Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Oil Painting 36 - Brindley Place

I was pleased with how Oil Painting 35 'Birmingham watching the Olympics' was going but felt one thing it didn't do was reflect Birmingham's love affair with the canals; "more canals than Venice" being the infamous boast. The redevelopment of the central canal passage has been startling, not that I was familiar with the area previously but it is obvious that the transformations around Brindley Place, leading on to Gas Street and the Mailbox have enabled the city to enjoy its canal association, to the point of now being one of the top tourist attractions in the city centre with boat trips, boat buses, boat hotels, boat restaurants, boat scout excursions, boat cafes and boat stag and hen doos!

My favourite cities worldwide seem to have a central structure to connected to water, e.g. London's Thames, Budapest's Danube, even the coastal separation of Hong Kong and Kowloon, and be celebrating that association. The rivers, canals or coast give recognisable geography and identity to our cities as well as offering a place of relaxation in the hustle and bustle. Birmingham has reinvented its own water structure which has in turn made the city centre easier to navigate and much more enjoyable as a whole.

It is quite obvious why I picked this view, human activity between 3 different levels linked by staircases with a central passage of water can hold the viewers eye with routes in and around the painting. The bright scarlet red of the cafe boat providing a bold diagonal device. This boat was manned by lovely chatty brummie ladies serving up sandwiches from the side hatch.

The experience of painting this piece is marred slightly by my eventual removal by security staff at Brindley Place meaning the painting was left in quite a loose state. Even though I wasn't selling, just painting I found out I needed to show evidence of my setup and work, and personal liability insurance, plus a method statement and risk assessment form that would take 3 days to be reviewed by the operations manager and presented before a team. I didn't do this (or knew i needed to) I just wandered up with easel, and tried my luck, which on this occasion ran out on the second day and there wasn't the time to jump through all the hoops before we left Birmingham.

I want to state that every person I had dealings with at Brindley Place seemed genuine, friendly and interested in what I was doing, I had been happily chatting with the security on the first day and throughout the first part of the second before the guard asked me if I had permission. When I had then found out from the office the protocol the security staff were deeply apologetic and assumed it wouldn't have been a problem, and we're sad to see the painting go.

I know it gets complained about a lot, but this red tape culture and the fear of law suits stops so many productive things from happening. I ask a lot of questions of public space ownerships by setting up with a canvas in all sorts of locations, and am glad that it is a by-product to my work, but it is often hard, and will detract many artists from the process of claiming their streets and in turn their own experiences. It is a shame that one of the most commonly asked questions of me whilst painting is 'did you get permission to do that?'

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