IT may in part have been the unexpectedly balmy weather that attracted people in their masses to the Market Place on Saturday evening; but it is becoming increasingly common knowledge that The Corn Exchange’s Outdoor Arts Programme (funded by Greenham Common Trust) are free events not to be missed if at all possible.
Page Blanche involved a high scaffold installation divided into nine boxes, with six continental European artists creating a series of powerful, thought provoking, often intricate pieces of artwork and graffitied prose on plastic sheeting, using paint, etching and printing, only to destroy each piece within seconds, leaving a “blank page on which to start again”; questioning the place of art in the world, and whether it has to be permanent to be important. The painted sheets were in turn ripped off their perspex canvas and flung down to the ground, gathering in a colourful pile, as the artists themselves - five women and one man - became daubed in the paint as the hour progressed.
As they worked with intensity and urgency, the six artists chanted, danced, drummed and sang, accompanied by a double bassist, using live looping the music and singing to create an aural tapestry as complex as the creations appearing on the canvas. Indeed, this may have been fast art, but it was far from simple; there were many “can you tell what it is yet?” moments as each artist worked on different levels of the scaffold to reveal the cohesive whole on an epic scale.
Much of the artwork and its presentation had a point to make about various atrocities through human history, although the subtlety and cleverness of some of the images - a “carved” mandala depicting the wiping out of an Orinoquian tribe, where the weapons were the last part to appear - was not always reflected by the bluntness of the words, both written and oral. Some interesting points were made, but to me, comparing taking children to see celebratory fireworks to the horror of the atomic bomb seemed a little harsh.
Among the colourful paintings and stark black-and-white etchings, representations of famous artwork were sometimes created. Van Gogh’s self-portrait appeared, and the final giant depiction was reminiscent of Gauguin’s paintings of the women of Tahiti. Hypnotic and energetic, this was a rich and exhilarating performance that will leave those fleeting images imprinted in the memory for a long time.
- First published in Newbury Weekly News on Thursday, October 6, 2011