Life

TV review: Artist in Residence sees painter find unexpected inspiration at Premier League football club

Artist Tai Schierenberg spent a season at West Bromwich Albion. Picture by Channel 4

The Football Club: Artist in Residence: Channel 4, Sunday, 10:05pm

THERE is some amount of unadulterated nonsense on television.

Every second of every day there will be something that makes me think `there is no way any single person is watching this'.

I realised just how much drivel occupies air time trying to find something to write about this week.

Countless channels churning out programmes 24/7 exacerbates this problem.

I flicked and flicked and endured about one minute of various shows before deciding `life's too short' and flicking on.

Shows included Hot Air Baboon, The Five Billion Pound Super Sewer, Pie Romania, Love Your Garden, Branson's Pickle and Maori's Wedding - an Irish woman's search for love in New Zealand. Some of these I may have made up.

When I did find something worth watching, I discovered it was a repeat and I instead browsed YouTube.

The Football Club: Artist in Residence on Channel 4 saved the day. The series sees artists aim to find inspiration in unexpected and fascinating places and create work in response. The films follow their creative process as they bring a fresh perspective to their surroundings.

In the latest episode, London painter Tai Schierenberg spent a season at West Bromwich Albion, during one of the most tumultuous periods in the Midlands club's history.

The 2017/18 season was the Baggies' most traumatic and dramatic in recent years - with multiple sackings, a grim relegation scrap, unrest in the stands and a scandal involving players in Barcelona which saw a quartet alleged to have "borrowed" a taxi to return to their city-centre hotel.

Tai's residency was an introspective portrait of the beautiful game. Given unprecedented access during an emotionally charged time, he captured the highs and lows of football in a series of paintings and behind-the-scenes footage.

The negativity that surrounded the club as it plummeted to the foot of the table was reflected in his works. As too was the euphoria that accompanied a last-gasp win which spared the team from relegation - albeit for a few days.

Among the expressions he sought to capture on canvas was the oft-cried "it's the hope that kills you". Each fan he spoke to brought the motto up in conversation. Tai saw how they invested emotionally in the team even though they were frequently let down.

Tai also elicited unusually frank interviews from players, management and fans including a revealing exchange with Tony Pulis, among the managers sacked that season.

Pulis spoke openly and honestly about his fear of failure - Tai concluding that "the man in charge is all alone".

"As a person do you get hurt and as a manager do you think it comes with the territory? Do you take things personally? Do you compartmentalise your life?" Tai asked.

Pulis responded: "The outside world doesn't know Tony Pulis. They don't know what I'm all about so all the criticism you get, all the stick you get - I can't affect it so why should I worry about it."

Tai started the journey as a football cynic, someone who did not understand what it meant to be a fan and at times appeared uncomfortable at matches. But he emerged as a supporter, overcome with emotion following a late-season win.

"The emotions I felt on this day, with everybody around me, I was there in body and in spirit without even thinking about it. I felt what it was like to be a fan," he said.

The programme culminated with him unveiling an extraordinary series of portraits of Albion players, Pulis - capturing his fear of failure - and life-long fans.

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