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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Dead parrots - public art is a total sham



All over Taunton - Paint a dragon - Why?

Below are all illustrations of the truly degenerate and sad state of public art, needless to assert they all lack any commitment to aesthetics, taste or sense.

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

Another WW1 mockery is the coloured painting of the Edmund Gardiner in Liverpool's Albert dock. Yet another is the extremely boring and pointless Folkestone WW1 memorial arch.

Then there is a very big rubber duck which claims to be art? Only of course it isn't, it's circus entertainment and a complete waste of space.

There is this gem from Jeff Koons outside the Rockerfeller centre which suggests that the art criticism is getting to him. He has split two heads in half in an arty gesture of no formal or no meaningful significance to impress.

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

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

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

Lighthearted mess with Chinese man getting stuck in sculpture by Fernando la jara.

Desperate (literally) Dan sculpture in Dundee, more wasted public money.

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






Thursday, August 14, 2014

Nothing new under the sun ?

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

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

and this pure unadulterated drivel which effectively undermines their case;

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

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

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

Nothing new here then?

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

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Henry Moore - A sad reverie






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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Obituary David Prentice RIP.

Obituary - David Prentice.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, July 10, 2014

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Thursday, July 03, 2014

Making colour at the National Gallery

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Artrank and Banking on Art

Just come across this article in the Guardian about Artrank

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

Such as these:

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

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

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

Thursday, June 19, 2014

What is art and what is not art? discuss.

The downside of social media  -  Linkedin professional artist posting:

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

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

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


Which brings me to Ms Abramovic at the Serpentine Gallery.

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

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

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







Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Power players of the art world.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Turner prize - Roundabout

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

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

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

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

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






Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Schnabel and curators



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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Henri Matisse Blockbuster and artists brains



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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 04, 2014

Miroslaw Balka and Phillida Barlow

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 which destroyed his reputation in Modern English painters 2 the 1950's. He is however now undergoing a re-evaluation and is now being seen for the sincere 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 lectures once when he was visiting the UK and found him to be a mesmerizing speaker of truth. He was an important advocate for the critical importance of art education to all children and adults in society. He saw art as a necessity and a right and not the luxury for their own 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,"

But then so much of current educational policy is concerned with denying others of their rights.


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.