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Andre Wallace created "The Whisper", initially as a maquette, featuring two girls sitting on a railing. It was fully commissioned by Sainsbury's and exhibited at the Royal Academy in London. There it was spotted by Milton Keynes Development Corporation which commissioned the sculpture in bronze for a prime site outside the town's library. Now it is returning to Taunton where the inspiration for the piece was born - and it would be perfect if the models could be traced. Andre said the idea for The Whisper was developed from observing how people interacted in the town centre and formed one of a number of works that depict people from all walks of life going about their daily business.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Serpentine Pavilion

More News


BBC 2 put out a film of state art hype late last night for the redoubtable Jeff Koons at the Whitney. Same stuff for those who know nothing of contemporary art with the usual support; Mr Botney, Hal Foster, M Craig Martin, Mr D Hirst etc, etc.
Paradoxically the programme started to get to the bottom of the commodity brokers emptiness but they tended to refer to it as Koon's dark side as if this was from Star wars and Koons was some sort of Darth Vader of the art world.  Soulless would be a better description of the endless Disneyland artefacts all crafted by fine Italian craftsmen and painted  by endless studio assistants.  Koons is a branded artist and his factories manufacture kitsch, but it was Hal Foster who apologised for this with the usual casuistic tripe about the work being an artful critique of kitsch, which is a shorthand for insider self deception. MCM's hype for the huge doggy made of live flowers was a good comic turn. The artist does churn the work out though, though he seems to have, like most of the usual suspects moved very little in content or meaning for some fifty years. I guess what sells well is what works best.  The BBC photography was very good and it concentrated upon the slick emptiness of the objects surfaces and gloss. The studied use of reflection as in Anish Kapoor does not convince, it is way too much fairground distorting mirrors, it's not as though the technology doesn't exist to use another kind of visual distortion that might work much better, now there's an idea some chancer could use! 

Serpentine Pavilion 2015 by SelgasCano. Though what this architect designed pavilion has to do with art is a quite serious question. It's primary purpose appears to be entertainment which it does as well as any fairground, but is any of it artwork? See it then you can decide?

The finalists for the prestigious Nissan award have been announced, they are a vaguely interesting selection of the usual tasteful and acceptable avant garde lite stuff.

Today's Guardian 30th June has a three page spread to further confirm the mythic status of the usual suspect. All of it publicity for his forthcoming new gallery in Lambeth where he will show his own collection of artworks beginning with John Hoyland!  Now that is a really interesting choice, his posthumous reputation could definitely could do with a boost. Unfortunately there is no middle way with Hoyland's brand of abstraction, it's garishness is such that you either love it because of the extreme colour or you hate it.  Much like the usual suspect himself.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

RA summer exhibition 2015

Little to discuss this week as contemporary art is in the summer doldrums. The RA summer exhibition has opened to critical acclaim though one wonders why, when it is largely the same old, same old, same old mixture of amateurism and useless state art. The courtyard has been filled with a pile of geodesic geometry that is quite meaningless shades of 60s Bucky Fuller and the rest is pretty much of the same well known genres. 
Alistair Smart writes in the Torygraph ; "The truth is, though, that, for all the attempts at modernisation, this is a Summer Exhibition like so many before it: a mix of the exciting and the execrable, your archetypal three-star show, a series of packed rooms that recall a high-end junk shop." 

......."if it truly wished to modernise, the Academy should consider the radical step of including half the number of exhibits: the Salon-style, pile-them-high, pack-them-tight approach just isn't suited to our era of ever-decreasing attention spans."



Despite the curation of Mr M Craig-Martin, one wonders exactly what Mr Smart means by modernise by exclusion, isn't it all about inclusion from Mrs Cutout to the PRA. Shurely shum mistake in a contemporary art context?? What would help would be to remove all the execrable stuff but that would mean "judging" it severely and we cannot have any of that that now, in our politically correct and mindless culture - can we now?

Note Richard Dorment is retiring from his job as art critic for the Torygraph and he looks back in amazement at his time there. he says this; " As for me personally I don’t by any means think I got all of it right. But I have many more regrets about the artists I failed to appreciate – Peter Doig is a good example – than the ones I now think didn’t deserve as much attention as I gave them, including quite a few of the Young British Artists who came to prominence in the Nineties."

Well there you go - he was sometimes quite wrong, as this blog has said many times! He shouldn't have listened to all that gallery guff he was handed and he now regrets the YBA's and all the attention that he gave to them. He will be missed though, but sadly for all the wrong reasons.

There is a Phillip Guston exhibition on at Timothy Taylor and Adrain Searle writes the fluff for it in the Gruniad. This does not make any literal sense:
The world itself is dumb enough. Guston was a painter of brute matter and even more squalid inclinations. He is a great corrective to so much fancy and flimsy tinkering in contemporary painting. He makes an artist like Anselm Kiefer look effete and mannered.

Guston didn’t dumb things down; he dumbed them up. You can’t escape how painted his world is, how nuanced and tragic and funny. Head and Bottle has a dreadful stillness." 

How on earth can you dumb something up? This is trite tripe about a cartoonist who used paint very, very, badly - no more, no less.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Karsten Holler

Karsten Holler has turned the Hayward Gallery into a funfair complete with spiral slides for the undemanding. Inside the gallery we have Large Fly agaric mushrooms that revolve when you push them around. At night you can sleep in a wandering bed. Not so much an art exhibition as a funfair of non-meaningful arty events and entertainment. When is this sort of non-art guff going to end?

Laura Cumming comments:   "And this a troubling aspect of Höller’s show. It turns you into an all-out consumer, as well as a reluctant participant in the artist’s own enterprise. So, for instance, there is a memory game where the cards show fairground attractions on both sides – with one side slightly blurry, so that the eyes have trouble focusing. You can’t help trying it out. The game isn’t too hard, and turns out to be the very definition of child’s play for a smart kid. But for an adult, it’s a case of aggravated boredom. One has the sense of rejecting it in irritation and, at the same time, of unwillingly becoming another piece of what Höller calls his “material” – namely, our response to his game." 
If you are undemanding enough to play and thereby take part in the sociological experiment for the so called artist, thereby providing his material to play with !

The Serpentine Sackler gallery is showing work by Duane Hanson. Wondered where he had got to since the sixties when he was very big. Depressingly he seems to have moved little in terms of form or content in the intervening years. What is curious is to closely compare his work with that of Ron Mueck who also works in this particular genre. The differences are interesting to speculate upon, and although slight there is an ugly expressiveness to Duane Hanson's work that isn't just down to technique, which is casting figures from life in fibre glass. Maybe Mueck uses softer plastic materials and thus achieves a softer effect?

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Selected News for week beginning 7th June 2015

.Selected News for June 2015

Sotheby's London are selling the first version of Manet's barmaid at the Folies-Bergere on June 24th. 

We note that the full weight of the UK state art publicity machine has thrown itself behind Anish Kapoor because the French are insulted by the large rusting hulk he is showing in the gardens of Versailles. Always thought that the man was a conceptual artist? Here it seems is a representational object, but maybe that is just the publicity 
machine in overdrive. The latest news is that it has been extensively vandalised with spray paint, so who says art has no influence?

The Turner Prize-nominated conceptual artist Roger Hiorns plans to bury a decommissioned Boeing 737 under derelict land outside his hometown of Birmingham next summer. The conceptual work is designed to "amplify the contemporary anxiety which the object holds over us" and requires a £250,000 grant from Arts Council England.
The Birmingham-born artist, 39, has spent four years planning the jet burial and has earmarked a patch of industrial wasteland at Icknield Port Loop, a regeneration site, to stage this experience, which allows visitors to walk up and down the fuselage and sit in the seats.  Who is this £250,000 public funded project for? Surely not Art Lovers? Why cannot the lad find a private sponsor from the City?

Among the legions of artists that the state art regime promotes one can usually find one or two who are actually good. One such is Lynette-Yiadom-Boakye who is having her first London show at the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park. Rachel Cooke writes:
" - there’s no doubting that her reputation is growing. Sought after by collectors, her portraits are in several public galleries, the Tate and the V&A among them, and now they are to fill the Serpentine." She is definitely one to watch and hopefully will fulfil her promise.

Interesting article from Colin Gleadell about the number of Lowry fakes that are floating around. He writes; "it’s not just Lowry but other popular artists like Mary Fedden and Alfred Wallis whose fakes are sold in smaller auctions. Buyers need to be careful, buy from experienced galleries and auction rooms, take advice from experts and, above all, always look for a watertight provenance. Sellers, especially smaller auctioneers, should also do their due diligence. This situation occurs all too often." A symptom, no doubt of the times!

The Daily Torygraph has come up with the ten best UK art exhibitions of the moment: Weak selection at best from quirky painter Peter Doig, Defining Beauty, painting paradise, to Eric Ravilious who is very popular.  Just compare the Ravilious with Agnes Martin or Karsten Holler and then argue that art progresses, as if?

Then there is this "artist" who proves that some people will do anything to attract attention. What has this activity got to do with self portraits? Does it have any meaning whatsoever?


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Whitechapel Gallery

This weeks Observer has an interesting piece by Laura Cumming on Corin Sworn at the Whitechapel. Sworn won the Max Mara art prize and is we are told fascinated by the 1548 tale of Martin Guerre. She writes; "For this show amounts to a deconstruction of something simple that was made complex by historians and is now rendered dramatically simple, and strange, once again."

When the theme has been the subject of several decent films one wonders exactly what any "artwork" can contribute to the narrative in terms of aesthetic or artistic values?  A difficult task to take on anyhow.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Lynn Stainers Exhibition

This years Lynn Stainers exhibition was an interesting one both for both new faces and old familiar artists whose work we have seen before. The winner Waj Mirecki with viaduct and tank traps was a large well deserved beautifully executed watercolour. Lisa Wright is there again as is Michael Tarr. Melissa Scott-Millers, Front garden is a patient exposition of her considerable skills and David Piddock's Hanseatic Walk is a tour de force of geometry and thoughtful elements. Ian Hargreaves is also excellent and so is John Cahill's sunlight on morning frost which is exactly what it depicts. 

It's a shame that these are the wrong kind of artists who would never get a look in at ACE galleries. Yet their work is new, fresh and deeply engaged in thoughtful aesthetic values. The world is not just.
As Peter Fuller wrote in 1983: " I agree with Geoffrey Bateson, who once said that the passing of belief in the immanence of god within nature was leading men to see the world as mindless, and unworthy of moral, ethical and aesthetic consideration". Good thing that there are many artists around who still continue to carry the torch and who engage empirically with the real and natural world.

Turner prize 2015

Well what goes around comes around again if you wait long enough. So shock and horror according to Mark Hudson this years Turner prize is all political protest?  This one has legs and will definitely run. Have noticed how William Morris is very much back in fashion, lots of people must have been reading the very sad News from Nowhere which depicts his vision of the UK in 1956. The world he described could not have been further than the truth, yet how many young things think that today's world is the best that there has ever been, which is complete and utter tosh.
Adrian Searle thinks that the change in emphasis is for the good he may be right.
Hudson writes : 

"Architecture and design collective Assemble, who engage in “ongoing collaboration” with the residents of the buildings they create, link straight back to William Morris’s 19th century utopianism and his belief that the purpose of art is to make the world a better place."

and this comment; "In contrast, Nicole Wermers’s comment on consumerism’s obsession with surfaces, which sews fur coats onto classic modernist furniture, feels at once conventional and the work here most likely to wind up the “it’s not art brigade” simply because it sounds so silly." But that may be because the it's not art brigade are perfectly correct in their assumption and they are a growing movement.

One artist makes sounds; Janice Kerbel’s “operatic work” DOUG seems part of tradition of art deconstructing language that goes back to Kurt Schwitters’ 1923 concrete performance poem, Ursonate" and the other;

"Bonnie Camplin’s The Military Industrial Complex recalls Sixties student protest, and it appears to turn art’s current obsession with research and archives on its head by turning the gallery into an archive and the viewer into a researcher."

There you have it - as much to see as it takes time to describe it , protest has become fashionable at this time, just look at the whole of 2015 Biennale, but for some undefinable reason it all seems hollow and fails to convince. This may be because their is a strong element of Hubris in the work, but then maybe not it seems well intentioned.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

On Kawara

This months Jackdaw has an interesting story about this conceptualism; the Guggenheim museum in New York have put on an exhibition by On Kawara. This paragon of contemporary art virtues has been making a painting of a day which features just the digital date on which it was painted on a blank ground. This artist has wasted decades of his life making a first folio of complete and utter futility which is presumably the point, so if you have nothing better to do, go and view the total irrelevance and of it. Life is literally far too short to waste on "art" like this.

Sarah Lucas at the Venice Biennale

The one thing about writing a blog such as this with values to the front is that there is never a shortage of dim witted art criticism. Depressing though it is, oceans of really crap art comment fill the press, so today as that great lauded old YBA Sarah Lucas represents the UK at the Venice Biennale there is loads of press muck to thoroughly rake through.

First off Charlotte Higgins in the Guardian is a real pearl with this purile junk copy 
:“To spend an hour or two with anyone from that time is a great pleasure. They were such a bunch of brilliant amusing people, and they still are.” Lucas is still close to Damien Hirst. Of his relative fall from fashion, she says: “I feel for someone as brilliant as him. I know that without Damien I couldn’t be where I am. So many people have followed in his wake. He’s a genius to me.”

At the Telegraph we have the redoubtable Alistaire Sooke and boy can he write pure sillyness: "Forget the subject matter for a moment, and Lucas’s pared-down forms, with their clean lines, are highly attractive. They’re animated by pleasing contrasts between different textures, such as the smooth gloss of a ceramic toilet versus the knobbly, rough-and-ready surface of a cast. They sit happily within a long lineage of Modernist sculpture."
What does this dregs of copy say? That we have to forget about what the sculpture is about ( Private parts ) and attend to the qualities of the textures? That is a new one, forget that Henry Moore or Picasso depict women just admire the smoothness of the bronze stone or the rough paint. Never mind the quality just feel the width. Some lessons in aesthetics, would do him the world of good.
Lynn Barber writes several pages of hype for Lucas in the Sunday Times supplement. It hardly qualifies as art criticism it's so fawning. We learn for instance that Ms Lucas no longer speaks to her former friend Ms Emin and that Damien Hirst thought she wasn't demanding enough in her prices? However the end of the article betrays unwittingly some interesting truths about the  artist's limitation. Lucas is perhaps more reflective than her peers. She says that people expect her to be a Sarah Lucas which meant being angry. The biennale show though, is a women's show: "it's quite sublime or almost fluffy. It's like that dessert floating islands with meringues floating in syrup. It's a happy show"-? Looking at the objects - happy? Happy is not the most appropriate adjective now is it? Nor have the concepts moved very far from what her public have come to expect the usual scatological crudity!

Are these critics all so blinkered that they simply don't care about what art can actually do when they write about sculpture like this.

The Independent's Karen Wright says: " I for one am proud to be a woman here in Venice, with a woman artist representing my country, with what may well turn out to be the strongest national pavilion of the Biennale." 

Well yes sure the rest is poor, but what about the art? Here there are a number of half torso's cast from life which is a very lazy way of making sculpture to say the least, it's a procedure most sculpture students grow out of after their first year in college. You can end up in hospital with first degree burns from the plaster cast if you are not careful. To say that though, Gormley and others use it as technique - but it is little more than a weak shorthand for actual sculpture. No finesse, no modelling, no skill, no finished and polished manipulation of materials and no communication except for the accidents of reproducing someones body mass. You may think this doesn't matter but it does because she doesn't do proper grown up sculpture. What is so depressing though is the endless repetition of basic scatological forms which when seen once don't carry a second visit. Here there is no inspiration nor enlightenment, this is completely betrayed by the use of the ubiquitous Andy Capp cigarette.

Wrote somewhere earlier on this blog that she was improving as a sculptor, on this evidence she has remained static, both conceptually and formally.

The write ups for the Biennale itself have been broadly similar but was amused by this piece form Alistaire Sooke in the Torygraph:  "Yet, surely we don’t need to be informed so heavy-handedly that the world is a fragile, shocking, unjust, and violent place. We know this already, simply from watching the nightly news. In the context of the Biennale, therefore, making such a display of solidarity with victims of conflict and the dispossessed smacks of liberal self-congratulation."  

In the Sunday Times of 17th May we have Waldemar Januszczak complaining bitterly that all of the art at the Biennale is curators political selections (except for Sarah Lucas, the Russian artists and Chris Offili), he argues successfully that curators have destroyed contemporary art. One has to admit he has a point, they are absolutely unnecessary for the main part and they just farm their own prejudice. Artists have become superfluous and things urgently need to change: He writes:
 "Art is in trouble. It needs to get rid of the political-science hobos who've jumped on the gravy train and to start dealing again in the tangible and the visual".
Have been saying this for years, ever since the advent of conceptual art, he could not be more correct for once.



Thursday, April 30, 2015

Ingram Collection

Life can be full of strange coincidence can it not ?

Today visiting an exhibition of 1960's art from the Ingram Collection at Hestercombe House was totally bemused to encounter a huge David Bomberg that is very, very familiar and is one of the greatest WW2 paintings. During 1942 Bomberg worked for four months as a war artist at Fauld RAF ammunition dump in Staffordshire where he produced a series of beautiful war paintings called the bomb store.  This was one of them and having written about the artists career and was very excited to see it in the flesh. Fortunately he was only there for a short time as the dump, no21 MU exploded in 1944 making a crater half a mile wide and 200 meters deep. It was one of the largest conventional weapons explosions in history which killed approximately 89 people. This is fully documented by Richard Cork in his excellent biography of Bomberg. I have known this crater since childhood having explored the area. Paradoxically seeing the painting bought back many happy memories and some bad ones.

The exhibition was interesting in a number of ways, One persons taste can be difficult or irksome but this was a various and deeply serious collection with some real gems. Aleah Chaplin is an american painter who won the National portrait gallery BP portrait prize recently and she was represented by a superb large nude   There was also a superb Peter Howson based on his war artist work in Bosnia.
The real jewels were the crucifixion by Tristram Hillier and a superb Carel Weight.  The whole exhibition was a positive joy although there were a few low notes.



Saturday, April 18, 2015

That Sit-in at St Martins

Deborah Hermanns, from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, says: “We are witnessing the creation of a two-tier education system, sucking money out of parts of the system which working class students rely on, and putting it into where money can be made. These moves set an awful precedent for what could happen to university courses across the UK.”

In these straightened times art colleges are facing a grim future, as they are the most threatened area of current educational provision. The Guardian reports :

"Set to lose more than £50m in public funding by 2015, UAL, which comprises six colleges including Central Saint Martins (which is moving to the new campus), Chelsea College of Art and Design and the London College of Fashion (LCF), is having to think creatively about how it might secure its financial future.

Among other things, it is looking to set up courses in China and the Middle East while amalgamating three of its loss-making further education foundation courses and expanding its range of more lucrative postgraduate degrees."


Paradoxically the future might be more secure if they actually starting teaching art again but that is way too expensive. Conceptual art is a cheap substitute for funding practical art making. So it's all about business opportunities and it's not even about UK students, funny isn't it how when something that the state established and funded becomes a business opportunity, it immediately goes to the dogs and the locals well they can go and whistle in the wind? UAL are to cut 580 foundation students places. What about the colleges bounded and statuary remit to provide an art education for UK students or can they all go to Turps Banana where they get no qualifications but pay a university sized fee for the privilege.

Just read William Morris's - News from Nowhere and weep!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Francis Bacon show at the Sainsbury Centre

Jonathon Jones again, this time wonder of wonders, writing an all out attack on one Francis Bacon's work from the Sainsbury Centre. He says this: "Yet Bacon and the Masters is a massacre, a cruel exposure, a debacle. Bacon’s paintings are mocked, his talents dwarfed. The jaw-dropping masterpieces by the likes of Picasso, Titian and Rodin that so nearly make this show five-star unmissable also, to my dismay, to my shock, make Bacon seem a small, timebound, fading figure."

This is exceptional from a state art critic, but tend to agree with the assessment as have often thought that Bacon's work was the best argument for censoring visual art that you could come up with. Soulless, hopeless, empty and unrewarding without any trace of decent humanity he only did negativity. In time like these when things are very bad for many people, art that offers no hope is of minority interest. Also always thought that the promotion of Francis Bacon was the critic David Sylvester's supreme nihilistic achievement. Now apparently he looks very dated and meaningless. As Jones puts it"
The masters are so relaxed, so honest. They show the facts, while Bacon desperately tries to be shocking, to “unlock the gates of feeling” as he put it, as if he has no feelings to begin with." Quite so, comparisons of totally unlike artwork is not always a good thing.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Y Z Kami

Every so often along comes a painter who shows the potential to change things for the better. This Iranian artist's work from the Gagossian is traditional high art of genuine quality, which leaves the reconstruction of the image to the viewer's imagination. 
Laura Cumming writes perceptively in the Observer; "How can one depict the inner being, the private thoughts, the spiritual beliefs? Kami is prodigiously aware of the limitations of portraiture. Yet it is obvious from these paintings, with their intense aspect of interiority, of trying to make visible the invisible, that he is thinking about this dimension of our lives as few other contemporary painters. So although his portraits are by nature impermeable, resistant to emotional communion, they are also candidly open in their monumental scale."

Ben Luke in the Standard has no patience with these portraits, he writes; "Yet a group together loses impact through repetition — I felt like I was looking at a production line rather than an illuminating painterly investigation."  Perhaps he has to learn how to look first?

Friday, April 10, 2015

Greek sculpture of 400BC and 'I love Lucy'.


Coincidentally, the British museum has a major exhibition of Greek sculpture and some real sculptural woefulness comes up in the press. It suggests that not only is the past another country but that in some respects we are loosing the basic premises of what constitutes a civilised society. We can no longer produce artefacts that represent the human body to rival those of Ancient Greece, maybe we never could and we blithely assume that this does not matter. It does matter, it matters hugely that we have disposed of some of the basic tenets of representation in western civilisation, courtesy of state art and conceptual untruths.

So Jonathan Jones pens an article in today's 08.04.2015 Guardian entitled Scary Lucy. As we have commented on pathetic excuses for public art previously, this article draws attention to the common problem concerned with the state of art education. Apparently American sculptor Dave Poulin has accepted responsibility for a failure to depict Lucille Ball, or rather failing completely to depict the character she played Lucy. So bad is this piece of public sculpture that the public have forced the artist to apologise for such a rubbish artefact exhibited in a public place.  It's unbelievable that it actually got cast in bronze which must have cost a fair sum. For once Jones is right to criticise, and he writes this copy; "perhaps in Celeron, Budapest or London a young artist right now is so angered by our embarrassing statues that he or she is learning to make them properly. This would give the night of the bronze zombies a happy ending."

Sure, but this begs the question who in God's name is going to teach them how to do it or does Jones expect them to be capable of teaching themselves? If he does, that is a measure of how much he knows about making sculpture. Accurate representational figure modelling is a very hard won skill, far more difficult than accurate life drawing because it is drawing in three dimensions with clay or stone with a calliper and a plumb line. It is not something that anyone - and I do mean anyone,  - can teach themselves. But cultural amnesia and the all-prevailing hatred of the past of the present hedonistic culture lies to itself. People simply do not know what they are dealing with here, there are long complex procedures that have to be learned and hard won in order to even begin to make this kind of sculpture. There are very few artists who can still do it well (even forensic sculptors fall flat often) which is why the arrogant assume that anyone can and fall flat on their faces when they produce the kind of dreadful rubbish that scary Lucy is. There are no sculptors in universities or academies now who can teach you how to do it. Michelangelo was a giant among sculptors, he started working in a stone masons yard at the age of five, and this is what you have to do if you want to make statues of the human body that work as well as those of 4th century BC Greece. Progress - what sort of progress is that, to be behind 400BC Greece in basic depiction?

Monday, April 06, 2015

Duchamp's Urinal

Did Duchamp steal the urinal idea from German baroness Elsa von Freytag Loringhoven?  If so then what Julian Spalding writes here is of great significance;

"Duchamp had long hated art. Both his elder brothers had become successful artists; he had not. Envy seeps out of many of his unguarded utterances: “Why should artists’ egos be allowed to overflow and poison the atmosphere?” he said in 1963. “Can’t you just smell the stench in the air?”
When the mood took him, Duchamp could be honest about his dishonesty. In an interview in 1962, he told William Seitz: “I insist every word I am telling you now is stupid and wrong.” Why, then, has the art world persisted in believing an account grounded in the myths he promulgated?"

The answer is  too much money is invested in the ocean of conceptual art that has resulted from his insult to art and aesthetics.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Tate Britain - the changes.


Museu Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon. She has been mentioned here on this blog and the Art newspaper reports: "
A few of Tate Britain’s recent exhibitions have aroused the ire of some critics, including the current show “Sculpture Victorious” (until 25 May) of mid- to late-19th century British sculpture. The criticism has verged on a vendetta, downplaying the merits of the presentation of the permanent collection and well-received temporary exhibitions, such as ones of Turner’s late works, Lowry’s cityscapes, and a survey of British folk art. The gallery’s annual attendance has hovered around the 1.4 million mark, compared with around 5 million who visit Tate Modern."


They have conveniently ignored her sacking the Turner, Constable and other experts in a poorly thought out restructuring to save a few quid. Jonathon Jones cannot resist getting out the cudgel with this: "It is arrogant to so ostentatiously push your personal taste as the official Tate Britain view, when in my opinion, that taste is so poor. Her bad taste has also, I think, been evident in ever-worsening Turner prize shortlists. Turns out you need taste to run a museum. Anyway, Curtis is going. But that will not solve this museum’s problems."

Taste is of course a thing that is absent from most of the guff from Jone's pen, the Barbara Hepworth exhibition was good but Jones doesn't do fine art values, just the same old state salon art criticism, toe the line - dull conformity.

One might assume that after the 2008 crash artists remained singularly unmoved but not so according to the Telegraph who have brought up this exhibition in Dresden where artists are complaining about capitalism. Ivan Hewitt (who he?) says this:
"This is art made by an élite for an élite, speaking only to that tiny sliver of society which is fluent in the ways of contemporary art. The show is excellent fodder for earnest conversations at arty left-wing dinner-tables, but most of the people who've actually suffered in the crash will surely be baffled by it."  Which begs the point - how can you get away with slagging off your patrons and sell to them unless they are as baffled as the Spanish Royal family were by Goya's portraits of them?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Art student unrest

Students at Central St Martin's are revolting as they often did way back in the sixties. Their present beef is financial, although to read their online demands they are using the opportunity to make some odd requests.  Remember long ago in the 60's when a sit-in was taken down by an art school principle who had not long before survived a Japanese prisoner of war camp, he did not take prisoners, it collapsed.

Occupy UAL: Demands
NO CUTS TO FOUNDATION
- No cuts to student places
- No staff redundancies
- UAL should use its weight as a large arts instituition to lobby the govt. against the FE cuts
NO TO INSTITUTIONAL RACISM
- Stop the £500k Widening Participation cuts
- Liberate the curriculum (we want more black artists, theorists and lecturers)
- Implement anonymous marking – Mark our work, not our names!
DEMOCRATISE THE UNIVERSITY
- Financial transparency, what is going on with budgets and how are they allocated.
- Student and staff reps to sit on the Executive Board
- Fair pay for all staff, including outsourced staff – close huge the pay gap
- No nepotism
FREE EDUCATION
- Take a stand against tuition fees, cuts and student debt
- Abolish materials and printing costs
- No to privitisation
- Affordable accomodation
- WE’RE AN ART SCHOOL, NOT A BUSINESS!
WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO PROTEST
- No sanctions or punishments for students & staff involved in this peaceful occupation
- Freedom to move in and out of the occupation


Anonymous marking, now that really is revolutionary. How will that one work when they are practising as "anonymous" artists and designers? The bitter truth is that there are far, far too many artists out there trying to scrape a crust as it is, many of them being exploited by employers in jobs they are over-qualified for. But that doesn't mean to say that the creative industries don't need workers because they really do. It is also about time these industries started actually paying their way and providing decent salaries, so we can vaguely hope that the revolution starts here.     There has been too much exploitation of artists and unpaid internships for way too long. If you are thinking of taking an unpaid internship, carefully consider the fact that only 7% lead to an real job. We are perfectly entitled to despise promotors of slavery (to call it what it actually is) and that is exactly what it is - exploitation.

Today 10th April brings the news of legal action by the college against the students which is proof if proof were needed that education is business. Shelly Asquith, president of the student union, is one of those named on the injunction. She says: “I was not consulted whatsoever over huge changes to our courses; and now I have an injunction being brought against me for having the nerve to protest against the cuts.


News of the same thing happening in South Wales where they are trying to save a course from the cuts.

Which brings us to Turner prize artist Marvin Gaye Chetwind who has found a new street-wise and relevant moral and ethical role designing playgrounds for children. She has started in Dagenham, which was once upon a time a byword for inner city deprivation. Only now, it has good well performing schools and it is the poor white children in UK rural locations who are the deprived. 
She says:  “In Britain, artists are often thought of as tricksters or p--- artists – and certainly not as useful. But in Europe, they are really respected, and that’s great. I think of this project as art that has come out of the studio. It’s not elitist, it’s on the street, it’s art being functional – and that’s amazing.”
Well yes, it is very good to be useful but doesn't that mean that it is really design rather than fine art, because it is actually functional and useful.

Very depressing there is more evidence of the endemic British sickness, cultural amnesia and the consequential race to the bottom, the Guardian fears for the future of the arts after the next election whichever party wins.





Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Richard Diebenkorn at the RA ?

This week there has been very little art apart from the Goya and Impressionism exhibitions. There is the Richard Diebenkorn exhibition at the RA though which Laura Cummings has reviewed in the Observer. She writes accurately this tribute;

"This is what connects late with early; all of these paintings are bent on seeing and depicting the same thing – cities and landscapes – in new ways. The elements may be the same, the architecture of lines and planes, the suave black drawing, the patches, clusters and veils of atmospheric colour. But the sense of endeavour, of tension, scrutiny and indecision changes every time and makes each painting vital and restless for all its composure. Even at the end, Diebenkorn is still trying to work out another way to give us the light and space of California."

Diebenkorn is a grand old man of american painting and along with Wayne Thiebaud both of whom have grown in stature since the 1950's. Their work will survive long after most of the rest of today's dross has been washed away because their art is rooted like Picasso's in the real world. It depicts real perceptual life phenomena. Diebenkorn has produced some of the best late twentieth century life drawings  in existence. Highly recommended if you want to see some real art. Adrian Searle writes: "Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park paintings occupy a sort of hinterland. They’re a beautiful distraction, paintings to lose your way inside. They’re not quite landscapes, not geometric abstractions and not exactly colour-field painting either. They belong to a time and place but have in them times and places all their own. They’re accumulations of incident within a larger scheme of things. You can see Diebenkorn thinking as he paints, getting lost, turning back, wandering off into the fields, finding the larger view."

Down in devon Damien Hirst has run short of photo realist painters so if you are an artist and fancy moving to Devon apply to extend brand production. Hirst is a publicity junky so there is this story concerning an original spot painting whose sale has been blocked by him. "Jess Simpson, who has owned the home with her husband Roger since 2005, has removed Bombay Mix, mounted it on an aluminium backing board, and framed it in the hopes of selling it. In doing so, she has run into firm opposition from the artist and his team."  

Jeff Koons is also ramping up the production of his brand, he now has 12 computer-operated stone-cutting machines, two robots and around 30 employees and he has a large public $8.000.000 commission for Sacramento Basketball team to complete. This is not very popular however, the protest gathers momentum.

Then there is the great Impressionism blockbuster that is drawing all the crowds at present at the National gallery. This has been extensively reviewed by everyone and is a bit boringly passe. Strictly for the newly converted to art as a religion types. Dorment tells us it's fantastic here.

Lastly and very depressingly more evidence of the endemic British sickness, amnesia and the consequential race to the bottom, the Guardian fears for the future of the arts.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

The Fourth Plinth - a horse skeleton


The BBC held an arts question time in response to the Warwick report on the state of our culture. It was a very disappointing program full of time serving self promotion and a total failure to expose the truth as is usual with TV.  The Telegraph couldn't resist using it for a poke at the arts and published an article by one Rupert Christiansen with the worst piece of unconsidered dross copy I have read this year.
Particularly this unconsidered pig ignorance :"And what about the role of "the arts" in schools? Should we really be so fervently encouraging young people to be "creative", when standards of literacy and numeracy are so low? Shouldn’t schools be more focused on priding children with useful practical skills, such as speaking foreign languages or understanding the legal system? Our universities spend billions of pounds half-educating people in "the arts", when society has far more urgent calls for manufacturing and industrial skills: aren't "the arts" ultimately enfeebling us as much as enriching us?"

It isn't worth arguing with a clown who doesn't know what a useful practical skill is, never mind the accusation of half educated arts graduates....... Or one who isn't aware that high achievement in the arts leads to improvements in basic subjects such as maths and english. As for the UK's industrial and manufacturing skills, the comment is risible. The copywriter for that is all he is, doesn't realise that 85% of his readers have no economic access to the precious legal system. He is the one who is half educated, and he should know that his Tory political masters allowed our industries and manufacturing to go off to China. (Which is now building, 230 art colleges)

 Mary Moore daughter of the great sculptor has taken exception to Damien Hirst for putting art back 100 years. The issue with the work of Hirst and others was that it relied on title and the cube it was in, she said. It was much more about having to read the label to know what was going on." 
She is quite correct to make this criticism, lack of considered formal values and sculptural considerations is the main hallmark of avant garde lite. She argues that Hirst brought back the frame after her father had dispensed with it. This is a purely formal issue, anyone who has studied sculpture knows that the object - whatever it is, has to work in the round, that it has to be seen from all points of view - which is exactly why Michaelangelo said that painting was women's work. Hirst presents natural and manufactured objects usually in a rectangular box or frame. It can be simply understood from one 90 degree angle it's symmetry and it's label. 

Moving on there has been much discussion by our erstwhile critics of the Victorian sculpture show at Tate Britian. Laura Cumming writes this which is incomprehensible:"Yet Tate Britain’s claim that this is “a golden age for sculpture” is itself outlandish. It might be a golden age for commissions, and popularity, but the art itself is wildly variable." When was it not in any situation one might ask? There are real skills on display here and not a little real art.  You have to be able to see it!

The Spectator has a pop at Penelope Curtis which seems to be a common press pursuit these days (google it!). The real culprit is Sir Nicholas but the conceptually addled Richard Dorment couldn't resist putting the boot into the Victorian sculpture exhibition. The poor dear has only just at the tender age of sixty nine, it seems, woken up to the fact that art history and art criticism as forms of knowledge are contingent upon the reason for their production, no more no less. Which says much for his capacity for reflection upon his own writing. He writes this in genuine anger: "I couldn’t care less when they to publish their low-grade, pseudo-historical twaddle in periodicals no one reads. But to see it in a catalogue published by a respected institution like Tate is depressing, because it will now be repeated over and over until it becomes the accepted view of Victorian sculpture." He really should get out more. Since when has that not always been the case? Reminds me of the paper I wrote on the hatchet job Sir John Rothenstein (former director of Tate Britain) did on Sir William Orpen. If you want to read that, it is on the Jackdaw website. 

The fourth plinth is in the news again, this time due to a skeletal horse by Hans Haake. A stock market ticker tape runs around the horses neck, so we are informed that the whole thing is a critique of rampant capitalism as in the 2008 banking crash. Haake has some form for this sort of political comment, but one can and one is entitled to ask would the symbolism work without the conceptual description to tell us that he is having a go at the city? How and why does a horse's skeleton symbolise the city of London and the banking crash? 
The answer is this:  "Asked whether his piece was a criticism of the power of money, Haacke said: “The title is Gift Horse and that implies that something is off…"

Monday, March 02, 2015

History is now - at the Hayward!

Waldemar Januszczak - Sunday Times 22.2.2015 writes an article entitled The state we are in concerning the "History is now", show at the Hayward which purports to be a selection of meaningful art for consideration vis the election. 1970's and 1980's stuff mainly and no, do not see the connection?

Seven artists have been asked to curate the exhibition and with one exception they are state art acolytes. The exception is Richard Hamilton's 1980's canvases of the Northern Ireland troubles and Januszczak says the show starts well and finishes well but the middle is very poor. "Confused and confusing" there are some artists here who don't work with the exhibition brief, Roger HiornsHannah Sarkey and John Akomfra for instance.The tenor of his criticism is also poor, state art hype to the front he remarks that: "the sight of the redundant bloodhound missile on the forecourt made for a thrilling sculptural sight" which is the usual. No missile can be a work of art and only a conceptually biassed critic would confuse the two. What one is entitled to ask; is life enhancing or positive about a guided missile whose sole function is to kill? Mind you the Tate did it first with Fiona Banner not long agoRichard Wentworth's missile,  is a quaint piece of non meaning, it is certainly not a sculpture, you far are better off going to the Hendon aircraft museum or Duxford, and UK people are doing exactly that as the Tate's attendance figures have recently proved. People do not want to see this stuff.


Our lad Alistaire Sooke likes it as a statement because it is pointed at the city? but he says he is exhausted by this exhibition.
He writes this bunk: "Moreover, Wentworth is unafraid of visual drama: outside on a balcony, he positions one of the few surviving Bloodhound surface-to-air guided missiles deployed by the RAF during the Cold War. (It appears to be aimed in the general direction of the City.) If only the weaker, impenetrable parts of this exhibition had been more like his one." Which only goes to prove that he was not around in the cold war......  He also pens this piece of brown nosed name dropping: "I left in a cloud of unknowing, defeated by the cacophony of so many competing voices, but sympathetic towards officials such as John Chilcot, who have to sift masses of evidence like this while chairing inquiries in order to compile their findings. No wonder it takes them so long."

The Standard has lost the plot as it seems to no longer employ the feisty Brian Sewell and someone called Ben Luke pens this hype : " - there’s Sam Taylor-Johnson’s celebrity-tastic, feelgood film of David Beckham sleeping, for instance. Fujiwara’s might be the most contemporary section but everything here feels pertinent to now in its own way. It’s a portrait of Britain as a deeply complicated, often inspired and sometimes infuriating place.
It leaves us with much to ponder about our past and present as we head for the voting booths in May." Oh yes does it then, like how we got into this degenerate state? State art as a critical comment on the status quo - how does that scan?  One can only say that Brian would have made justifiable mincemeat of this.