Regular readers may know that, in real life, I have something to do with the bloody Council. Up until December of last year, I worked in an eleven storey office block originally built for the National Coal Board in 1966. It was an interesting building, but it had its limitations. Despite what the Daily Mail might say, Council Offices aren't usually full of gold jacuzzis and million quid art installations called 'Dignity', instead they tend to be slightly smelly, with mismatched furniture, rattly windows and thin walls packed with asbestos, and this one exemplified the type. They don't tend to have any sort of design scheme or interior theme, but you will definitely find a preponderence of Kid's Art. While I was there, I used some free time to go around snapping some prime examples.
|A particular favourite of mine.|
|Not sure what this is getting at, but the colours are nice.|
|'Death of a Rainbow'?|
Local authorities are really about social care: education, housing, planning, old people, young people, people who need help, so kid's art not only reminds us of what we're doing it for, it also softens and humanises utilitarian areas. It's rarely seen by the public, so it's not there to try and convince them we have hearts, it's just there because it's nice, it's colourful, it's available, and it's free.
|A decent Pollock tribute.|
|Fat finger painting.|
I have often pondered the process by which these paintings and drawings end up on our walls. Was there a competition at some point, a 'liven up the grey lives of council officers' drive? Or did somebody just scoop them up from a store cupboard or a skip and think 'we've got eleven floors of nothing where the most visually stimulating thing is a fire extinguisher, we'll have all that'?
And what of the youthful artists? Did they know their art was to be displayed? Do they realise it's still on display many years after it was painted, perhaps years and years after they have left school. Did any of them become professional artists? Are any of them dead? Do any of them now work in the office and cringe or flush with pride when they see the work of their younger, more colourful self? Who can know?
|Pre-pubescent Pop Art.|
|Serious stuff. Definitely painted by a disgruntled teenager.|
The building still stands, but is now empty and waiting to be demolished. The thousand odd staff who worked there have now been 'decanted' (bizarre phrase to describe the movement of solids, let alone people) to a brand new, climate controlled, pastel coloured office across the way with very little of anything of an artistic nature to distinguish different floors. Right up until the day before I moved offices, I had intended to claim at least one of the pictures for myself (probably the top one) but, with just twenty fours hours to go, a team came and took them all away to put on the walls of other drab council buildings out in the field. At first, I felt a little sad but soon realised that it was only right and proper: this lost art should go back to be potentially reunited with its makers. The idea that a thirty five year old man might suddenly reconnect with his fifteen year old self as a result of a chance visit to a Council Office is to good to resist.