Modern Art? No Thanks.

By James Cairns.

Recently, wherever I turn I have been left facing an article or advert expressing amazement at the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow. Now, as everyone knows, modern art is the most polarising of subjects and I should probably confess right from the start that I err on the side of the sceptics and ‘non-believers’. Call me old fashioned, but Picasso and his peers have never really appealed to me before.

However, surely all this recent praise was not unfounded and there was reason behind the many advocates? Well there was only one way to truly find out, so one afternoon I slipped from the Royal College and walked down past the Duke of Wellington’s hat to see what all the fuss was about.

As a self-confessed Modern Art noob, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. My only real knowledge of the movement is of past exhibits famed for their notoriety rather than artistic merit. The infamous Damien Hirst controls the majority of my information. His most famous work, esoterically named The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, consists of a shark murkily putrefying in a tank. Now, to me this seems more like misguided fish mongering than thought provoking art, but having been previously exhibited in London’s hallowed Wallace Collection, again not all agree.

Hirst is by no means the first culprit to command my cynicism. Marcel Duchamp placing a urinal in the middle of a room raises my eyebrows even more significantly. And as if my amazement wasn’t already at a peak, needing to use Duchamp’s ‘exhibit’ and spend a penny would set the unfortunate person back the multi-million pound price tag.

Anyway, back to Glasgow and I was confident that bathroom fixtures would not be the main interest of my day. Specifically, I had heard about Sara Barker’s exhibition entitled “For Myself and Strangers” and the ways in which she creates “a sense of weightless improbability”. With my sceptic alarm bells already ringing I decided to leave them at the door and go in with an open and fair mind.

It wasn’t long before my attention was stolen by a large, neon gentleman’s club sign. As I gazed, trying to decipher the twisted tubes and understand what was depicted, I couldn’t help but come to the conclusion that it showed a man brandishing a carrot, attacking another person who was wearing an illuminati party hat.

As I have said, I’m no expert, but this was my first sign that maybe I’m just not wired to appreciate this type of art. I pressed onwards up to the first floor where a slight sense of amazement awaited. Barker’s sculptures stretched out before me, the sheer intricacy of her work having been done no justice by the adverts that had lured me here. What can only be described as skeletal structures, dotted the first floor. The hesitant, rectangular frames somehow stood un-assisted, resulting in an unnatural and imposing figure.

As I stood there taking in her work, something came over me. Rather than this sudden feeling being the predicted “sense of weightless improbability” it turned out to be stirrings which stemmed from opting for a 3 a.m. Best Kebab the previous night, something not quite so improbable.

Just before deciding to cut my losses and return home, a woman waltzed in front of me and went up to a sculpture, phone in hand. As I watched, she stuck her head through the Aluminium wiring and proceeded to take a photo of herself entangled in Barker’s exhibit.

Having had quite enough of the bizarre for one afternoon, I called it a day. Although I was still lacking the promised mental enlightenment, I was not lacking any technical appreciation at the intricacy I had witnessed.

Sara Barker’s exhibition is not for everyone, but definitely worth a look. Even if it’s just to go and take a cheeky selfie.} else {