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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Henri Matisse Blockbuster



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 faculties that they have to develop to handle images.

Finally 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.

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 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 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.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

WW1 War Artists at the National Portrait Gallery

Charles Masterman originated the war artists scheme in 1917 as part of the World War  1 UK propaganda office, and the first official war artist sent to the western front was printer Muirhead Bone who was anxious to avoid conscription. The great artist David Bomberg served as a war artist in both world wars working on the western front in WW1 and in an RAF bomb store at Fauld Staffordshire in 1943 where he produced a body of work documented by Richard Cork. This dump accidently blew up in 1944 and was the largest conventional explosives explosion in history, it's crater though in a remote location is worth a visit.

With WW1 all over the media this year the National Portrait Gallery is putting on an exhibition of portraits to tell the story and it does the job extremely well. The Telegraph has this diatribe which has no commentary on the art but Waldemar Januszczak at the Sunday Times shows due reverence for what he says is a heart breaking  exhibition. Orpen was one of the UK's best war artists, but he was the victim of his uncle's vicious attack in his book Modern Painters the 1950's. He is however now undergoing a radical re-evaluation and is now being seen for the service that he as an irishman rendered the UK in WW1.

Other links are these;

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Tate Modern Richard Hamilton yet again?

This week brings this news, make your own judgement about the substance, would not possibly want to comment enough of that on the chat lines!

Most contemporary art press is concerned with the deceased Richard Hamilton big exhibition at Tate Modern this week. Why another show so soon after the last?  Suspect it may be something to do with the fact that so many of us are sick to the back teeth of Duchamp promotion so it has to be reinforced.
Laura Cumming at the Guardian is enthralled but she does acknowledge Hamilton's obsession with Duchamp as a bad thing. The trouble with most of Hamilton's work is that the older one gets the less humanity it conveys, art for the semi-detached, those without any shed to work in. He did some execrable paintings over the years but you aren't going to see the ones with a complete absence of sensibility anytime soon. Over stretching the boundaries of taste was something that he never seemed to have worried about, it was all only another possible strategy for furthering the wet white liberal arts project. Cumming remarks that it takes the viewers own reflection in a mirror to bring any of the work to life.

Brian sewell is quite cogent at the Standard but he does go on about Fecal artistry as if this is a good thing instead of abysmally questionable taste. Some fecal paintings are missing from the show and it was a thing with Hamilton. Peter Fuller put it straight in 1975 when he said "he hadn't realised what a whore of an artist Hamilton was." The fact is that Hamilton never left his technical draughtsmanship behind, he just didn't appreciate the fact that the image involves the creation of artists own feeling's and then those of the viewer. There is precious little feeling in any of his cerebral exercises as with the sainted Marcel - his obsession.  As Sewell puts it:"The consequence of this, alas, is that much of his work, once the freshness has worn off, is at best sardonic, whimsical or wittily mischievous and, at worst, not super-cool but shallow, vapid, trivial and as stale as a discarded cliché, perfectly mirroring his time."


Waldemar Januszczak seems to suspend judgement when looking at Hamilton's work and makes huge assertions about his influence - blaming him for Newcastle University's art department being the original home of conceptual art via it's obsession with Duchamp.  Fact is, conceptual strategies are easy compared to the labour of love that depiction can be. Saying that the show is brilliant and important he also argues that Hamilton was some sort of Hogarth! nope don't go with this one, he wasn't a man of the people.


Mark Hudson at the Telegraph says it's all a knockout - but then he's too young to know whether it is or isn't? Just whittles on about the works that impressed him as if they haven't been shown before, which is a good argument for ensuring that your art critics have all the age and wisdom of Mr Sewell. He summarises with this; "Whether he was ever Britain’s “greatest artist” feels too banal a question to ask of so complex and avowedly tricky an artist. If his work is uneven, it’s better to be flawed and interesting, as I'm sure Hamilton would have said himself, than consistent and boring." Amen to that.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Waldemar Januszczak and others on Martin Creed

Martin Creed has been awarded a retrospective which is interesting for this reason; whilst he is an artist who has redefined the aesthetics of nothing in a very significant way - the idea that nothing comes of nothing and nothing ever will - predominates in his efforts!

All art has an element of open interpretation in that it requires a contribution from the viewer which usually termed appreciation, impressionism being the obvious example. With Creed the idea has to be reconstituted or contributed by the viewer, there is literally nothing else. In fact the lack of the visual evidence is such that nothing manages to disguise itself as intelligence which is quite a nifty achievement.

Jonathan Jones in the Guardian is his usual obsequious self. He says that everything in Creed’s art is on the point of disappearing and is often dismissed as empty gestures. This of course is what they are, empty and meaningless. Such as the oft hyped sore about a small sheet of crumpled A4 paper which Creed sent to Sir Nicholas Serota and which was returned by his secretary having been flattened out. So what, it would be hard to find anyone who heard the bells ringing at the start of the Olympic games (work number 1197 the lights going on and off). But this is all supported by such state art luminaries as Julian Bell and Stephen Deucher who commissioned the runners in the Tate Britain Duveen gallery, (Work number 850) so it's all right then. The fact that it is facile, irrelevant and meaningless drivel is never to be considered. Why don't these stata art acolytes worry about the contempt with which their decadent gestures are held, by the populace who are paying for it without being asked?


Tim Adams in the Observer also promotes Creeds show at the Hayward. He writes well, explaining that few artists negotiate the thin line between the mindfully simple and the simpleminded as well as Creed. He remarks that you can't help feeling that you need a quite low bar of knowingness, a spotless mind of innocence, a Buddhist master’s understanding of joy to appreciate them fully. This is the point - in is art for the me me me generation who haven't seen much art or who have had little life experience. Adams acknowledges Creed’s debt to Bruce Nauman who was doing it all in the 1960s. Nauman was an adult who dealt in alienation and nihilism, Creed is a child who makes slight gestures.  In short the quality of Creed's jokes is like that of David Shrigley very insignificant; It is interesting that Wittgenstein compared aesthetic problems to those of the joke. Our art are has lost it's aesthetics, lost the visual experience and ended up as a no more than an effete joke.

Waldemar Januszczak in the Sunday Times says that Creeds show is the pits. He is an even worse artist than he said that he was last time round in 2012. Mentioning Creed's music and his new album Mind trap he remarks that; that it's full of anger self loathing, hatred, pity, loneliness and all the bleak and true emotions his thoroughly derivative art seeks to hide. A very concise accurate summary of a marginal artist.

This week 9.2. Januszczak is discussing traditional ‘old British sculptors’ Richard Deacon at the Tate and Bill Woodrow at the RA. He says that they slipped down the back of the sofa in the past 30 years after their hiatus in the 1980’s. Deacon is he says, an excellent sculptor made dull by the circumstances of the exhibition at Tate Britain. Woodrow on the other hand is conspicuously impressive, he went on producing socialist statements from discarded household goods. The second half of his show however is preachy and clunky according to Waldemar. 

Rachel Cook in the Observer is effusive, finding it difficult to describe the associations and references of Deacons sculpture.


Waldemar Januszczak has promoted his excellent series on Rococo which it has gone out on BBC2 and is available on Iplayer.


Hockney has gone back to LA but he is having a huge print exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery.



Saturday, January 25, 2014

Eric Eisner - RIP

The death has been announced of Eric Eisner at the age of 80 years. Sat through one of his talks and found him a mesmerizing lecturer, he was an important advocate for the critical importance of art education to all children and adults in western society. He saw art as a necessity and a right and not the luxury as current politicians think it is. He always spoke the truth and he was a great supporter for the status of art education as the tool for teaching judgement and critical thinking. He will be sadly missed in the arts educational community. A very great man, his ideas should be much more widely promoted, but isn't this the way with human beings who make helping others their life task.........
He wrote: "To neglect the contribution of the arts in education, either through inadequate time, resources or poorly trained teachers, is to deny children access to one of the most stunning aspects of their culture and one of the most potent means for developing their minds,"


Friday, January 24, 2014

Waldemar Januszczak on Curators

Waldemar has done it once again - taken another pop at the new curators, those flim flam merchants whose stranglehold over the art market is surely garotting the artistic life out of it. He has published a funny little video to support his article here.

One has only to look around to see that any new contemporary art is not being produced or promoted except in small pockets. The Western art world is now supporting more curators, managers, sellers, auctioneers, hangers on, Self taught artists and general con merchants than can live off those who actually produce art. The standard Gallery rip off and it is a rip off, is now 50% which is brutal exploitation and profiteering.  Art education has lost the plot and is a national disaster - so no new talent has emerged since those now middle aged kitsch merchants (not artists) the YBA's. This is the consequence of State art and Saatchi's stranglehold over the entire system. They have themselves to blame for strangling the goose that laid the golden egg. If the only art that is permitted is crap then the art world by default becomes crap and that is exactly what has happened in the past five years. You are not allowed to say this though, even on the guardian or telegraph chat lines which go on promoting the lie that everything in the garden is just hunky dory deary! To mentioned artistic standards, connoisseurship, sensibility or values has become tacit to actively insulting someone. Yet without the careful consideration of values, good or bad everything just declines and degrades and it has. Stupidity and ignorance dominate and it is all so very, very depressing. 

Dr Eric Coombes has complained bitterly that the Reith lectures this year were a pantomime, he wrote in this month's Jackdaw “One of the consequences of the comprehensive destruction of our system of higher education in the visual arts from which Perry emerged as a graduate is a glut of people who deludedly suppose themselves competent in matters entirely beyond their intellectual scope. In the second lecture Perry asserted that anything can be “Art” but I think that the boundaries are sociological, tribal, philosophical and maybe even financial. Well, can anything be Art or not? What does that mean?Does one and the same thing become or cease to be art according to whether it falls under the jurisdiction of one or other of this strange ragbag of disparate conceptual regimes? Or is this a confused way of noticing the obvious point that what is accepted valued or promoted may vary with circumstances and interests?” 

A complaint which one hears regularly these days is how art exhibitions are frequently ruined by hoards of screaming school kids running around galleries and generally making a nuisance of themselves in places where they don't seem to realise that the experience  demands silence and contemplation. They are not good at contemplating anything but this is amusing.

As is this from Jonathon Jones who needs to take a pop at sift target Ms Emin accusing her of feminist art lite - whatever that means? which isn't much and certainly won't hold water as art criticism....





Sunday, January 05, 2014

The best art of 2013 ?

This week brings us the news that the Professor of Drawing has bought a bolthole in America, "excellent!"
As it is that time again here is a roundup of all the best exhibitions of the year from the internet;

Adrian Searle of the guardian came up with this list and the chatline, had an interesting spat discussion.

Laura Cumming comes up with a very pleasant and assured list in the Guardian. She actually goes as far as to take a swipe at aging YBAs for their failure to improve, such are the constraints of the art market.

Richard Dorment says this about Grayson Perry's Reith lectures:"That they were a triumph of style over content." Indeed they were and the Jackdaw for january has an excellent summary of why by Dr Eric Combes. He bewails the complete disintegration of art education - as indeed do we constantly!

The Independent came up with this list, it is not very notable.

Jonathon Jones chose these exhibitions; He ought to know better than to extole the virtues of Jack Vattriano. It is not for no reason that he despised and reviled by the art world! We can all do the illustration bit.

Time out came up with this list which included the pathetic body language show at the Saatchi gallery, so much for ye teenage trendies.

Vulture came up with this, not informative list.

The New Yorker had this predictable choice with Mike kelly, Chris Burden, Balthus? Christopher Wool and that abject artist Paul McCarthy. What is it with these americans that they have to revel in the druggy, abject and inane?

Design Boom list

Londonist list.

The daily beast list.

Flavourwire list

Huff Post list

A little lighthearted grin concerning those curators!!!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Art and Sponsorship

This week there isn't much art around due to the Christmas break but came across article in the Observer about arts sponsorship which is quite revealing. Prince Charles was giving out gongs last week to those who had contributed the most to arts sponsorship in the past year. The fact is that the people who sponsor the arts are now getting too old and more significantly they are not being replaced by young city slickers who are giving next to nothing to the arts despite their hedge fund gazillions. So much for banksters who invest in their own art but their public sponsorship arms need twisting.

Took in an extraordinary exhibition by an artist I'd never heard of one Jack Coulthard, it was very strange and imaginative work - for once beautiful craftsmanship. Jack is typical of the sort of artist that the State art world ignores.

Adrian Hamilton in the Independent again waxes fawning toadyism over the Bloomberg New Contemporaries at the ICA. (Bring back Charles Darwent!) Everything about this exhibition suggests that the art schools are failing to educate, the paucity of ideas and imagination on display here suggests that the current crop of students are very very confused about what it is that constitutes a work of art. There is no way you can argue that the ideas displayed by Julia Parkinson, Mark Essen, Hannah Regal, or Ferdinand Saumarez Smith as examples are original, exciting or even vaguely artwork. Saumarez Smith  for example goes no further than this internet research!  Pity that all this has to be hyped up by Mr Hamilton's lack of critical faculty.

Laura Cumming on the other hand can often be right, and she reviews the French Algerien artist Kader Attia at the Whitechapel in the Observer. Sure this is very worthy stuff, but the word artist should be replaced with curator for it seems that the exhibition is literally a museum exhibit, with nothing to see, just objects and mind games to indulge in. Instead of asking what is a vision? the artist could be advised to provide one, likes repetition does Kader.  This trend is frustrating in it's growth, seems it will become more popular, but where is the aesthetic engagement in the museum experience?

Lastly truly amazing news that the NHS is a huge consumer of art, only it is not!  David Prentis general secretary of Unison has said hospital surroundings are important for patients as they recover but when budgets are tight money should be spent on patient care - Who would have thought it? Fact is the sums are pretty paltry - 89 trusts spent £1.894,278 since 2010, about the price of an average Picasso but then those few who can afford to spend $142million on a poor Francis Bacon won't have to worry about their health spending will they? Whatever is spent it raises patients morale and that is the most important thing.


Sunday, December 08, 2013

Ten worst contemporary artworks

Recently was asked to make a list of the ten worst contemporary artworks and found it the most difficult task. Choosing the worst art of purported cultural significance was incredibly difficult as there is mountains of it about, but any object culled from the web museum of bad art or from locations such as skips or walls was banned. It had to be art that has been well publicised by galleries and the cultural media as very significant artwork, but also;

  • a work with no redeeming merit 
  • a work with no art history reference
  • a work with no artistic skill or value
  • a work of no aesthetic value

A real challenge; would be interested in other suggested lists.  For your disputation this was the final list.

1 Fountain - Marcel Duchamp

2 Black square - Kasimir Malevich

3 Bad dog - Richard Jackson

4 Work No 517 - Martin Creed

5 Boot print - Gavin Turk

6 Sleeping arrangements - Martin Maloney

7 Pail - Jeff Koons

8 Spring angel C - Gary Hume

9 Forever Marilyn - Seward Johnson

10 Sell the house - Christopher Wool

NB Not one female artist made the list!

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Chapman Brothers and Saatchi gallery

This weeks press contains lots of criticism of the latest abuse of trust from the Chapman Brothers at the Serpentine. Critics make the same point, that we are now so inured to the usual suspects shlock it just doesn't work, which is depressingly true. A regretful loss of innocence by us all.

Alastair Sooke at the Telegraph effuses enthusiastically when he opines; "If this is art held up as a mirror to nature, then we as a species are infernally doomed." Fortunately the glass cases full of airfix kit is no mirror held up to nature, despite the references to Macdonalds, Nazis, Belsen, and the Klu Klux Klan, it's just the amoral imagination of a pair of chancers. The one sensation one gets when staring into a Chapman vitrines is the all-prevailing thought that it's truly amazing what you can do with an airfix kit and a little imagination! The brothers are a fair barometer of public gullibility, with their perverted semiotics. It is all wearing thin now though. Those generations that suffered at the hands of the nazi's even at one remove, find that sly nazi humour was never even vaguely funny. Some things are too serious to laugh at and their loaded cornucopias of shlock porn have provoked real revulsion.
Adrian Hamilton fawns dreadfully over all this as only he will, but he accepts that the slap in the face is wearing thin. He isn't very critical of the abuse of Goya either. Waldemar at the Times is more accepting, he says it's all tat but he loves it in spite of himself. He quotes Hannah Arendt "the banality of evil" and asks why the Tate hasn't yet bought one of their horror vitrines of thousands of Nazis doing the unspeakable. The best joke he makes is mentioning the fact that you don't want to be a corporate freebee aimed at kids when the Chapmans are about. He also claims that they are now Britain's most important artists but that's in a fairly empty field of competition. Laura Cumming is quite perceptive when she asks if there exists a true intent to shock? It's never clear she says, and the trick of painstaking craftsmanship with moral nihilism has now lost its potency. The only appropriate response she says is to laugh, but she finishes ;"the torture must never stop"!
The FT however goes with Scopophilia and pecuniary value of the objects - money is more important than values for them...........

Another show being given lots of press hype is the Saatchi show of good old Body Language stuff at the Saatchi gallery. - This is poor figurative art defined by Saatchi's utilitarian values and taste.  Laura Cumming visits and argues that the fast food of contemporary art is being served up here. Swiftly absorbed with one or two munches. The demand for novelty produces poor representation. The message is marred by the poor performances, e.g. Kasper Kovitz ham sculptures are Basquiat rendered in meat. Stegner's policewomen are glorified stick women. She says Body Language is a shopping spree of current US figurative art.
Waldemar Januszczak is similarly critical, the artists are all unknown in the UK and he says not everything deserves our attention, as there are some self consciously bad painters here like Henry Taylor and the manga artist Makiko Kudo. Chantel Joffe is a lifetime Saatchi favourite who raises the tenor of the show according to Waldemar, and he finishes his piece with the remark that Stegner's paintings should be in the Women and work show at the Tate.  Joffe is rather low on visual skills by any measure.
Adrian Hamilton in the Independent is once again overawed by crap. As the weeks go by one increasingly misses the level headed and cool intelligent perception of Charles Darwent who saw it as it is. Hamilton is obsequious in his praise of this poor fare, ranting on about subversion. He really is old enough to know better, for subversion substitute real incompetence. Stegner's policewomen have unconvincingly drawn limbs but Hamilton rants on about the open brushwork and use of colour - both of which only ever work when you can actually draw things. Why bother when you cannot actually do the work? So no change at the Saatchi Gallery, just the same old, same old, slick shallow brained, short termism being foisted upon us for the enth time.  It's time we had some grown-ups around to improve things.






Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Arthur Danto - RIP

The death of one of the best 20th century aesthetic philosophers has been announced. Arthur Danto wrote much dense prose in his lifetime, most of which made sense; "At some point, I had decided that my task as a philosopher must be to compose a theory of representations, which would be a philosophy of what it is to be human." Happily this project also shed some light on what it is to make art.

Which brings us to that $142 million Bacon Triptych of Lucian Freud which Jonathon Jones with state art credentials to the front says is a portrait of two geniuses. He writes; "Now they orbit one another as the two great British artists of the 20th century, and probably will always be grouped in art history as blunt individualists who defied the supposed inevitable progress of the readymade to paint like modern reincarnations of Velázquez".
Jone's copy includes the statement that Bacon painted like an old master but he actually did not, he had none of the painterly skill or visual acuity of a Rembrandt or Velasquez and what he actually did was to smear up and distort bad press photos - this Freud portrait is not that exactly, and it tells us little or nothing about the real character of Freud. Bacon's technique was so slack he mixed anything with anything and he actually put oil paint over chalk pastel, which inevitably flaked off. In the future more and more of his works will shed paint.

Sarah Kent (where has she been for the past few years?) is uptight about the kinds of people who now find contemporary art exciting - she is right to be concerned about the current state art stupidity that is promoting Tino Sehgal as an artist because as we have said many times  - he really really is not a visual artist, but a luvvy!

Meanwhile this week 17th November both Laura Cumming and Waldemar Januszczak get worked up over the latest small painting show at the Tate. A comedy of small aspiration, but there is in there one figurative artist who shows some promise in the five artists. He is Simon Ling who works from life and produces accurate but oddly dissonant representational images. This is a true rarity but one to be noted because he has the potential to achieve a genuine new vision.  Gillian Carnegie also has good form but her work is self limited and her genuinely dark and empty vision leaves you with a feeling that you have missed something. Art for the unstressed. Catherine Storey's painting is preciously over reverential and it's content is formal. Tomma Abts makes small abstracts that communicate little optical tricks and are not major league in any sense. Lucie MacKenzie is an enigma, both conceptual artist and depicter of trivia. This is the state of state art painting today!

A more interesting alternative group of five painters could have been these, five painters who really know their craft, who have real skills and can actually see:


Natasha Kissell
Rebecca Cains
Lisa Wright
Charlotte Sorapur
Daniela Gullotta







Friday, November 22, 2013

Eric Hobsbawn on contemporary art.


A small slice of criticism from Eric Hobsbawn:

One of Hobsbawm’s more appealing prejudices is with regard to contemporary art. "He insists that the fine arts, and especially painting, have been killed off—or, at the very least, perverted—by the rise of the camera, the motion picture and the mass market. Because their traditional preserve, pictorial representation, has been lost to them by the advent of photography, artists “have ideas, sometimes bad ones,” leading to installations and videos that “are less interesting than the work of stage designers and advertising specialists.” Avant-garde art, he states pungently, is merely “a subdepartment of marketing.”

Monday, October 28, 2013

Philip Hook on art language - an alternative reference list

Apposite article in this weeks Sunday Times about art-bollocks by Philip Hook. Reading very heavy Tome called Art since 1900 by Rosalind Krauss, Benjamin Buchloch and other solid pillars of visual culture and found stuff. Anything as plain daft as this description, would be hard to find anywhere but it makes a point; that art language is carefully designed to make the outsider feel stupid or ignorant, when the truth is that anything actually meaningful or intelligent about the artwork is being obscured by garbage.

Describing Duchamp's "Etant Donnes" came upon this gem: "The spectacle behind the door is, meanwhile, fashioned to articulate this "carnalization" of the viewer. Exactly replicating the model of Renaissance perspective, the mis-en-scene presents its nude behind the jagged opening of a brick wall in parody of Alberti's notion that the plane through which we look in a perspective construction is like that of a window. Further, orchestrating perspective's geometries through which the cone of vision (coming to a point in the viewers eye - the viewing point) is the exact mirror of the pyramid of projection. (coming to a point in infinity - the vanishing point), Duchamps peepholes set the viewing point as mirrored twin to the hole directly opposite to them, namely the point between the nudes legs, spread-eagled on her bed of twigs. Writing about Duchamps transformational systems, the french philosopher Jean-francois Lyotard captured this bipolar collapse of viewing and vanishing point into twinned bodily orifices in the pun "Con celui qui voit" ". (you translate using google) It's probably a solid truth that Duchamp has been the major source of most of this sort of baloney, particularly when conceptual art is being discussed.

Now this isn't just glorious art-bollocks it's use of renaissance perspective is not truthful. There is nothing in the image that Duchamp constructed to describe a location for the main vanishing point (no perspective cues) or the point at which the viewers cone of vision starts, which can be located anywhere in the plane of vision. The concept makes the viewer a peeping tom, forced to peer through a peephole, all the verbiage support is to conflate Duchamp's limitations - he was, unlike say Dali, quite incapable of any accurate perspective drawing.
So here, culled from many sources, is a handy guide for use when reading gallery art-speak; please bear in mind that art-speak always degrades in translation

Abject Art - truly pitiful stuff
Accessible Art - any village idiot can understand it
Anticipate - suggest, usually unsuccessfully
Aphoristic - a downright intentional lie
Appropriation - culling from or copying other artists - e.g. chinese contemporary art
Canon - a banksters collection of minor significance
Capital deployment - Investing ill gotten gains in art
Challenging - objectionable, always a good reason for censorship
Charming - dismissed as horrible, often beautiful
Chromatic - same idea repeated ad nauseam in differing colours
Collaboration - forcing some poor sod to do the legwork
Consumerism - art object obtained from the supermarket checkout
Commodification - same as previous but applied to selling groups of the same objects
Conceptual - mental, usually literally
Contextual - someone elses idea
Convention - rules for conforming to someone elses idea
Corpus - words describing a corpse
Critique - assess, usage; usually a pecuniary pursuit
Curator - a person who feeds off artist's objects
Cutting edge -  Newly made in the past month
Deconstruct - attempt to explain the inexplicable
Decorative - a pejorative or a dismissive
Defensive - repeatedly attacked as pathetic
Deterritorialized - indefensible on any grounds
Discourse - art-bollocks
Diaspora - a rash or it's global ethnic spread
Dichotomous - the same as something else, only a little different
Difficult - sick, tasteless or tacky, possibly a lawsuit
Discrete - difficult to comprehend
Eclectic - stolen ideas and images
Engagement - to look at with feigned disinterest
Estrangement - divorced from reality or totally lost it as in outsider art
Ethnicity - not one of ours, see diaspora
Evidence - any hint of, usually an imaginary quality
Feminist - queer art curation
Figurative - any attempt to depict something or someone, often failed
Formal - conventional, tedious or boring
Funky - a bad smell
Gallerist - a posh galleria
Gem - a small gesture of approval
Gestural - touched in both senses
Globalisation - approved of, in Iran, Saudi Arabia or Ulan Bator
Gnostic - very unbelievable
Hermeneutic - philosophically unbelievable
Honest - simple minded, the work of an amateur often accessible
Hosting - enduring, tolerating or parasitising
Iconic - hide bound by convention and form
Identity - that which it certainly is not
Image making - the work or hard graft, someone else's problem
Infantile - adult themes, see abject art
Important - of little or no value
Inimitable - much copied
Intention - any artists failed plan of action
Interdisciplinary - idea nicked from another academic discipline
Interesting - cash exchange for an artwork
Interrogation - torture, can be sadistic or masocistic
Installation - On a galleria floor
Institution - certified
Italicisation - words posing as images
Interlocuter - big mouthpeice
Journey - process, or walk as in Richard Long
Kitsch - sentiment, disguised as irony
Landmark - object best kept at a great distance
Legacy - ideas still ripe for copying
Manifesto - the declarations of an interlocuter
Mapping - trying to get somewhere without a direction
Market - cash successful comodification
Masterpiece - object that was made by a artist
Matrix - the festering pond bottom where bad creativity festers
Mature - due for payment now
Mediary - neither fish nor fowl
Metonym - not what it says it is
Mimesis - mimic as with a talking parrot
Monumental - Anything trivial on a plinth i.e. the fourth plinth
Narrative - usually a tissue of lies or false memories
Nominalist -  doesn't exist - even in the imagination
Numinous - an imaginary belief or faith
Outmoded - more than a week old
Objet trouve - stolen from a skip or dump
Phallogocentrism - Sarah Lucas's sculpture
Phenomenological - any artist's belief system
Place - where it's been put
Plagiarism - Stealing ideas and images worse than eclectic
Polysemy - abject art confusion
Possibility - the worst that can happen, will
Post-colonial - made after liberation
Post-modernist - made after modernism passed over
Post-structural - written by Julia Kristeva or Lacan
Praxis - handicraft, dirty hands
Primitive - pre-renaissance as distinct from ethnic
Procedural - long approved way of making e.g.oil paint or casting
Promiscuity - dirty ideas in all senses
Quasi-ethnographic - pretentiously ethnic
Radicalise - conform to a dead idea
Rationale - reason to conform
Referent - reason why it conforms to
Readymade - Found in a recycling depot
Schema - lack of any plan
Seminal - idea that led somewhere
Semiotic - road signs or instructions
Signature work - artist unable to sign his/her name
Signifier - a metal road sign
Socialisation - Artist in rehab
Statement - a word pretending to be an image
Synecdoche - confused marks that could mean something
Syntagm - groups of marks that should mean something
Syntax - any marks that would mean something
Simulacrum - maquette or tiny person
Specific - you cannot ever mention it
Source - where a stolen idea came from
Space - anything that is currently free i.e. air or nothing
Subcultural - beneath contempt
Subvert - make something beneath contempt
Synthesis - pick and mix takeaway
Taxonomy - In a class of its very own
Telos - an artist's death
Thematisation - to use linked big sentences
Trajectory - usually from the studio to the dump
Transgressive - Meriting a jail sentence
Transitive - part of a sequence of works or ideas that have legs and will travel
Trope - a repeated image much like a burp
Unique - a single image much like a hiccup
Unmediated - a surprising image or loud belch
Verticality - upright, as in, is better than yours
Viewing experience - usually 10-20 seconds
Watershed - point at which an artists career begins to go downhill
Zeitgeist - Moody or sulky, also anything produced in during the sixties






Saturday, October 26, 2013

Money and Art

This is a post about art and green folding stuff in response to the Art Review power 100 list - which makes for interesting reading. The publication of this list has provoked the critic Sarah Kent into a fit of the  fine art values. She is complaining about the inverted snobbery of the art world moneyed socialites and their lack of engagement with the art. She says that Anthony Gromley's fourth plinth highlighted the fact that "no-one has the faintest idea any more what public monuments and public art are for. What or who is worth commemorating? " Very true - public art is a particularly dim witted area of fake pseudo art.

The five richest artists in the world are not all those that you would expect. Two of them you have probably never even heard of although the usual suspect leads the pack with his industry. The link between cash and art is broken, A Willem de Kooning which the artist sold for the princely sum of $33,000 in 1957 recently exchanged hands for £63,000,000. The big money seems to be in pursuit of an objective form of illusion. There is no way that any painting is worth that sum but so divorced from reality are collectors now, the fiscal competition is all that the art serves, the quality of the art is totally irrelevant.

This interesting post from Mark Vallen has cropped up concerning the inherent elitism of fine art, as a response to a truly inane article in New Republic concerning the suggested replacement of bankrupt Detroit's art collection with fakes after the originals have been sold off by Christies. They are reportedly hovering over the corpse of Detroit's exceptional municipal art collection.

Mike Kelly R.I.P. is back in the news again with a show at MOMA psi.  His artworld sainthood continues to progress speedily onwards. Whether his installations are art or entertainment is for you yourself to decide?

Meanwhile investment in art continues, a Sotheby's sale yesterday realised $290 million. A middling Giacometti realised $50million.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Turner Prize annual

It's time once again for the annual State Art merry-go-round the Turner prize.  
This years list is a usual roll call of Tate - State academy approved faux-artists. More and more political similarities are emphasized between the Salon in French 19th century art and Tate - State art conformity of the decadent UK contemporary art scene. As testing the bounds of defined art form is de rigeur, it's more observable that the confusion concerning the form the work takes with the lack of visual content is the main problem. 

They are all the kinds of "non-visual artists" we have got so used to in recent times, apart from Lynette Yiadom-Boakye whose intellectually undemanding paintings betray little more than lack of technical and visual competence thrown up as a distinct virtue.  

David Shrigley - comedic cartoonist is asking us questions about what good and bad drawing is? - which is a great effort from an artist who doesn't actually draw in any meaningful sense of the word. Shrigley is an illustrator first and humourous cartoonist second. A lightweight who can be charged with the criticism that the faux life room exhibit lacks any kind of in deep engagement or inspiration.

Laure Prouvost is French, which is remarkable, so when did anyone last hear of any contemporary french artist of any significance? Her work is predictable and dull navel gazing of family affairs.

Lastly, the right-on current darling of state art, the one and only Tino Sehgal whose amateur dramatic performances have nothing whatsoever to do with visual art. The notion that what he does is testing the boundaries of contemporary art is specious and deluded cod-psychology.  His talk work belongs in the theatre and not an art-gallery, to argue otherwise is cognitive dissonance and deluded. Which goes to prove that current State art values are so perverse he is the most likely performer to win the prize.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Frieze art fair 2013

This years Frieze art fair opens this week in Regents Park so the media is full of hype for this trendy marketplace. All species of galleries are here - wonder how many of them will be around in 5 years time let alone the proverbial 100?
The Modern Institute
Frith Street
Hauser and Wirth
Timothy Taylor

Be that as it may, there is this article about the usual suspect's prices which are of due concern for many "investors". A company called ArtTactic has produced a report to support of the notion that he will be around in a hundred years time even if he is going to mentor the young. Cannot help agreeing with Jones on this one. How cynical is that oft repeated sore, will ArtTactic be around in a hundred years time?
ArtTactic state; "It appears that the low activity in the auction market in the last 5 years does not accurately reflect the state of the overall Hirst market. White Cube Gallery has confirmed that gallery sales of Damien Hirst were in excess of $110 million in 2012, which is more than five times higher than the equivalent sales achieved at auction." 
Hope they do not rue these words; "With the amount of negative news and media coverage in recent years, we believe the market has built up a certain immunity to the criticism directed at Damien Hirst and his market, and it is difficult to see Hirst market sentiment going any lower." Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac thinking that got us all in the poor house, sooner or later the astronomic prices of contemporary art will just have to adjust to sanity. As art is treated more and more like shares it may take a while.

This weekend 13th Oct Waldemar Januszczak is concerned about all the women in contemporary art, which leads us back to Sarah Lucas, he is quite keen on her working class laddishness. He writes; "People like Lucas don't usually become artists, they become barmaids or checkout girls. How marvellous that such a voice has made itself heard in contemporary art." Someone out there ought to do a PHd on the subtly differing value systems in the work of Tracy and Sarah, could be an interesting bit of paper? How many lads could get away with what she does, let alone be feted by Waldemar, even Alan Jones has had a very hard time of it? Such are the duplicitous double standards of the contemporary art scene and it's effete and ephemeral illusory lack of values. Lucas has one thing going for her but it's not the content of the work.

Laura Cumming is concerned with the Vienna portrait exhibition at the National Gallery. She argues that the strongest section of the show is that devoted to death which was the secession obsession. She also assesses the show as a failure, in both the hanging and in the quality of the bourgeois old master pastiches that have been included. This argument is one with the entirety of the history of art and not with the National gallery.

To be seen out and about;
Banksy is making waves in New York - then he does it again with sly wit
Paul Klee - THE genuine giant of modernism at Tate Modern
The kind of art that gets beauty a bad name - crude A Level stuff 
Grayson Perry - his superbly entertaining Reith Lectures
More Henry Moore bronze theft - seems to be a growing enterprise?






Friday, October 11, 2013

Links of general critical interest.

Due to time pressure this weeks research in short form - will resume normal critical commentary next week. Please make your own value judgements about the nature and scope of the critical content of these current links.  Grayson Perry does Reith Lectures

Chris Burden Extreme measures

Raymond Pettibon yet again

Banksy in New York

Banksy in New York 2

RA Australia 1

RA Australia 2

RA Australia Sookes comment

RA Australia Rachel Cooke comment

RA Australia Brian Sewell comment

RA Australia Blog comment

OTT Artistic video from Roberta and Bob Smith

Martin Gayfords Blog

Love and death in Vienna

The Armoury Show

Elmgreen & Dragset







Respected Artist attacks Frieze marketplace -a Preview

Crop circle sting? is it actually Viral marketing?

New Crystal Palace?

Stephen Bayley our foremost cultural design critic has taken umbrage at attempted Chinese cultural appropriation - that they should presume to re-build our Crystal Palace.
He makes a good point when he argues; "Copying the Crystal Palace is a shaming refutation of everything its prototype stood for: originality, pride, enterprise, ingenuity and a refusal to compromise. The legacy of 1851 was Albertopolis, the extraordinary collection of colleges and museums that make South Kensington one of the great intellectual centres of the world.   The new Crystal Palace will not be edifying. It will be a monument to a heartless global parasitic culture that, having no inspiration of its own, finds it in badly translated history. It is a bad-taste insult to the intelligence. If it gets built, it will only remind us of what we have lost." 
He could also have said that the finest legacy of Prince Albert's perspicuity was the building of the network of art and design schools for every town in the country to provide the designers needed by UK manufacturers, both of which; industry and art schools, have been destroyed in the past fifty years and handed on to the Chinese, all very, very sad and unnecessary.  Building this fake would be adding insult to injury.

Continuing the theme of destruction at Tate Britain the Art under attack exhibition is receiving consistent reviews. Both Laura Cumming in the Observer, Brian Sewell in the Evening Standard, The New York Times and Waldemar Januszczak in the Sunday Times cover the exhibition in the 8th Oct editions.
Brian Sewell is particularly annoyed at the contemporary section of the show; "I have some sympathy with the New Yorker so offended that he smeared white paint over Chris Ofili’s Virgin Mary, and with the women who threw acid over the obscene Chair of Allen Jones; I am, indeed, inclined to offer my support to any who, on well-founded aesthetic grounds, are willing to fell much, if not most, public sculpture erected in Britain in the past decade or so." But this isn't about iconoclasm, as he argues, the show loses it's theme when it arrives at contemporary art. 

Laura Cumming is very even handed and says that the last section, the attempt to include contemporary art is unnecessary and irrelevant.  "The attacker acts upon these feelings, inexcusably, but he or she is reacting to something that many people (and indeed many museums) ignore, namely the power of art to affect us."

Waldemar Januszczak argues that any history of UK art must be misleading because of Henry VIII and he also says the show comes adrift when it deals with contemporary art. He attacks the attempt to include the Suffragettes as iconoclasts. There are no plausible links between the Chapman Bros mind games and the smashing of medieval stained glass windows in Canterbury cathedral in 1643. The Chapman's he says, are merely self regarding and narcissistic in defacing Goya masterpieces.  One could add hubristic, adolescent and irresponsible.

The New York Times does make this distinction;
"Defacing art to make new art raises unsettling questions. Some might argue that the Chapmans’ act is equivalent to that of the young man who scrawled his name on the Rothko last October and is now serving two years in prison as a result. One major distinction is a legal one, however: the Chapmans buy the art before they deface it." So that's all right then, possession is everything in legal terms, but is it right or excusable in cultural terms? Have they not some adult responsibility and a duty towards the future?




Thursday, October 03, 2013

ILEA art collection

Came across this post recently which gave a pause for thought, as remembered coming across three Michael Rothenstein prints in an ILEA school art department cupboard in 1970s and remarking to the art staff - bet none of you knows what these are worth. Now we know what happened to some of the other works in the ILEA collection - it seems that they were stolen - As this september 16th conversation about the fate of the Inner London Education Authority’s art collection reveals and no-one blinks an eye lid. Meanwhile in Oldbury they are using Monet's for show and tell a very very good thing!

Frank Auerbach is now the UK's most senior painter - he was a pupil of David Bomberg's Borough road polytechnic teaching. Bomberg was marginalised by the 1940's UK art establishment despite being one of our very best painters, but his work is now greatly valued by the few who know what he achieved as an artist and a teacher. Both are artists whose work will be around in 100 years time.

Jack Vetriano has emerged from the woodwork this week having been honoured with a twenty year retrospective at Glasgow's Kelvingrove, apparently he earns £500,000 a year from royalties from his Singing Butler prints alone. Nice!  He is undoubtedly very popular but is he any good or is his painting kitsch? That is for you to decide?

David Shrigley pens more self revelatory pseudo tripe as he is one of the four artists battling over the plinth. Shrigley's effort is a crude and undemanding gesture - anyone who would think the thumb idea sophisticated, needs to get out more, the idea is simply a large scale clay willy gesture beloved by 12 year old schools boys and on the same intellectual level.

Richard Dorment has been getting all in a lather over the latest Iconoclasm offering at Tate Britain, but his piece contains this non-value judgement;"Plenty of artists including John Stezaker and Dinos and Jake Chapman alter inferior art works to create greater ones. But this isn't iconoclasm." So Jake and Dinos are permitted to destroy Goya prints because they are actually improving them! Where did that sophomoric garbage come from - the stupid art market?
Jonathon Jones who has it seems, seen the light, in the Guardian; "The Chapmans' disfiguring of portraits could only happen in a cynical moneyed art world that has no soul. They have the cash to buy oil paintings in order to trash them. Their clients find that kind of thing amusing.  -  I go back to the Dead Christ: a passionate work of art made to help ordinary people contemplate the biggest realities of life and death. The contrast damns the Chapmans to hell." In the end values are all.

The spanish artist Francisco de Pajaro makes trash into art, and quite endearingly quaint efforts they are too, they don't cost him too much though - they are sourced by skip surfing.

This week the usual suspect tells us that he has felt the power of art from an early age - So he's now just had to produce an alphabet  book for young children who aren't doing art because it's too expensive. The educational value of exposing toddlers to sheep in formaldehyde is specious, tedious and pretentious crap art marketing for over-achieving bores of parents. It will probably put the little dears right off visual culture.  The whole project smacks of a guilt trip - kind of thing.
Speaking of which Sarah Lucas has been causing a big fuss again at the Whitechapel with another truly "outrageous" and "challenging" show. How those two abused words - grind the teeth. Adrian Searle in the Guardian waxes with the usual sad trendy enthusiasm for all the bits (literally) and he writes;"she familiarises us with things we know, things we regard as beneath our attention. Dealing in the repressed, Lucas is irrepressible." Sure but some things are sacred for a good reason and are best left that way, there is way more than sufficient visual garbage around to ruin the male populations brains permanently. Not an intellectually demanding exhibition this, largely because  anything that Alastair Sooke recommends as "really really good" cannot be other than state art. He writes; "they (her sculptures) also manage to pack a hefty punch not only formally, in that Lucas knows how to work effectively with compositional elements such as colour, mass and space, (unlike our Sooke does with words) but also tonally, in that her art can turn on a sixpence from comedy to despair.   -   That takes serious talent. The exhibition at the Whitechapel confirms that Lucas is the most important of the YBAs, whose work stands the best chance of still feeling relevant in 100 years."
How does the use of the word tonally in this sculptural context have anything to do with expressive attributes such as comedy or despair? How does a tone express comedy or despair in a sculpture where it relates only to the colour of a surface finish and texture. What is a despairing texture opr finish? Why does Sooke need to add yet again the boring old 100 years legitimisation tag ? Another perfect example of artbollocks!

Beg to differ - the YBA that will be still around in 100 years time will probably be Michael Landy, he at least is dealing with our sad and illusory cultural values.