Nigel Masters is a retired Medical Practitioner.

This new contemporary art space occupies the second floor of the old Bobby’s department store (there are lovely wrought iron balustrades with the letter “B”). A short walk from the pier one simply climbs up the two flights of emergency style stairs to reach the gallery and you are met with an airy space filled with artworks and good views down to the street. This gallery is part of a major revamp of the collapsed Debenham’s store back into Bobby’s as a way of revitalising Bournemouth Town Centre.

As a retired doctor one’s perspective of the art is obviously prejudiced, but initial feelings were positive until I reached a chilling collection of painted plinthed life size suicide vests. This discomfort was alleviated somewhat by a reassuring cabinet filled with old empty packets of pills: labels with simvastatin and amlodipine predominated and an explanation stated it was to contrast and challenge young Damien Hurst’s perfectionist pop aesthetic early work: Medicine Cabinets (which interestingly contained pill bottles!) At this point my mind wandered to the doctor that had collected all those many small drug representative samples over the years.

….a reassuring cabinet filled with old empty packets of pills.

Some exhibits are small, such as a miniature painting containing overlapping urban erotic scenes. Others are large such as a gigantic inflatable sculpture called Underdog which is a cartoon canine in superhero costume staring at his mobile phone, yet a line of Prozac looking pills fall from his pocket.

One artwork fills the floor with brash striped colours in vinyl sheet, which one feels reluctant to tread in case one inadvertently rips the surface. There is an exotic wood version of Telstar giving solidity and science, but a psychedelic Wendy House of horrors is not so calming.

So clearly discomforting, but as one turns again one is reassured by the presence of a tiny perfectly realised old lady on a park bench. As one reads the information board beside her it clarifies that she waits indefinitely for a husband who never arrives. The same artist had produced a twice life size ultra-realistic homeless man which takes up a lot of space and can’t be ignored or passed by.

The curator of this exhibition is ‘attempting to test the radical assumption that the experience of art could have a positive sociological effect on cultural wounding. Art itself could be the biggest cultural medicine we have.’

Art itself could be the biggest cultural medicine we have.

Probably too difficult a concept for me to grasp but I kept getting positive flashbacks from the free visit, and a smile.

Perhaps like all good medicines, difficult to swallow at the time but certainly makes one feel better later!

 

See https://www.artsandcollections.com/the-art-of-protest-at-bournemouths-giant/

Featured image by Khara Woods at Unsplash