On Saturday my granddaughter and I visited the Manchester Art Gallery. We’d been planning to do this for a while and Saturday was the right time. Her small siblings were off doing something with their father. Her mother had a 2,500 word assignment to complete for Monday for her teacher training course and so getting the teenager out of her hair was a good idea. Besides, the teenager and I enjoy doing things like this together and it’s useful for her GCSE course.
So we tramped across a rather rainy Manchester city centre and spent a good afternoon looking at the paintings and having a bit of a chat about this and that.
At one point we came across this piece of sculpture.
The teenager asked me, “Why does he have smiley faces in his eyes?” I did a double take, but yes, she was right, he had what looked a lot like a smiley face - :) - in each eye, right where the pupil should be.
We speculated on the possibility of graffiti of some kind but in the end decided to ask one of the art gallery employees. She was completely amazed and confessed that she had made a series of drawings of that sculpture for an art study project and had never noticed this thing about the eyes before. Further assistance was needed so she made a call to a man who knew.
He told us that many people thought that it was a strange case of modern graffiti but dismissed it. The gallery has photos of the work dating back to the 1930s and the detail is already there in the eyeballs. This doesn’t mean that it wasn’t OLD graffiti but smiley faces are a relatively recent phenomenon. Received wisdom is that the artist did this himself as a way of making people notice the eyes but without realising why they did so.
Now I had looked at the sculpture and not seen the eye-feature, the gallery employee had drawn the work and not noticed it but the teenager spotted it straight off. The gallery employee was probably in her twenties, young enough to be into regular electronic communication. However, the teenager is that bit younger again, not quite another generation, a sort of half-generation maybe and as such of an age to use emoticons – smiling :) - winking ;) – scowling :( -on a regular basis and therefore to notice them more readily than the rest of us.
It’s all down to the way you see the world.