gRayon’s Art Club was a brilliantly and quickly crafted response to the lockdowns induced by the pandemic in Britain. The first set covered the first two lockdowns, the second our third – although you wouldn’t suspect the last – to take shelter in place. The unwavering optimism of Grayson and his equally tireless wife Philippa presented the forced break as an opportunity for us to engage in something we couldn’t otherwise do, and turn to art as a means of dealing with the unprecedented situation and of expressing the inexpressible otherwise. . Each series consisted of six episodes, with a different theme each week, and asked the audience to submit pieces on the subject with the aim of putting together an exhibit to mark the whole extraordinary experience once circumstances permit. Grayson would interview with his usual warm talent some of the artists – even and especially if they weren’t called that – by Zoom, telling their stories and returning them as better insight into their particular work and the power of art in general. . The program attracted one million viewers per week and more than 17,000 members of the public submitted their works.
The Grayson Art Exhibition is now here to showcase the preparations for the event at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery and talk – face to face this time! Oh, the intoxicating intimacy and excitement! – with some of the people whose pieces will be exhibited.
Grayson accompanies wedding musician Tony Baine as he records the audio for one of his soundtracks; a little actual tape loop that he runs through a miniature forest scene, say, to replicate the effects of walking through it. Watching the small room come together is – as the Art Club so often is – touching in unexpected ways. Chosen contributions tend to grab a bit of your soul that you didn’t even know was there. You can curse and bless their and Grayson’s witchcraft as you turn into a tearful and soggy heap on the couch.
As always, Grayson is on hand to put into words some of the thoughts that teeter on the edge of your consciousness before you can. “They’re so cute,” he says of the little scenes suddenly alive with the sound of rushing rivers and creaking leaves, as Tony patiently threads his tapes and tends to his reel stations. âIt takes us back to a time when people were busy in sheds, having hobbiesâ¦ Art draws our attention to the world in a new way. Is there a sensuality in mundane sounds that we take for granted? Tony says hearing is his main sense. Now we hear it too.
Then there’s Becky Taylor, who has very little physical control over her body and communicates and creates her art entirely through digital technology controlled by the eye. This is the most compressed message about the power of the art of giving control over life, expression to independent experience and sensitivity you can find.
Potter Michael Pennington – better known as comedian Johnny Vegas – gives a heartfelt and touching account of foreclosure forcing him to recognize that making art is vital to him. âI would be so disappointed in myself if I went back to treating it like a luxury I can’t afford. “
Lulu Willis created a painting of herself as a warrior queen, to represent all of those like her who care full time for her behaviorally challenged son Matthew, were invisible to the government and suffered. multiple miseries during the lockdown. “What I would really like is for people to know that we exist and that it’s a really hard job that we do.”
The warrior queen is showing now.