light

light

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Why do the arts matter?

Surprised to find this cropped up recently:

"The arts matter because they can and do in a million different ways make life bearable and they do that in good times and in bad, for the arts are part of the enduring and and always needed zeal of Irish life"

They matter because they are our main affirmation of our humanity. As David Aspin once said: " A group of aliens arrive on earth and say they will wipe out the human race as a failed experiment unless we can offer them proof we are worth preserving. What do we offer? Not science, not technology, not anything except the arts. Just Hamlet, a Rembrandt or La Boheme, these are the things that affirm our status as animals and human beings. The arts matter more than all of the rest because they affirm our true value."


Eric Fishchl Is a very successful artist whose visual content has always been difficult to pigeon hole. Guess the content of his work is american cultural decadence but he seems to be biting the hand that feeds him with his latest work or is he actually subversively flattering the hedge fund classes? He has always been ahead of the marketing curve so expect that the visual content is designed to flatter by association. The pecuniary association of collecting contemporary art, that is.

This week has seen the Frieze exhibition in London but it seems to have had less press publicity than the Banksy that got defaced. The thing that has always annoyed about Banksy is on display here, which is that the defaced work actually seems like a distinct improvement upon the purported original. What that says about graffiti is a mystery. 

Also one of the years events is the publication of Art Reviews power 100, the top (as in most powerful) people in art, this year is headed by (the president for life) Sir Nicholas Serota. Notable for the absence of any UK artists whatsoever, Koons is there but his star has waned recently which goes to prove just how spurious these invented publicity lists are. Perhaps the Artlyst alternative list is a more helpful guide to how things are?

Lastly there is the opportunity to have your tattoo done by the Chapman bros at the Jerwood gallery. Now isn't that the most exciting artistic prospect you have seen for a long time? No, isn't it? Expect huge queues of the lost and bewildered in Hastings. One thing though, as one who believes that the unadorned human body is quite the most beautiful thing on the planet its seems right to remind readers that the cost of a tattoo is in excess of £5,000, which is the minimum you will have to pay for it's removal by lazer and the resultant scarring.

Lastly an interesting discussion about the current state of painting in the UK from Edward Lucie Smith, shame about his chosen and preferred artists though!
Nuff said.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Banksy internet hoax and some not contemporary art.

Well always said that Graffiti was a criminal act and we know it is damaging other people's property. The fact that they promptly have the wall removed and some comedian flogs it off asap doesn't alter the fact that it is technically a property crime. Banksy has a Robin Hood public profile that has so far protected him from prosecution and had a much over subscribed and heated exhibition at Bristol Museum and Art gallery a few years ago. The artist is in need of publicity to have pulled this internet stunt. Guess we will all get to know the truth soon if we care to find it.

This week the Sunday press is full of articles on the big Rembrandt Show at the National gallery. Truly the block buster of the year. Looking at the reviews is interesting in so far as it points up the contrasts between a very traditional visual artist and today's conceptualists.

To take Waldemar Januszczak for instance, he says that it all adds up to a complete rewrite of art history. The show defines his late work as that produced in the last ten years of his life. He died age sixty three. There are a magnificent series of self portraits that show, according to Waldemar a great artist at the top of his game. Laura Cumming is similarly impressed and she writes: "The final paintings are monuments of truth. Dark and knotted images that close in on many faces, they make you feel you are seeing these saints and martyrs and humble people in person as well as in paint."  which indeed you are.

Well, well, well what a revelation, that an artwork should tell the truth. But hang on for a second wasn't that what all great art purported to do above all else until Duchamp's urinal messed it up? 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

American and Chinese - abject Cultural Appropriation.

This week brings up one Richard Tuttle at the Tate Turbine Hall. Truly a huge monumental space, have never seen one exhibition there that really managed to hold it's own with the industrial scale architecture. A spatial nightmare for any artist to exhibit in, it would be far better it was broken up into manageable units of rational size for sane sized exhibitions. Not asinine attempts to promote the status of questionable artistic concerns, hubris all of it.


Jonathon Jones thinks it's all lovely, which goes to prove he is on course for achieving the status of king of state art promotion. He does say however it's all rather short on meaning, but whenever did that stop any conceptual artist in their tracks? Liked this comment ;

"Tuttle is a godfather to the most pretentious stuff you’ll find at such events. (the Frieze) Lots of apparent intelligence, but not so clever when you think about it." I.e. Lacking in any relevant or cogent meaning.


Abject art is in the news yet again. Have no problem dismissing the status of this asinine provocation as non-art. The French have become incensed over the desecration of the Place de Vendome as well they might, McCarthy is old enough to know better than to insult a whole nation with this cultural appropriation representing true american cultural values....... He was reported as being slapped across the face for insulting the French people or was that just the necessary publicity stunt to promote what is in effect a deplorably lazy piece of kitsch. What offends most is the fact that the man is passing it off as art. But then dragging us all down is what this bewildered product is all about, as if there wasn't enough to concern us with Ebola and IS. Seems that real life events may well quickly render this sort of art-excuse totally redundant.

Talking of cultural appropriation this little problem from Chinaman Ai Wei Wei slipped quietly under the radar. He has mounted an exhibition at Blenheim which coincidently is in the news due to the death of John Spencer Churchill the Duke of Marlborough. The exhibition includes porcelain crabs, and a corridor carpet with tank tracks for it's design. Why and what does it mean?  Florence Waters in the Telegraph visited and saw nothing except fun whilst Jackie Wullschlager in the FT called it a dizzying convergence of world views... So much for their lack of art criticism. Linkedin picked it up and some cogent questions got asked by other artists. The concern is this, Chinese symbolism is arcane and hierarchical requiring a complete literal interpretation whilst conceptual art is wide open to continual mis-interpretation and confusion. There is no clarity of meaning in this exhibition just legions of ambiguities which could amount to sly cultural appropriation in a leading UK stately home.

Present UK art education problems are pointed up by the Saatchi Gallery summary of the existentially dire and appalling state of higher level art education in the UK. The man has only himself to blame for effectively subverting contemporary art values. The goose that laid the golden eggs is truly gutted and well roasted. So oversized model airplane structure such as Tuttle's get passed off as actual sculpture.

Jonathon Jones explores invisible art here, but it's just a silly spoof.

This is a really interesting discussion from this weeks Frieze exhibition, William Kentridge on great artworks.


Friday, October 10, 2014

Jonathon Jones on Ms Emin

Guardian of 7th October has a piece of drivel by Mr Jonathon Jones. The entire article is an obsequious conflation of Ms Emin's skills as a draughts person which contains some truly awful copy. It was written to promote her new show at the White Cube called "The last great adventure is you".

Conflating and hyping that which she has problems with (i.e. drawing) with the drawings of Michaelangelo is simply insulting to ones intelligence. Yet he does exactly that with this garbage :"The human figure is just as expressive as the human face. Michelangelo knew that and so does Emin." So what does that say?

Then he goes on with this copy:  "Emin is an expressionist. Whether she’s using readymade objects or sketching, her true purpose is to communicate passion. The reason she is the most important British artist of her generation is that she really does have a powerful subject – her life, like anyone’s life, is interesting; it matters. Why not share it? Here she rises to heights of beauty and depths of horror as she shares epiphanies of love and loneliness."

What is he talking about, this is all artist's task and there is little of what he describes in these conflated scribbles. She has a sparse appreciation of the formal possibilities of form, line, tone or any of the visual values which great drawing demonstrates. Yet Jones goes out of his way to prove that turnips are pearls. Presumably he thinks we are blind, look at the discussion thread below the article for plenty of proof that the man on the Clapham Omnibus isn't fooled. All of them did art at school, all of them know what a good drawing is. What sort of parallel universe does he inhabit?

The Guardian discussion post had this post;

"She can draw, yes, but she can't draw very well. I've seen the show. The nudes look like sweepings from the floor of Roger Hilton's studio (and he could draw very well). If she is 'the most important British artist of her generation' then roll on the next.

We are already seeing, among artists born after Dame Tracey first started making her presence known, a return to craft, high seriousness, formal experiment and self-effacement."

These are true observations and have seen recent evidence of high minded and accurate academic drawing by local students. You can either do it or you cannot do it and students are beginning to demand that they are taught it.

For once Alistaire Sooke in the Telegraph gets it right; " Life drawing, bronze-casting: like many a wild-child radical before her, Emin in middle age is repositioning herself as a traditionalist at heart. Having gone back to school, though, perhaps she would have been wise to leave her homework out of public view."  And this :" Occasionally her draughtsmanship approaches something like tension and urgency, but more often it lapses into vague meandering and wishy-washiness." 

Ms Emin says here on this web discussion that she was sacked and that Michael Landy is now Professor of drawing at the RA.

We also learn from one Chris Harvey in the Telegraph that Ms Emin is sensitive to the unfair and vicious online criticism she receives. Indeed Twitter is a problem for many people but is it unfair to criticise her incompetence?. Quentin Letts in the mail is not at all impressed by the show and accuses the artist of dragging civilisation down! His anger shows in this remarks about the quality of the drawing :"Miss Emin, as her constant emphasis on sex shows, is a sensual creature. Yet she displays contempt for anything which is pleasing to the eye, while she happily pockets millions of pounds."

That is not the behaviour of one devoted to artistic truth. It is the behaviour of a hypocrite."

However, this all relates directly to this art education problem which is taxing some managers in higher education who are only to blame for their own asinine stupidity when they threw out the baby (drawing) with the bathwater. Many of the conceptual artist teachers who cannot draw in any true sense of the word are no use to anyone, least of all students who are crying out to be taught how to draw well.


    Thursday, October 09, 2014

    Tate sponsorship and corporations.

    The Tate comes in for some criticism in the Guardian of 8/10/14. The subject of which is sponsorship by BP, discussions and minutes of meetings which will have to be disclosed in future. The information commission have insisted that the minutes of all meetings with sponsors must be placed in the public realm, but the Tate has appealed and the case goes to the information tribunal for judgement in the next few weeks.
    This is no simple matter, the fight for information by liberate Tate aims to shine a light on the 25year old relationship between BP and the Tate. Even the FT has questioned the complete lack of transparency. Playwright Mark Ravenhill questions the motivation of big corporations as sponsors when their philanthropy is seen as PR, enhancing their brand, to the detriment of the institution.
    A statement from the Tate said that they do not disclose sponsorship values. The fact is that if public institutions become reliant upon corporate sponsorship it will inevitably compromise their autonomy and function in terms of the art that they show collect and value. Corporate values are not cultural values and the Tate has a duty to everyone not just BP. They are completely reliant upon public funds after all, so logically they should be subject to open public scrutiny without any trace of a questioning the publics right to know what they do with sponsorship monies.

    Tuesday, September 30, 2014

    Anselm Keifer and other war art

    I started this blog some time ago in art world terms, three years to be exact and it gives no pleasure that it now reflects well the art criticism that is regularly cropping up in the zeitgeist. There are now often discussions in the media that address the topic that this blog proposed: namely that contemporary art had come off the rails and lost the plot. It became the tool of certain what we could term "interests," and as such it was unsustainable as both art and culture. "You can fool some of the people some of the time but you can't fool all the people all the time."

    This video on Utube shows how far dissent is now encroaching upon the contemporary orthodoxy which has consistently failed to provide us with the kinds of art that we actually need spiritually to feed upon. Many great artists continue to be marginalised by state art institutions and major galleries.

    This link is pure proof that there is some superb work by 21st century artists who are really at the cutting edge of their art. So there are still artists out there who know how important aesthetics are. There is hope yet, that the stable will finally get mucked out.

    Andrew Graham Dixon has produced an excellent TV series on WW1 artists, the David Bomberg programme was remarkably good but he missed out completely on the fact that Bomberg had been a WW2 war artist as well, even if only for a short time. His series painted in the Bomb store at RAF Fauld before it exploded are war paintings he could have included.

    Continuing the war art theme there is the "greatest living artist" Anselm Keifer who is everywhere all over the media at present but mainly at the RA where he has been made an academician - why? Thought that the RA's remit was for British artists, is there some sort of establishment guilt trip going on here?......... His work is heavy on enigma and a seriously portentous 50 year old continual study of war which cannot be even remotely fashionable among the Me, me, me's ....... Most of it is undoubtedly good solid art full of aesthetic possibilities.
    What is outrageous about all this media fawning is that any english artist dealing with similar themes wouldn't get a showing anywhere because he wouldn't get past the gatekeepers which is why Michael Sandle has been working and living in Germany these past forty years
    Rachel Cooke at the Guardian writes this underwhelming copy;" He has never turned away from the difficult and the sombre; his career is a magnificent reproach to those who think art can’t deal with the big subjects, with history, memory and genocide. In the end, though, what stays with you is the feeling – overwhelming at times – that he is always making his way carefully towards the light." As if there is anyone with the faintest trace of any kind of cultural education who believes that art cannot deal with the most significant themes - had always assumed that was it's main purpose, but there you go! Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose - as it were.

    Alistaire Sooke has his pennyworth and so does Waldemar Januszczak whilst Mark Hudson (who he?) at the Telegraph and Peter Popham at the Independent (who he?) do the same promoting.

    Lastly we have a truly terrible line up for that annual bean feast that is the Turner Prize. Having complained much about the quality of the chosen acolytes in the past, this year one cannot be bothered to comment upon these "artists": Rachel Campbell Johnson thinks this year is a complete dud, and even the fawning state art promoter Richard Dorment is very critical, and Waldemar Januszczak says don't bother to take it in which says it all. Which is where we came in.

    Apart from that comes the news that the Head of the Russian Orthodox church has condemned western contemporary art as pure filth and stupidity. This has of course outraged certain western liberal "sensitivities," but all one can say is that those liberal "sensitivities" wouldn't know what a sacrilege is in any circumstances. There is news that a local council has destroyed a Banksy in Clacton, but it was seen as racist and of course they really didn't know what it was worth.  You couldn't invent this stuff you really couldn't.

    Then there is this sane commentary from Roger Scruton, explaining why he thinks that contemporary art has become fake art. Finally a question? Would you pay $20million for an all white painting even if it was endorsed by Charles Saatchi?




    Tuesday, September 02, 2014

    No more arty isms?

    Anyone who follows contemporary art will have asked themselves at some point why there are no more art movements when there were so many in the 20th century from Impressionism onto neo-expressionism. Because art now serves the vested interests of a few power brokers who call all the shots, artists do not themselves any longer collaborate to create any art with similar interests and a world changing philosophy. In fact artists have abandoned aesthetics and money has claimed the vacuum. YBA's for example have been notable for the way in which they have sought out and secured wealth without having any ideology or social agenda.

    That's why this article on painting is interesting, and actually points to some of the truth by analysing the forms of art:
    ".... painting is generally more engaged with (and bound by) the history and development of its own medium than are other forms of art. Even in an increasingly ahistorical environment, there is more self-reflection and more analysis of the medium itself among painters—not surprising considering the long history of painting’s pre-eminence."


    Which brings us to Frank Auerbach's retrospective - at last an artist and painter who works from the real world, not the arcane spiral's of his own imagination. Frank was of course taught by one the the UK's major painters of the 20th century at the Borough rd school, the great David Bomberg whose life was marred and handicapped by anti-semitism. To the extent that even today he is not given the status he truly deserves both as teacher and as truly innovative painter.

    Another painter recently discovered is this; Jerome Witkin who is a master in waiting. Also interesting is this man who makes spoons for a living.
    This Chinese artist Lui Bolin is intriguing but one has to ask "what's he about?"

    Lastly there is this news that Kickstarter is fast becoming the primary source of arts funding in the USA and surely that will move onto the UK with time. It is a truly excellent concept and idea.

    Thursday, August 21, 2014

    Dead parrots - public art is not art.

    L

    All over Taunton - Paint a dragon - Why?

    Below are all illustrations of the degenerate and sad state of our public art, needless to assert they all lack a commitment to aesthetics, taste or even sense. Inclusion is all, as is the dumb assertion that anything purporting to be art is good, but is any of this old garbage good for you?

    The first one is this commemoration of WW1 - an effete waste of time on all counts:
    "Emmanuel is therefore following in the footsteps of Ernst and Picasso, who witnessed the war's sad impact on France, in mourning the vulnerable bodies of a lost generation." Complete guff from Jonathan Jones, the artist is not following in anyone's footsteps, he is posting some poor and tasteless photos printed on cloth in Flanders fields. More and more have become convinced that the man who said that the Guardian is a comic is right. Compare Emmanuel's effete efforts with this work of an adult!

    WW1 entertainment art mockery continues with the coloured painting of the Edmund Gardiner in Liverpool's Albert dock. Another is the extremely boring and pointless Folkestone WW1 memorial arch, it has no link with WW1 whatsoever, it's just municipal hubris.

    Then there is a very big rubber duck which claims to be art and also a giant turtle. This is all just circus entertainment.

    There is this real post post modernist gem from Jeff Koons outside the Rockerfeller centre which suggests that art criticism is getting to him. He has split two heads ( a toy dinosaur and a toy pony) in half in an arty gesture of no formal or meaningful art significance.

    Then there is a dead parrot in Greenwich, homage to Monty Python?

    The line of sculptures from the Olympic stadium to the O2 arena, where ACE will only consider the usual suspects and sponsored by the Mayor of London. Gary Hume, the Martin Creed, His Hirstness and Thomson and Craighead so far been accepted. Same old, same old story of state art inclusion and exclusion of talent.

    Sydney Australia is to get a candidate for the worst piece of public art ever created by a Japanese architect a major piece of hubris.

    Lighthearted divertion of Chinese man getting stuck in rude and crude sculpture by Fernando la jara.

    Desperate (literally) Dan sculpture in Dundee, more wasted public money. What kind of sensibility is required to preserve a kids comic book character in Bronze - truly we live in desperate times.

    Lastly for now, (there could be a book in this) is the most appalling piece of really really useless crap sculpture I have ever seen, in Cambridge and known as the Don! Even the artist disowned it!

    "It's high time for the art world to admit that the avant-garde is dead. It was killed by my hero, Andy Warhol, who incorporated into his art all the gaudy commercial imagery of capitalism (like Campbell's soup cans) that most artists had stubbornly scorned."
    Camille Paglia

    Thus all over Exeter we have had gorillas and in Bristol it was Gromits, one has to ask why?






    Thursday, August 14, 2014

    Nothing new under the sun ?

    This weeks press brings news (horror of horrors), that the Chapman brothers have been censored by a children's rights group in Rome. Oh well, what can one say apart from, when one considers the decadent content of their work it's very, surprising that it hasn't happened frequently before. Their apologetics can be found here in a piece of pure art bollocks;

    "Chapman: We're not psychiatrists and we decline the invitation to treat the spectator as analysand. In this sense we reject the provision of an aesthetic "abreactive therapy" or "cathartic method" implied by overtly didactic ambitions like "obfuscate," "purloin," "confuse." We regard these aims as reactive, indicative of a masochistically geared self satisfied critique." They are not responsible then, this makes for wonderful reading doesn't it? Obviously written by an expert.

    and this pure unadulterated drivel which effectively undermines their case;

    "The neurologist Paul Mobius suggested that the "self is only an organ." Using the topographical figure of the mobius strip he described the cutaneous and subcutaneous membranes circulating the body as a single continuous plane. While this spatiality dissolves the interiority and the exteriority it also democratizes the anatomy thereby disinvesting the brain of its sovereignty. What can be said about being after that?"

    If indeed the self is nothing but a mere organ and nothing more can be said about being, where does that put their poor self-deluded pretence to be producing works of art, surely no simple organ needs or requires such errant sophistry as artwork?  As usual in this delusional world they have to have their jam on both sides of their bread.

    Google also came up with this art teachers dilemma with the Chapman's artwork. In the present climate no sane art teacher could take a class into a Chapman brothers exhibition without putting their job on the line. Which supports this discussion about children in galleries that Jake has provoked in the press. It is hard to sympathise with the views of someone whose stance is so anti-educational but one could argue that exposure to much contemporary art (including the brothers) is not exactly life enhancing or educationally enlightening. The commonplace and stupid assumption (that which has got so many unwanted arts venues off the ground) i.e. that all art is good for you definitely doesn't hold any water when you consider the Chapmans' work. Much like Tracey Emin exhibited to the old folk in EastbourneSomething must be bothering the Brothers as members of the arts emergency group!

    Nothing new here then?

    You probably don't remember the column of steam that was proposed for the millennium and wasted huge amounts of ACE funds. To mark the anniversary of WW1 there is this successful project in central London at present which you will probably have already seen and which has Richard Dorment entralled.

    Wednesday, August 06, 2014

    Henry Moore - A sad reverie






    Was walking in a garden at Dartington recently when I encountered the above Henry Moore sculpture  - now fashionably repeatedly termed by the coarse media as "the turd in the Plaza". This started me thinking on why visual standards have slipped throughout our debased visual culture. Have become more convinced that Modernism died with Picasso for very formal reasons to do with the empirical connection between the artist's work and nature, without which so much of today's putative artwork is pure marketing kitsch.

    Moore kept that link alive and well in all his work which in this case is a very beautiful formal sculpture, that works well from every angle. How often can one say that about today's sculptural attempts which usually only work from one angle?

    So Karla Black is exhibiting at the Edinburgh art Festival 2014. How did we get so coarsened that we can believe this pink washing line is a piece of sculpture? I knew of a sculptor who produced this kind of art in the 1960's with satin and muslin and no-one has heard of her since. Yet her sculpture, using similar materials to Black's and restrained by welded steel structures was pure drawing, elegant, linear, and very, very beautiful. It also communicated formal abstract and artistic values connected with natural form. Black appears to have no understanding of or concern with sculptural form whatsoever. Just going through the motions. Other artists showing in Edinburgh are Martin Boyce, Douglas Gordon Graham Fagen Susan Hiller and Isa Gentzken

    Jake Chapman appears for an interview the Independent. Jayna Rana writes: "he (Jake) puts me straight with a diatribe – his forte – about the need to "defend art from popularity and popularity from art". What a load of double think this is, as if the brothers have never done anything else but court maximum popularity from the crudest elements of the culture?
    Also this:"He is clear. Art is something artists do. "It's that simple. It's about intentionality," he says", - sliding along with glib unquestioning assumptions and superficialitySo what exactly is the Chapman's bros intention? To reduce art to the level of the concentration camp?

    The answer to my question, "why have visual standards slipped so far in our debased visual culture." We became so desensitised and coarsened because we were bombarded with make believe from the full force of the state and the media about the nature and scope of what art is and what art is not in order to further the interests of both the market and it's key manipulators with advertising interests. In the process they have completely annihilated what was left of our visual culture.

     David Lee wrote this way back in 2009;
    "Rarely a week now passes without an example of the State Academy consolidating its influence. Permutations of the same few judges select/curate/promote/advance permutations of the same few artists. The story of the byzantine workings and wheeler-dealings of how so few people managed to institutionalise avant garde art, so much of which exhibits so little discernible merit, to the financial advantage of so few, will doubtless be written in the future by those with the time to probe deeply. For the time being, the art of Damien and his pals is as secure an investment as gilts, for both are state-sponsored."
    How much worse it is today? Moore's work is art, little of what is produced now can begin to lay claim to that title. Without aesthetics there is no art.


    Thursday, July 24, 2014

    Obituary David Prentice RIP.

    Obituary - David Prentice.

    Sadly David Prentice has died at the age of 77 years. He will go down in art history as one of the most important landscape painters that the UK has produced. He started out as a hard edge abstract painter but he abandoned abstraction as a distraction and returned to working from his empirical visual roots with landscape. A very brave thing to do in the current climate of State art. His paintings of the Malvern Hills will be remembered and appreciated for many years to come, long after ACE has gone.

    Speaking of which there is this news that the Usual Suspect is to open a London art space next spring which has a ring of irony about it insofar as it is questionable whether what he produces is in fact art and not commodity kitsch. Thats for you to decide?

    This weeks Press also brings us news of the latest depressing east-end visual content from Gilbert and George at White Cube. Zoe Pilger is of course singularly impressed by all this but she needs to get out more! Tiresome, technically brilliant computer generated mirror images and photoshopping but spiritually dead and wrong headed, they seem to be lost in their own self imposed wilderness of totally inhumane lost causes. Pilger argues that this is their best work yet but the Independent hasn't got any art critic? It isn't anything of the sort, it's beginning to look very tired and emotional both in formal terms and and it's self centred navel gazing content. An altogether depressing sledge hammer to crack a small nut. Content alone doesn't make it art, vague unquestioning illusory assumptions about what art is or isn't doesn't make it art, Hedge fund Collectors doesn't make it art. What makes it art is the depth of the work's aesthetic dimension, and only you can judge that for yourself. I cannot ever recall having seen a hand drawn image by either of them, must google that?

    Down in deepest darkest Somerset a new gallery has been opened by one of the big guns of the Art World, Hauser and Wirth - look forward to visiting it. Last week was very surprised to come across etchings for sale by Freud, Auerbach and Hockney in Budleigh Salterton of all the out of the way places on the planet?

    Always enjoy the BP Portrait award show at the National Portrait gallery and was bemused to find BP sponsorship has created much controversy, due no doubt to the dreadful incident off the south coast of America. However that doesn't affect the sheer quality of the art on offer even if it seems to be the same artists and genres every year.

    Lastly
    Do you work for a good boss? Use this easy checklist to discover the quality of the management that you are being pushed around by, its time everyone got clued up.


    Thursday, July 10, 2014

    What is art? and what is not art? Part 2



    Reading a pre-release copy of an excellent book by Michelle Khami entitled "Who told you that's art" which is to be published in September. This is the question everyone in the art-world avoids like the plague, as well they might. The book is a very thought provoking study of how certain assumptions about contemporary culture are the result of some very dubious pecuniary interests rather than any rational aesthetic philosophy or cogent art theory.

     When you are in the position to buy huge amounts of contemporary art with impunity you have a vested interest in promoting the kinds of product you find most profitable, it matters not that it is pure useless kitsch and not even remotely fine art or has no claims to any pretence to aesthetic quality whatsoever. First, you muddy the water by convincing gullible dumb artists that any old crap is art, (which is the easy part,) then you can manipulate the media to promote the lies and persuade simple minded artists trained even at the exalted Royal College of Art to mouth the inane platitude "I say its art because I'm an artist!" All of which is completely unverifiable untruth.

    Astute art criticism has always been around, Robert Hughes was and is even now hated by some artists for asking the right questions, as is Donald Kuspit. However it is now becoming a trend among those who actually know better to question the status quo, as in this study by Angus Kennedy called "Being cultured."

    This is a study of why contemporary attempts at inclusion and social engineering are wrong headed and doomed.  The rot has gone deeply into art education where social issues are now more important than art: "This is art as a political tool. Angus Kennedy's major thesis is that art must be for art's own sake, not for attracting tourists, let alone regenerating inner cities or unifying disparate communities. Yet these days funding follows these kinds of political strategies and aims – ending up in Newcastle when it should have been instead directed towards Sussex Opera Houses and maybe buying classical statues for museums." 

    So much of this ACE money goes down the drain, look at that appalling mess the so called legacy from the Olympics, - what is left now apart from a misbegotten mess of a tower that is neither fish nor fowl and certainly it is not art. 
    You simply cannot fool all the people, all the time, eventually they will demand more than thin watery gruel. Unfortunately there are few left who can create anything better than watery gruel, certainly not the putative tired and emotional avant-garde! Those who can are marginalised by the stupidity and ignorance of media power.

    Which brings us to some really dumb art with no formal artistic values. Waldemar Januszczak is raving in this weeks Sunday Times about this most fashionable artist; One Ryan Gander. He is a conceptual artist and as such he doesn't do any imagery. He plays with things and ideas for regular exhibitions at the Lisson stable (for it has always been the home of such stuff ). This truly is thin watery gruel of the most pretentious and precious kind. Like the sculpture that consists of a blowing curtain. So what - hardly very meaningful, haven't we all got one when we open the window? This is art for the me, me, generation, self obsessed and self regarding and above all totally incapable of any hint of criticism. A self conscious video with government voiceover encouraging us to respect our children's imaginations is typical of the seeming preciousness here. Fighting battles that have been lost as a result of art world power brokers who have totally destroyed out visual culture, this is art for the easily pleased and the very easily entertained. As Waldemar remarks, cultural positioning is one of his subjects. Fiddling whilst Rome burns might be a more apt description. Adrian Searle just doesn't get it either!

    One can only despair and contrast it with Picasso's Guernica - now there was an artist who used the real world to confront and argue with power brokers.



    Thursday, July 03, 2014

    Making colour at the National Gallery

    Laura Cummings has a piece in this weeks Observer about a strange piece of curation at the National Gallery. Another piece of faux curation concerning nothing that has any relationship with anything else in the exhibition except its colour. Comparing apples with pears which are not the same thing. How much longer is this garbage thinking going to go on occuring?  We need to return to looking at real quality and real values, not trying for comparisons of anything with anything else in the hope that something will happen, but then when the lie that art is anything that Serota and Saatchi tells us it is, what else can one expect?
    The National Gallery knows better - and note their new artist in residence is George Shaw who is a very good painter but whose claim to fame is his use of Airfix kit Humbrol commercial paint, and wonder if he will keep using this when surrounded by so many masterpieces in traditional oil paint?

    Waldemar januszczak is concerned about the Human factor at the Hayward which he sees as very significant. He really is starting to get to it at last and he writes:  "After all those years of slo-mo conceptualisation, how refreshing it is to be addressed so directly in a language the body understands immediately, and has always understood" As in the visual image!

    Barbara Kruger is still around - why, one has to ask, does she get so much exposure when what she does is at best poor advertising graphics and at worst inane meaningless drivel? This is the kind of art that has absolutely no excuse, one despairs at the wasted opportunities and the crap thinking that legitimises this wordy pretentious verbiage as so much more significant than painted images. Its just copy-type and no more.  Images are capable of so much more information than the trite, inept, limited banners exhibited here. Try this one for size, Kruger's work cannot stand the comparison can it? Perhaps it's time to start a stuckist campaign to bring back the image to art and abandon the useless weasel words? Laura Cummings in the 6th july Observer is not convinced either, she writes this telling remark which points up the lack of real aesthetic engagement: "You cannot ignore slogans 15 feet high but you can resist the empty clamour. The art forces itself upon you, every time – that's its graphic affront – but it doesn't always hold your mind."

    Tuesday, June 24, 2014

    Artrank and Banking on Art

    Just come across this article in the Guardian about Artrank

    It just serves to prove that the whole world of contemporary art has now gone completely insane. I guess there are too many ill-gotten gains floating around to find a suitable home so that this was going to be the inevitable outcome. Someone had to go and use a damnable algorithm developed for investment banksters stocks to analyse the contemporary art market. What is interesting is that the whole show was originally called sellyoulater.com and many thought it was an in art world joke, but no it's actually quite serious. Those "collectors" read speculators who are into flipping artists for profit are unethical. Buying emerging artists in bulk and then dumping them as soon as the price is right. The author of this chill show is worried about a business that has lost it's cultural cool, and he admits that contemporary art become a joke with no originality. Been saying that for years. But that's ok he says, because we have been ranking lots of people for years, athletes, Oscars, etc etc. Dissembling - these are not the same things as artist. He purports to be a gauge of their abilities based on their sales. What complete and utter rubbish, as if any computer programme can gauge the abilities of the artists he is offering as safe investments, only their sales. Which isn't enough. One has to feel very, very, very sorry for any poor artist who gets listed on his artrank!

    Such as these:

    Bring back the old fashioned patron, at least he or she liked what they bought for it's real and perceived aesthetic and artistic merit, which is the only sane way to support art and buy any artwork. Can't help thinking that this kind of outcome will inevitably result in an art world bubble that will burst just as it always has done in the past.

    Then there is this confirmation of the problem, no work of art even a Monet is worth that kind of money. Then there is this on Jeff Koons which suggests that the artworld is starting to undergo some very serious revision based on values. Quote: "In fact, “A Retrospective” confirms that the art world doesn’t belong to the art world anymore."

    By way of a sane contrast the winner of this years National Portrait gallery BP prize is a portrait of a homeless man by Thomas Ganter. At last some real art with an aesthetic that's about real world issues we ought to concern ourselves with, instead of solipsistic conceptual or abstract navel gazing.

    Thursday, June 19, 2014

    What is art and what is not art? discuss.

    The downside of social media  -  Linkedin professional artist posting:

    Have discovered that the discussion forums for Linkedin professional artists run by noenga.com are extremely difficult places to attempt to discuss what art is or isn't. Boasting seemingly ostensible professional artists discussions, about the central issues of contemporary art, they can quickly deceive you into an innocent participation, if the issue is interesting. Don't bother, don't even think about it, you can quickly come up against a lurking troll problem who is out to prove how superior he is. These clowns are invariably americans with tiny world frames and spite as their motivation. Don't give these artistic dilettantes encouragement or support. They will abuse, defame, denigrate and insult you if you argue with them, they will use any defamation ..... These trolls  have serious issues concerning their status and conceited egos. Boasting of grade inflated qualifications, stuffed full of their own self importance they will tolerate no questioning or opposition concerning any form of artwork except beloved conceptual state art. If challenged they invariably run to the excuse that "it is art because I say so" but can never answer when you ask them "Who told you that". 

    I have encountered this distinctly American form of wilful blindness before with the Art Renewal Centre. Vis my open letter.

    A good example of the kind of anger you get on Linkedin is this row - between a Bogside artist who stays reasonable and an "american art teacher" whose spite and invective is what passes for serious debate concerning the art of the usual suspect. If you want to be involved with this kind of unpaid psychotherapy, fine, otherwise do not bother wasting your precious time.


    Which brings me to Ms Abramovic at the Serpentine Gallery.

    How did her performance become a branch of visual art? Here the problem is the very ripe old one, who told you that this performance was art?
    Laura Cummings says: "The group dynamics are calculated to keep us from opting out of this fatuity. The show revolves quite literally around the diva, her promenade performance and our curiosity; and the operation is smartly disciplined, predicated on a steady flow of good behaviour ranging from gallery-going deference to willing submissiveness." 
    It would seem that Ms Abramovic is more a sort of Annie Besant or Madame Blavatsky than any visual artist?

    Then there is this show at the hayward which begs this question; if the artist has made  a direct cast from the human body and carefully re-produced it, where is the artwork? Where is the meaning and formal aesthetics? Is that not just a presentation of the empirical evidence of a body? This applies just as well to Anthony Gormley's efforts.
    Also - note the connection between Degas little dancer and Yinka Shonibari's exhibit but why no head?.

    Artists should rarely be consulted about art, few are qualified to discuss it either intelligently or rationally. Far better to ask a philosopher or aesthetics specialist than any artist what is or what is not an artwork......







    Tuesday, May 20, 2014

    Power players of the art world.

    Guardian 2 08/05/2014 has some pages on the Power Players in the Art World. all the usual suspects are here but one or two names crop up that are surprising. For example comedian Steve Martin is a major collector as well as an art world satirist. Gavin Brown is there too as is Jay Z and Cindy Sherman who has truly become an art megastar. Like every such list the motive is publicity, this time for the Frieze art fair in New York.

    Piece of drivel in this weeks 18/5/2014 Observer concerning the "Male gaze" in a society of portrait painters exhibition at the Mall gallery. It seems that a Cambridge Don's nude portrait has created some faux outrage in the Daily Mail who expressed mock outrage; The guardian reported; "Rather than being titillating, Bateman wanted the painting to ask questions about the sexualisation of women today. She has written: "At the age of 34, I am comfortable in my own body." Her pose is not provocative: she leans against a blue background, one hand behind her back. Significantly, she is staring back at the viewer. This is a mark of power." Yep!

    Phyllida Barlow gets a page of publicity in the New Review in Sunday's Independent - (bring back Charles Darwent) Martin Creed is reported to have said she was the best teacher who never taught him - a pity, he might have learnt something about the necessary conditions for art from her - as the writer did.


    Waldemar is becoming more persistent in his crusade against curators, but here with the Comic show at the British Library, have to agree with him. This show has some truly inexcusable recidivism from the curators which betrays a complete absence of awareness of context. As Waldemar remarks; " How the British Library the fount of so much reason ended up devoting this much space to so much unreason is beyond me?" No excuse for such shoddy scholarship here, just dumbing down to the real depths.

    Wolfgang Tillmans has published a Phaidon book of his 25 years of taking photographs. Do wish he wouldn't persist with the pretence that he is an artist, it has to be said repeatedly - the man is a photographer.

    The diminutive Chinaman has invaded the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, wish he was a prophet in his own land as he seems to have become one here where standards are so much lower? A tree is a tree, is a tree, is a tree, is a tree, is a tree - so what.

    Lastly this little nugget concerned with dishonest pecuniary gain, it's what happens when your brand of artwork is the product of an army of assistants.

    Tuesday, May 13, 2014

    Turner prize - Roundabout

    The Turner Prize is giving our press erstwhile art critics kittens. Why? - because the judges now seem to have lost the plot. As state art is now deplete of contestants of real value, the award of the annual bean feast has fewer takers to propose. It has even been suggested that it should be awarded every five years instead of annually to paper over the cracks. The barrel has been scraped out to the extent that there are no dregs left to promote so we have to find new ones and oh yes we can! 

    Never mind the fact that ACE and state art policies and priorities have done for fine art in the UK. Recently published a piece on the former Tate director Sir John Rothenstein who exerted his power with capricious spite and malice, he was however a champion of the artist and he knew where his bread and butter came from. The Uk art world managers and curators have tried desperately to get rid of artists completely and have almost succeeded.

    So no-one has heard of these film makers and that's what they actually are. Fewer art forms are as incestuous and derivative as artist as "artist filmmaker". Pretentious, portentous and self regarding is the essence of this youtube game and that is exactly what we have here. Having seen many of these products and wasted precious lifetime doing so, this is a truly mediocre choice. But the champions of State art are not going to listen to the voices of dissent on the chat-lines in the Guardian, for they all know better, they know what we the ignorant populace need! They go on sustaining the unsupportable, inane, meaningless, tired and emotional fake cutting edge of the Avant Garde corpse. These artists all have one thing in common, they are tired and confused by the task that they are supposed to be the most excellent UK exponents of, in our time.

    Adrian Searle says that these artists are struggling with meaning, as if this were a promotional virtue rather than the abject failure of their art education. Art education is struggling with finding a meaningful role which brings us to the next issue, have noticed that the local BA fine art course is to close. This is slow attrition of our visual culture, fine art courses are safe for disposal as higher education begins to contract, the damage is already well underway in secondary education where art is largely marginalised.

    This is stupid and very shortsighted, our Victorian forefathers had far more intelligence and they cared for their design and industrial base because they knew the economy relied upon it. China is building hundreds of art colleges for a very very good reason, to support design in it's own industry. We are closing them because we let the banksters do as they wished with our industry. This was exemplified in Prime Ministers question time this week when David Cameron extolled the countries virtues, remarking that other countries industries want to come to the UK for it's tax advantages. He is too young to remember when the UK was itself a huge industrial powerhouse with it's own industries. The class war of the 1970's did for all that and the war was never necessary.






    Tuesday, April 29, 2014

    Schnabel and curators



    We have discussed the Barnes museum fiasco before and this week brings the news that Northampton Museum is selling off an ancient Egyptian statue contrary to the conditions of the owners will and testament. The Arts council is threatening to remove it's accreditation of the Museum. Yet again a cash strapped Council is selling an object that it is legally obliged to maintain in perpetuity for the public to see and not for it to vanish into some oligarchs private bank vault in order to pay off the debts.

    "Lord Northampton claimed that the council had no right to sell the statue under the terms of the gifting covenant. The 30in (76cm) limestone figure of a court official clutching beer, bread and cake - items for the afterlife - is believed to have been acquired by Spencer Compton, the second Marquis of Northampton, in 1850 and it was later presented to the museum by his son. After a settlement over ownership of the limestone figure dating from about 2400 BC, the statue will now go for sale on 10 July and is estimated to realise between £4m and £6m, the spokesman said."

    Meanwhile the broken plate specialist Julian Schnabel has had a severe roasting from our erstwhile UK critics who cannot stand his Hubris - except their own publications that is. Expert in guff writing in the telegraph, yoof Alastair Sooke says the work is irredeemably awful. He writes; 
    "Untitled (Amor Misericordioso III) (2004) is a strong candidate for the most pretentiously titled work of art in history. What happened to Amor Misericordioso I and II?" which just proves his youth but he isn't exactly a stranger to pretence himself. If he had not been a child in the 1980's he would know that Schnabel's work has always been hugely portentous and pretentious gestures but being new to it he not fully comprehend the definitive expressionist Grayson Perry?

    Mr Dorment our Telegraph resident expert in State art has come out in support of the Tate curator Ms Penelope Curtis - whilst she has been under attack from Brian Sewell and Waldemar Januszczak. Ever the contrarian but never in the right is our Dorment - invariably in the wrong. He's dead wrong again here because Ms Curtis is one of the new curators who can't see the art for the sheer density of her own issues, preoccupations and concerns. They are the worst kind of blight in a moronic art world that has succeeded in marginalising the artists themselves. Jonathan Jones in the Guardian blames Mr Serota for Tate britain's plight and says no-one ever criticizes him. Which just goes to prove he never reads the Jackdaw who criticise him regularly as the president for life as indeed do the Stuckists.

    There has been nothing to speak of exiting from British art schools since the YBA's that we had Gary Kemp puffing up on ITV this week. Quite the worst art program on the box in a long time, was particularly incensed at the artist's hubris, they have long confused piles of cash with artistic and aesthetic worth. These things are not and never will be the same thing, anyone would mistakenly think that the rich have any taste! 

    Meanwhile back at the Guardian Polly Toynbee (for it is she) is upset about the new Minister for the arts Sajid Javid a former bankster. She writes truthfully; 
    "The arts inhabit realms of no-compromise impossibilism, while politicians practise the art of the pragmatically possible." She quotes this worthy document which as usual only half states the case. Many confuse art with entertainment, they are not the same things.

    Saturday, April 19, 2014

    Henri Matisse Blockbuster and artists brains



    This week the Tate is hosting a Blockbuster of paper cutouts by the artist whom many consider the equal of Picasso, Henri Matisse. Brian Sewell gets off to a rough start with this snide piece of criticism directed at the fact that they are the works of an old man;
    "Enjoy these seductive trivialities for what they are — insubstantial, deceitful, fraudulent and, we must hope, transient, rather than some spiritual and mystical essence of art. Having no doubt that the number of visitors between now and September will break the record for Tate Modern (and so, perhaps, it should), I hope only that, unlike the early critics, they will cling to reason."
    The FT is more reasonable though Jackie Wullschlager quotes Picasso as he went to the heart of the matter with this; “If he wants to make a woman, let him make a woman. If he wants to make a design, let him make a design. This is between the two,” Picasso had growled in 1907 when Matisse showed his primitivist “Blue Nude: Memory of Biskra”. The question this provokes is; whether these works are merely surface exploration or decoration or something else? Up to you the reader to decide.

    This question doesn't arise with the publicity given to the work of a one-time leader of the free world, really interesting to compare with the artwork of Winston Churchill?

    Scientists are saying that artists have different brains to everyone else because of the visual faculties that they have to develop to handle images. Any art teacher could have told you that this was true, there are some students who could spend their entire life trying to learn how to see and would never be able to do it because of different brain wiring, usually they are referred to as Haptics because their dominant mode of perception is touch.  So much for league tables, do you prevent them learning art if they want to or do you just divert them with conceptual art?

    This piece from Jonathan Jones which deserves attention as it proves that despite being rich as Croesus you cannot always buy the right kind of publicity.

    Finally for this week Mike Kelly is in news yet again! The article makes clear why. “Looking at his work,” Vergne told the crowd, “this drama happening in America made it clear how Mike Kelley had his fingers on all the questions that articulate our time and our culture.” Really, would that have been the immature childish and stupid culture of the me me me generation of thirty year old toddlers?

    Friday, April 04, 2014

    Miroslaw Balka and Phillida Barlow

    There is little contemporary art being exhibited at the present time of any real interest.

    Waldemar Januszczak is writing about German historical wood cuts in this weeks Sunday Times whilst Laura Cumming is sounding on about two shows by Miroslaw Balka, one at the Freud Museum and the other at White cube. The one at white cube betrays the total inadequacy of the work. As is now the norm it needs a self referential diatribe to explain it's meaning which provokes the question if you cannot see what the work is about why is it posing as visual art and hasn't it failed at the starting gate? As Laura Cummings writes;

    "A detailed body of literature is on hand — alluding to Wagner, Dürer, the measurements of the concentration camps, the geographical height of the White Cube gallery above sea level – to help you construct additional meanings. But they are not embodied in the work." 



    Which in referring to every aesthetic canon of the last two hundred years proves that the work is not art, the basic condition of art necessitates that the meaning is embodied in the sculptural or 2D form.

    Phyllida Barlow - Adrian Searle writes about Phyllida Barlow in this weeks Guardian. "Mad and madly ambitious Linda Barlow's Dock is by far and away the largest work the artist has made. It is also the most ambitious in terms of its variety of ramshackle complexity. Both sculpture and journey the Dock develops over a 100 yd length of Tate Britain Duveen sculpture gallery."

    Further he writes; "there are further comic returns, and one unavoidably thinks of Barlows work as a knockabout homage and critique of minimalism and Arte Povera of Robert Morris's early performances and the macho maneuvers of British sculpture of the past 50 years. Through a side door I glimpse Caro' s early one morning. It looks like a meek defender of some earlier order."

    "What an exhilarating work this is. Gothic, slapstick, overreaching, trammelling, Dock presents the world as the theatre set. .... It is a wonderful parody of sculpture's history of self-regarding masculinity!  Wow."

    For once a decent sculptor has been given a show she richly deserves, unlike the pseudo sculpture at White Cube this good old-fashioned contemporary art does actually embody the meaning in the forms.

    Waldemar in the Sunday Times begs to disagree and takes a large side swipe at the Tate curator responsible. He finishes the article by calling for her replacement as every exhibition she has mounted has been aimed at other curators not the public and attendendance figures are down 13%.

    Meanwhile the Saatchi Gallery is promoting New Art from Latin America and Africa. Guess they have little choice having put paid to contemporary art education in the UK! Same old, same old, large ants are just not very meaningful except to the Yuff and meaning is at the heart of the crisis in contemporary art no thanks to a load of followers of Saussure and other french phenomenologists. Signs that the situation will have to improve have emerged today with the announcement that GCSE's and A levels in art and design are to be made more rigorous and this is too long overdue - hooray for that! Hope they then turn their attention to higher education in art and design, that really is the stable droppings that needs thorough sterilisation.