Life in the gallery
Get your flying goggles on and prepare to enter a world of language, the darker side of a cartoon dog and dancing full stops.
I love the stillness before the first visitors arrive – it gives me a chance to acclimatise, absorbing the work and the space. As soon as people come into the De La Warr Pavilion gallery, the space comes alive and I can offer them a gallery guide from the interactive tear off stack of print Banner has left. This is a great opportunity to connect with a visitor and find out whether they know anything of Banner’s work.
Ha Ha, a piece of work installed along the windows ensures the space is flooded with warmth and is punctuated with ever changing lights and shadows. It is a consistent favourite amongst all visitors cleverly playing with the outside and the inside, highlighting our beautiful location and Banner’s interest in a pause. The stops (or buoys) poised resting at sea level.
It’s not our role as a gallery to dictate what people think about art, architecture or anything else, however the work in the gallery is chosen carefully to create opportunities for conversation and open up new worlds to visitors.
Visitors are many and varied and range from exclaiming ‘but where’s the art?’ in bewilderment and mock shock to gasps of excitement and an attitude of awe and reverence verging on religiosity when they see the work. For some entering the gallery is like entering a world full of possibilities and new ideas it enables them to forget the daily grind and to dream a little, think a bit and enjoy the bombardment or subtle encroachment on their senses.
Recently I have loved watching the dad and his little girl who both started dancing to the film (something I like to do when there are no visitors!). Then there was the woman who very confidently sang me the sixties song Snoopy and the Red Barron to show me what speed it was originally recorded at. I am frequently delighted by visitors who come in and appear to be indifferent to the work initially but then totally immerse themselves in it. An elderly couple came in last week whilst on a tour from the Midlands, they were so open minded and fascinated by the Vanity Press publications I had to ask them what they had done in their working life, one was a teacher and the other had worked in management, both had an inquisitive mind which they enjoyed sharing together. I hope I grow old like them!
Visitors make the gallery breathe with movement, discussion and response – the art is the attraction but the people make it a real experience bringing their own interpretations to what they see. Some think it’s funny or say ‘it’s like the TV series the Prisoner’ referring to the black inflatable full stops, others tell me their own experiences of the artist or the subject, for example the musician and composer who told me he had met Orson Wells and been employed to spend several long and lonely hours watching and listening to an Orson Wells movie notating the music he heard and of his son who works for the US army developing fighter jet technology. Another is the woman who was delighted to see Snoopy, it turned out she had the entire collection of books and had grown up with her brother in tandem with the relationships being played out in the comic strip. As relevant today she said as they were then.
So thanks to all who visit because you make the gallery and what’s in it come to life.
Written by Felicity Truscott
Open until Sunday 8 January
Leading British artist Fiona Banner presents an immersive installation exploring her ongoing interest in language and its limitations.