Roll up! Roll up! See, the magnificent ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’, bask in the beauty of the Mona Lisa, be wooed by the fair Frida Kahlo, witness poetic choreography, sublime felting, sculpture, drawing and printmaking for one day only as the marvellous yet mysterious, House of F, present, ‘Fakes, Fraud’s and Flagrant Rip-offs!’
Saturday 26th January, I have the day off work! A red letter day indeed and what better way to spend it than visiting some art with a friend. But, not just any old art, no, this was to be a surreal, fun-filled experience of the likes that can only come from the mind of artist (and friend), Annie Jeffs. Somewhere in a tithe barn in Fitzhead for one day only, Annie Jeffs, Kate Burrows and friends as the ‘House of F’ collective (you can decide yourself what the ‘f’ is for) came together to put on an exhibition celebrating, fakes, fraud’s and rip-offs. It is safe to say that they deliberately don’t take themselves too seriously, which is refreshing and also, by how it looked, a lot of fun! Plasticine replicas of Van Gogh’s, Vincent’s bedroom in Arles’ and Vermeer’s ‘Girl with the Pearl Earring’ by Annie Jeffs (or Annie Jiffy as she is sometimes also known) are actually brilliantly accurate to the real paintings and can’t help but make you smile when you realise they are made with nothing other than a child’s modelling material. If you only learn one thing from seeing a House of F exhibition, it’s that art is fun. If you wanted to get analytical about it then you could make all sorts of associations between the intuitiveness and child-like-ness of play and using plasticine and the similarities that kind of play has with creative intuition and spontaneity. But let’s not over think it because over in the corner there is a stack of toast and a jar of marmite that is inviting us to come over and have a go at painting a portrait of the Mona Lisa on toast. And why not! Actually, this was really tricky to do, but the variety of results was fantastic. In many ways, my favourite piece of the day, and that’s from someone who hates marmite!
Moving on, the slightly chaotic, busy barn hall, taking care not to knock over any boards, animals or small children, I make my way to a rolled up parchment (pictured) depicting black and white drawings of the Poll Tax riots. ‘House of F’ always has had political undertones, proving it isn’t all toast and plasticine! These drawings were great and were created from a first-hand account by the artist who had also been there. I particularly like the way you had to unroll the parchment from left to right as the narrative unfolded.
Next, I pass a felted replica (or at least I assume it is) of Van Gogh’s ear in a box and some truly brilliant photography (pictured) depicting abandoned rooms that look, let’s just say, a little worse for wear. But you don’t need to be an ‘artist’ to know or appreciate that sometimes these sorts of decay and abandoned neglect in buildings can be beautiful, haunting and make for one really interesting photo! Again, without sounding too discerning, my only criticism of these photos was the painted, collaged frames that surrounded them that really detracted from the images themselves. Less is more!
By now I was getting parched and what I really needed was a drink. Heading to the barn’s upstairs gallery, I was delighted to hear they were serving G&T and what better way to serve it, than from a tea pot, served gracefully, by none-other than Frida Kahlo herself! Woah! Definitely surreal! Refreshed, I progressed to view Kahlo’s felt-made self portrait and some equally surreal sculptures of the likes pictured below.
What better way to conclude this eventful outing than with the premier screening of, ‘A pretentious art film’ in the snug, secluded seat of the fireplace (and also in wide-screen!). Reading the reviews on the wall of, “This film was such a momentous piece of art that I hid myself from the world for 3.8 weeks in order for the stunning metaphor to immerse in my mind” and “I feel privileged to have this film grace upon my retinas” set a high expectation of what I was about to see. It shows, one woman and her boat...er I mean bath tub...one woman and her dog.....three men in a boat......three men and a woman falling out of a boat or indeed a bath tub....dancing and then the end. The images now in my retinas I stopped to reflect on what it all could mean?..... It’s easy to get caught in ‘not’ taking this film seriously (as it’s not meant to be) but even saying that is a bit like saying, ‘how do you be cool?’ when some things don’t need explanation, they defy it. However, me being me, I can’t help but naturally take some earnest in being serious about not ‘being serious’ and whilst I find it funny, I also find it kind-of clever in the way it is unashamedly taking the piss out of itself and the context and pretentiousness of some art. With running the risk of sounding too pretentious myself, I do wonder what makes a pretentious art film so pretentious or not? And is it more the context and formal-ness of the gallery space and institution that makes a work seem more pretentious than it is? Or is it about expectation, and that we don’t expect to find a pretentious art film in a tithe barn in Fitzhead but we do, in a gallery like Spacex? So interesting....even if it wasn’t supposed to make me think, it has! Have a look for yourselves.
There you have it! Weird, brilliantly rubbish and above all fun! Eat your heart out Marcel Duchamp! Upon returning to the real world, I couldn't help but smile.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you, 'The House of F'!