In a little square in Walsall, just opposite a great big print shop and surrounded by chicken shops and poured concrete, you will find The Walsall New Art Gallery. It’s built with a lot of wood. Noddy Holder is the voice of the glass lift. We drove up to see Lou’s parents, and stopped there quickly on the way. Lou swarmed in, familiar. I followed in her wake.
It’s an incredible gallery, perhaps more so for the location. Right now it’s still pretty run down in that area. The gallery feels like something they have plonked there in the hope that it will attract regeneration.
The collection is tastefully displayed, and has a range of unusual things. Minoan vases rub up against Roman statues and Egyptian sculptures. There are familiar names aplenty here. Van Gogh and Rembrandt and Degas and Picasso. More modern works, and more ancient. The mother of somebody connected with the museum had accumulated a huge body of her own very attractive work, squirreled away in her home until she died. These works were found by the family and deemed good enough to display. They are. She’s got a posthumous exhibition. We were drawn to them. But we came here for a reason. We are looking for Satan.
Blake painted Lucifer in his original glory, and Lou remembers being struck by the painting. She used to come here a great deal. Indeed, one of the guys at reception recognises her and immediately slips into familiar conversation. “You live in Brighton, right?” She was always particularly struck by Blake’s rendition of the fallen angel prior to the fall. But we can’t find him.”
We are aware that looking for Satan might be misconstrued, but we ask anyway. “Do you know if Satan by William Blake is on display here?” The reception hasn’t had an enquiry for a while – there aren’t many people in here. “Are you a fan of Blake or of Satan?” they ask. “We’re a fan of Blake… We aren’t Satanists,” we assure them smiling. Disappearing downstairs to check the records, pitched so we can only just hear it, the ginger receptionists throws us “Well, I’m a satanist.”
Lucifer isn’t here anymore. He was on loan. We find the frontispiece to The Book of Job, and a lovely little Christ the Carpenter, but Satan in his Original Glory is somewhere else. Slippery bugger.
Turns out he’s in The Tate, just down the road from mine. We’ll have to try again next time Lou is in town, whenever that might be. January?
We visited the parents and spun back home. I feel like I’ve been driving forever now. Important though, to visit family when you’ve got them. I’m off to Jersey so barring long and bothersome expensive trains, that’ll be the last time Lou gets to see them until after Christmas.