One of the many good things about being here in France is the close proximity of one of the National Centres of Contemporary Art - it is less than 10 minutes away by car. So, when I need a culture fix, I go to see the latest exhibition. I have only been slightly disappointed on one occasion, when I took some friends along to see what looked to have been a promising show. It was OK, but the works were not up to the space physically, and a lot of the content was not very strong.
The gallery is in a large wing of a beautiful 12th century abbey. It is arranged over 5 spacious floors which easily accomodate large works, and small antechambers which are perfect for small scale pieces and intimate video screenings. Last year's 30th Anniversary highlighted the standard of work and artists that have been shown - Sophi Calle, Julian Opie, the Chapman brothers, Pipilotti Rist and Cindy Sherman, for example.
I was keen to see the latest exhibition, a retrospective of work by Louis Cane. Not a name I know (even if it sounds like one I should), but in the context of my current work it looked to be interesting. The 'diaporama' on the gallery's website shows some deconstructed paintings - canvases without stretchers, stretchers without canvases, so whilst none of that is close to what I am involved in, I hoped to find something engaging, perhaps relevant to what I am working on at the moment.
Work on the ground floor was OK, not terribly well executed or finished, but then I do get a bit uptight about that personally. Nevertheless I was optimistic as I climbed the steps to the next floor. There my optimism started to fade, and long before I got to the top floor I was just plain annoyed. The best of it was contrived, the middle was pastiche, the worst of it was just abominable. It was evening classes meets craft-tent-at-the-village-fair. One of the paintings shows a figure painting the artist's surname in capitals, as his signature. I honestly thought it spelled 'CANT'. I can't describe any more, I will just get more angry.
I don't know what they were thinking. Maybe they are obliged to show french artists sometimes, and they wanted to make a point. I noted that most of the work was on loan from the artist. It doesn't look so bad in the photograph, does it?
I am annoyed that I spent time there, I am annoyed that I wasted four euros, and I am annoyed that I was disappointed. As I came away I thought of Tony Hancock in 'The Rebel'. At least that had Irene Handl, and she was funny.