Five Days Out For A Fiver: Day 5 – Rolf Harris and other interesting stuff at the Walker Art Gallery

Money spent: £5.00

Fun had:  ✰✰✰✰✰

Weather conditions:  ☼

Oh, bright and shining day! At long, long last in our Five Days Out For A Fiver challenge the sun was out. And what did we have planned?  That’s right, more indoor fun. Planning for the worst (I’ve even started going around with an emergency rain poncho) we packed our picnic and headed off for the last few days of the Rolf Harris Can You Tell What It Is Yet? exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery.

The exhibition finishes this Sunday, so if you haven’t already been, stop reading this blog post and go there immediately! You’ll thank me for it.

Launched by the man himself as part of the wonderful Light Night events back in May, Can You Tell What It Is Yet? brings to life in three glorious rooms the amazing, huge and multi-faceted personality of the man. Rolf Harris has been around cooling it out since the 60s and has been hard at work since be it as an artist, a gold-disc winning muso or a general cult hero figure and these are all brought to life in this exhibition.

Rolf does Klimt, with Aboriginal designs

Using a host of media to get across the rich and diverse history of Harris’s career, the exhibition covers everything from the broad brushstrokes of his large landscapes to the intricate detail captured in impressionist paintings of zebra and lion.

One for Doctor Who fans. Rolf’s homage to The Church At Auvers by Van Gogh.

Our favourite part was a series of homages to iconic paintings by such luminaries as Toulouse-Lautrec, Klimt, Rembrandt and Vermeer (showing Harris’s daughter Bindi as the Girl With The Pearl Earring).  Each gave Rolf’s own unique take on a famous image that is lodged in the collective subconscious, so that the lovers in Kilmt’s The Kiss are clothed in gowns that are decorated with delicate, Aboriginal inspired art.

Fresh from being overwhelmed by this really rather brilliant exhibition, we retired outside to St John’s Gardens to enjoy our packed lunch in the beautiful August sunshine.  Not wanting to go home, we went back in to see what else the Walker has on offer for families during the summer hols.

Now I have to confess that the Walker has long been a favourite destination of ours and with good reason.  The Walker, far from being a stuffy, arty-farty type of place, positively welcomes families and little uns.  My kids have always loved the Big Art For Little Artists section, even though they’re now growing out of the little kids age group.

What we really love about the Walker is how much it encourages kids to get involved in art and even create their own.  And from a grown up perspective, there’s nothing quite like seeing art with kids, because they bring their own fresh take on it.  You can stuff your information cards, when you’ve got kids with you, they really do make up their own minds about what they like and what they don’t.  It’s a brilliant thing and I urge you do try it.

We went and tried out a couple of new exhibitions we hadn’t seen before.  The first was a series of extraordinary posters from the 1972 Munich Olympics.  Dotted with welcome seating to allow you to really take in the whole thing, this series of Pop Art inspired images is well worth a visit.  My son particularly loved an op art piece by Vasarely, which changed perspective the more you gazed at it.

On the way out of the Walker’s maze of rooms, we stumbled across an exhibit that I can’t find any mention of anywhere on the official website and yet it was wonderful.  It’s a mystery!  I do hope it’s still there.

Marcel Breuer design classic chair

Called (I think) Sitting On Art, this was a selection of design classic chairs set in a circle in a large and beautiful gallery space.  Like the world’s poshest game of musical chairs, we took turns in the chairs designed by the likes of Marcel Breuer, Harry Bertoia and Philippe Starck.  It kept us there for an extra half an hour, so good was it.

And that’s the thing about the Walker.  Whether you’re there for the latest big thing, or just ambling about, you’ll always find something that takes you by surprise.  The staff are friendly and welcoming and kids are positively encouraged to get involved.

There was a sign asking for a recommended £2.00 donation, but as we’d had such a brilliant day and hadn’t spent a bean, we happily left our entire £5.00 for the day and skipped out into the wonderful sunshine. Worth every penny.

Check out what’s on a the Walker Art Gallery over the summer hols.  Rolf Harris exhibition on until Sunday 12 August 2012.

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