainly been looking at Art, (this of course is a pretty lie.) and as i write I’m on my way to the south coast to look at some more. Finally I’m going to see the trees i mentioned in this post.

Of course I’ve waited until the penultimate day of the second part to make my move. So I’m to stave off the futility of it all i, making the two your train ride a conscious part of the ‘looking at Art’ experience. I’ve done the 18 minutes journey from Surbition to Woking many time while at Art College, which is why I’m writing this rather than gazing out of the window at the clear blue sky and autumnal leaf colour. Lymington is way past Southampton on the Weymouth line so there will be much more unfamiliar views to acquaint myself with later.

So I’m looking forward to seeing this modern interpretation of trees and I’m wondering what they will be like in the flesh ( rather than the reproductions I’ve seen in the catalogue. On Wednesday i trailed around the newly relaunched Tate Britain looking closely a artists mark making – both painterly and sculptural. it’s wonderful to see the depth of things in front of you and realise how much more they say than reproductions.

I went with mum who once visited Henry Moore at his studio. She likes his little maquettes best. He’s a modeller she says (rather than a carver) and we both agree that his big monumental bronzes are far too impersonally created for our tastes. they were made in a workshop system, by assistants and the rasp marks left in the original plaster look arbritrary – disconnected from the larger whole of the piece. The bronzes themselves make me think of rocks in the inter-tidal zone. Here the sea and sky are shaping them from the inside out. Strengths and weakness in the stone dictate the direction of the shaping.


In know in sculpture both modelling and carving, you can make any shape you like – but surely one would want everything from the tiny detail to the grandest gesture to be the right kind of shape.

Travelling though the wilds of Ash Common with Brockwell cemetery off to the left – blue sky and spindly birch trees up the sides of the cutting.

I’m hunched over my note book as I haven’t managed to get an airline seat with a table flap. some how in my brain I expected an old train with a handy table to do stuff on. I have a tree image in my head from the bus ride to the station, that i want to explore. There’s no space, even if I wasn’t writing this to do that. The Romance of Steam is very dead.

As well as picking and choosing from the last 500 years of Uk art at the Tate we also went to see the Stanley Spencer Sandham Chapel Painting currently on tour at Somerset House. I feel  i understand more about SS after reading the blurb relating to his experiences in WW1, but I don’t understand him. i don’t think I could ever understand someone who embraces St Augustine’s ‘Confessions’ as model to live by.

Of course his painting style is very period, he builds his people out of liver sausage. when, however, you put all that to the side, his compositions are remarkable: a forest of crosses and prostrate horse, wardrobes in baths, tommies doing the dance of the seven veils in their mosquito nets, fires + guy ropes + flapping white tents. it’s only now days away that I’m still enough to appreciate the paintings over the gawping heads of the public.

Tomorrow I have an appointment with some Kurt Jackson’s on cork street, but that will be another story.

Space that’s what  has been missing – i don’t think there is a two metre square of free floor space in my mum’s house. and i watch at the window as the fields fly by, either scruffy green stubble of new painted winter wheat or grey brown straws from plants not yet ploughed in. distantly there are hedgerows with their occasional tree, big or small. They give the illusion of space, but once down on the ground how much freedom is there to step of the path. Freedom is as much in your head as it is the ability to ‘swing a cat’.


leaving the station in a narrow cutting (i have a table seat, but what to do with the luxury) before emerging out on to a hill side for a moment with the Cathedral far below.

*gets out pencils*

Southampton Airport Parkway

Still trying to capture bare tree, grey concrete and the bright sun on the last of the yellowing light green leaves. Thinking of Shaun Tan and his depth of colour.

Southampton central

Rows and rows of brand new cars and vans. Cranes of the container port. sun hot thought the window. Noodles for lunch.

Heath land grey brown scrub, sandy soil, dead bracken and sub par heather. A stand of green pine at a cross road. All this will be hidden in the dark on the way home. A wood by the tracks – how to portray the sunlight through leaves – at any time of year? Dying tree swathed in ivy, white bows clawing the sky.


A train with real tables and an eight minute journey. Mild excitement, went looking for the trian on the wrong platform, confussed by announcement on previous train.

More heath – stands of gorse, some flowers some burnt out. Ponys, trees, copice, a field of sheep. An England that seems foreign to me a Londoner. Suddenly water, town, station.

Brick georgian, hill – wife shops* and then the gallery plunging in. I have the book. I’ve seen all these pictures but how differnt there are here on the wall.

Take a breath

I’ll glad i came, ask me what i think in a few days time


It’s dark now in the orange lights of the train station as the train arrives over the bridge from the ferry terminal. So many vistas broken, interrupted, the viaduct over the river as the train snakes from one side to the other. The broad dark back of the Isle of Wight beyond a forest of masts; more than a pleasant walk away. A long wandering Walk of high red brick walls, curing shorting sightlines, concealing fig trees. Pinks and Blues and lichen covered bricks.

Interiors. commuters and college kids planning their evenings. We plough though a tunnel of darkness. No lights on the heath far from roads, no signal either. Then come the ligts around the head of Southampton water. Mysterious piles and structures in the pools of light. I remember what I saw earlier under the sun, all still out there hidden from view.

Southampton Central

eating noodles/ waiting for a signal

Southampton Airport Parkway

Waiting for the buffet trolley. then out of the window bare trees like bessoms up-lit above  long strips of over head gantries.

tired now, with headache, suddenly the overhead lights of the carriage are too much. Only glimpses of the external world – a river of white and red that is the motorway.

I walked down to the docks after the gallery. In the twilight everything  was painted soft blues and lilacs, save the silhouette of the town back lit in clear yellow. There a dredger was bringing up great buckets of black river mud.


More people board.

Am I thinking about trees yet? I am thinking about pictures: composition, painting/drawing techniques, scale (both in the work and the viewing of) tonal range, media, competency, intention, preoccupations. No not really.

There are certain things that have always fascinated me about trees, but their self-similarity is equal in nature to those of inter-tidal rocks. Laterly the Plane Trees around Tate Britain have been heavily pollarded. They look like weary pugilists waiting to deliver an unguarded round house blow.

Cross the aisle a little girl called ‘Derek’ is stalking her sister through DS chatrooms.

Flashes of recall of the day pass through the my mind – sitting quietly in the gallery looking at the big painting. This what I came for to experience the real thing – a wood at night.


Platform 3 and the stopping train.

I look at the pictures in my purchase – “The Solent Project: Painting the two coasts” Kurt jackson. I wonder what they look like in real life. A mastery of washes and scintillation.

Outside the train ghosts of times past fall on the window glass like rain, I pay them no notice, they will be here next time I come this way.


(*Shops for wives, by wives. It may be possible to get a wife at the shop, if you can stand hanging out there.)