With no camera or camcorder to document my visit to Tate Britain to catch the final days of the 2008 Christmas tree, and the Francis Bacon and Turner Prize shows, I had to make do with my new Samsung mobile phone, which turns out to be as good as the early digital cameras, if not better. It's 5 megapixels, while my first digital Canon Ixus, which refused to recharge for the occasion in protest at my long neglect, was only 2.1.
The lack of a camera, an essential tool for venturing out in my cloak of invisibility (age), and a throbbing toothache almost dissuaded me from going, but Bob and Roberta Smith's recycled and cycled tree, Make your own Christmas, above, alone made the effort and pain worthwhile. Bob and Roberta S, aka PB, is a colleague in the art, media and design department where I work, noted for his idiosyncratic hats and brightly coloured dress. The tree was fun and original, as well as catching the spirit of this particular festive season where home-made and home-grown gifts have returned to favour in response to the global credit crunch. I helped knit a scarf, gave bunches of herbs from my garden, made my own cards and gift tags, and created photo books online as my contribution to the war effort. View a video interview with the artists at:
No photography allowed in the exhibitions - why are European galleries so much more relaxed about this than here? It's not as if holding up a mobile phone equates with setting up a tripod and professional large format camera for commercial gain. The Bacon show was absolutely engrossing. The gallery contextualisation was useful and not too didactic and irritating (unlike the Turner Prize wall texts). I was most moved by the thin paint, bare canvas and frantic graphic scribblings of his early paintings, especially Figure in a Landscape of 1945, which was the first of his works that I really came to know well back in the 80s. Apparently, according to the catalogue, Lyotard classed Bacon's painting as "figural", which perfectly describes the fugitive presences in his frames. Most unexpectedly engrossing was the room devoted to his sources; materials from his Reece Mews studio. I hadn't realised how often he referred to Eadward Muybridge's photographs of animal and human locomotion, which have fascinated me since I was an art student. Meanwhile, my cheek over the infected molar had swollen so much that I increasingly resembled a jowly Francis Bacon myself.
The Turner Prize show was a huge disappointment, more like a first year undergraduate studio crit' than cutting edge contemporary art. Derivative. Tired. Boring. Empty concepts with no craft or originality. And not just because my toothache made me grouchy. The work was completely upstaged by the comments board at the exit. Citizen review - nul points.