Thursday, 19 February 2015

Sloane Square to Soho

Visiting the Saatchi Gallery for the first time necessitated getting off at Sloane Square for the first time this century. The main drag had had a 21st Century makeover; the sloanes were skittering on serious granite and steering their partners and/or pushchairs around futuristic recycling bins. But we turned left at the first corner to walk round the block. At the corner a clothes shop had decorated itself with pots of fancy dwarf conifers:

A slight hint of the suburban privacy hedge cutting their customers off from the street; although you'll notice that the taller plants coincide with columns, and the ones over the windows are short and diaphanous, the privacy hedge given the commercial tease makeover; keep the wares visible, but make sure the punters have to peer over the hedge if they want to see them.

Plants here are commercially defined, a service bought in alongside the maid and the nanny and the doula and the au pair, and the endless parade of builders. Flowers are perfect and live in windowboxes, trailing ivy and cyclamen (nothing so common as primulas). We threaded past very tidily scaffolded town-houses opposite a run of mature tree where an urban blackbird was laying down some sounds at maximum volume, as the gardens decreased from sunken courtyards to pots on pillars to windowboxes, and eventually disappeared altogether. Porsches parked nose-to-nose; a spatter of vomit against the wall, and all greenery tucked away into private places behind walls.

We went to the Saatchi Gallery. It's not a place much concerned with gardens (the entertainment of the old and conservative, two labels it would fight most determinedly) but in the "Habitat" section of the vast and sprawling Post-Pop exhibition there was a chapel made of twigs, steel barriers and gorgeous futurist stained glass. Dimensions variable.

Later we went to another chapel: a dimly-lit poured concrete rectangle in the basement of a shop converted for art. Against the far wall was BLK NANONSQR, a square of carbon nanotubes so fragile we could only approach it attended, lest our breath should flake the art back to soot on the floor. In the windowless space, disturbed only by the repetitive rantings of the video art upstairs, it had taken on a windowlike quality, but one looking out on infinite blackness.

Skipping through Soho to a date with a thick wodge of comics we came suddenly upon plastic pigeons in poppy bright colours perched on lampposts. Initially I thought they were ?3D graffiti or ?Guerilla sculpture, but by the time I saw the third set I'd concluded that they were some sort of official installation. The poppy pigeons of Soho, bright among the plain trees and the dark and serious shrubs.


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