When I go to an art gallery, I think I am always hoping to have the sort of transformative experience that I had on my (first?) trip to London. I came with school (I think). It was sometime in the 70s or maybe the early 80s. We dressed up smartly and we were told to have money belts (for a visit to London from Crewe was an exotic and dangerous experience), and we visited the Tate. There, for the first time, I saw modernist/abstract expressionist painters like Kline, Motherwell, de Kooning, Pollock, Rothko, Klee and Kandinsky and was blown away by the freedom and energy and spontaneity of it. For the first time, I felt something of myself - the misfit, questioning, rebellious bits of me - mirrored and expressed (despite, I now note, the complete lack of women in that list of artists). It was a revelation.
On Friday I went to the Foundling Museum in London, to see the exhibition 'Found' curated by Cornelia Parker. 30 years or so on from my formative Tate experience, in this most unlikely of places, I found myself reflected back again. This time it was a deeper process. It wasn't just the pieces in and curation of the Found exhibition itself (which include not only works based on found objects but also many connections to North Wales, and artists that I have personal connection with), but the museum context within which it was itegrated: the building, the decor, the aesthetic, the pace, the look and attitudes of the staff, the sounds and spirit of the place, even the prices (a catalogue of the exhibition is £7.99, delicious soup £5), the food, chairs and sugar tongs in the cafe.
I found myself taken back to childhood suspicions that perhaps I was adopted (although I wasn't), of that feeling of being frail and delicate and mis-understood in a world in which I didn't really belong, and of collecting and curating found objects (on paper, in my den, in my boxed collections) as a way of dealing with it, making my own worlds. Or as Cornelia Parker says, more eloquently, "Sometimes [the found object] is a proxy for an emotiional part of yourself that is neglected".
The museum became a sort of living vision of where that could all have led, a sort of dream of being as brilliant as Cornelia Parker. The approach and work of the artists, and Cornelia's curation, reflects many of my interests and aspirations and values (now more postmodern). It was, as Greyson Perry says, that it is as though we don't know ourselves until we find ourselves reflected in others. For me, it isn't just people that reflect me back, but found things and places too. As Georgia O'Keeffe said of finding the desert:
"As soon as I saw it, I knew it was mine. It fitted me exactly"
The show starts in the basement, with a 'Found' exhibition, which then continues throughout the museum, in amongst the museum's exhibits. By the time I'd got to the cornicing and Edmund de Vaal's work on the first floor, passing Laura Ford's "Glove Boy" to the haunting sounds of remixed childhood music featuring a cuckoo clock, I was almost overwhelmed with it all. And I wasn't even half way round.
After lunch at the museum, I set off to see my psychotherapist (I know, this sounds so horribly self-indulgent doesn't it? But it is one of the best things I've ever done). Rich pickings of course. I got to find out about my over-active 'superego'.
This super-ego of mine has been rather mean of late (menopause?), and somewhat crushing, a cross between an accountant and over-efficient secretary. So I have parked her at the reception in the Foundling Museum where she can learn some compassion.
At that session on Friday, my psychotherapist (eek, I still think that sounds so pretentious!) also mentioned an Imagine programme on Cornelia Parker. I watched it last night and realised just how much I have in common with her background and interests and approach. Her work is stunning and so inventive: Just look at this her current piece on the roof garden at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York: Combining the Psycho house (set) with a red barn of the American dream.
The 'Found' exhibition at the Foundling Museum is on until 3rd September. I heartily recommend that go if you can. It's just a short walk from Euston or Kings Cross. Lots of people I met over the weekend said they'd never been to the Foundling Museum because it is 'too sad'. But it isn't: It's a celebration of compassion and humanity and beauty and survival and creativity. Combine this with the Found exhibition, and I think you'll love it! As Cornelia Parker says " I hope they [the visitor] come away with having rediscovered something about the lost and found in themselves".
If you can't make it to the museum, the Imagine programme on Cornelia Parker is on iplayer until mid August.