As I entered the gallery, instantly, amidst the warm welcomes, I was drawn to Yin Xiuzhen’s Digestive Cavity, which greets me in an abstract, rather ominous manner. Instantly I was struck with the grandeur and presence of the piece.
Following this grand entrance, I traversed the stairs, and was struck with chaotic, unnerving sounds. There is a tableau by John Davies by the balcony, which I think displays his intricate thoughts and frustrations throughout the creative process. This relates to Eliot’s mental struggles, the reason he came to Margate in the first place.
Stepping through the door, I was struck with a darkened, sombre room, with fragmented pieces of history scattered across my field of view. Historic images of the Margate Sands adorned the walls, surrounding original writings by Eliot himself, as well as a picture of him and his first wife, Vivienne. These images help to display Margate’s beauty, and allow anyone to understand why this place contributed so heavily to Eliot’s creative process. As I delved deeper into the West Gallery, I stumbled across one of my favourite pieces. A photograph from Mark Power, titled France, Paris, Rue Bichat 04:00 hours, 18th November 2015 . This piece of photography resonates with me as I see the empty streets, and perceive a chaotic silence, effectively presented in a blend of dread sorrow alongside eerie screeches of dull ambiance. The empty streets hold onto an element of horror and suspense, which struck the world as the events unfolded.
Another standout piece which stood out to me was Henry Moore’s Row of sleepers. This watercolour work, which uses the innocent beauty of a child to produce a deep sadness, which I found infectious, for its image of pain and suffering.
The use of neutral, arid watercolours towards the end of this gallery help to display the bleakness of The Waste Land, enhancing Eliot’s chilling voice as he reads the poem aloud.
Upon entering the South Gallery, I was bombarded with painful clanging and churning. It nicely intertwines with Leonora Carrington’s masks for ‘The Tempest’, because their rough design and prominent features lead to disturbing, lifelike features. The most striking to me in this gallery was Lalage Snow’s photographic works with military personnel, as it displays the story of each person, and how horrifying events in wars can be, and portrays a sad, dismal progression, with a visible loss of joy and emotion from their eyes, which appears heart-breaking to watch.
Passing into the North Gallery, I was greeted by perhaps my favourite piece throughout the whole exhibition; R.B. Kitaj’s If not, not. This artwork resonates deeply with me, because it perfectly depicts my perception of a wasteland, strewn with bodies, full of murky, dank colours, which preserve the horrifyingly relevant message of pain and suffering, especially in today’s tense environment.
One piece which contrasts all of these negative images however, is John Newling, with his Eliot’s Notebooks. This creates compost of old shredded books and human waste, which although slightly off-putting, portrays the beautiful message that life can emerge from pain, sorrow and death.
In conclusion, this show magnificently conveys the key themes of The Waste Land, and truly does take you on a journey of emotion and history. The dark themes provide a new look on life, and a new respect for the world that we live in. Certainly a must-visit for anyone looking for inspiration or fascinating new art to appreciate.
Photo: Thierry Bal