Tuesday, 16 December 2008

More random dosmetic scenery

A detail of a drawing in pen and ink of garlic, lime, ginger and curry leaves in the kitchen waiting to be used - 16 December '08

As you can tell from the date of my last post it's weeks since I've written anything but, to tell the truth, I just haven't been inspired to write. But that has changed since last week when I went to visit my friend Hilary for a couple of days. Hilary lives in Swindon in the west country. If you mention Swindon to most people they will probably have heard of the place and they might say it's got something to do with railways. So here is a potted history of said town.

Swindon began life as a Saxon village and is mentioned in the Domesday Book (1086). For centuries it was a quiet market town and in time a quarry was established, a canal was dug and in 1840 the Great Western Railway arrived. This transformed the town from a sleepy backwater into the largest town in Wiltshire because it was chosen as a place to build railway engines and as a maintenance works.
The town continued to be an industrial centre until the railway works closed in 1986 and now it's a sprawling town without a reputation.

You might think then that Swindon has nothing to offer culturally but you'd be wrong. We had a stimulating visit to the town's art gallery which owns a large collection of the best examples of British 20th century art outside London. We also dropped into a temporary exhibition run by a local art group who were showing their work in a disused post office and the quality of their work was higher and more interesting than most local art groups that I have seen and this all cheered me up no end.

The following day Hilary had decided that we would take a trip to Cirencester, a town about 17 miles away from Swindon and, according to the local tourist board, it had been a Roman town of some note and is now the capital of the Cotswolds. 'Yeah and so what' were my thoughts as I had only been there once before and thought it was a bit of a dump. I was about to have my prejudices challenged once again.

Hilary was keen to see an exhibition called
Modern British Art and it was on at the Wetpaint gallery. There were works by Anita Klein, John Piper and Sir Peter Blake. There was even a piece of work by Damien Hurst which had so many numbers on the price label that my mind went into a spin trying to read it. There were some lovely ceramics and if I had had £45 to spare I would have bought a small ceramic dish for my husband; I was that impressed. This gallery is on the edge of the town near the only car park to have any free spaces in it. It is in a tiny building with interesting niches in the walls and it turns out that it had been a chapel in the past. The town had an abbey before the dissolution in 1538 and a faint air of an enclosed order still hangs around the place.

Finally we visited the New Brewery Arts Centre in the middle of the town. This refurbished site has artists studios where you can go and gawp while the artists practice their craft. There is also a gallery and a shop, which appeared to be more interesting at a distance than it was up close, plus a very popular café where we recovered from the labour of looking at art. The whole trip was very stimulating and encouraged me to get on with my own project of drawing 'random domestic scenes' around the house. The latest example is shown above.