From the series Portraits of Children Who Have Seen Too Much Too Soon , 2006 Gee Vaucher
Exhibition “Gee Vaucher: Introspective” at Firstsite, Colchester
12 November 2016-19 February 2017
It’s been almost two years I saw the exhibition “Gee Vaucher: Introspective” at Firstsite Colchester , Colchester. Amazing show of one of my favour artist ever. It was great to see all her artwork in one show, as her career spans more than forty years the exhibition included collage, photography, photomontage, painting, sculpture, film, performance, typography. Most of the stuff which make up the show I’ve been seeing it for years at books and cover records but staring at the original and nearly touch them it was just amazing. Remember to get astonished when I came into the room which this big canvases (almost 3x3m) from the series “Portraits of Children Who Have Seen Too Much Too Soon” where staring at me. Today I come across this Old Children meanwhile I was searching some pictures, I would like to share them with you, hope you can get hooked as I did.
Penny Rimbaud wrote a text called “A very private person” for the catologue of Gee Vaucher exhibition, I got just a part of this text when he told us this nice hystory about this series of paintings.
Outside the old farm cottage which I share with Gee and sundry others, there’s a cowshed where sad-eyed cattle chew the cud and attempt to ignore the cohabiting vermin. Like it or not, mice and rats are not a problem on farms; they’re a simple fact. Until recently, tucked away in the corner of the cowshed, there was a huge wooden box. It had been there for the best part of five years, long enough for it to look like a piece of agricultural architecture, and long enough for it to have become a home to the mice and rats. Every-so-often the cows used it as a back-rub, leaving an oily sheen across the slowly weathering wood: the patina of time.
Inside the box were four of Gee’s paintings; exquisitely tender portraits of war-torn children, be that global war or the more personal violence of domestic abuse. Gee had often in the past referred to these paintings as her ‘children’. The four paintings had last seen the light of day in New York, at the Gavin Brown Gallery. Gavin had shown the portraits as part of her first major solo show which, like this one, was very appropriately titled ‘Introspective’; he’d wanted to showGee’s work because he ‘believes’ in her .
Following the private view, Gavin invited Gee and myself to dinner at a tastefully chic Italian restaurant whose sheer classiness allowed for our bohemian appearance and attitude to go by unnoticed. Stepping outside into a drizzly New York evening for a much needed pre-desert smoke, I was joined by Gavin who expressed bemusement at Gee’s attitudes.
“What does she want?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” I responded.
“But you’ve known her for years,” he interjected.
“Yes, but she’s a very private person and, to be frank, I’m really surprised that’s she’s allowed this show to happen at all.”
“So how can I help?” asked Gavin despondently.
“You can’t,” I muttered, stubbing out my cigarette and heading back towards the awaiting creme caramels.
Having travelled across America to San Francisco and then on to Los Angeles, the show returned to New York where the four portraits were packed into a wooden box and shipped back to the UK. That was five years ago, and the box had stood in the cowshed ever since, untouched by human hands, unseen by human eyes. Gee used to say that she thought her ‘children’ were safe out there. Meanwhile, I worried about the mice and rats: I’d seen what they could do to discarded wooden cooking spoons, seen what they did to Gee’s oil pastels; they ate the lot, and that was inside the house, not outside.
If Gee had any interest at all in self-promotion or in the business-led interests of the art world, those four paintings would by now be hanging in London’s Tate Modern or New York’s MOMA. That’s where I’d like them to be . These are important works, works of our time which should be seen because, rather than confirming the shabby, inconsequential interests of Saatchi and his likes, they challenge post-millennium complacency to its very core: ‘the poetry is in the pity’. This might not be the sort. of work that we want to see, but most certainly it is the type of work that we need to see and, indeed, ought to see. As it stood, these poignant expressions of love and its cultural betrayal, both of the paintings and of their artist, could well have been hidden away in their wooden box long after Gee and myself have been assigned to wooden boxes of our own. I used to find the irony almost unbear-able. Nonetheless, there was something very touching about all this, in fact it seems to me to have had an almost religious association. Indeed, I somehow feel that it’s as if Gee saw her four children as being safe out there in the cowshed, tucked-up comfortably in the dark interior of the huge wooden box, surrounded by the sweet smell of hay and bovine breath, hidden away from the horrific ravages of war that had in the first place made their portrayal so very necessary.
I have the greatest respect for Gee’s privacy as an artist, and feel that I understand the protectiveness she shows toward her work, but, all the same, I continued to worry about the mice and rats, after all, it was they who had always benefited most from the ‘fodder’ of war. Why hand it to them on a plate?
BUT I NEVER SAID A WORD. ‘’HONEST’’
And now the children are out again, out to play, free if not to rewrite their own tragic history, then at least to inform or guide us ‘the people’, towards a better future. Then is this current show at last a glorious extrover-sion of that which for too long has been sealed in wooden boxes and stacked in dusty cupboards? I dearly hope so.
By seeing her art essentially as a tool for social change, Gee has ducked and weaved her way through whatever medium might best express whatever it is that she seeks to say or, I concede, not say. Within paintings, drawings, collages, prints, films, happenings, sculptures, and soundscapes, her singular demand for human rights, dignity and fairness is always manifest. Expecting and more often than not demanding no returns, she has remained a resolute outsider, free to express herself as she desires, and completely divorced from any commercial consideration. In the laissez-faire world of postmodernist pretensions, her bohemianism is as laudable as her work is illuminating. Those who cannot see the light are those who are not looking for it.