Andre Wallace

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Revisionist Wimmen.

So it's revisionist books promoting wimmen artists, because that's what the politically correct press is banging on about this week, - Pauline Boty and Maria Abramovic both turn up in the Guardian weekend.
Ali Smith writes two pages in support of Pop artist Pauline Boty who died at the tragically young age of 28 in 1966. She found that she had cancer when she was pregnant but refused to abort her child by having chemo, a truly sad fate. Her paintings were stored away in her brothers barn for 30 years before their rediscovery around the turn of the century.
There is a philosophical problem with Pop art, it was an unquestioning acceptance and adulation of 1960's consumerism and it arguably created perfect conditions in the 1970's for the imposition of Charles Saatchi's dominance  of contemporary art.  He saw fine art as a resource to plunder and exploit for the use of the advertising industry. This has been very well documented. But truth to tell, Boty's painting and collage had an undertone of questioning and dissent that is lacking in the work of such as Oldenburg, Peter Blake or Richard Hamilton. 
Ali Smith asserts that Boty was the first and only British artist who happened to be a woman. This is complete and utter tripe, there were hundreds of women artists around even major ones such as Ann Christopher, Louise Bourgeois  or Barbara Hepworth. Continuing in the same vein he writes this this copy: " Boty became one of the earliest feminists to do what would soon become a feminist device: use her body as a vehicle for her art , posing in front of her works for the photographers who had been sent to the studio to to shoot the anomaly of a female artist who was also a stunning blond." 
Then this tripe: " when she arrived at the RCA it was as a student of stained glass since women in the early 60s had little or no chance of getting into the school of painting." 
No-one had any chance of getting into the RCA painting school in the early 1960's because they only took six students in each year, four of which were foriegn. One really wonders what kind of great artist she would have become if she had not died such a tragic death, and how she would have rewritten the history of Pop art.

But when are the Guardian, with their constant over enthusiastic promotion of all that stinks in contemporary state art, going to apply some rigour and discipline to their pen pushers produce?

Which brings us to the most over-hyped non visual artist in existence Maria Abramovic grand diva of using her body in pursuit of art, and an article by Simon Hattenstone promoting her memoir. We read in the exploration of her relationship with her former partner : " The defining moment came when Ulay walked up and sat opposite her (she had invited him, but didn’t know if he would come). She reached across, took his hands, wept, then closed her eyes. It is a profoundly moving moment, one that has been watched more than 14m times on YouTube." Yeh sure man very moving! but what she amounts to as an artist is a Tracey Emin without any art object production, purely presentation and celebrity. At least Pauline Boty could paint.

Then there is this very odd art history tome for Christmas - "The Art of Rivalry"? As Rachel Cooke writes;  " But these things don’t entirely compensate for the sense that Smee, the winner of a Pulitzer prize for his art criticism, is sometimes only going through the motions – particularly so in the case of the rather breathless essay on Matisse and Picasso, which never seems to do much more than skim the surface. All in all, it feels rather forced, bolted together: a book that didn’t need to be written, and thus doesn’t always demand to be read." Damning promotion indeed.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Ebacc to the 1880s - 3

The decline in arts education provision continues with the UK news that A level History of Art has gone down the pan and is now to be abandoned. It's easy to overlook that these decisions are in the hands of people whose choices leave a lot to be desired.
Having done A Level and Scholarship level History of Art in the 1960's, now having to cope with sadness at the destruction of art education for purely ideological reasons. The art schools provided a pathway for all sorts of misfits and eccentrics to achieve something in their life, even to out and out create the pop music industry, so they now have to go! Dumping art education on Universities and closing the rest destroyed their creativity and autonomy with the result that the UK now has little serious higher art education worthy of a future.
Waldemar Januszczak in the Sunday Times writes passionately in support of art hstory; "  What's really happening is that the collapse of educational values is happening on our watch. And during this collapse of values, the understanding of our history through art - the best and truest understanding that there is viewed as a distraction. It doesn't lead to a job." - " Art history is the most revealing window we can open onto the human condition."
The academic teaching of the history of Art has a long and distinguished tradition in UK schools where it was taught as an addition and adjunct to history precisely because it deals with the real world as it was, with real visual evidence about real people. It teaches you how very similar to yourself they were despite their mean and short lives, as Waldemar points out - how do we now visualise Henry VIII except through Holbein's depiction of him.
The past is now seen by this technology based, childish, immature culture we inhabit as something to be dismissed as totally irrelevant, despite it's urgent real life application and relevance. The truth is that the past was in many ways a far better place than we have now, and the study of art history is a measure of the civilisation that we are throwing away in pursuit of web based ignorance. Education is both innovation and conservation, things have to be conserved for their intrinsic value or we descend into rapidly into the State that the middle east is in.
It's very easy to destroy the thin veneer of behaviour that is a civilisation, art history can at least teach us that, you only need to look at Picasso's Guernica or Goya's war images. Again and again we stand back and fail to speak out when these really stupid decisions are made.  Ignorance is very, very cheap, it costs nothing to pursue - except a future life worth living.

As Izzy Renton wrote in the Guardian ;" Undermining visual analysis in a world where young people are attacked by visual propaganda every day is short sighted. If anything the tools of visual criticism should be offered sooner to all."
Perhaps that puts the finger on the real motivation of the government, more effective propaganda is required. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Picasso Portraits

This week Waldemar Januszczak and Laura Cumming are both discussing the superb Picasso Portrait exhibition at the National Portrait gallery. An exhibition not to be missed for the amazingly varied visual range that's on view.

Laura writes; " In fact, the show is a true liberation from art-historical constraints. Its curator, Elizabeth Cowling, urges us to view Picasso as an actual man rather than an avant garde deity. She has assembled nearly 80 portraits from every phase of his career – blue period drinkers, cubist flâneurs, opulent nudes, caricatures, late self-portraits – in a condensed retrospective that fills the entire ground floor of the National Portrait Gallery. Nor are these pseudo-portraits, like the Tate’s Weeping Woman, lacking any sense of individual presence. Each image has force of personality, no matter how remote from conventional likeness."

Quite which goes to prove how people no longer look at visual images or observe what's in front of them. Waldemar happily points this out with this remark; "  And how the shifting between moods and personas was achieved not by changing poses or capturing expressions or controlling the light, as others did it, but by brilliantly innovative mark making - in Picasso's portraiture message and manner were fused in a way that was ultimately unique."

Mark Hudson at the Telegraph is more blinkered in his reponse; " But there are marvellous things all the way through, more than enough to make this one of the year’s must-see shows. You leave astonished at Picasso’s near-miraculous ability to make lines, colours and brush marks do absolutely anything he wanted."

Christine Temple at the Guardian is downright amateur in her wordy criticism; " He did not use his visual and tactile memory to produce exact copies of what he had seen. He changed them into something new, combining the originals with other ideas and influences. Just not good enough.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Turner prize 2016 - 2

Laura Cumming in this weeks Observer has come up with a critical piece attacking the current Turner Prize for it's routine staidness and predictability.
She writes; "Some say we should wave farewell to the Turner prize with Nicholas Serota’s forthcoming departure. But the prize is as tenured as an emeritus professor. Too many reputations depend upon it, and it remains Tate Britain’s compensation for being demoted by Tate Modern. Its format, however, should change."

This is truly relevant, reform of the judging for the prize is long overdue which is very ironic considering how the art world is always banging on about freedom of expression, challenging, shock values etc, all the repeated tired old sores. Yet here in the centre of our visual culture with Frieze opening this week there is politically motivated total stasis. Art is now a form of entertainment, the 'art' as in high aesthetic and artistic values has gone, been replaced by a funfair ride through vague amusements.
As Adrian Searle comments in the Guardian; "These thoughts had me pressing the buzzer next to the ornate bronze elevator doors Ryan Gander has installed in a wall at Johnen Galerie. “Elevator to Culturefield,” reads the sign. But the doors don’t open and the lift is going nowhere. It is nothing but a dream of escape. There isn’t one.""

Nor will there be anytime soon, as an artist your only ethical choice is to work with the actual future in mind and ignore the fatuous glitter of a very tired vacuous Post, post modern art world. Winnowing is all, and truly inevitable.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Turner Prize - really?

Ebacc to the 1880's - 2

This blog does tend to point up the decline in arts education and with good reason. The shortsightedness of politicians and Ebacc curriculum planners is doing a huge disservice to the UK's children who will desperately need a creative subject for their future career pathway. So they will be no longer able to pursue art, drama, music or dance at state school because of the current incumbents concern to downrate the arts as inaccessible to the lower orders. The decline is already in progress, take up of arts subjects has declined by 7% this year alone. When will people become aware of the fact that the subjects that they are forcing the UK's children to study now are going to be totally irrelevant in the future, if the promises of Artificial Intelligence are achieved. What person in 2080 will have a need of an academic background, unless of course they become unpaid drones sustaining an artificial culture run by machines and a power elite. Write to your MP if you care about the average state educated child and write now! Of course it's possible that the future, will be far worse in every way than the present slow cultural decline, international problems are not going away anytime soon.

To lighter concerns It's that time once again and the Tate has unveiled it's 2016 Turner Prize exhibition. According to Edward Lucie Smith it is recovering it's relevance, well - if only that were true. There is a long way to go yet before the gritty problem of the content of contemporary art is addressed in both the art market and in art education. If it ever will be?
Which funnily enough brings us neatly to the Fourth Plinth whose most recent contributor is this chancers contented joke. The renowned Jonathan Jones of Guardian state art support at all cost, wrote this non-sense; " Are we all modern Stalins, an inane public demanding that artists grin and smile and affirm that life in Britain is really good? David Shrigley's thumb is so pleased with the way things are that it wants to jab God in the eye." 
So much for an expensive history education at Cambridge - which leads to writing such as this! Never will understand why the Guardian is such a hard boiled supporter of everything that is truly pathetic and very impoverished in State art. 

Arts Council England - are you the right kind of artist?

This week brings the news via Private Eye would you believe, that ACE are employing a commercial company called Counting what Counts to use a quality metrics system to assess whether you are the right kind of artist or arts organisation to be funded by their beneficence .....  
This is courtesy of IT buffoons at Nesta, (a self perpetuating quango that should have been put down long ago for all the asinine pretence of good that it has done). Downright stupid and totally misconceived, one has to ask how the use of this sort of faux utilitarian data profiling  will get anywhere near assessing the quality of future artworks?
It cannot do so, simply because the judgement of any artwork is totally subjective and the result of a highly developed sensibility born of years of experience. It will only ever be capable of making judgements based upon the prejudice of the algorithm writer. The bean counters however are set to generate some very righteous anger from those arts organisations and artists who will inevitably resent faked attempts to evaluate their work, it's easy to see trouble brewing - blood will be on the carpet. This is not to say though, that the Arts council's largess has ever been prioritised for artists who produce real art. 

As Private Eye says; " The pilot study carried out by CWC claimed resounding success - but then they would say that, having received a substantial chunk of the more than £700,000 of public funds already invested and facing the happy prospect of all those individual £2000 fees. An independent evaluation conducted at the same time was far more critical, noting the hostility of the arts organisations forced to deal with it. Those organisations are now asking hard questions about CWC and how it has been handed so much power and money without any tendering procedure."

ACE has never really had to account to the tax payer for all the money it burns on the thankless task of maintaining the wholesale pretence that is UK State art. Gross example - The millions of tax payers and lottery cash it burned on cultural Olympiad conceptual junk which produced absolutely zilch of significance or material benefit for the UK. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Contemporary art - monetise in search of meaning 2

This week have decided to further explore further the desperate ongoing monetising of contemporary artworks. So for your further consideration a few soiled gems that need serious consideration, if only for their sheer affront;

First off Jeremy Corbin's cultural policy - spending public money will make us all happier he say !

Marina Abramovic needs to make some serious money according to Bloomberg ? Though one can ask exactly what it is that she is selling ?

Mass monetisation of art is debasing aesthetic currency.

Confused art think from Jonathan Jones in the Guardian

Stephen Bailey is worried about artist's estates and squabbling among their heirs

Neo-liberalist capitalism vs contemporary art producers

Utter and Complete Horlicks from the Liverpool Biennale - contradiction in terms

Apparently Graffitti or street art is now somewhat gentrified. Time was when it was criminal behaviour but then in terms of its content it still is.

This art-bollocks is called Churmmin it!

Monetising kitsch - the usual suspects outstanding success.

Empty vessels always make the most noise.

According to Linkedin even Museums are getting in on the act. Art cannot be anything, a door is not art, a chair is not art, a car can be art but usually isn't.

Re-appropriation is what the Chinese call monetising art.

Can the Chinese innovate? well can they?

Stealing other artists work for profit.

Does this question really need asking, seriously ?

Lastly some seriously dumb and stupid assertions from blind techies who assume that they alone know everything.

Why is contemporary art so poor?

Generate your own practise statement artbollocks here

If the above have anything at all in common it is the coarseness and stupidity of their use of language. When anyone recourses to this kind of crap jargon they are doing it for a purpose, to confuse and dismay. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Paeans for Sir Nicholas Serota

Last week brought the news that Sir Nicholas Serota is moving on from the Tate empire to chair Arts Council England.
The press has been full of praise for the way in which he managed the growth of Tate  Modern to become the foremost Museum of Modern Art in the world (sic). This has been achieved by putting popularity in front of any notions of artistic excellence (as is usual) and he has truly been responsible for inflating the reputation of some particularly dodgy excuses.

That said there has been one faint voice of dissent - that of Waldemar Januszczak in the Sunday Times. He points out that he was the right man in the right place at the right time, that he, in conjunction with Charles Saatchi opened up modern art to the common man and populism. What he doesn't mention is that Saatchi's keen interest in art was never disinterested. His intention was solely to bend  fine art art to serve the interests of his advertising industry and in this he succeeded. Lately it hasn't worked so well, because his utilitarianism shot the golden goose in the art education head. You cannot educate fine artist to do anything apart from make art - all other is design. Art students are now asking to be taught how to paint and draw properly and they won't be washed off with any excuses for conceptual art. It was of little or no co-incidence that the aesthetics of 'art' got lost and destroyed along the way. Maybe as a final funeral service over the entire dark plot, we have the BBC promoting Conceptual art on channel four this week. Is it not time to grow up and move on? Is it not? Some of us we are heartily sick to our stomachs of boring recycled conceptual fake non-sense.  It cannot be said loud enough, Dada was antique infantilism,  rich kids ostensibly kicking against WW1. The real men - Orpen, Bomberg, Clausen, Wyndham Lewis, Nash, Nevinson, Stanley Spencer, and Eric Kennington made their art work on the bloody western front, not among New York socialites.

Waldemar writes; " With subtle nudges of the tiller, Serota had turned going to a modern art gallery into an experience not dissimilar to going to a family amusement park. So, yes, he's a magnificent Establishment operator. That's why making him head of the Arts Council is such a good idea."

Subtext, it is supremely important that contemporary art is held in a very safe pair of hands. Because those artists, well they might get up to anything? They might start dealing with issues that matter like Politics, Syria, food banks, global warming or immigration and such, and we can't have that subsidised by the public, now, can we? So lets keep it meaningless and empty shall we?

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Wall decoration.

In a weeks time the BBC will be putting out a series of programs of support for State conceptual art which it says, will be very challenging and thought provoking.  Unfortunately Conceptual art is a defunct strategy and has not produced one single piece of artwork of note - not one that will last more than six months and that includes all decaying formalin bottled animals. The entire ill-judged Kosuth-Duchamp rehash is now as noxious as that antique movement from which it derives it's spurious legitimacy - Dada.  Despite all the heavy weight media hype that has and is being thrown at it, it is and was always dead as the Dodo.  When you look and look at any of these conceptual objects there is nothing there except your own belief system. If you have no faith in the idea - then the priests are lying to you. Just as Duchamp was when he constructed the Large Glass. 

These past fifteen years have seen the rise of an endemic form of paint dribbling termed Zombie formalism. Literally the weakest excuse for art it is possible to conceive of as a wall decoration. It has countless forms in the UK and the States but all the many participants earning a crust have one thing in common, they cannot be bothered to depict anything. There are reasons for this, i.e. they have not been taught anything by anyone apart from pseudo art-speak and crits, consequently they vanish into smoke when their meaninglessness is challenged. They are a sad footnote to the conceptual art which the BBC will be promoting as new and of real concern, when it is actually neither.

This post is an introduction some of those 'Artists' whose artwork literally dribbles down the wall:

There is much more, lots and lots more which you can trawl up from the net depths, which doesn't say much because it's an extremely expensive way of seeking any image that accidentally corresponds with something your brain may have experienced.
To quote Caps Crits; "it traces a regrettable development, not so much for the fate of abstraction or painting but for an artist too anxious to remain in step with his times, for times inflating an aesthetic to unsustainable proportions."
An accidental aesthetic moreover - quite so!

Good artists who are not hyped by the State art machine

Firstly the death has occurred at the age of 84 of Professor Robert Clement. He was one of the most influential and most inspiring UK art teachers of the past half century. Note this, in great respect for the way in which his expertise and humour guided a whole generation of english art educators. This was before the discipline was rendered ineffective by politicians who enforced the content of the art curriculum. It was a far better era for art education in every respect, than the truly stupid dumbed down culture we now inhabit.

The rest of this post concerns good artists who have achieved great things by quietly getting on with the job of applying coloured glue to a support without State art publicity.

David Kassan

Adam Miller

David Liggare

Jason De Graff

Alyssa Monks

Sarah Harvey

Tai Shan Schierenberg

Thursday, September 01, 2016

What is a Tastemaker?

This week 28th August, the Observer carries a six page hype on the UKs Tastemakers as well they might and another article on the Oxford museum of modern art by Laura Cumming.
Cumming writes;"  In the last gallery, Abramović’s Black Dragon projects from the wall: three chunks of quartz positioned at head, heart and loin height; the artist was apparently investigating the healing power of crystals. Back in the 90s, visitors were urged to lean against them, but not any more. Now all touching is forbidden. This is one story of our experience of art in the past 50 years, permanently distorted by soaring prices and insurance costs. But it is also, in another sense, the story of Modern Art Oxford – a place where so many people had their first glimpse of international artists in solo shows before they became too big for this world."

Doesn't say much for the art, now does it?
Needless to say Tastemakers lists a usual roll call of state art acolytes. Hans Ulrich Obrist 'doyen of blacked out Limousines' at the Serpentine, Maria Balshaw of the Manchester Whitworth museum, and Sarah McCrory of the Glasgow International, all of them hell bent on finding new young talent and ideas. Only there aren't any out there to find and fulfil their criteria and there won't be as long as our university art education system keeps turning out the current product.

Which brings us neatly to the fact that Jeremy Corbin says he will have due regard for the development of the arts and arts education.
"The nature of university degrees is also changing with the progressing marketisation of education. Arts degrees are costly to deliver and difficult to measure in terms of “graduate outcomes” and “value for money” – key metrics in the soon-to-be-introduced Teaching Excellence Framework. It’s no exaggeration to say that the future of arts education is under threat – and with it, the future of Britain’s cultural health as a whole." Perhaps it is already too late.

Friday, August 26, 2016

The "Critical Condition"

An informative article from a french art critic Claire Fontaine which gives an apt thoughtful summary of the current contemporary art critical condition. Excuse the verbiage but - her heart is in the right place

She writes; "The poignant lack of reference points, the feeling of being faced with both a virtually infinite field of possibilities and a fear of being unable to escape repeating, however unwittingly, something that has already been done—these are the consequences of this state of affairs; these are the demons with which every contemporary artist must converse, starting with their first experiments within school walls, up until the end of their days. Unbeknownst to them, the arbitrary has multiplied singularities, but made them whateversingularities: every artist develops his or her own language and nurtures the impression of being the only one to speak it. We no longer write or create in order to intensify life, for life is no longer something we all share, something in which we all accompany one another, but an individualized affair of accumulation, labor, and self-affirmation."

"We live like this with no hope for political change (however necessary) in our lives, nor a common language capable of naming this need or allowing us to define together what is particular to our present. This condition is new, no doubt unique in Western history; it is so painful and engenders such a profound solitude and loss of dignity that we sometimes catch ourselves doubting the sincerity of artworks that are created under such conditions—for we know that their fate is uncertain, and will most likely disappoint.

Nevertheless, the field of art has never been so free, vast, and attractive to the general public—and this is perhaps precisely what makes our present condition a profoundly critical one."

Perhaps forces are building for real change and we are not aware of the fact.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The downhill path no 2

Contemporary art was once a very serious business, engaged with serious meaning and issues whilst failing to change the world. Now alas, sculpture can only aspire to entertain or amuse consequently there are acres of dross meaningless works out there to be googled. Some examples of risible efforts by lost and bewildered "artists".

State arts BBC4 Dada season, dada is now technically antique. Do we not need to move on and start make to more meaningful art or are we in a time-warp of reaction to WW1? Public art is always a good hunting ground for risible efforts trying to pass themselves off as art.

Recent examples include the eyeball by Tony Tasset

The poverty of aspiration of Duncan McDaniel is unsurpassed anywhere.

The paper aeroplane in Chicago.

X marks the spot

Neon Teddy in New York.

Last but not least a reject University Don.

That is about enough entertainment for now but one does have to ask this question; How is it possible that any of these puerile efforts at making sculpture actually achieved the status of being funded. How could those who commissioned these works have had so little taste judgement and sensibility.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Silly Season

Little contemporary art of note around at the moment, but that will change? 

Note that the number of students in UK education at present studying A Level art is down 33% this year, a third no less! Inevitably as the Ebacc begins to bite art will vanish from UK schools, maybe for ever and our culture will be all the impoverished.

Talking of the poverty of our culture noted a lesson from social media this week. An education consultant wrote a perfectly reasonable article questioning the use of "Young adult" literature in schools in the TES. He promptly received from all interested parties in the market place a twitter drubbing. The article must have plucked a few feathers because what was so depressing about the response was that not one of the kidults who posted their abuse mentioned his argument. They all expressed ad hominem abuse of the author. Their response provided evidence that his article was accurate. It seems that exclusively reading and writing young adult fiction completely addles your brains.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The path of progress runs downhill

Evidence of a declining visual culture.

Firstly on a positive note, the BP National Portrait award continues to attract and exhibit some of the best portrait painters in the UK. Some such real dreadfulness though, such as this so called portrait of Actress Barbara Windsor by Daniel Llewelyn Hall.

Secondly, in 2015 the UK allotted £320million to the arts from the national lottery, a tax on the poorest members of society, and what do we have to show for it in terms of great artworks? Zilch!

Thirdly, not so sure about the Orbit that Sir Anish Kapoor created. The fact that it now has a slide running down it at five pounds plus the twelve pounds it costs to climb up, it's hardly sculpture or value for money as a slide.

Fourthly, those creative paragons of insulting graphics, Gilbert and George will be opening a new museum in Spitalfields just around the corner from their long time domicile. It will have free entry but only by personal application. Why do artists who achieve a huge level of pecuniary fame have to foist their taste upon the rest of us by opening a personal museum? It was ever thus!

Fifthly, There is a show at White cube by one Raqib Shaw who does a strong line in challenging pseudo-realism. Suffice it to say that it has attracted the attention of Waldemar Januszczak who thinks the artist needs to show one image at a time - so overwhelmed was he by the content. Yet the weird thing is when one analyses carefully the actual meaning and content of the blatantly plagiarised imagery - it is the same old, same old, right on denigration of major achievements of renaissance painting by an artist who is incapable of creating visual perspective in his own efforts. 
Offence is all, to take an image of the Angel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary as this person does and then rework it as a load of insults to christianity is inane, inept and says nothing of value. But then state art has too long been about personal insult, to the extent that insult or offence are now completely redundant strategies - devoid of meaning or value. 100 years out of date to be precise.

Sixthly, we hear that a usual suspect has donated his Last Supper to the National Gallery in Washington DC. If this conjures up visual images of the apostles around the table - forget it. It's merely a series of packages of food or suchlike. Needless to say this art free zone means that the words were created by the graphic artists in various agencies. Did they get recognition? Did they, no did they?

Seventhly it has come to notice that one of the most inept and risible efforts at making a portrait sculpture in recent times has been scrapped. It has been replaced by this pleasant and passable bronze by Carolyn Palmer. Needless to say the paragon of social media, Facebook, claimed the kudos or blame depending on your viewpoint.

Eight, Jonathon Jones continues on his ever revolving roundabout with this drivel which contains no contemporary art? A hype for a thames and Hudson book entitled Bizarre.

Nine, Masayoshi Matsumoto in the Guardian is promoting Balloon animals as works of art but Jeff Koons got there first did he not?

Ten and lastly, this is what happens when you eat your paints, or it did once upon a time, again values c/o Jonathon Jones. Guess you would only be at risk today if you used the very finest pigments - but they do cost don't they?

Monday, July 18, 2016

New Tate Modern extension

The recent press has been pre-occupied with the opening of the £20million extension to Tate Modern. Most of the press cuttings have remarked upon the disappointing artwork in a truly wonderful setting. Be that as it may, we are now approaching a situation where there are huge numbers of public venues in the west for showing contemporary art but no work of any merit to place in them. So the Tate has been forced to explore the widest diaspora.

The big exhibition to coincide has been the Georgia O'Keefe at Tate Modern. Inevitably the subject matter of her work is subject to much prurient speculation of little use when viewing the actual artwork. We do live in strange times, so the vacuous, empty aspects of her imagery provide room for speculation and misinterpretation. What is evident is that the artwork is not up to the hype, and there is little to distinguish it from poster art. Indeed her images of the desert are little more than advertising posters for mid-west holidays. They lack a sense of real visual engagement and are undemanding as images.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Ebacc to the 1800's

The UK government is set to remove the vestiges of public arts education by ensuring that the arts are no longer a part of the state secondary school curriculum. This will be done by imposing the EBacc on all schools so that art, design, dance, drama and music will soon be squeezed out of the average school pupil's curriculum. The shortsightedness of this imposition is beyond belief, but in this culture the lead that the public schools have in all arts education provision (which has been discussed in the press) has to be secured and the market peopled only by their products.

As a child, one remembers very precious time spent on enriching one's knowledge of the real world, not the virtual substitute of the IPad, in museums (now for entertainment) and local art schools, now alas they are all vanishing or as in the case of art schools gone from the UK. It seems that not only was the past another country, but that it was an infinitely better country, in the real life learning experiences it offered.

It needs to be argued again and again that all students should have at least one arts subject in order to acquire the flexibility they need to deal with a life in the 21st century and in the interests of a civilised and humane balanced curriculum. The Grad-grind imposition of basic skills that will all soon be performed by dumb computer technology, (which will make no mistake, eventually include all research, teaching, law, medicine, management and practically everything else) will in time be completely counter productive. It is time that politicians seriously considered the nature of the society they are creating. In particular how the majority of young men are going be employed during their lifetime, - a question that is already answered by many young men in the third world with 10-15$ kalashnikovs.

Be that as it may, if you are reading this and are concerned about the loss of the arts in UK secondary education - you can write to your MP - here is the link.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Laura Cumming

Laura Cumming is fast becoming the only UK art critic with any gravitas. Here is a selection of her recent writing to consider.

Occasionally, the gallery lighting catches the glint of the Humbrol paint and the picture suddenly looks like an object as much as an image. Shaw has often been asked why he works with this intractable stuff that runs like new blood and has no lusciousness, traction or thickness, that is so difficult to move or manipulate. His answer is that enamel has no historic associations, can keep its distance from the grand tradition. But though he has remained faithful to this tough and lowly medium, despite the lure of the oil paint all around him, he takes it in new directions, achieving the blue of a Titian sky or a Madonna’s cloak, turning a Tile Hill tarpaulin into something like silk."

Of Pablo Bronstein at Tate Britain she says:

"It is good to be reminded of the inherent theatricality of these pillared spaces, and the architectural mishmash that is Tate Britain. But this spectacle is deliberately self-limiting. It has the stylised aestheticism of a Peter Greenaway film, and the pleasures are similarly slim." 

It gets worse in the Hirshhorn Museum’s immense Triptych, where the bodies appear thrashed to a pulp and contained in some kind of glass case raised up on a platform. An observer, hanging on the phone, peers at them through the glass. And in an anonymous hotel room with a deep blue view some terrible bloodbath has apparently occurred: or are these simply bloodstained clothes tumbling out of a case? It is hard to know what is going on in this sequence – as hard as Bacon wanted it to be."

Looking and seeing, that is what is going on here and one doesn't have to be reminded that she is discussing visual art unlike so many contemporary critics.

Lastly there was an odd article by Catherine Shoard in the Guardian of 28th April. She writes:

" Last summer, researchers in Germany designed a deep learning computer algorithm that uses image recognition to distil and comprehend the essence of how a great work of art is painted – style, colours, technique, brush strokes. This year will see the publication of a book that claims it’s possible to know with 97% certainty whether a manuscript will hit the top of the New York Times bestseller list.

The system at work in The Bestseller Code crunches themes, plot, character, pace, punctuation and word frequency to predict success. Its findings range from the obvious – a smattering of sex scenes helps, likewise a dog and a 28-year-old heroine – to the less easy to predict (such as, devote 30% of the novel to two specific topics).

Granted, neither the German researchers nor the boffins behind the code are creating original content. But the programs they are devising are either mimicking it perfectly or computing it fully. And once you understand a formula back to front, it becomes possible to pinpoint its genius, then do it yourself. Over and over and over again. Writers’s block is not a problem."

There is a dispiriting emptiness in this very facile assessment of what art actually does that is quite depressing. Claims for technology always avoid confronting the human element. What makes Toy Story amusing is not the animation, great achievement though it is - but the jokes. Even Wittgenstein was aware of the complex humanity in the mechanism of a simple joke. Besides when everything is done by slave computers from surgery to the law, what will any humans do - apart from make art that is? Before that can happen the knotty problem of finance and work will have to be addressed, and don't see any evidence of utopia on the horizon yet. The problem is the combination of power with payment for work which William Morris's - News from Nowhere attempted to address.

Usual suspects yet again

Damien Hirst is crawling all over the media promoting the latest show at his gallery in Vauxhall where his collection of artworks by his good friend Jeff Koons is being showed. There isn't much to say about Koons which hasn't already been said, so won't add to the hubris. However it seems that Jonathon Jones is beginning to defer, he writes this accurate piece of criticism in the Guardian;
"A giant ice-cream sculpture has no joy in it, only a cold contempt. Toys and inflatables, elephants and ducks – Jeff Koons has it in for the kids, to judge from his art. He sees their innocent playthings through the eyes of an evil Walt Disney. He is, you have to grant him, very clever. There’s a ruthless intelligence behind this inhuman stuff. He looks almost diabolic hunched over Ilona. A genius made in hell."

But to support Jeff Koon's work with reference to a satirical stance is to self-delude, there simply isn't a stance. Needless to say, the show is getting lots and lots of media coverage for it's huge entertainment value. A new book promoting the YBA story was published in late April. Called "Artrage the story of Britart" it charts the rise and fall of the last gasp of post-modernism and it has to be asked why there has been nothing of note since from the dead avant garde. Post modernism is deceased but there are still many artists quietly working away in their studios making no great fuss and going about changing things. They rarely if ever, get any sponsored BBC state art coverage though.

Turner Prize 2016.

Sat through BBC 2 Artsnight on Friday, and t'was Sir Nicholas himself arguing about the importance of contemporary art to the health of any society. It was an interesting programme for the range of claims Sir Nicholas made for contemporary art's wonderful ability to renew run down inner city environments, particularly Middlesborough. Have no argument with the aspirations but am suspicious of the claims made for it's relevance in ordinary people's lives as a substitute for religion. 

Meanwhile back at the Tate we have the unveiling of this years Turner prize contenders and it really ought to be given a five year break. Why? because it has entirely lost it's relevance and it's purpose. The guardian reports:  " The judging panel this year is Cotton, director of Bonner Kunstverein, Bonn; Tamsin Dillon, curator; Beatrix Ruf, director, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and Simon Wallis, director, the Hepworth Wakefield. It is chaired by Farquharson." All so very predictable and  it says it all, particularly when you read the chat lines at the bottom which give a good idea of what the public think of the chief state art prize in the UK - mainly that they are sick to death of having their sensibilities insulted by the last gasps on post-modernism. Then we have the pure hype penned by Jonathon Jones whose writing has become weird. He writes: 
"Nguyen and Khayatan are much better artists than (Jasper) Johns. Where he laboriously “made” a pair of glasses, like some obsessive medieval craftsman, they have made the true Duchampian leap into instant simplicity. These glasses are just glasses, no different from any other pair. What turns them into art, then? Being put on the floor? No, it cannot be that, for many works of art exist that are not on the floor. The Sistine Chapel ceiling, for instance – although compared with this utterly unpretentious gesture Michelangelo’s years of being spattered with paint up on his scaffolding do seem somewhat wasted."

Which is the writing of one whose aesthetic and artistic value system has quite literally gone down Duchamp's pan.

What makes one so sad is the fact that none of what is on offer here is either new or interesting - Carl Plackman did it all in the seventies with a far far superior, sensitivity and intelligence.

A past winner is George Shaw who is now artist in residence at the National gallery. I recommended his work on this blog some time ago and he appears to be maturing into a rather special visual artist - note 'visual'. According to Waldemar Januszczak; " The past is being yanked up to date. But - and this is what impresses most about the show. The new versions continue to sparkle with elusive meanings and magical pictorial possibilities. As all the best art does." Quite!