‘LOOKING AT THINGS’
A review on the discussion between Keith Grant and Jonathan Miller, chaired by Chris Beetles at David Game College.
On an early Autumnal, Friday evening, David Game College friends and family gathered together to listen to Keith Grant and Jonathan Miller engage in conversation about their extraordinary works, how they perceive the world around them and the extent to which it affects their creative output.
The college itself is filled with hundreds of paintings belonging to the college’s founder David Game (including at least ten by Keith Grant), which are all generously displayed for the enjoyment of all who work and study at David Game.
Jonathan Miller, who is a good friend of Keith Grant, also displayed a selection of his artwork and read excerpts from his new book, On Further Reflection.
To the casual observer, the talk might have resembled a scene from Miller’s previous work, Beyond the Fringe, in which two philosophers (played by Alan Bennett and Jonathan Miller) discuss the existential and practical attributes of philosophy in a debate that never actually reaches any conclusion and reveals the two philosophers as a pair of bumbling, impractical and ridiculous musers.
The title of the discussion at hand; “Looking at Things” could very well have gone down a similar route.
How do you look at things? As Harold Pinter once put it; “take a table”. What would the line mean to you? To me? Would you lift the table up and take it home? Is it a symbol of society, a utilitarian masterpiece or, a place to dump junk-mail on? Is the colour blue that you see, the same as the one that I perceive?
Perhaps, the question becomes all the more important when we consider whether we do, indeed, have the time to look at things and discern them in a variety of different ways. How many people look up from that magical machine that controls our lives the mobile phone? Is the mobile phone our new idyllic landscape?
From my own millennial perspective and perhaps that of the Generation Y students at David Game, Grant and Miller’s talk could not be timelier as it is a wake-up call to our mishmash of media consumption.
The two artists expressed juxtapositions in their creative output despite the fact that they both look at the world around them with the same curious vivacity. Grant showcased two fantastical natural landscapes that entice the viewer into another realm whilst Miller displayed abstract sculpture paintings from blocks of wood and rags.
Miller’s description of his work was simple and matter-of-fact, detailing the magic that he sees in the everyday; “It just pleases me to pick up stuff and put it together. There’s no theology to it. I put it together and it performs quite well commercially. Some people might think that they are forgeries from the Modernist era…I try to make the negligible considerable. It is the accident of attention without intention”.
Meanwhile, Grant seeks to take the viewer beyond the everyday landscape and transport us to the wondrous realm that is in the natural world. He finds patterns in the diverse plant and fauna and presents them to us as a collective energy of life in action in an otherworldly mise en scene.
Keith commented on the evening “My heartfelt thanks to David Game College for ensuring that the exchange of views between Sir Jonathan Miller and myself went so well. The hard work of the staff who attended to the seating and the technical side of the event was repaid by the enthusiasm of the large audience. All I wish to say is what a great event and a keen pleasure it was to be accepted so kindly and seriously. Lucky students who have the good fortune to be part of David Game’s pioneering passion for worldwide education.”
What made the talk so compelling was that Grant and Miller demonstrate how often it is the responsibility of artists to see the things that us viewers might not see.
(Image courtesy of Chris Beetles Gallery, St James's, London)