View from the Bridge: 30

by John Morrison


30: A Dying Art

Now that the looms of Milltown have stopped clattering, what have we done with all those redundant mills? Well, some have been converted into bijou residences. Some house more viable businesses. Some, unloved and unwanted, have been allowed to fall down. And one or two have found temporary uses as artists' studios.

What our talentless daubers get for their peppercorn rents is a little haven in which to flesh out their artistic fantasies. Or at least somewhere to escape from the kids and enjoy a few untroubled hours reading back issues of Big & Bouncy. Wounded Man, for example, has his own sanctuary: a cold and draughty loft with a birds'-eye view overlooking the tiled roofs of Milltown. Here his imagination can take flight.

He gets even more misty-eyed than usual when he thinks back to the sixties. Those were the days, he recalls, when you could tell an artist by the paint spattered on his smock, instead of the all-pervading smell of formaldehyde and embalming fluid. He thinks back to the time he spent at art college: creating huge environmental sculptures with a hired JCB, finishing off the fine detail with a lump hammer. These early experiences gave him a good grounding in the conceptual art he practices today.

Proud to be putting the 'con' back into conceptual art, these days Wounded Man spends a lot of time just thinking about making things. Sometimes he just exhibits his notepads. Sometimes he just thinks about exhibiting his notepads. This uncompromising attitude puts him in the vanguard of Milltown artists, for whom indolence can be regarded as a mission statement.

The Milltown Gallery, occupying the ground floor of the same mill, exhibits the work of many local artists, including Wounded Man's blank canvasses and empty frames. It gets full, but only once a month, when the glitterati flock to the first night of each new exhibition. They stand around, quaffing cheap white wine and munching something greasy on a Ritz cracker, happy to part with folding money for a galvanised bucket in a gallery. P T Barnum would have recognised them with gleeful anticipation.

Mr Smallholder is one of Milltown's most dedicated art collectors. Careful not to let sentiment get in the way of a good investment, he keeps original artworks locked away in a bank vault and proudly displays the certificates of authenticity instead.

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