I took my student to London for the day, and we walked about ten miles. I felt energised and excited to show her what I loved. She wants to be an artist and is fifteen. We only had a day and had to be back for early evening, so I marched her up The Mall, which I don’t particularly love at all, but she wanted to see ‘where the Queen lived’. When we finally arrived at the destination I love, the South Bank, I felt relieved to show her the South Bank Centre and the Tate. She loved the Gerhard Richter. As I was taking a photo of a picture, she was staring at the texture of the concrete of the wall. She reached out and touched the wall. I saw myself in her.
For me the South Bank centre with its Brutalist concrete architecture is a place full of resonance. Each one of those buildings feels like home to me. Each one contains intriguing and mystic urban soundscapes. Music, orchestras rehearsing, conversations, echoes, sounds of secrets divulged between friends. Coffee cups clinking. The building which intrigues and soothes me the most is the National Theatre. Memories of my Dad, who took me to see a couple of plays there, and a drama club I attended a couple of times. There you can hide. Walk up the dark purple carpeted stair case, peer around corners, look up, geometric sculpted concrete ceilings; brutalist, but far from brutal. The lighting soft. The light appearing through doors leading to hidden mysterious spaces. Around each corner, behind each giant supporting structure or staircase, appears a newly revealed space. There is a feeling of being held in a liminal space; of being protected in safety within such a vast, monolithic yet nurturing cultural structure. The interstitial spaces, non-places, or places between places, are very felt; considered.
When I am in London, it doesn’t matter what the weather is doing. If it’s raining it’s still atmospheric, Lights reflected in puddles, cars glistening. The smell of diesel, train brakes on the bridges, the sounds of a myriad of languages, people of all nationalities and cultures. People standing in reverence in front of a Rothko or a Richter. In cafes I look at people and wonder about them. Often they don’t notice, as they are staring at screens, down the rabbit hole, especially in the South Bank centre, as they are municipal buildings which people use as a sanctuary. Working in the hushed privacy, hidden away in a corner of the vastness of the buildings, the scent of coffee emanating from the various cafes.
I saw a Picasso I had never seen before at the National Gallery. When I am in London, I really miss it. Funny how, when i lived there I barely went into the centre. Perhaps it’s better that I don’t live there, but in Brexit Britain, it feels like a haven away from the polarisation, and parochial small-mindedness. It’s a breath of fresh air.