Art of some kind has been in the news over the past couple of days.
First, on Friday, the Citizen ran an article on the new sculpture in Kimbrose Square: St Kyneburgh’s Tower. Then on Saturday they reported some Banksy-esque graffiti that has appeared around the city. I’m not sure which is proving more controversial.
Firstly St Kyneburgh’s Tower. I saw it being erected on Thursday (and yes, comments on the huge erection have already been made!), but have not yet seen it in its finished state. Nonetheless, it looks pretty impressive to me.
It stands more than 16 meters high and, along with the recently installed ‘flowing wall’, it was created by artist Tom Price. The Citizen quotes Tom as saying: “The tower tells the story of one girl’s journey from life to death and beyond. I intended it to be both a spectacle and a place for quiet contemplation. They point to the invisible histories we rarely seek out, but which permeate the landscape around us.”
Okay, so I think we can be clear that this is standard artistic nonsense, but nonetheless it is undeniably an impressive structure and I think a good addition to the city.
Judging by comments in the Citizen I seem to be very much in the minority with this view. It comes as no surprise to me that the typical Citizen commentator derides it as ugly, stupid and a waste of tax payers’ money.
Art is, of course, in the eye of the beholder, and many Gloucester people don’t seem to understand any street art that is not a statue of some former Gloucester worthy. Many others just don’t get the need for street art at all and would rather see the money spent on more mundane, undertakings. Presumably they would be content with a grey, featureless cityscape.
What is more disheartening though is that this is just another example of that typical Gloucesterian knee-jerk reaction that anything that is done in the city is rubbish. The only thing they like better than slagging off the city’s shortcomings is slagging off anything that is done to try to improve the situation. I wish they would all move to Cheltenham; the town they generally love to compare the city with unfavourably.
The second ‘art’ debate concerned the appearance of some graffiti in the city. It must be a slow news day for that to warrant a headline, but the Citizen ran with “Gloucester Graffiti a Banksy?” before immediately going on to state “it is not believed to be the work of the man himself.”
In fact, the design of the graffiti in question was not new: I highlighted it in my blog back at the end of May when it appeared on the hoardings around Glosat. Nonetheless it is pretty good.
Opinion was divided on the Citizen comments page. Half the people liked it; the other half condemned it as vandalism. I commented to the effect that there is other ‘good graffiti’ around the city, including “an outbreak of bananas in the alleyway off Westgate Street and, best of all, an excellent picture of King Kong climbing the Cathedral in Severn Road.”
Immediately I was taken to task and, not unreasonably, challenged as to whether I would welcome graffiti on my property. Clearly, on the whole, I would not, so I had to confess to being inconsistent and hypocritical in my views on graffiti.
Nonetheless, I still believe that, done well, graffiti can cheer up otherwise dull and neglected corners of the city. Other places seem to encourage graffiti in certain areas and this seems to work well. The fact that Banksy’s work now seems to be widely embraced as art does tend to indicate a level of acceptance.
I recognise that calling for us all to show some pride in the city when considering new developments does not seem to be very consistent with supporting vandalism through graffiti, but generally I think that anything that introduces innovation, individuality, vibrancy and colour to Gloucester can’t be all bad.