Discovering Wisbech issue 003, July 2018

Page 54



We bring you items of interest of Art in our community. If there is something you’d like us to cover or you have something to say please get in touch with Holly:

‘Crowded Room’ by Tim Mann - The Boat House, Wisbech Review by Aldo Ierubino, Art Historian How many sitters are required to create a portrait of Wisbech? For the artist Tim Mann, the answer is as many as 10,000. The problems presented to us by contemporary art, particularly concerning its appreciation and interpretation, may cause us to ignore significant work that has been created in our very midst and which seeks to represent the image of our community. It is easy to see why, at first glance, the multi-panel mural created by Tim Mann, which represents more than 10,000 outlines of Wisbech residents, evokes the standard response about contemporary art: what is it? At the material level, it is five panels that make up a seven - metre mural, upon which a range of pastel colours has been organised; in other words: an abstract work of contemporary art. However, this begs the question, once again, which is that expression of viewer bemusement: what is it and what does it mean? The problem with the question, and any attempt to answer it, is that it is tantamount to standing in front of Monet’s substantial panoramic paintings of his garden at Giverny, (the ‘waterlily’ paintings), and questioning why he bothered to devote so many years of work to produce mesmerisingly huge canvases depicting his garden pond, when a single modest canvas or even a photograph could have achieved the same thing. The only satisfying answer to this question calls upon the role of the artist in choosing to present us with an artistic statement that causes us to take notice, question, evaluate, and share in the experience, (visual or




otherwise), of the world around us. Tim Mann’s work achieves this objective: it is a ‘portrait’ of Wisbech expressed through artistic means, conveying the shared experience of the community. At the purely visual level, it is an elegiac evocation through colour and line as well as the suggested form, of the character of Wisbech at the centre of the Fens. The pastel outlines of those 10,000 individual participants, majestic in their primitive form, rising from the bottom of the panel towards the expanse of pale blue colour above, suggest through simplified form, the ancient Fenland landscape, where reeds rising from the water, sway in the breeze under a ‘big sky’. At the narrative level, it has an almost mythical power to suggest the relationship between the land, the water, and the sky, which has characterised this part of England from time immemorial. This is the same landscape of the early Britons, of the Romans, of Boadicea, the AngloSaxons, of King John, of Hereward the Wake, of mediaeval farmers and shepherds, of Cavaliers and Roundheads, of merchants, sailors and bankers, of revolutionary ideas and nonconformists, of patronage and great wealth; in short, the vibrant heritage of the Fens. At the artistic level, it can do all of this because the artist has acted as the bridge between the sitters/ participants and the surface of the work that he has created, which ultimately embodies all that they represent. This truly is a portrait of Wisbech whose meaning is validated by the participation of more than 10,000 of its residents.

juLY 2018