It has been a busy day today and I am all peopled and experienced out. We started off early for a visit to a European consulate in Edinburgh so that some members of my immediate family could pick up their certificates of naturalisation followed by passports and identity cards. They are able to do this because of my partner’s ancestor had their nationality taken away from them by the National Socialists before the second world war and a German law allows any descendent from that relative to apply for German citizenship. Now as the consul rightly surmised, my family’s application is a response to the UK voting to break away from the European Union so in a sense, becoming German citizens is a protest against the result but it is also an acknowledgment that we see being part of the EU as a wonderful opportunity for our kids and their future. As parents we don’t want them to lose those opportunities.
All this is a bit strange for me because I cannot become German, only my wife and kids can so they are gaining something that I cannot have. I don’t have a problem with this at all, in fact, I can say I felt it was a privilege to be there when my partner and child become citizens and I felt gratitude to the Consul for giving members of my family what feels to me like a privileged gift. Germans can be very straight and unbending at times but allowing all descendants become citizens because of the particular actions of a past political party (the Nazi party in this case) seems completely opposite to the current political thinking here in the UK where all non-UK passport holders feel threatened with the possibility of deportation. This feels like a generosity that the average British person no longer wants to give and I for one appreciate it.
I think there is another level that I am glad of our new ties with Germany. This country fought two World Wars against the Germans, and I like the symbolism of UK citizens also becoming German citizens. I can now say that not only do I have German friends but that I also have German family. To me it seems like we are putting the differences that the wars represented behind us and the future can be built together. I suppose in essence that is what the EU represented too, but todays process is on a much lower and more personal level, and because of that feels much more real to me.
So some of my family became German citizens today, however the rest of the plan didn’t go as smoothly because our child takes on my surname rather than my partners and this is something we didn’t realise was an issue. Whilst I had taken my passport to the Consulate, it turned out that I could have done with taking my birth certificate too so that my child’s surname can be officially registered (in some sense) because without this registration, my child cannot get a German passport and identity card. In reality this means that all three of us will need to visit the German Consulate at least twice more; at least next time I will know what to expect.
Whilst in Edinburgh we also met up with three friends and went to two art exhibitions. The first exhibition was at what I know as the Dean Gallery but is now known as The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Modern 2. If you have been to Edinburgh, the Gallery of Modern Art is a little out of the way but still perfectly walkable from Princess Street and is well worth a visit. The permanent collections are free but we went to see a paid for Featured Exhibition by Joan Eardley who was a Scottish artist born in the early 1920s and died in 1964.
I personally hadn’t known anything about Eardley before seeing the exhibition by my partner has some friends who buy pictures and had be told and shown paintings of Catterline Bay a place synonymous with Eardley. My youngest child did not find much of interest in the exhibition but I enjoyed it in two ways. First it inspired me to get back to my own efforts at drawing because Eardley’s work is impressionist in nature (this from a lay person so I apologise for my lack of knowledge over correct terminology) which reminded me of my time limited drawing exercises which try to get to the heart or essence of an object. The other thing I like about the exhibition is that there was often background to the paintings in the form of sketches, photographs, maps and personal letters. This gave me not only a sense of the artist but also of the process of hard work in preparation and development that went into the final picture and that I felt gave me more appreciation of the finished work. I suppose I could see how I could try to reproduce that process if I could in the time and effort to create something myself.
I was reminded of this when we went to our second exhibition “Darkness Reflected” by Christine Partridge and George Logan which was being shown at the Patriothall Gallery in Stockbridge. The exhibition is inspired by the experience that the artist had of fluid building up behind her optic nerve in one eye and the emotional roller coaster she went through during treatment and recovery. The exhibition is a collaboration between artist Partridge and photographer Logan featuring paintings, sculptures, photographs, poetry and a video. All the exhibits are shown against a stark white background, and on the whole it is mostly monochrome in nature. I spoke to Logan about the video and found myself quite flustered about what to say and ended up focusing more on the technical nature of the production rather than any emotional content. Which reminded me of something I caught briefly on the radio last night.
I don’t know what programme it was, but all I heard was that neuroscience had shown that our decision making is based on emotion not logic and that those people who cannot access their emotions, have great difficulty in making decisions. It was one of those “that’s me” moments in that I often struggle to make decisions and I seem to have little emotional insight. I think art can really highlight these issues. How do I decide if I like a style of picture? Now I do have some emotions since I do have a sense of whether I like a picture or not, but for me appreciation comes from understanding more of the process that the artist went through to come to the end product rather than the end product itself.
I can’t say I liked many of the pictures I saw today though I could pick out my favourites from both exhibitions, but I have a much greater appreciation and respect for the artists knowing what they went through to arrive at the end product. I wonder if art would be made more accessible to more people if more exhibitions took this approach? If art was more accessible, would it be appreciated more too?