Harry Hill has got the White Stuff
Had to pop in to White Stuff while I was down on George Street on Friday. It’s not merely a favoured shop in this household, but it is also hosting a show of artworks by this household’s favoured comedian.
Lades and Gentlemen, I give you Mr Harry Hill. He has been in town for a series of small-scale, pre-fringe tryout gigs at The Stand, in preparation for his return to stand-up comedy and big tour later on. And he has taken the opportunity to add a series of his artworks to the Edinburgh Arts Festival.
“It’s not really an art gallery, is it,” he commented to the Annals, graciously breaking-off from his chat at the private view, to pose for the accompanying photographs. “It’s just a shop.”
Who cares? It seems quite appropriate and great leveller for the art world. Although there are interesting revelations to be found in the free newspaper which accompanies the show. Besides images of the paintings it contains the transcript of a long chat between Harry Hill and David Shrigley – which is, indeed, a double whammy Good Thing.
On the matter of the show being a leveller, My Hobby helps promote the idea that art is something which everyone can do. Although Hill explains to Shrigley that he paints in oils on wood because he felt uncomfortable going into art shops to buy canvas.
“I felt like it was a bit embarrassing,” he tells Shrigley, “if you’re not an artist to go and buy great big canvases as it’s a sort of who-do-you-think-you-are type thing. Also, on the odd occasion I had got a canvas, I was rather in awe of it, you know, not wanting to make the first mark on it.”
He goes on to talk about using bits of wood that are off-cuts from from work in house, giving value to something which had no value. While Shrigley reveals that he often uses thick paper, as that allows him to fail. He doesn’t mind throwing it away, if the painting doesn’t work.
Is it any good? It’s certainly interesting looking round the gallery, so see Hill’s evolving style since he took up the hobby in the early 1990s. And the pictures, which often place celebrity into bizarre and surreal situations, are worth looking at.
Shrigley is able to give it a place. He is quoted in the paper as saying: “If we’re going to talk about what genre these would fit into, it would be folk art. By definition, as you’ve had no training – I mean, you started from the point of view of a complete novice. It’s authentic folk art in that respect. Whereas what I do has no relationship to outsider art. It’s sort of faux outsider art.”
And next door on the second floor of the shop, there is a fascinating installation called The Hoft Examiner: The Magnificent Edinburgh Escapade by the House of Fairy Tales – which is “a child-centred art installation to open your mind to mass communication’s wily ways and reinvent what the media can be”. Both are open until September 2 and I’m definitely going back.
My Hobby, artworks by Harry Hill, and The Hoft Examiner are on the second floor of White Stuff, 89 George Street, Edinburgh, until Sunday 2 September.
Details of Harry Hill’s My Hobby at: www.edinburghartfestival.com
Details of the House of Fairytales’ Hoft Examiner at: www.edinburghartfestival.com