Tuesday, March 04, 2008

A dose of Salts

"Bradford. Home of Curry" could be the city motto, not just what everyone I know thinks. Bloody hell they can cook a biryani there. Even the mediocre is a step up from London and yes, we did have a mediocre one, but I were 'appy lad, after we'd sent back the raw naan to be microwaved, drank the wrong wine, and "paid through the nose" (ie ten quid a head) in a brightly lit gaff where the noise wasn't coming from the ambient buzz of a happy clientele, but the TV in the corner competing with the thud of the nightclub upstairs. Still, it tasted good.

It would probably be a good idea to ask David Hockney where he goes for a curry. He'd know, local boy made good, if you can describe Britain's Greatest Living Artist as being "made good". His works are a delight, from simple drawings to lithographs, photographic collages, to his brightly coloured renditions of life in Los Angeles, and his Opera Sets. And nowhere can you see his work better displayed than in Bradford, or to be exact, Salts Mill.

Salts Mill is the central feature of a World Heritage Site in Saltaire on the city's north western edge near Shipley which consists of a model village built in 1853 by Sir Titus Salt to house and generally look after the workforce of his wool and alpaca mill. It's a perfect little community, rows of workers' houses, a hospital, alms homes, a large community hall, now preserved and gentrified with little artshops and delis, a smart population and when I arrived at the weekend, a steam train charging through, presumeably on its way back to the last century.

Salts Mill itself is now a giant art gallery, shopping mall, and complex of live/work spaces which is like nothing else. The lofts of SoHo pale to this place with it's cast iron pillers, bare brick walls and heavy woodfloors, accommodating not just Hockney but a startling store called "Home" which sells the most covetable range of items I've seen outside the MoMA store in New York - principally because a large part of the stock seems to come from MoMa.

The gallery part has every book and print Hockney ever produced, plus a large number of original works, pride of place being given over to a magnificent oilwork of Saltaire itself in his signature oversaturated ochre and green (where did he get that green by the way?) riddled with childlike perspectives and broad, confident brushwork to create a cute but impressive masterpiece.

My favourite isn't there at the moment. He created a massive, nay awesome, multi-panelled painting (60 in total) of the Grand Canyon, America's greatest natural feature, in colours that made it his: purple, orange, bright green and yellow. A Bigger Grand Canyon was sold to Australia for millions, but it would be equally at home here in this oversized Hockney space. On the top floor, past the busy, buzzing restaurants and cafes, the florist and bookshop, Hockney's Opera sets sit in respectful silence. I'd only ever seen in photographs before but
even if you don't know nuffink about Opera (ie me) they too are a delight, a riot of graphic design, colours and characters which can be enjoyed in the quiet, like actors resting between productions, awaiting their next curtain call.

After a substantial, posh Sunday lunch in one of the city's better establishments, it would have been a fitting end to the weekend to have a little light curry. Unfortunately it was raining, and David Hockney wasn't answering his phone. So we had a doner kebab instead.



Anonymous said...

"Pay throught the nose"

Is that like chip and pin ?

Nationwide said...

I'd never thought of it that way before, but no, it's not.