My first impression of the gallery was a certain awe of the architecture of the gallery, in Walsall. It stands out from the many Poundlands and usual high street fodder. As I walked in, there was a massive foyer. It’s a great space for school groups but I wasn’t quite sure what to do with this big space! Do you go to the café, the front desk or the book/gift-shop first? I opted for the book/gift-shop so I could pretend I was doing something whilst I pondered how I would navigate the gallery. Nice cup of Costa to start the day, then I walked up the stairs. I had never heard of the artist Theodore Garman but his oil paintings are striking. The colours are beautifully contrasted which you can’t quite see in digital images of them.
One of the gallery assistants was very willing to talk to me about the pieces and discuss the experience of having Damien Hirst wallpaper in the gallery. They have to burn it when it comes down so it can’t be sold off! It was in the £1000s for just one roll of wallpaper! The Bob&RobertaSmith Epstein Archive Gallery was full of funny videos, “he went to school na-na-na-na-naaa,” and illustrations about Jacob Epstein’s life and a letter from Theodore Garman requesting more jam from his mother. The most arresting piece, however, was Polly Morgan’s taxidermy of lovebirds devouring a human heart. The colours were so vivid from far away yet, as you move closer, you realise the graphic nature of the piece which, due to the softness of texture and the tidy presentation, creates the grinding dichotomy of the eternal Beauty of Love and the coarse reality of Nature’s unforgiving beak.
Then I had a cup of coffee in Costa and popped upstairs to see Zoe for my first day work-experiencing in the Education department.