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Today I traversed to Trafalgar Square. The purpose of my visit was to absorb the beautiful, and old, paintings that reside in the National Gallery. On our way there, my friend whom I was visiting with, who just so happens to have lived in London all her life I may add, asked, just to clarify, which one the National Gallery was. I said, ‘You know that big, grand building in front of Trafalgar Square, with all the lions and Nelson’s Column? Yeah, that building. That’s the National.’ And with that, we were on our way.

Trafalgar Square as a place is pretty arty. For those of you who don’t know, there are four plinths surrounding the square. On one, George IV on a horse, another, General Charles James Napier, and another Major-General Sir Henry Havelock. Yeah, I only recognise one of those names as well. C’est la vie, you win some you lose some. But, the art of it arises when one considers the fourth plinth, as this houses a piece of art, changed at various intervals, and as such I think it is pretty freaking cool. The ‘ultramarine cockerel’ (or blue chicken, as I have termed it) is apparently supposed to embody awakening, regeneration and strength. Yeah. OK. Take that as you will, but I for one simply enjoy its injection of colour among the stone and marble, and the ridiculousness of such a large fowl among statues of men. I mean, is it really any more ridiculous to mount a huge statue of a bird, as opposed to a huge statue of a man? There are of course valid answers and objections to this, and, in responding to my question in the way you did, I hope it taught you something about the values you yourself hold, in terms of who should be glorified and who not. Boom. Got you.

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Sadly, of course, I am unable to actually share with you the main part of my day, the Gallery itself. It was patrolled, as expected and well within reason, by scrupulous members of staff on the look out for people using cameras and camera phones in the paintings’ presence. My friend got something in her eye, and in providing my phone for her to use as a mirror we were berated from across the hall, although upon explaining the situation we were free to go on our way. One member of staff even had to tell a man off for touching the painting. I’m surprised she didn’t slap his hand and send him away to think about what he had done; it did seem a rather bizarre thing to do (and quite a stretch, bearing in mind the barriers in action).

It was enlightening though. My interest in art has always fluctuated; my father is an artist, primarily a carver of wood but he also paints, and used to teach, so I’ve always suffered from a few conflicting feelings. On the one hand having a father so passionate about something enthuses you; on another, you want to rebel; on another, when you do show interest, the conversation can quite easily digress and deluge into a torrent of information that becomes quite tiring to listen to in itself, thus stunting any further questions and even interest you might have. But, I have to say, touring the gallery today the one thing I wished for was more knowledge; Monet is showing impressionistic tendencies, but what does that mean? What was he reacting against? Why did no one like Van Gogh’s paintings at the time? I still refuse to believe Kalf’s ‘Still Life With Drinking Horn.’ Look it up, Google it now, or better go to the Gallery itself- some HD cameras can’t even capture that detail. In addition it was refreshing to see the tendencies of us all in the painters; I commented to my friend, while viewing Rembrandt’s work from 1669, a self-portrait of himself at 63, that these were, indeed, the original ‘selfies’. Art changes style, changes tone, changes tools, but, as an expression of human feeling, it never really changes.

Yeah, even if it is just a fucking big blue chicken.

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