Top Ten 2014 shows by various enthusiasts; as usual these choices reflect nothing apart from the visual taste of the critics concerned - which to say the least, is a victim of their priorities. Taste is infinitely malleable, and some people have it, some people do not. The Guardian is especially fond of making these lists, the best of etc:
Also this accusation of plagiarism against Jeff Koons by a French graphics artist has cropped up. He is suing Koons for copying his 1985 advertisment for clothing company Naf Naf.
"While those averse to Koons might feel a little schadenfreude over his latest misfortune (or may simply feel he’s getting his due), it’s worth remembering that other artists have also faced legal distress over similar appropriations. Andy Warhol was sued by photographer Patricia Caulfield after he plastered silkscreen reproductions of a flower photograph she took on the walls of the Leo Castelli in 1964. More recently, Damien Hirst, Shepherd Fairey, and Richard Prince have faced copyright suits." The truth is that some contemporary artists don't believe that the copyright of other lesser artists is worth considering.
Interesting article by Gerry Saltz entitled "when did the art world get so conservative?" raises some interesting questions about the censorship now being practised in western art. He finishes it with a questioning remark:
" One of art's great weapons is its bad taste — how something can seem ugly, wrong, or off but still help extend art. Art is for anyone; it just isn't for everyone. And we have to stop acting as if it is something to be domesticated, proper, good. ?"
- Quite! Well yes! and we all have our own answers to that one have we not?
The meaning of art according to the Chinese Premier - it is interesting what pure socialism this is: One wonders how long it will all be tolerated?
"In his October speech, Mr. Xi implored artists not to be “slaves” of the market or to “lose themselves in the tide of market economy or go astray while answering the question of whom to serve.” Since then, many in China’s creative industries have been waiting to see how Mr. Xi’s ideas would be implemented."
Meanwhile we have the erstwhile Mr Januszczak ranting on about his admiration for the american doyen of conceptual artists Joseph Kosuth at Spruth Magers In the Sunday times of 14/12/14. Kosuth, he asserts, was chosen as the conceptual successor by no less than Marcel Duchamp in 1968. If he was then no-one, told anyone else! The current show exhibits neon signs from 1968 to the present - all arcane, precious and pretentious. This is re-writing art history for the gullible. Kosuth was never anything other than a footnote artist in the 1960's. So Waldemar declares " art is not science, not skill but "it's a poetic force that slips the leash of reason to have it's say!" Conceptual hype all of it! Kosuth liked neon, we hear because of it's low life associations. Strip joint and burger bar. His use of it is, according to Waldemar, impish and brilliant about gaps as well as solids. Yah Dah, yah dah, yah dah. The neon work hasn't aged well, it looks positively quaint now.
If you know the history of the art condition by which anyone can declare it's a work art because they are artists and say so, then it's hard not to deeply resent Kosuth for his cod philosophy. Kosuth it was, who legitimised the oceans of neo-duchampian kitsch we are drowning in. He wrote this in art after philosophy:" It is in modern art’s possession of a “language” with the shortest history that the plausibility of the abandonment of that “language” becomes most possible. It is understandable then that the art that came out of Western painting and sculpture is the most energetic, questioning (of its nature), and the least assuming of all the general “art” concerns. In the final analysis, however, all of the arts have but (in Wittgenstein’s terms) a “family” resemblance. " This is simply untrue, art has absolutely no features that correspond with the features of a language, no syntax, no sentences, no letters, no grammar - it has nothing that corresponds with these things! The world is made of facts not ideas. Just because the man said it was so, don't make it so, empirically or otherwise!
Meanwhile at the Observer, Laura Cumming is promoting two other conceptualists, Rainer Ruthenbeck and Julio Le Parc. Never heard of them, despite her telling us they have been around since 1968.
She says;"Ruthenbeck was a student of Joseph Beuys in Düsseldorf, contemporary with Sigmar Polke and Anselm Kiefer. Compared to these German luminaries, both represented in huge surveys this autumn, he is a much more modest figure. His gestures are smaller, more concentrated and unassuming. They don’t always add up."
Neither does Beuy's work but that as they say, is another story.
This week that middle class comic the Guardian has announced that 2014 was the year that British art lost the plot. It's all over for art and artists in GB according to our erstwhile combative Cambridge educated art critic Jonathon Jones! Jones has been upsetting many people recently since he penned the the poppies at the Tower article.
He writes this without any capacity for self reflection as if being an art critic was a proper job with a responsibility for the state of the cultural zeitgeist ;
"For a country that isn’t shocked by art is a terrible place to be an artist. Please someone, do something dangerous. There must be a way to offend this know-all nation. This smothering atmosphere of sophisticated tolerance has to be soured somehow."
So it's the duty of art to sour the cultural atmosphere? What complete and utter verbal gunk. If art's only function is to shock, his Cambridge education did him a disservice, as it puts 99% of all artists in history outside the pale. Perhaps he should carefully consider that we have all grown up somewhat and find that shock and challenge are just empty specs of nihilism for spoilt brats.
No school should be allowed to offer a curriculum without art, music, drama, dance and design at GCSE and A-level.
Ofsted must include arts subjects as part of its assessment of schools. No school can possibly be considered “outstanding” unless it offers art, music, drama, dance and design.
All children must study at least one arts subject at GCSE.
Postgraduate training for art teachers should be enriched, not eroded.
All primary-level teachers must be trained in art, craft and music.
“Artist educators” should be supported – that is, professional artists who teach while also developing their own art practice."
This is very basic arts education provision commonplace only 25 years ago. There are enormous amounts of research on the gains that engagement with arts gives to pupil's performance in the other areas of the curriculum. Removing arts provision as has been done recently is economically blinkered and downright stupid. It is promoting ignorance at the expense of an all round sound education. Creativity is probably the most precious educational skill for the survival of an individual in the 21st century. This applies also to the sad remains of the UK economy - but then they do know all that. Are they also removing art from the public school curriculum in the interests of economy?
Of course it is only part of the story, the arts council are warning of the cuts in the arts that are to come. Never mind - the usual suspects and the auction houses are rich enough to stump up the cash - as if?
Lastly at a time when China is building arts colleges hand over fist they are worrying about their failure to innovate. Having acquired by various means the wests skills and ideas they now find they cannot generate any of their own. This is deeply rooted educational problem that has significant political implications for their future but here is not the place to discuss that. It does have a bearing upon our leaders politically short sighted decisions though, it is one thing we do supremely well but we will not be doing so for much longer, it seems if the arts are abandoned in state education.
First off discontent with the status quo is gathering pace as it needs to do, so Julian Spalding gives a lecture on the pitiable state of contemporary art in the west and argues that public money should not be spent on junk which is just plain common sense. Koons and Hirst are factory managers for the art world, they do not fit any shade of criteria for great art..
In the state art counter-blast a Tate spokesman is reported to have said this: “Tate’s programme is a balance of historic, modern and contemporary art and includes well-known names such as Turner and Matisse, alongside less well-known historic and contemporary artists. Tate acquires work by artists who are critically acclaimed both nationally and internationally.”
This is complete dissemblance and nothing whatsoever to do with the argument. The hyped up promotions of the twenty or so insiders through the Gagosian have little or nothing to do with critical acclaim nationally or internationally. Their critically acclaimed choices are fixes for groups of insiders, (such as the likes of Christopher Wool who's word pics no-one had heard of 3 years ago) and are hyped to the prices of a Boeing 747 by exchange through a closed group of billionaires. The Tate has no duty or obligation to spend any of our sorely derived public funds on this concep[tual art Letraset. Which brings us to the size of this problem, "By 2015, the Arts Council will have “invested” £2.4bn of funds from the government and the National Lottery over a four-year period." And what does it have to show for it?Think what good that could have done, instead of supporting and enhancing a rotten system for the benefit of those that already have.
As David Lee has commented recently, looking at any contemporary art you can't guess to within three noughts what it cost. He says he auction world is a game played by six of the worlds biggest dealers, two sale rooms, 40 artists, 30 billionaires and cliques of museum directors and curators. No-one else matters. Most art criticism is blatant advertising. In 2012 - 11 of the top artists were with the Gagosian gallery. The cowardice of state art before this closed system is a squalid betrayal of their remit and duty, in this system the quality of the art comes last.
Which is why we have a tribute to the current state of university education in art in the Bloomerg young contemporaries which is puerile effete useless junk of nil interest. Not worth mentioning along with the Turner prize 2014 which has the distinction of being the worst effort ever. Turner is just the name to add credence to a video lecture, it's supposed to be an art prize? Both are indicators of how far things have declined in the past thirty years the Turner has been around, books will get written about this
When are the managers who arrange these misbegotten errors of judgement going to wake up and see what has happened to the state of art? They should have the decency to clean out the stygian stable that contemporary art has become, instead of ranting on continuously about the relevance of the art condition. A condition it surely is, much like a medical condition. It literally does not have to be this way!
A new financial record for a female artist - A Georgia O'Keefe. sells for $44.4 Million.
Will Self announces that the hyper rich are ruining London. He makes a sophisticated case explaining that the new Tate extension is problematic: "The new Tate Modern will thus be not an art gallery per se, but a sort of life-size model of what an art gallery might be should our culture have need of one. Since it doesn’t, but rather has a requirement for visitor attractions that reify the ever‑widening gulf between haves and have-nots, I’m absolutely certain it will prove an outrageous success." Hubris.
This Sunday's Independent contains an article by a Nick Clark who argues that British Culture is flatlining because of local authority cuts. He reports Robert Hewison an historian as saying that the UK cultural infrastructure will disintegrate after the next election through lack of government funding. It is being sustained at present by the Lottery fund. Do wish that ACE didn't waste so much propping up the unsustainable state art structure. This coalition government is narrowing the audience for the arts by marginalising the arts in the state the education system (public schools don't have any problem) which is now actively limiting arts participation. All so very predictable. The Blair government entered a Faustian pact with the arts which later created a lack of trust, and is now completely broken by money. We will all be the much poorer for it, lost the empire, now actively loosing the arts. Closed the local art schools and museums. So short sighted and downright stupid in purely economic terms alone, let alone quality of life. Short term ignorance is cheap but the most expensive in the long run. British design was not so long ago the very best in the world.
"Neoliberalism brought us the banking crisis and is bringing us a cultural crisis. It's a slow burn, but it's happening," Hewison is reported as having said. There is no will to reverse it.
Prince Charles does many very good and positive things and it's great to see that the Charlotte St, Princes Drawing School has been now upgraded to the Royal Drawing School. It says much that for the last decade practically the only art institution in the UK teaching fine art drawing was the school that the Prince set up to preserve the artist's most needed and most pertinent form of visual notation. The rest of the higher education inadequates threw the baby out with the bathwater in pursuit of shlock advertising imperatives and faux art education based upon non-sense.
So don't come back with all that purile non-sense about drawing being taught in secondary schools at GCSE and A level - get real, as if that is remotely possible when headmasters are dispensing with their art departments as fast as they legally can?
Mr Turner is an interesting film experience, much like dipping your head in a bucket of brown dirty water.
This is not a great film, it is literally a long Brown Study. Every frame has a yellow ochre tint that becomes just as visually tedious as the over long close-ups which point up both the actors and the CGI limitations.
Petworth House looks as old and tired then as it does now in 2014 and the Turner paintings in situ do not look anything like as fresh as they would have in the 1820's. There is no sense of the revolutionary aspects of Turners work in any of the film. It is all set pieces, full of Timothy Small's grunts and snorts, frequent choice quotes and retellings of old art history nuggets. The CGI has inaccuracies such as the continual addition of extra waves in seascapes and the treatment of the paintings. The rehash of the fighting Temeraire is lacking in colour intensity and more care could have been taken with the accuracy of the artwork, which again looks just as aged and brown new varnished then as it does now in Tate Britain. Throughout the entire film none of it apart from some sets looks fresh and new and the enacted power plays at the RA varnishing day are downright silly in their over dramatised classist politics. The worst is the young Ruskin who is a comedic parody of the most crass type.
Above all, there is no appreciation of real looking, no quietude, no contemplation, no true visual sensibility. A silly, messy and populist film experience of a great painter's life.
Nigel Andrews, Financial Times: "It’s a beautiful film because it isn’t afraid of beauty’s uglinesses. Artists don’t personify the ideal or dazzling worlds they envision. They are the workshop, not the work. So it’s right, in a biopic, that we see the mess of the creative life."
Following on from the previous post concerning art and religion this week we have Bryan Appleyard in the Sunday Times telling us that Christianity is refusing to lie down and die despite our dominant cultural atheist taste makers. This badly written article raises some questions, one is hard put to find any contemporary art that is vaguely christian in visual content.
Appleyard blames the influence of Duchamp for this - as well he might, but if he knew anything about Duchamp - he would know that his visual procedures were derived from from occult sources such as Madame Blavatsky.
He rumbles on determinedly trying to convince us that work such as Mark Wallinger's "Ecce Homo" for the fourth plinth is a religious work. What he fails to remark upon is that artists without faith cannot produce religious art. No-one could argue that "Francis Bacon's Popes" were religious paintings despite the fact that the artist recanted his atheism on his deathbed.
Appleyard quotes Roger Wagner stating that; "Explicitly religious artists are the true dissidents in a culture of repudiation."
Furthermore he adds;" As the brute hostility of militant atheism subsides and artists look for more expansive meanings, this strange phase may be ending. Picasso is rising."
For most of us Picasso never went away, if he is beginning to be seen anew by a new generation this is an excellent thing - he was the giant of 20th century art. What he doesn't say is that for the balance to return sanity and to a contemporary art based upon empirical engagement with the world, we have to remove the dominant forces whose interests created the current atheism and nihilism. They are still in place. Art should be above all else be life affirming.
This brings us to the truth - which is that contemporary art has been concerned to mock Christianity and it's values, not to engage with it as it did in the past. Artists are far more adept at undermining Christian values than they are at promoting them.
There's many examples of this problem:
Francis Bacon, Andrés Serrano, the Chapman Bros, Robert Gober, Maurizio Cattelan, Chris Ofili, Sam Taylor-Wood, Kerry Stewart, etc
Today Friday the 14.11.14 we have a strange piece in the Guardian from Polly Toynbee questioning why we need to worship the genuine authentic work of art. This flies against the latest research which has proved that we respond with far more personal identification with the real art work than we do to a copy. That is not to say that the survival of the plaster casts in the sculpture court of the VandA is not a good thing. Especially when hundreds of UK art schools were closed down and their victorian casts were disposed of after WW2 without any rational thought or consideration of what they represented. The sculpture court gives thousands of people their first real glimpse of the real power of art, albeit at a one removed experience. So Toynbee writes:. "But why should it matter, if they look exactly the same? Art descends to fetish if the only value is to worship at the actual spot where Turner put his brush. Much art looks better on television than in life. I re-watched Kenneth Clarke's Civilisation series, and even in 1969 TV colour, he makes you look and see better. So can Andrew Graham-Dixon in his many TV series."
This is quite erroneous, there are far too many industries destroying the significance of great art by exploiting it in reproduction. Just think of the countless thousands of ways the Mona Lisa has been exploited to the extent that it has lost much of it's original value. The production of the actual artwork is not the same thing as that of the reproduction of it. When you have spent a lifetime of looking at art you realise that the copy is just like the fake, bland and lacking in any of the artists expressive power. The same thing is true of those artists who run factories of assistants.
Alan Jones is an anomic pop artist, out of his 1960's time, always provocative, he is now excusing his work as post feminist. Nicholas Wroe in the guardian is keen to point up the fact that his work is as offensive" as it ever was. He quotes Alan Jones as follows:"But it is a coincidental and unfortunate reading that has nothing to do with the work. As an artist, I have a responsibility to art. As a human being, I have a responsibility to society. I was brought up a socialist and I think of myself as a feminist and I don’t need to defend my political stance.”
So that's all right then? and this thoughtful remark which finishes the piece:"Who knows if people will still be interested in all this in 100 years’ time, but if they are, I have a funny feeling they might well use one of my sculptures to sum it up.”
Waldemar Januszczak in the Sunday Times 16/11/14 gets similarly annoyed and damns the work as downright sexist twaddle. Can't help thinking he is right here, the symbols mean nothing new or even significant, rather than progressing Jones has consistently made more deeply entrenched and sexist kitsch.
Alan Jones also succeeded in riling the sanctimonious Jonathon Jones in the Guardian as if he hadn't enough to contend with this week after having angered everyone in the land with a misbegotten article about the Poppy sculpture around the Tower of London. Some people, it seems are just gluttons for punishment as the discussion thread below the article demonstrates clearly. It was amusing that the Tower of London article provoked Private Eye into satirising his remarks with an article entitled The six all-times greatest conveniences in art. Jones is partial to the ten best xxxx in art. Written by someone who studied Jones writing in depth it contained acrid gems and a beautiful rehash of his ill considered post-modernism.;" THE GAGOSIAN
There are it strikes me, strong hints of necrophilia in the siting of the soap in the conveniences of the Gagosian Gallery. The soap is next to the basin. That much is clear. And is the basin next to the soap? Yes. it is. And are these questions worth asking? No. But where do the taps point? Downwards, as though beckoning us to an early grave......... Never has a basin been so deeply disturbing. And thats what is so deeply disturbing."
Such is the grave danger of being an art critic, attracting the acerbic attention of Private Eye.
Who is this Christopher Wool? He appeared just two years ago and no-one yet no-one had heard of him previously. So why does he command such astronomical prices? There is a very simple reason which the Jackdaw article illuminates and which has absolutely and completely nothing whatsoever to do with the aesthetic quality of his artwork.
Lastly this week there cropped up a very weird article from one Philip Hook (of Sotheby?) in the Independent which discusses weeping in front of artwork. The man writes downright creepy copy, vis;
"A large number of the people who a generation or two ago might have taken their children to church on Sundays now take them to an art gallery instead. You see them, the well-intentioned classes, anguished by the same reluctance of their little Emilys and Caspars to appreciate the works of Gerhard Richter when chivvied into Tate Modern, as they might formerly have been by their failure to remember the words of the Nicene Creed when funnelled into pews. In Britain today, there is the same reverence accorded to the director of the Tate or the director of the National Gallery as used to be accorded to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York."
The man is talking to Emily's and Gaspar's decadent parents of course and not the rest of us, who couldn't give a damn and the notion of giving the director for life (Sir Nicholas Serota) the same respect as the Archbishop of Canterbury is truly risible!
Art is not religion. Art is of far, far, far less real world significance than any religion. People do not kill one another for art!
Britain’s most famous and, arguably, most controversial artist is to open his new public gallery, occupying an entire street in south London. Hauling his private collection out of storage – because, says Damien Hirst, “it feels bad having it all in crates” – the gallery will exhibit works by Francis Bacon, Banksy, and Jeff Koons, among others, as well as some of Hirst’s own pieces. The Vauxhall space will host
over 2,000 pieces of art spread across six different galleries, and a café. “Collecting is the way the world works,” the artist comments. “I always think collections are like a map of a person’s life.” His will be on display from next winter, in Newport Street, Vauxhall
Bendor Grosvenor in Guffwatch got worked up about the winner of the Jerwood drawing prize in arthistorynews.com. As well he justifiably might do so, because the clowns who chose a sound recording to win a drawing competition need a serious phone call. Feel very very sorry for the other artists who paid to enter this dumb farce.
More dross public sculpture to be seen out and about:
Spike Milligan sculpture in Finchley by John Somerville. Never had respect for the old clown - after he shot one of my students at FCHS with an airgun who had sneaked into his back garden to recover a football in the early 70's.
Liverpool public sculpture by Leonard Brown of the mythical Eleanor Rigby and another one by Tommy Steel - both of which are appalling rubbish as any sort of monumental sculpture. Why do people seem to think it's ok to assume they are capable of doing this and compete with Michaelangelo, they don't pass themselves off as brain surgeons or nuclear physicists do they?
Finally this week saw in an ocean of contemporary art muck a little light in the dark.
Anne Desmet at Brooke graphics in Budleigh Salterton. She is a quietly understated printer who produces gems of real art.
"The arts matter because they can and do in a million different ways make life bearable and they do that in good times and in bad, for the arts are part of the enduring and and always needed zeal of Irish life"
They matter because they are our main affirmation of our humanity. As David Aspin once said: " A group of aliens arrive on earth and say they will wipe out the human race as a failed experiment unless we can offer them proof we are worth preserving. What do we offer? Not science, not technology, not anything except the arts. Just Hamlet, a Rembrandt or La Boheme, these are the things that affirm our status as animals and human beings. The arts matter more than all of the rest because they affirm our true value."
Eric Fishchl Is a very successful artist whose visual content has always been difficult to pigeon hole. Guess the content of his work is american cultural decadence but he seems to be biting the hand that feeds him with his latest work or is he actually subversively flattering the hedge fund classes? He has always been ahead of the marketing curve so expect that the visual content is designed to flatter by association. The pecuniary association of collecting contemporary art, that is.
This week has seen the Frieze exhibition in London but it seems to have had less press publicity than the Banksy that got defaced. The thing that has always annoyed about Banksy is on display here, which is that the defaced work actually seems like a distinct improvement upon the purported original. What that says about graffiti is a mystery.
Also one of the years events is the publication of Art Reviews power 100, the top (as in most powerful) people in art, this year is headed by (the president for life) Sir Nicholas Serota. Notable for the absence of any UK artists whatsoever, Koons is there but his star has waned recently which goes to prove just how spurious these invented publicity lists are. Perhaps the Artlyst alternative list is a more helpful guide to how things are?
Lastly there is the opportunity to have your tattoo done by the Chapman bros at the Jerwood gallery. Now isn't that the most exciting artistic prospect you have seen for a long time? No, isn't it? Expect huge queues of the lost and bewildered in Hastings. One thing though, as one who believes that the unadorned human body is quite the most beautiful thing on the planet its seems right to remind readers that the cost of a tattoo is in excess of £5,000, which is the minimum you will have to pay for it's removal by lazer and the resultant scarring.
Well always said that Graffiti was a criminal act and we know it is damaging other people's property. The fact that they promptly have the wall removed and some comedian flogs it off asap doesn't alter the fact that it is technically a property crime. Banksy has a Robin Hood public profile that has so far protected him from prosecution and had a much over subscribed and heated exhibition at Bristol Museum and Art gallery a few years ago. The artist is in need of publicity to have pulled this internet stunt. Guess we will all get to know the truth soon if we care to find it.
This week the Sunday press is full of articles on the big Rembrandt Show at the National gallery. Truly the block buster of the year. Looking at the reviews is interesting in so far as it points up the contrasts between a very traditional visual artist and today's conceptualists.
To take Waldemar Januszczak for instance, he says that it all adds up to a complete rewrite of art history. The show defines his late work as that produced in the last ten years of his life. He died age sixty three. There are a magnificent series of self portraits that show, according to Waldemar a great artist at the top of his game. Laura Cumming is similarly impressed and she writes: "The final paintings are monuments of truth. Dark and knotted images that close in on many faces, they make you feel you are seeing these saints and martyrs and humble people in person as well as in paint." which indeed you are.
Well, well, well what a revelation, that an artwork should tell the truth. But hang on for a second wasn't that what all great art purported to do above all else until Duchamp's urinal messed it up?
This week brings up one Richard Tuttle at the Tate Turbine Hall. Truly a huge monumental space, have never seen one exhibition there that really managed to hold it's own with the industrial scale architecture. A spatial nightmare for any artist to exhibit in, it would be far better it was broken up into manageable units of rational size for sane sized exhibitions. Not asinine attempts to promote the status of questionable artistic concerns, hubris all of it.
Jonathon Jones thinks it's all lovely, which goes to prove he is on course for achieving the status of king of state art promotion. He does say however it's all rather short on meaning, but whenever did that stop any conceptual artist in their tracks? Liked this comment ;
"Tuttle is a godfather to the most pretentious stuff you’ll find at such events. (the Frieze) Lots of apparent intelligence, but not so clever when you think about it." I.e. Lacking in any relevant or cogent meaning.
Abject art is in the news yet again. Have no problem dismissing the status of this asinine provocation as non-art. The French have become incensed over the desecration of the Place de Vendome as well they might, McCarthy is old enough to know better than to insult a whole nation with this cultural appropriation representing true american cultural values....... He was reported as being slapped across the face for insulting the French people or was that just the necessary publicity stunt to promote what is in effect a deplorably lazy piece of kitsch. What offends most is the fact that the man is passing it off as art. But then dragging us all down is what this bewildered product is all about, as if there wasn't enough to concern us with Ebola and IS. Seems that real life events may well quickly render this sort of art-excuse totally redundant.
Talking of cultural appropriation this little problem from Chinaman Ai Wei Wei slipped quietly under the radar. He has mounted an exhibition at Blenheim which coincidently is in the news due to the death of John Spencer Churchill the Duke of Marlborough. The exhibition includes porcelain crabs, and a corridor carpet with tank tracks for it's design. Why and what does it mean? Florence Waters in the Telegraph visited and saw nothing except fun whilst Jackie Wullschlager in the FT called it a dizzying convergence of world views... So much for their lack of art criticism. Linkedin picked it up and some cogent questions got asked by other artists. The concern is this, Chinese symbolism is arcane and hierarchical requiring a complete literal interpretation whilst conceptual art is wide open to continual mis-interpretation and confusion. There is no clarity of meaning in this exhibition just legions of ambiguities which could amount to sly cultural appropriation in a leading UK stately home.
Present UK art education problems are pointed up by the Saatchi Gallery summary of the existentially dire and appalling state of higher level art education in the UK. The man has only himself to blame for effectively subverting contemporary art values. The goose that laid the golden eggs is truly gutted and well roasted. So oversized model airplane structure such as Tuttle's get passed off as actual sculpture.
Guardian of 7th October has a piece of drivel by Mr Jonathon Jones. The entire article is an obsequious conflation of Ms Emin's skills as a draughts person which contains some truly awful copy. It was written to promote her new show at the White Cube called "The last great adventure is you".
Conflating and hyping that which she has problems with (i.e. drawing) with the drawings of Michaelangelo is simply insulting to ones intelligence. Yet he does exactly that with this garbage :"The human figure is just as expressive as the human face. Michelangelo knew that and so does Emin." So what does that say?
Then he goes on with this copy: "Emin is an expressionist. Whether she’s using readymade objects or sketching, her true purpose is to communicate passion. The reason she is the most important British artist of her generation is that she really does have a powerful subject – her life, like anyone’s life, is interesting; it matters. Why not share it? Here she rises to heights of beauty and depths of horror as she shares epiphanies of love and loneliness."
What is he talking about, this is all artist's task and there is little of what he describes in these conflated scribbles. She has a sparse appreciation of the formal possibilities of form, line, tone or any of the visual values which great drawing demonstrates. Yet Jones goes out of his way to prove that turnips are pearls. Presumably he thinks we are blind, look at the discussion thread below the article for plenty of proof that the man on the Clapham Omnibus isn't fooled. All of them did art at school, all of them know what a good drawing is. What sort of parallel universe does he inhabit?
"She can draw, yes, but she can't draw very well. I've seen the show. The nudes look like sweepings from the floor of Roger Hilton's studio (and he could draw very well). If she is 'the most important British artist of her generation' then roll on the next.
We are already seeing, among artists born after Dame Tracey first started making her presence known, a return to craft, high seriousness, formal experiment and self-effacement."
These are true observations and have seen recent evidence of high minded and accurate academic drawing by local students. You can either do it or you cannot do it and students are beginning to demand that they are taught it.
For once Alistaire Sooke in the Telegraph gets it right; " Life drawing, bronze-casting: like many a wild-child radical before her, Emin in middle age is repositioning herself as a traditionalist at heart. Having gone back to school, though, perhaps she would have been wise to leave her homework out of public view." And this :" Occasionally her draughtsmanship approaches something like tension and urgency, but more often it lapses into vague meandering and wishy-washiness."
We also learn from one Chris Harvey in the Telegraph that Ms Emin is sensitive to the unfair and vicious online criticism she receives. Indeed Twitter is a problem for many people but is it unfair to criticise her incompetence?. Quentin Letts in the mail is not at all impressed by the show and accuses the artist of dragging civilisation down! His anger shows in this remarks about the quality of the drawing :"Miss Emin, as her constant emphasis on sex shows, is a sensual creature. Yet she displays contempt for anything which is pleasing to the eye, while she happily pockets millions of pounds." That is not the behaviour of one devoted to artistic truth. It is the behaviour of a hypocrite."
However, this all relates directly to this art education problem which is taxing some managers in higher education who are only to blame for their own asinine stupidity when they threw out the baby (drawing) with the bathwater. Many of the conceptual artist teachers who cannot draw in any true sense of the word are no use to anyone, least of all students who are crying out to be taught how to draw well.
The Tate comes in for some criticism in the Guardian of 8/10/14. The subject of which is sponsorship by BP, discussions and minutes of meetings which will have to be disclosed in future. The information commission have insisted that the minutes of all meetings with sponsors must be placed in the public realm, but the Tate has appealed and the case goes to the information tribunal for judgement in the next few weeks.
This is no simple matter, the fight for information by liberate Tate aims to shine a light on the 25year old relationship between BP and the Tate. Even the FT has questioned the complete lack of transparency. Playwright Mark Ravenhill questions the motivation of big corporations as sponsors when their philanthropy is seen as PR, enhancing their brand, to the detriment of the institution.
A statement from the Tate said that they do not disclose sponsorship values. The fact is that if public institutions become reliant upon corporate sponsorship it will inevitably compromise their autonomy and function in terms of the art that they show collect and value. Corporate values are not cultural values and the Tate has a duty to everyone not just BP. They are completely reliant upon public funds after all, so logically they should be subject to open public scrutiny without any trace of a questioning the publics right to know what they do with sponsorship monies.
I started this blog some time ago in art world terms, three years to be exact and it gives no pleasure that it now reflects well the art criticism that is regularly cropping up in the zeitgeist. There are now often discussions in the media that address the topic that this blog proposed: namely that contemporary art had come off the rails and lost the plot. It became the tool of certain what we could term "interests," and as such it was unsustainable as both art and culture. "You can fool some of the people some of the time but you can't fool all the people all the time."
This video on Utube shows how far dissent is now encroaching upon the contemporary orthodoxy which has consistently failed to provide us with the kinds of art that we actually need spiritually to feed upon. Many great artists continue to be marginalised by state art institutions and major galleries.
This link is pure proof that there is some superb work by 21st century artists who are really at the cutting edge of their art. So there are still artists out there who know how important aesthetics are. There is hope yet, that the stable will finally get mucked out.
Andrew Graham Dixon has produced an excellent TV series on WW1 artists, the David Bomberg programme was remarkably good but he missed out completely on the fact that Bomberg had been a WW2 war artist as well, even if only for a short time. His series painted in the Bomb store at RAF Fauld before it exploded are war paintings he could have included.
Continuing the war art theme there is the "greatest living artist"Anselm Keifer who is everywhere all over the media at present but mainly at the RA where he has been made an academician - why? Thought that the RA's remit was for British artists, is there some sort of establishment guilt trip going on here?......... His work is heavy on enigma and a seriously portentous 50 year old continual study of war which cannot be even remotely fashionable among the Me, me, me's ....... Most of it is undoubtedly good solid art full of aesthetic possibilities.
What is outrageous about all this media fawning is that any english artist dealing with similar themes wouldn't get a showing anywhere because he wouldn't get past the gatekeepers which is why Michael Sandle has been working and living in Germany these past forty years
Rachel Cooke at the Guardian writes this underwhelming copy;" He has never turned away from the difficult and the sombre; his career is a magnificent reproach to those who think art can’t deal with the big subjects, with history, memory and genocide. In the end, though, what stays with you is the feeling – overwhelming at times – that he is always making his way carefully towards the light." As if there is anyone with the faintest trace of any kind of cultural education who believes that art cannot deal with the most significant themes - had always assumed that was it's main purpose, but there you go! Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose - as it were.
Lastly we have a truly terrible line up for that annual bean feast that is the Turner Prize. Having complained much about the quality of the chosen acolytes in the past, this year one cannot be bothered to comment upon these "artists":Rachel Campbell Johnson thinks this year is a complete dud, and even the fawning state art promoter Richard Dorment is very critical, and Waldemar Januszczak says don't bother to take it in which says it all. Which is where we came in.
Apart from that comes the news that the Head of the Russian Orthodox church has condemned western contemporary art as pure filth and stupidity. This has of course outraged certain western liberal "sensitivities," but all one can say is that those liberal "sensitivities" wouldn't know what a sacrilege is in any circumstances. There is news that a local council has destroyed a Banksy in Clacton, but it was seen as racist and of course they really didn't know what it was worth. You couldn't invent this stuff you really couldn't.
Anyone who follows contemporary art will have asked themselves at some point why there are no more art movements when there were so many in the 20th century from Impressionism onto neo-expressionism. Because art now serves the vested interests of a few power brokers who call all the shots, artists do not themselves any longer collaborate to create any art with similar interests and a world changing philosophy. In fact artists have abandoned aesthetics and money has claimed the vacuum. YBA's for example have been notable for the way in which they have sought out and secured wealth without having any ideology or social agenda.
That's why this article on painting is interesting, and actually points to some of the truth by analysing the forms of art: ".... painting is generally more engaged with (and bound by) the history and development of its own medium than are other forms of art. Even in an increasingly ahistorical environment, there is more self-reflection and more analysis of the medium itself among painters—not surprising considering the long history of painting’s pre-eminence."
Which brings us to Frank Auerbach's retrospective - at last an artist and painter who works from the real world, not the arcane spiral's of his own imagination. Frank was of course taught by one the the UK's major painters of the 20th century at the Borough rd school, the great David Bomberg whose life was marred and handicapped by anti-semitism. To the extent that even today he is not given the status he truly deserves both as teacher and as truly innovative painter.
Below are all illustrations of the degenerate and sad state of our public art, needless to assert they all lack a commitment to aesthetics, taste or even sense. Inclusion is all, as is the dumb assertion that anything purporting to be art is good, but is any of this old garbage good for you?
There is this real post post modernist gem from Jeff Koons outside the Rockerfeller centre which suggests that art criticism is getting to him. He has split two heads ( a toy dinosaur and a toy pony) in half in an arty gesture of no formal or meaningful art significance.
Then there is a dead parrot in Greenwich, homage to Monty Python?
The line of sculptures from the Olympic stadium to the O2 arena, where ACE will only consider the usual suspects and sponsored by the Mayor of London. Gary Hume, the Martin Creed, His Hirstness and Thomson and Craighead so far been accepted. Same old, same old story of state art inclusion and exclusion of talent.
Desperate (literally) Dan sculpture in Dundee, more wasted public money. What kind of sensibility is required to preserve a kids comic book character in Bronze - truly we live in desperate times.
Lastly for now, (there could be a book in this) is the most appalling piece of really really useless crap sculpture I have ever seen, in Cambridge and known as the Don! Even the artist disowned it!
"It's high time for the art world to admit that the avant-garde is dead. It was killed by my hero, Andy Warhol, who incorporated into his art all the gaudy commercial imagery of capitalism (like Campbell's soup cans) that most artists had stubbornly scorned."
Thus all over Exeter we have had the gorillas and in Bristol it was Gromit, one has to ask why?
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.
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.
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 GordonGraham FagenSusan 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 superficiality. So 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.
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?
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.
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