One really nice thing about London is all the little (and big) art galleries everywhere. I know in my Tate rant I may have given a certain impression, but I swear I’m not an indiscriminate art hater–in fact I quite enjoy most of it. I had an interesting interaction with an artist who had a display going on in this little gallery on my walk home today. The display was his in combination with a female artist. His works were very dark, ominous depictions of public transport in London–scenes from the bus, tube, escalators, etc. Hers were abstract violent, revolting scenes which tied in themes of marketing and advertising with more serious connotations of murder and violence. Basically, a mash of the information we digest every morning along with our daily Starbucks. Her works were very ironic, and looking at them one couldn’t help but grasp the ridiculousness of a story about children suicide placed next to an advertisement for a dating site, all taken in over a gingerbread latte. It’s always nice when you can catch an artist at the gallery, and really get an understanding for the motivation behind the works.
So I had a nice long chat with this fellow, and got a real feel for his artistic themes and the motivation behind his paintings, which were very large and mysteriously beautiful. He talked about the population of London as a whole, and the fact that everyone is here on some sort of set objective. No one is here just living. Consequentially, there are very few children and very few elderly people. The great majority of us here are between 18 and 60, with some set mission to accomplish while we’re here. What this equates to, as he pointed about, is a population of people who are always running–even if they have no place to be. Run, run, run. Also consequentially, this leaves people little time to contemplate life or death. And as far as most of us here are concerned, death does not exist here, as we’re not faced with elderly or sick people. Such was the inspiration behind the ominous and contemplative nature of these scenes. I must say, the public transport theme tied in very well with the other artist’s take on media. That’s one of the great things about art; it really gets you thinking.
So this got me thinking about life in London. Sure it’s really cool, but would I want to live here permanently? No. There are just too many people, and the nature of the place is terribly cold. With such a large population, it can’t be any other way. Plus it’s so touristy that a lot of areas have a sort of manufactured, plastic feel. Yeah, there’s lots to do and plenty of people to do things with, but it’s still hard not to feel a bit isolated in the city. So, the thoughts evoked by this guy and his work inspired me to craft my feelings into a poem.
Well I was born in a place where no one dies
Runnin’ runnin’ all they think about is time
Cold, so cold, send shivers runnin’ up your spine
Suit and tie, the cocktail parties and the wine.
The smiling face bombards your space from every side
Empty promises to keep you straight in line
Elevator to the top floor in the skies
Elevator to your empty dreams inside.
The street musician shakes his tambourine and sighs
Looks out beyond the river bridges and the lights
The camera fiend won’t pay no heed to his demise
Clicks his shutters to the jollities and lies.
Lee Bartnik, a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point majoring in dietetics, is blogging about his study abroad experience in London.