We spent most of the first week of March 2020 with intern Alba in York gallery According to McGee.
Apart from making a great impression with her music playlist on Spotify (excellent), her tea making (average to very good in 3 days), and her social skills (it’s reassuring to talk to teenagers who know how to make eye contact), her response to her visit to York Art Gallery (the big, main one, not Tower Street’s According to McGee) was humblingly positive.
The current exhibition is ‘Harland Miller: York, So Good They Named it Once’. En route, Alba confided that, what with the work load of school and extra curricular activities, it had been quite a while since she had last visited her city’s gallery. By her own admission, she didn’t know quite what to expect, and so it was informative to sit with her after the event, with a cup of tea (she mad it. B+), and talk over her range of responses.
“It’s a nice first impression. York is a busy city with constant traffic, so the outside area with the fountain, the space, the calm, really made me want to enjoy the actual entrance into the building. As soon as you enter the building the atmosphere is quiet and calm.
Once through the reception, it’s a case of going through the glass doors and into the exhibition. I didn’t know anything by Harland Miller, so I didn’t know what to expect. As soon as I saw the massive book covers I was amused and intrigued, and I remembered I was in a modern art gallery. I wanted to see more.
All the paintings in the first room you enter, the middle room, were of book covers. I instantly liked
‘You Can Rely on Me’, the largest painting in the exhibition. The size and the message immediately caught my attention, I like the colours a lot, the top section was blended together so you can’t tell where the colour changes as in the bottom section there is a busier and its more obvious the colours changing you can also tell there is a lot of layering and different colours on top of each other. A clever contrast to the top, which is a lot calmer.
‘Good’ was arresting too. It’s the kind of painting that draws you in and makes you want to figure it out and understand it making you sit looking at it for a long time. There are so many different colours and shades in the painting but they all work really well together even though they are the sort of colours that normally clash. Harland must be a good painter to ensure that the colours work so easily and loudly at the same time. A really stylish painting.
I moved to the room on the right, which is in a way the first room. I saw ‘Ace’, the painting at the end of the room. This painting grabbed me because of its bright colours pink, red and blue colours. You wouldn’t think they would normally work. I was puzzled at how effective it was. The colors are all so different, they stand out and don’t get lost in each other, they still still worked together as a whole painting. It took a while to figure out all the different sections were letters spelling out the name of the painting. I liked that. Harland Miller makes the viewer work hard.”
Alba’s stream of consciousness came to an end when she asked if we’d like another cup of tea. We did, and her proffering was an improvement (A-). Would you go back to the gallery, we asked?
“Definitely! I liked the gallery a lot! It wasn’t loud or busy, the staff were really welcoming. Jo met us at the desk, and Connie and Sophie answered any questions I had, and they were helpful. I really enjoyed the whole thing, more than I thought I would, and will definitely go back soon.”
Harland Miller: York, So Good They Named it Once, runs to May 31. yorkartgallery.org.uk