National Gallery – members summer party

‘When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life’ and so said Dr Samuel Jackson.

It is Wednesday and I have a ticket to attend the National Gallery’s summer party for members. It starts at 7 in the evening and I have plenty of time before that.

I caught up with all my pending work and ring Indira. She is free to join me for a leisurely lunch. By lunchtime the heavens open up. Indira picks me up and we drive down to Woodford and catch the train.

In Chinatown we settle down for dimsums and catch-up from where we left of last time. She is only a year older than me, but has decided to retire early. Disillusioned with work, we realise that we have let work take over our lives and it is time to give it up. I am not ready quite yet, but will be soon.

After lunch, we walk down to Trafalgar Square and sit and watch the crowds as we continue our chitchat. Soon it starts to drizzle and Indira leaves and I go and join the queue. I wonder if I will feel lost in the midst of all these people who genuinely know they Monet from their Manet. We are given the programme schedule as we wait, so that we can decide which talks to attend and in what order. I make a mental note of how to work the gallery.

The doors open at seven and after a security bag check and membership pass check we are allowed in. I head for the Sunley room where the Turner prize winning artist Chris Offili is exhibiting his ‘The caged bird song’. The title is taken from Maya Angelou’s ‘I know why the caged bird sings’. It is a tapestry weaved from Chris Offili’s water colour and charcoal painting. It took the weavers two and a half years to complete this handwoven triptych. The artwork is hanging on the far end of the hall and around it the walls are covered in a mural designed by the artist. It depicts temple dancers luring us in towards the scene.

This evening is all about our senses and paintings and how we connect them together. A young lady comes and talks to us about the tapestry. Soon it is not just a mere tapestry, but a theatrical scene. She draws our attention to the two figures on either sides of the picture pulling the curtains to reveal the scene. Two lovers take centre stage. The man playing an instrument and singing to the lady. The lady lying back and sipping from a goblet which looks as if it is being filled from the heavens. You can make out a figure trying to pour the liquid onto the glass. He is modelled on the Italian footballer Balotelli, although the final version bears no resemblance to him. The sea in the background is bright blue, but the clouds are dark and create a scene of what’s to come. The hills behind them, on one side, with a cascading waterfall, is all cleverly woven into the picture. It is a vibrant play of colours and as the young lady talks, you are transported to this mythical place where you can hear the sea and the waterfall in the background along with the young man singing. Did I mention the caged bird which is being held by one of the figures drawing the curtain. It is chirping away and the whole tapestry comes to life as if by magic. And that is how it is billed ‘Weaving Magic’.

It’s time to move on to hear the next talk.

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