Wednesday, November 19, 2014

That Mike Leigh film - J W M Turner.

Mike Leigh's Mr Turner

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 surprising inaccuracies such as the continual addition of extra waves in seascapes and the terrible treatment of the paintings. The rehash of the fighting Temeraire is lacking in colour intensity and more care should 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 stupid in their over dramatised classist politics. The worst is the young Ruskin who is a comedic parody of the most obvious 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."

Finally Christies contemporary art sale smashes all records, the art market continues it's inevitable rise.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Christianity and contemporary art

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.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Christopher Wool and Alan Jones

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.;"
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!

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Contemporary art - the weeks aberrations ?

This weeks news:

Damien Hirst has bought a 18 bedroom house in Regents Park for £24,000,000. He has also bought a whole street in Vauxhall to convert to an art gallery.

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

Feral pigeons by Banksy in Clacton cause big immigration row?

Firstsite an art centre in Clacton is closing for a while because of rumoured lack of interest and visitors to reassess it's future policies. ACE money wasted.

A Terence Cuneo 20x10ft masterpiece of Waterloo station from 1967 has been badly damaged by a careless scaffolding firm at the National Railway museum in York.

Rose Wylie won the John Moores - so please do have a look at the painting on her website. Rarely has one seen such inept and brainless efforts, says volumes about how far down we have dropped.

Artists are organising to demand payments under the artist resale legislation.  the problem is the secrecy surrounding the question of resale. Artists have to rely on dealers honesty to know about transactions, which of course begs the question of trust? 

National open art competition won by Mackie a painting of a caravan?. Prefer this one by another artist.

Bendor Grosvenor in Guffwatch got worked up about the winner of the Jerwood drawing prize in 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.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Why do the arts matter?

Surprised to find this cropped up recently:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 20, 2014

Banksy internet hoax and some not contemporary art.

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 18, 2014

American and Chinese - abject Cultural Appropriation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 10, 2014

Jonathon Jones on Ms Emin

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

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

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

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

The Guardian discussion post had this post;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Thursday, October 09, 2014

    Tate sponsorship and corporations.

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

    Tuesday, September 30, 2014

    Anselm Keifer and other war art

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Tuesday, September 02, 2014

    No more arty isms?

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

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

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

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

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

    Thursday, August 21, 2014

    Dead parrots - public art is not art.


    All over Taunton - Paint a dragon - Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Thursday, August 14, 2014

    Nothing new under the sun ?

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

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

    and this pure unadulterated drivel which effectively undermines their case;

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

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

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

    Nothing new here then?

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

    Wednesday, August 06, 2014

    Henry Moore - A sad reverie

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Thursday, July 24, 2014

    Obituary David Prentice RIP.

    Obituary - David Prentice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Which brings me to Ms Abramovic at the Serpentine Gallery.

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

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

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

    Tuesday, May 20, 2014

    Power players of the art world.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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