"A silent wall! We must make mouths in it with our weapons, then it will speak more light."Art I wander through the front door into the empty restaurant and glance around nervously. A man steps out of the kitchen.
-- Hetra, The Web Planet
"I'm looking for the Biennial painting?"
He points to the wall on the left.
He points to the wall on the right.
"Ah" I say, "Thanks very much."
Just a short trip, this time. The Master Chef Restaurant on Renshaw Street is one of life's fixtures, a place which I've passed many times on foot and by bus but never actually entered. Not for any particular reason. Perhaps I'll return at some point to try the soup.
As part of the Chinatown episode, we have two paintings by Portugese artist Anna Jotta. From the biographies I've read, she's most interested in the idea of not having, or erasing her own personal style, her inspiration based on mood and whatever works.
In the early eighties she was a film set designer and here's her IMDb page. A glance through images of her other work and this interview indicate a strong interest in film, often painting or drawing on a fold away projection screen.
The Biennial booklet says that these two works, No No Sir!, were painted with the restaurant in mind, the colours influenced by some antique green pottery she saw in a magazine whilst on a train to Liverpool
But by coincidence the olive green colour utilised on one of them matches the paintwork on a number of the walls in the restaurant and the cream colour is similar to the white when bathed in artificial light. The paintings reflect the surrounding walls back on themselves.
The most obvious similarity is to abstract expressionism, De Kooning and Rothko in particular although there isn't the same rich gradation of colours. Plus they were working within a very rigid space, whereas these are unsupported pieces of canvas with raggedy edges.
Do I like them? I don't dislike them. The notion seems to be that they should blend in, that perhaps a restaurant patron should gradually come to realise that they looking at a commissioned piece of work connected to the art festival rather than some off the shelf B&Q sourced wall filling.
One of the notions connected to abstract expressionism was that they're almost drawing a distinction between casuals and the hard core. De Kooning says that in order to appreciate his work you have to put in the time, to appreciate the play of light, the time he's put in.
Do Jotta's paintings pass this test? Not sure. I didn't spend a lot of time with them, it's a very odd space to be standing amid the tables. My guess is that yes, if you were eating in the restaurant concentrating on them between courses more detail could become obvious.