Thursday, February 22, 2007

Exploring Tate Britain

by Stella Moutafis

THE TATE Britain art gallery is to be congratulated for hosting artist Mark Wallinger’s reconstruction of Brian Haw’s one-man peace vigil. Brian Haw himself has said “They’ve done me proud!” and many peace activists are making the trek to Millbank, London, to have a look.
While you are there, there is much else to enjoy at the gallery. As London art-enthusiasts will know, its remit is British art from the 1500s to the present day.The art is displayed in light and spaceous rooms, and helpful personnel are on hand to give directions.
From the permanent collection, our well-known artists such as Constable, Turner, and William Blake are showcased, and the major eras covered in chronological order. Of particular interest in the Modern section - as it is only here that we see images of how the people – as opposed to wealthy patrons of art – actually lived.
Here one can see The Crowd (Revolution) by John Wyndham Lewis, which though painted in 1915 strangely anticipated the Russian Revolution with red stick-like figures weaving through a maze of lines and structures waving red flags and tricolours.
Another gem not to be missed in this section is a display of wartime paintings by James Boswell (1906-71). A Communist Party member before the Second World War, he was posted to Iraq in the Medical Corps in the 1940s. Boswell was a cartoonist for the Daily Worker and Left Review.
But he’s most widely known for his work in the Artists International Association, which he helped to set up in1933 This was a left wing organisation with members working in all styles of art. And we even see a quote from Karl Marx in the Modern section! Not really interested in art? You might still enjoy a visit.
There are other sights to see in the vicinity. Across the river, outside Vauxhall station, there is a building listed in tourists’ guides as a “government building”.This,in fact, the infamous M16 headquarters. A bulky green and white pile, it no doubt conceals more than it reveals....What a shame they don’t do guided tours!
There are riverside walks to enjoy all around and if you are into modern architecture and design it is worth your while going along just to see Vauxhall Station. A busy interchange of rail, bus,and underground services, it probably doesn’t feature on most tourists guided “must see” lists. But it has a recently-built control centre which is an amazing steel and glass structure. It is more evocative of space travel than transport in London as we know it!
The Tate Britain is, as its literature proclaims, “Supported by BP”. Better make the most of it,then – before BP’s other activities help to make planet Earth “not fit for purpose”!

Tate Britain is at Millbank in central London and the nearest tube stations are Pimlico and Vauxhall. Admission is free apart from special exhibitions and the gallery is open daily from 10.00 – 17.50.