Marguerite Humeau: Echoes @ Tate Britain

Emoji summary: 🕳🌅👁

ZM 18/02/18

I am having a bad day, a bad week a bad month bad year possibly. i don’t want to talk about it particularly. It is a very internal thing,,,, me and my mouth n my stomach n i hate talking about it most of the time. i can be open about it when it’s good n fixed but rn it is an open sore on my front,,, leaking, oozing, and scabby. It is hard not to project this all onto some art as i go along around a gallery, jus doing my job; to not take it out on some poor unsuspecting sculpture. It’s hard not to whisper “you’re awful and hideous” at some random painting just bc i want company in my sadness n anger. 

I am sitting in a room at the Tate Britain, one of the ones with lots of Turners - j paintings of the sea n beyond. Hot n clammy, my mouth is clenched and I am pressed against myself, emotional from the build up. I came here to see Marguerite Humeau’s show, but it was just a room: 4 walls, no chairs. I came here, lowkey bc i wanted to sit down, rest my (i was about to say like feet or legs but tbh rly i mean my entire body);;;; i wanted art as company or friend. I feel pain or sadness quite viscerally, i think that’s the right word. like emotions are quite bodily and real for me at the moment, quite intense; a sharp hit to my chest, or the bit of stomach under my ribs. My throat closes up n goes dry and my hands turn cold and wet on the palms. I am on a precarious edge, it feels like, a lot at the moment. 

The room Echoes was in was too clean and cold and the sound started hurting my head. the walls of the room were a pale but still absolutely fluorescent neon yellow and my eyes started to sting and water and i almost ran out of the room; chest pounding like i was holding my breath. and i stumbled to a bench in a room that felt far enough for me to feel better, empty enough for me to cry if i wanted to, and calm. The Turners here are quite bland and soothing to my eyes in such a nice way. They don’t demand anything at all, a very slow pace of looking and seeing. 

I used to think about art so romantically: this week i had dinner with an old school friend and i was so aware of how much i (and she) (we) have changed. I have grown cynical of things i used to jump into head first unironically; and i’ve warmed myself to things I used to hate. I have turned myself inside out, kinda. I wonder what my 18 year old self would think of me; if she’d be into the updates or if she’d recoil in horror at the inverse. I think a bit of both. But i used to hold art at such a height; high above my head with my arms outstretched towards it, very reverent. Now i have shifted, I am so casual with it, on first name terms. I am glad for the informality, but i am unsure about letting all my emotions bleed into it; to be ugly and spiteful to it, to let myself be ugly in front of it because i don’t care what it thinks of me. i do care, (i do and i don’t). I am unhappy when it spits back at me. I think the honeymoon phase is over between us (Me & Art, Art & myself) and we’re just ourselves to each other. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, i am wholly glad. How honest and good! i just wish sometimes we were less ugly to each other, that I saw it with that Old Romantic Reverence sometimes. Only sometimes,,, as like a throwback, to see it through rose-tinted glasses, airbrushed past my skepticism and away from my emotions - - -  heightened and hot.

The Turner I am sat across from has a large smudge across it on the right half of the canvas - - - like a huge smudge of yellow. I think it is the same neon yellow of the walls in the Marguerite Humeau show. It feels like Art is reminding me that even though we fight sometimes, it’s not all the time. We can scream and hit each other, but then still be softly spoken n gentle after. The Marguerite Humeau was too much for me today. i wasn’t in the mood for the facade of it all, this weird dance between me and the work, where we assume understanding n surrender parts of ourselves for aesthetic experience. When i saw her show in 2017 at Nottingham Contemporary, it was full-bodied n enormous. Like, the waterworks worked, there was a sense of being totally encompassed in this thing, this flavour. a very well set mood. In the Tate, the pipes were for show only; as i got closer to the barrels there was no liquid running through them n the sound of rushing water was coming from a speaker hidden under the platform. It sounds so picky and petty for me to say that disappointed me; but it did. It felt a bit more hollow than the work i’d seen from her before. It felt more plastic and slick, like a rehash of the same work, but without life behind the eyes. I am much happier to be sat here with these quiet paintings, as much as i think they’re tacky and overrated too; in some smaller way. they don’t offend me too much today bc i am feeling nostalgic n kinder, softer, more flexible to lean into the push of it all. I do not hate it all, n that is good to remember. 

Echoes by Marguerite Humeau is on at the Tate Britain till 15th April.

The yellow painted platforms were produced by Direct Painting Group.

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