Andre Wallace

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Moriko Mori at the RA

This weeks Sunday Press is full of the Moriko Mori show opening at the RA. It ostensibly marks this friday's Mayan end of the world calendarCharles Darwent isn't convinced (Independent on Sunday) and dislikes what he sees, whilst Waldemar Janusczcak (Sunday Times) and Adrian Hamilton (Independent) get carried away with new age enthusiasm for quiet beauty and low lights.

Charles Darwent isn't happy with the japanese equivalent of Anish Kapoor, he argues that it is difficult to imagine any British artist tracing their history back to Amesbury or Stonehenge but this to ignore Richard long or Andy Goldsworthy. This would betray a seriousness that would make the British snigger - but that depends upon your age and generation, excluded older perspectives learned to think of 20th century art as an extremely serious business. The current generation seem only capable of superficial art and appreciation. Who do they have to contemplate? Mori is quite at home with the Japanese culture of 14,000BC the Jomon. Contemporary British art, is, he says prevented from being serious and the spiritual is quite beyond the pale. What does this say about the our contemporary art? Darwent says he doesn't get it, the work is too damn nice and will only appeal to Prius drivers, inhabitants of Findhorn, Totnes or weavers? He is annoyed at it's pure niceness and spirituality.

Janusczcak on the other hand loves the Buddhist contemplation. He terms it Avebury, menhirs and monoliths with expert spiritual massage and goes completely with a purely emotional response.  He suggests that if Friday does mark the end of human existence there are worse places to spend you time than under Mori's artificial sky............ The show is like swimming through a gigantic Lava lamp with expert massage from an invisible geisha. Impeccably presented, it consists of the kinds of totally batty creative effects you get from japanese artists. He also mentions the ignored and marginalised artist Algernon Newton (too 19th century) whose exhibition is at the Daniel Katz gallery. Richard Dorment's article is here.

Adrian Hamilton whilst enthusiastic also says there is something risible in Mori's mood making discs and self help manuals that are intended to leave you untroubled. He says the more the work is conceptual the less it succeeds. Some of it is very conceptual indeed, for instance Tom na Hui II has lights connected to a computer in at the Institute of cosmic ray research at Tokyo University. This logs and detects neutrinos entering the atmosphere and the lights within the sculpture itself respond accordingly.  What does this actually mean? She is, he says, one of the few artists around who succeeds in dealing with the noumenal and the etherial. This is an achievement if anything, in a truly cynical time.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Jonas Mekas and AKA Peace 9.12.2012

Not much art this week except discussion of the American film maker Jonas Mekas at the Serpentine - The autobiography of an extraordinary man in love with the ordinary, as Charles Darwent describes him. Waldemar Januszczak  also waxes lyrical with a comment that film stock was capable of subtle and delicate moods before it was kidnapped by contemporary art - with all the brash and crude showmanship of the circus that entails.

Came across this thought provoking piece on Mark Vallens "Art for a change" Blog about the limits of current Political art which deserves attention. This was an ICA exhibition in September that didn't get much press here for whatever reasons. The exhibits point up both the pretence and the formal artistic limitations at the heart of much YBA artwork. The ICA exhibition was trite, inane, and conceptually inadequate. This blog has mentioned how Desecration has crept into contemporary art as a legitimate strategy and the action of Brothers Chapman in desecrating the Goya Disasters of war suite has passed largely unremarked by a supine art world.  The attitude is, if they can afford to purchase it then they can do what they like with a cultural treasure. Anti war artwork like Goya's is what is needed at this time and not attempts to glorify the ubiquitous Kalashnikov like good bad little boys. It is very striking how inadequate the YBA sculpture is, when compared with real political sculpture like that of Michael Sandle. A traditional anti-war sculptor who creates and combines new forms and old forms to get the anti-war message across. None of the artists who showed in the AKA Peace exhibition seemed to be capable of creating a basic sculptural form, lazily presenting the object; Grinding the Kalashnikov to small scurf (Gavin Turk), Knotting the barrel (Tim Noble and Sue Webster), painting it bright colours (the usual suspect and Stuart Semple), covering it with butterflies (Laila Shawa), covering it with banknotes (Bran Symondson) and Thorns (Nancy Fouts), drilling holes in it (Charming Baker) and finally confusing the message (Langland and Bells). Sarah Lucas's piece is downright rude in intent, whilst the Chapman brothers have just repeated the same old, same old without considering what their little figures actually communicate.  A demonstration that these artists have not the wherewithal to create meaning within a new form and they cannot see the bigger picture. Just going through the motions - as if that was enough.  So much more could have been attempted, even with the kalashnikov - plenty source material is available from the graveyards of Empires in the middle east.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Art of the year - 2012?

It's that time of the year again: the Guardian 2's art critic Adrian Searle has taken the trouble to give us a list of his favourite art of 2012. He need not have bothered giving us this uncritical guff. First off, he cannot resist a swipe at David Hockney, accusing him of services to East Yorkshire tourism and encouraging anyone meeting Hockney and his ipad in the Wold countryside to tell him to desist. Why should he dare to presume this far, except to ingratiate himself with the me, me, me, generation?

His heroes of the year 2012 are the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei and Pussy Riot - both of them for not doing or saying what they are told! What their politics has to do with their art i.e. literally nothing, shows our erstwhile critics in his true colours, as a right on, state art acolyte with wet liberal confusions.
However the reason for his hyping of Tino Sehgal's performance art at the Tate turbine hall in the summer is (Not art , not even close) but according to Searle it was totally Life changing and "mind-fucking". Charming dumbed down phrase  that one - He made Searle laugh and cry we are informed and then to go back again and again, but what has all this got to do with visual art? - performance and entertainment, (at the Tate for what that says about their priorities,) well yes, but art, not even close. Just amusing all the punters. Searle says some people just don't get it, but that's ok because plenty do! Maybe they don't want to get it because it isn't actually visual art. Judging by the huge number of hits that the previous entry on Sehgal on this blog has received, he is correct, but that doesn't give him the right to brow beat us into accepting that the Unilever sponsored performance theatre was visual art - it wasn't anything of the sort and it will never be, despite all Searle's wordy confusion.

Other lists of 2012 art
The New York Times list of the years art is here.
San Francisco Bay guardian is here
List Co uk is here
Huffington Post is here

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Turner prize and Bloomberg Young Contemporaries

This evening 3rd Dec brings the news that Elizabeth Price has won the Turner Prize. Price is a former pop singer from the group Talulah Gosh, so her celebrity status as arty film maker is now firmly assured.
Be that as it may, both she, Sir Nicholas Serota and Jude Law who presented the prize took the public chance to take a swipe at the UK coalition government for ignoring the arts in Mr Goves new Ebacc. Film star Jude Law described the proposals as cultural vandalism, which indeed (as we have pointed out before in this blog) it is, but there is an undercurrent of worse going on in education and of much much worse to come. There is never any recognition by the Tory party of the significance of the cultural industries which are now both more important economically and will employ more people than the financial industries. This is a very short sighted policy for the future. Particularly as Mr Gove's concept of a Ebacc curriculum appears to be 19th century in gradgrind intent and content. Arguable the creative and interpretive skills of arts education are crucial to the life chances of all 21st century citizens.
Ms Price said that it was incredibly depressing that a comprehensive schoolgirl in Luton such as she herself had been, may not in future have any opportunity to become an artist.  This chance in future being down to a specific academy headmaster or headmistresses art/anti art prejudices and not as it should be, legislated for by government for the benefit of the whole of society. Someone seems to be convinced that there are way too many artists, which there probably are, but this is a very good thing at a time when so many are being deliberately deprived of employment. At least most artists are usually able to survive on their creative wits (think of pop music history and the art schools) without relying upon the state for support.

Passing onto the attention that the Bloomberg New Contemporaries is drawing from the media - guess there isn't anything else, similar out there at the moment. Laura Cummings in the Observer is keen on talking up this pseudo-controversial art school exit stuff as is Adrian Hamilton in the Independent. Cummings piece is homely and predictable as she argues that there is a resurgence of painting, - if you could call Freya Douglas Morris's daubs that. She seems to be an artist who has actually gone backwards through her career and not forwards, compare her recent work to that of several years ago. Cummings is also very critical of the selection procedure which is now the bog standard one - i.e. send in your jpg and we will get back to you if we can be bothered! Surely a fine method of selection - Not. Adrian Hamilton argues that the exhibition shows how photography still dominates figurative art which is complete nonsense because they are not at all the same thing, although art critics frequently confuse them because of the likes of Cindy Sherman. He says that what is missing is any sense of the anger that the young should feel towards their elders and their personal fear for the future. What total tripe, this has nothing whatsoever to do with their artwork. As if the elders themselves have no genuine right to be angry with the banksters, politicians! and the state. Please note Mr Hamilton not all elders are banksters and it is only art after all.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Art on the underground

What is it about contemporary art and the underground station, why has the decor of a station become an international city status competition?
Real art can be beautifully successful when it is fully absorbed and carefully melded into the architectural design of an underground station. A good example is the metro in Naples which is part of the Art station line project. The crater of Luz by Oscar Tusquet Blanca in Toledo underground station is absolutely outstanding and successful environmental design. Athens tube stations are like a series of underground museums. London's Gloucester road tube has been a dimly lit art gallery for some time, but then explicably, it is next to Sloan Square station.
So why then do other cities have far more reverence and respect for their underground systems than London seems to have? There appears to be a trend for cities to compete for the top design place with outstanding examples in Lisbon, Montreal, Shanghai, Tokyo, Stockholm and Vancouver all competing for a top spot in the contemporary art stakes.  In the UK we take an amateurish half baked approach to this crucially important aspect of urban design which is very significant for visitors as well as for the long suffering residents. The powers that be, commission any artist to do something, not necessarily design, sling out some philosophical attitude and irrelevancy acted out with amateur flair and expense. Where we do permanent design it is almost always utilitarian and functional with added contemporary art surfaces and pretentions. Such a missed opportunity but then again, we can do it when we try.?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Christo, Mastaba and Art from Russia

Today 25th November we learn from the Observer that Christo intends to build a mastaba larger (150 metres high) than the great pyramid of Gisa in Abu Dhabi. The real question is why so big? Christo answers the question with this: "When the sun rises above the desert, the vertical wall of the mastaba will become almost full of gold." Hubris, - from the most famous environmental wrapper of all time. The structure will be made from 410,000 oil barrels, so that's all right then - the referent obviously being oil money, although Christo denies that using oil barrels is any comment upon the regions oil. He has done it before though, on a much smaller scale.  Meaning and explanations, he doesn't do; " We only create works of joy and beauty."
The Mastaba will be accompanied by an art campus, luxury hotel and restaurant as they expect 2 million visitors a year. This being entirely dependent upon political, religious and economic stability as well as cultural confidence. Another contemporary artist who doesn't do self doubt or self-questioning - the size may make for some technical problems as using no-nails simply won't be enough. He does have form but he has no working knowledge of making sculptural form, just wrapping and curtaining. Large scale window dressing in essence.

Charles Darwent in the Independent on Sunday is upset by Tate curators.
"Tracing the century" at the Liverpool Tate, he says, is more evidence that there is a trend among curators of trying to force imagined connections between totally unconnected art works and genres. This sounds much more like the usual ill-informed laziness and idleness, like presentation rather than thought out curation. Much like the stupid premise the exhibition is built on, namely that drawing was the catalyst for change in the art of the past 100 years. This is a bone idle intellectual conceit that to any working artist, obviously betrays no practical knowledge of either drawing or of making painting or sculpture. Drawing is the most traditional preparation, it comes first and it has done for over 1000 years despite the impoverished intellectual pretentions of the conceptual Duchamp mafia's world view. When you don't know this from practise and obviously you cannot do it yourself, then you make the bone-headed Oxbridge assumption that the blindingly obvious has to be of real curatorial significance. Darwent explains that he is still scratching his head over the connections between Andy Warhol and Marlene Dumas with the word intimacy. That is because there isn't any connection outside the curator's imagination, it would be hard to find two less intimate artists anywhere.

Laura Cummings in the Observer writes effusively and enthusiastically about Contemporary Russian art at the Saatchi Gallery. This is all up to the minute stuff we are informed, as if the fact is significant - which it isn't. Except that contemporary Russian art under communism was singularly dire. What is significant is that the artists have something to kick hard against, which is usually good and encourages bold, brash over-egging the pudding. Janis Avotins painting seems to genuinely interesting and have some particular merit, but most of the rest we have seen again and again done by other artists. That said as Brian Sewell argues, we wouldn't be seeing this art without Charles Saatchi making it available to the British public and the market.  Is the bad man rebranding himself as a public servant?
Times change, so the question is - has a usual suspect lost his lustre?  Georgina Adam (editor of the Art Newspaper) has recently been reported to have said: I think Hirst was a very good artist at the beginning, but he has been a fabricator of luxury goods for a long time now.

Friday, November 23, 2012

William Turnbull - RIP

William Turnbull a scottish sculptor of similar stature to Henry Moore has died aged 90. His work was groundbreaking in the 60's and although it was far more  abstract than Moore's it was still firmly rooted in mimesis.

William Turnbull was an exceptional artist, - "unusually gifted both as a painter and a sculptor," said Sir Nicholas Serota, the director of Tate. He was influenced by Giacometti and Brancusi, although like Henry Moore he remained resolutely humanist in outlook.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Ben Sullivan - Triptych

It's not often in these stretched times that an artist achieves a commission of medieval size and stature but that is exactly what Ben Sullivan has done for All Souls College Oxford. This is an artist who not only knows how to look, but can make accurate and truthful marks that translate very precisely the experience of seeing and feeling with real depth and understanding. The work took over four years to complete and was commissioned in 2003. The painting is a modern masterpiece equal in stature to any produced in the past 500 years but it is exactly the wrong kind of contemporary art. It is representational, it is the kind of art that is persistently marginalised by the state art establishment because it celebrates real life and it isn't emotionally challenging. It is also accessible to anyone and everyone. Suspect that it will be around for a lot longer than most of the usual suspects production.
Sullivan says he was influenced by Stanley Spencer's paintings at Sandham memorial chapel at Burghclere. He wanted to give some account of people's everyday activities and dignify their working lives. He has more than succeeded. He has managed to convey with an almost religious intensity their real existence as human beings and has succeeded in conveying their true dignity. A very, very rare phenomena in the art world of today.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Cultural imperialism? - the Tate in Africa

The Sunday Times has an article today, 18th November concerning Sir Nicholas Serota's plans for expansion of the Tate into Africa. Seems that there can be little in contemporary British art worthy of further Tate modern consideration. According to James Gillespie the latest acquisition is 12 rooms entitled "The museum of contemporary African art 1997-2002" . There are also performances at the Tate tanks featuring Otobang Wkanga, Nastia Mosquito and next summer a big exhibition by Ibrahim El-Salahi. This interest in Africa will be furthered by the arts 13 festival in March.
Sir Nicholas is reported to have said, "There is no one single center for for modern and contemporary art and it certainly isn't London or New York" and we are informed that the tate now has six separate acquisition committees dedicated to building a truly international collection.

Critics include Waldemar Januszczak who argues that the intention is not new understanding but a new cultural Imperialism. Western contemporary art language is being exported wider around the world. Waldemar also argues that a lot of middle-eastern art is western except in content and the artists live in New York. What a depressing prospect! David Lee also has been quick to condemn the Tate's African adventures in political correctness, arguing that there is a generation of British artists that are being systematically neglected and why should tax-payers cash be spent upon the careers of foreign artists at the expense of our own? The report ends with Stephen Ongpin insisting that people will have to get used to it, as art history is being re-written by the Tate. If only? If only there was some way of guaranteeing artistic quality other than six self-appointed acquisition committees?

Charles Darwent (Independent on Sunday), Laura Cummings (Observer) and Waldemar (Sunday Times) all tackle the Tate modern show "A Bigger Splash-painting after performance" in their weekend criticism. They are all unimpressed, Laura says when you have seen one orgiastic ritual lubricated with oil paint you have seen them all - have to agree with that.  Darwent argues that the show gets its priorities reversed telling of performance after painting and not vice versa. He says performance art is tedious, the only artist he rates being Marina Abramovic who isn't in this exhibition. He calls the show sixth form philosophy acted out instead of written down and there is too much of it. Waldemar is more measured in his assessment, asking whether there were really all this many artists willing to strip off and wallow in prehistoric trauma smearing themselves with blood and paint? His judgement is that the show is all over the place with plenty to be annoyed about as well as enjoy. Such are the vagaries of expressionist fashion when viewed through the distorting lens of time.

As a side issue on the start the week program this monday morning 19th November Christopher Frayling reported that China now has 1200 art and design colleges backing up its industrial might, whilst here in the UK the art and design education system is in decline at every level. Excluded from the Ebacc, politically marginalised and our creative industries are as a result under serious threat despite the media bragging about the UK being a world leader in soft power. This lack of political will and vision is incredibly short-sighted, and will hasten the UK's decline economically and culturally. What we desperately need is another Prince Albert to get people making and inventing again.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Brain Sewell - Naked Emperors

Brain Sewell's recent book Naked Emperors is an excellent but very depressing read if you care deeply about the status of fine art. Whether you agree with him or not he is informative and entertaining and has seen more contemporary art than practically any other critic out there. He says the rational conversation never takes place because others in the art world regularly dismiss him as a reactionary with the remark; "Oh, but you would say that wouldn't you!" 
In particular he takes pains to progress the criticism, so we have reviews of the usual suspects as he has written about them over the years and you can compare the changes in the way that they have been perceived. He also argues that there is now so much hard cash invested in living artists, (when a Peter Doig goes for £6,000,000) that the art world cannot possibly let any of them fail. So a shake out of all of that collected and curated weak stuff won't happen any time soon!
He is particularly good at charting the progress of Sir Nicholas Serota and Maurice Saatchi, but he lets the latter off lightly, expressing the truth that much contemporary British art could never have seen the light of day if it had not been for Charles Saatchi. Whilst this may be very true, the fact is that he was always working to an ad man agenda that had little to do with the values of a connoisseur.
The last chapter of the book, the Coda is fairly harsh but true, and he acknowledges the fact that Duchamp's malign influence has seriously damaged his long term reputation. The coda sums up all that is wrong with the current state of contemporary art, which he terms a circus run by circus barkers. Indeed there are many current artefacts that would not be out of place in a circus, offering mere amusement and entertainment and no artistic or aesthetic experience.

Interesting exhibition, little of it contemporary art though and well worth a visit if you have the stomach for death at the Welcome collection "Death - A self portrait".

Monday, November 12, 2012

Art schools - fit for purpose?

The Independent on Sunday has an article by the redoubtable Michael Craig-Martin complaining about the very sad state of the UK's art schools. Have to agree with him, for once. Echoing this blog post he complains that they can no longer produce any artists of the caliber of Damien Hirst. He could have chosen a more apt example, than he, but Hirst was of course his own creation.
Among his comments are these: "Since Margaret Thatcher decided every higher education institution should be a university, art schools have wrongly been lumped in with them, leading to an obsession with regulations. It does raise the standard at the bottom, but it also lowers the standards at the top." and this which doesn't help his argument : "All the artists that I taught who became successful, and who benefited so much from their art education, they don't teach now, because it's not attractive to teach. Whereas in Germany, every famous artist today teaches."
As anyone who has taught art will know, the most precious gift any institution can bestow upon art education is both academic freedom and a healthy non-paranoid environment. Niether of these exist in the business based art education system where students are consumers, consequently undermining the reciprocal learning function of an art school. The existence of these factors is not helped, by the kind of irresponsible practise that is now commonly taught by over stretched and over extended teachers. To quote Craig Martin:"They are doing a fantastic job in spite of the many obstacles that we didn't have to deal with."

Real problems which he doesn't mention are:

The deplorable content of visual art education courses, which now routinely ignore visual art. The fact that students regularly complain of huge student groups and only two or three contact teaching sessions a year. The gallery system, the market, the museums and galleries all ultimately rely upon art education for their business. Unless that is, they are now cynical enough to rely on solely China and the third world for all their contemporary artefacts. Whilst it may be true that no-one owes anyone a living, it is singularly short sighted of our universities to preside over the decline and ultimate failure of one of the most significant educational sectors that sustain the creative economy. Art schools should be removed from the universities where they never really belonged and completely re-invented, something they that would have no trouble in achieving. This would happen in Germany but here in the UK it won't happen anytime soon, because there isn't a political awareness of the problem or the will, least of all among art teachers themselves.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth

There has been a wordy fracas over the proposed sale of a Henry Moore bronze by Tower Hamlets Council to help pay down its deficit.  This is all well and good, but Henry Moore sold the work at well below its market price for £6000. He was someone who believed in the positive power of art to improve all peoples lives. This may be a sad and unfashionable belief today, when any borough of Tower Hamlets street (indeed most streets in the land) are no longer a safe place for his sculpture but his wishes should continue to be respected. As if the threat posed by metal thieves isn't enough, the cynical opportunism for cash displayed by the council is sickening. We persist in putting up public sculpture that doesn't merit a place in dog kennel, yet we cannot openly exhibit decent public sculture in public without the protection of cctv and guard rails. One of Moores important bronzes has already been stolen and melted down, another has been removed from outside Castleford Civic centre for fear of thieves, if this persists there will be none of his work on public display. For which read free. In these straightened times we can expect to see more cynical councillors, selling off the family silver by raiding their borough's charitable gifts of art assets. Another sculpture under threat is this Paolozzi. A recent development has been the argument that Tower Hamlets ownership of the sculpture is disputed and they are therefore unable to sell it

Barbara Hepworth was a brilliant draughts-woman, which causes Charles Darwent some discussion issues in the Independent on Sunday. He writes; " The first surprising thing is that it is a drawing and we think of Hepworth as a sculptor. More she was an abstract sculptor and this is a figurative drawing." Quite so, but he obviously doesn't realise that for her generation you didn't make abstract work without first having a very secure grounding in figurative art. You had to be able to depict reality before you could even consider playing with the rules. Artists are no longer trained like this, it's too far much trouble, they attempt anything without any visual knowledge or understanding which is exactly why they produce so much poor stuff unfounded in reality and experience.

Passing over in silence A A Gill's hype for the RCA alumni in the Sunday Times, we find Waldemar Januszczak at loggerheads with Laura Cummings in discussion of the National galleries photographic exhibition.  Waldemar makes much the same points as this blog did several weeks ago, for once agree with him. Namely that the show is a curatorial mess, he adds: "Somewhere in this mess,  tribute is being paid to the pioneering role played in the history of photography by Elizabeth Rigby, wife of the National Gallery's first director Charles Eastlake. The show approaches her so obliquely we can hardly make her out...............But the surrounding event detours too often into off the peg, right on agendas - a feminist agenda, an identity agenda, an antipatriarchal agenda, whilst failing to come to the most important agenda of all; to come to some worthwhile conclusions about the relationship between photography and art." Brain Sewell in the evening standard is similarly critical, particularly concerning the conceited assumption that photography is an art form equal to painting.

Laura Cummings in the Observer, is carried away with her own critical insight, rambling with enthusiasm from exhibit to exhibit she writes; "The english photographer Roger Fenton is the star of this show. Look at his beautiful image of a boy on a river bank from 1859. It is composed contre-jour (against the light) " and so pretentiously on. Explaining that Fenton makes a narrative in the same way as a painter does - really though, is this news, don't all photographers do that, consciously or unconsciously? Have they not always done so, and particularly did they not do so early in the history of photography, because they knew nothing else? Visual composition is visual composition, without it any image photograph or painting is unreadable.

Liz Baldwin a design student at the redoubtable Goldsmiths was pulled up by police for drawing a chalk line in the street and threatened with charges for criminal damage. She was attempting an unbroken mile-long chalk line but was told to stop from drawing 50yards from the finish. She is quoted as saying "I had a bit of a cry, but I got a first for my project so I was pretty chuffed!" The only comment this provokes is the question; why was this considered a suitable activity for a BA design course student? What conceivable educational value has this stupid project except time wasting.
Surely this activity belongs to a nursery class, not a university design department!!!!

Monday, November 05, 2012

Art and the Ebacc

Today's news brings news of protests from the President for life and others e.g. Grayson Perry in respect of the non-inclusion of art in the new UK Ebacc. The arts are way too important to be left to the patronage of individual head-teachers who by definition are limited in their own curriculum background and particularly in inner city schools can often be downright hostile to the arts. It is true that the exclusion of art will be a national failure, but as art has not been taught well in secondary schools or universities for at least twenty years, it is also problematic. Art education is way too expensive, difficult to teach, manage and institutionally messy for some state schools and academies, much more so than playing with second hand experience of the world on a computer screen because unlike Photoshop it involves action in the real world.
It is also true, that the exclusion of the arts from the Ebacc will be singularly short sighted, particularly as the creative economy is a large part of what's left of the tatters of the UK economy. They did things far better in 1851 when Prince Albert, worried about the UK manufacturing and design base successfully instituted the Great exhibition to improve UK design and manufacturing. The cultural Olympics were a perfectly risible demonstration that no-one, yet no-one in the UK arts establishment has a clue as to the actual economic significance of visual art. When GB lost its empire like 4th century BC Greece it gained the arts, but that only lasted for a pathetic twenty years from 1955-1975 and it has been running on empty since.
Of course the harsh truth is that youth is often lazy, ignorant and intolerant of it's elders and betters and whilst it is in economic control in the current harsh work place it will not tolerate dissent, this goes as much for the state of art education (teachers and students) as for the wider economy. You only have to watch a repeat of Robert Hughes Shock of the New to see that current presenters such as the Alastair Sooke talk down to everyone and insult one's intelligence. Youth is fundamentally ignorant, lazy and self seeking. The mushroom growth of art education has ensured it has completely dumbed down. The false idol "inclusion" has much to answer for, the arts are inherently difficult and require brain, eyes, insight and knowledge. In short there is little that anyone can do to halt the decline in the teaching of the visual arts. It is way too far gone, too many skills have been lost, teachers with a conceptual art training have no chance of teaching the real hard subject of drawing when they cannot actually draw themselves. Witness the professor of drawing at the RA. So they substituted contextual studies and stupid essays.  The evidence of this is on any secondary school website you care to look at.
Most of the items discussed in this blog are a mute witness to the way our Museums, galleries and arts quangos have served only to hasten that cultural decline. Artists themselves are not guilt free, university level art education has become a complete dog's dinner with their unquestioning complicity, where nothing is seen as good or bad, where values are dumped out with the bathwater and there no longer exists anyone in power capable of restoring them. Neither is there any will to return to concepts such as excellence which are at the heart of what constitutes art. 

A letter from Richard Saunders in this week's Jackdaw illustrates this - Mr Saunders has been brave enough to return to art college after a gap of some 47 years having done a DipAD in the halcyon years of the 1960's when art mattered and was actually taught to students with real art talent and practical ability. His experiences then and now make for startling reading, he comments: "The inclusion and importance of the learned dissertation as basic necessity for passing the course has given us the ironic situation that the student of mediocre artistic ability who can write a good essay can achieve a higher pass than a talented artist with few literary skills.  ..........  The question is not whether art colleges are fit for purpose, but what their purpose is." It is this mish-mash of indefensible and confused priorities that has done for art and art education, and created the dogs dinner of education provision which our arts leaders are so keen to defend. Again and again one reads excuses in the form that art cannot be taught. What is desperately required is a firestorm and re-invention, but that won't happen any time soon because no-one cares enough, least of all those who have made the most money from producing kitsch posturing as art.
The DFE have said of the Ebacc that; " We have been clear that pupils should take the GCSE subjects that are right for them," but that clearly is to assume that a schools senior management team will not insist on pupils doing those subjects that will secure the school's rank in the league tables. In the past this has often meant pupil's selected art themselves against advice.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The State of contemporary art

Interesting article from Sunday's Observer,  one David Hickey senior American art critic and doyen of gonzo reportage says that has now abandoned contemporary art through thorough disillusion with the entire circus. Always critical of the dumbing down of American culture he has undergone a Damascene conversion and says that detests the culture of celebrity which has destroyed the notion of value in the art world. He is reported to have said; "What can I tell you? It's nasty and it's stupid. I'm an intellectual and I don't care if I'm not invited to the party. I quit."
He also observes that the art world has become like the Paris Salon of the 19th century, where bureaucrats and conservatives combined to stifle the field of work. It took the revolution of Impressionism to break that particular log jam. Real artists and real art have been marginalised by faceless bureaucrats and advisers promoting fake art and faux celebrity because of silly money chasing culturally worthless artifacts. Which brings us to the list published by art news of the 2012 top 200 art collectors. Well worth perusing, as an insight into the above problem, as also is the list of the top ten art collectors.
Today Friday brings news that Sir Nicholas Serota intends to extend his influence abroad. The Tate has bought its own museum of contemporary African art in Benin. The president for life is quoted as saying that the west is no longer the dominant force in contemporary art - for which read state approved conceptual garbage and he will be using 40% of his acquisition budget to buy major work from Africa, Latin America and the middle east. Two problems with this; 1; On past performance who in the Tate organisation is capable of defining and discovering major art work? and 2; this actually can be defined as further dumbing down in pursuit of minority interests. There is also the caveat that he himself is a major part of the problem, one could ask - have not his past decisions now influenced the situation if the west is no longer the dominant force?

Piece of very good news is that the Fitzwilliam museum in Cambridge has raised the 3.9million needed to keep the Poussin masterpiece Extreme Unction in the UK.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

RWA Autumn exhibition

Monday 22nd October;
Bristol to see the 160th autumn exhibition at the RWA. A disappointment as the RWA seems to have gone the way of its big brother in Piccadilly - turning the open exhibition into an academicians show. Why the academicians cannot have their own select show is questionable, they do it with the SW Academy and it is very successful. The RWA reportedly had over 2000 submissions this year, there are 541 exhibits of which 200 are from academicians. This leaves 341 exhibits by other artists, which gives the individual artist a one in six chance of exhibiting. As if these odds were not long enough, the selection committee this year seems to have been made up of a cabal of abstract expressionists of whom there are far more exhibiting  than seems absolutely necessary. The first gallery is frankly tedious unless you an an enthusiast for heavy daubs. A primary function of an academy is to preserve figurative and representational painting but that seems to be a minority interest here. Missing in the thin number of exhibits are all those realistic cityscapes and landscapes replaced by the dire abstractions of the first and second galleries. This sort of thing dominates, by Tim Garwood, George Sherlock, Louise Balaam Susan Foord or Karen Purple.  All well and good but definitely a minority taste.
A giclee print of a landscape photograph by Dave Morgan Davies carried off the Louise Copping fine art award, which hardly seems fair to the landscape painters who didn't get a look in, particularly as the rubric for artists entry specifically excludes Giclee prints.
Perhaps it is churlish to criticize the defects, the exhibition has much to recommend it there were a number of real highlights which included these artists : Holly Brodie, a superb bronze by Denis Curry, Kurt JacksonP J Crook, Kate Milsom, Annie Fry, Howard PhippsSarah Woolfendon and Anne Desmet

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Threadneedle Prize

This weeks press has been singularly lacking in any comment on contemporary art, apart that is, from the public aggravation surrounding the usual suspect's blatant self promotion on the foreshore at Ilfracombe. Passing over that as out of bounds to consider;
The Threadneedle prize which has become something of an mess and enigma. It was, once upon a time a pillar of good representational painting but has now  been given up to the low aspirations and achievement that are now common in the art world.  The Threadneedle seems to reflect a decline in skills and values only too well, yet figurative painting, despite all the media resources dedicated to the promotion of state art kitsch, continues to thrive and grow.  More and more art students are signing up for part time life drawing to up their skills base.

These artists consistently produce beautiful realistic images and sculpture and their work is worth a look;

Deanna Petherbridge
Mark Cross
Dana Levin
Sarah Woolfenden
George Shaw
Kihinde Wiley
Darren Baker
Andrew Parker
Thomas Doran
Peter Kelley
David Piddock
Phillip Jackson
Jeanette Barnes
Nicholas Granger Taylor
Saied Dai

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Richard Hamilton, National Gallery - 14/10/2012

Laura Cumming is much moved by the late Richard Hamilton's exhibition at the National Gallery.  Her emotional response isn't equaled by her descriptions of the visual phenomena. Speaking of the picture "Lobby"  she writes; "Some images are made using computers to conjure the exact geometry of long corridors, white galleries with checkerboard tiles, pristine bathrooms, where gleaming surfaces set up competing reflections." They were all probably photo-shopped but Hamilton had trained and worked as a draughtsman and he was one of the last of the generation who knew renaissance perspective intimately. He was always a master of illusion, the manipulation of visual illusions is ultimately the content of his work but surfaces and illusions tend to lack empathy and humanity. Looking hard at the photos of  "Le chef D'ouevre inconnu" accompanying the article one can see it's an uneasy Hamilton, immediately. The nude doesn't quite fit, psychologically or visually despite all the photo-shopped wizardry: coquette or glam model, she is a curious smiling digital nude surrounded by extracts from masterpieces. The image shows the limitations of digital image manipulation and none of the visual certainties of traditionally observed and well composed painting. One of the most inconsistent artists of his generation, he was in total thrall to the great fake, Duchamp. He redid "nude descending a staircase" in this exhibition using photographic images - Presumably in homage, as with his re-creation of the large glass?
Adrian Hamilton in Monday's Independent is similarly effusive. We learn here that the three photo-shopped images "Le chef D'ouevre inconnu" are loosely based upon a variation of the Pygmalion legend by Balzac. One wonders whether the images are as Richard Hamilton wanted them, as he intended to complete the painting as an oil painting, but we will never know? The paintings display all that was problematic with Richard Hamilton's work - that unfashionable difficult question of meaning and artist's intention. The meaning is never exactly what it seems and is often gauche, inappropriate and well disguised. Hence the two nudes in the re-created Fra Angelico "Annunciation", the vacuuming nude in "Hotel du Rhone". Adrian Hamilton explains that this is a concern with beauty as portrayed throughout the classical nude in the history of western art. He would probably have argued the same about Hamilton's execrable defecating ladies paintings of the 1980's but you won't find any of them on Google. This is cognitive dissonance, the "passage of the angel" takes a central tenet from the new testament and peoples it with nudes. This is a measure of how debased our visual culture has become. The actual meaning of this image goes completely unremarked upon by our erstwhile critics but then it usually does.
Waldemar Janusczcak at the the Sunday Times also enthuses wildly over the Richard Hamilton show. He says it is a fabulous event, as Hamilton was the most important British artist of the 20th century - really - was he more important than Henry Moore or Francis Bacon? "He was our Warhol" he croons "and he came first........." , but he was a technical draughtsman to the very end and Waldemar ignores the problem of the meaning of the images ; He just gawps: "The nudes pose like painted Venuses but the cellulite on their bottoms comes from our world. Perhaps the main subject here is that magnificent final subject - truth."  What truth does a photographed nude descending a staircase reveal? Which goes to prove that art critics do not ever discuss the actual visual content of the imagery for fear of  - what? (straying into that minefield the artists intention?) As he says; "Kate Moss has sent a spear into Fra Angelico's monastery." Again why? what was the point of writing that totally meaningless smart -ass remark?

Monday, October 08, 2012

2012 Turner prize 2

Sunday Press 08/10/2012
Spectrum - Sunday Times Magazine

Masterclass images from the National Gallery's first major exhibition of photography. The photos in the article have been twinned with the masterpieces as evidence that these paintings have influenced a whole genre of photography, only they have not. The connections are visually meaningless to say the least, not what one would expect from the National Gallery. The curators could have easily found other photographers or artists whose posed photographic work directly lifts ideas from specific masterpieces, not just vague correspondances  The idea of a entire genre is specious and the evidence simply isn't here:
Delacroix Death of Sardanapalus                      Tom Hunter Death of Coltelli
Ingre Small bather                                            Richrad Learoyd Tatooed Male
Eugene Emmanuel Amaury-Doval Venus          Rineke Dijkstra Girl on a beach
Fantin Latour Rosy wealth of June                    Ori Gersht Blow up
Ingres Madame Moitessier                               Richard Learoyd Jasmine
Carravaggio Supper at Emmaus                        Luc Delahaye Opic Conference

Conceptually meaningless and poorly researched journalism instead of the expected National Gallery level curation. The supper at Emmaus, one of the finest images of Christ in existence has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the Opic Conference photo, you would have to be blind to assume any connection. T'is all pish and tosh.

On page 10 of the Sunday Times Culture magazine we have yet another hype for Frieze Masters. Luc Tuymans we are informed yet again is showing at David Zirner, and the RA launches a fundraising exhibition to coincide with the festivities. The usual suspects are auctioning their work ! Reminds one of the fact that ten years from now half the art gallerys now exhibiting at Frieze will no longer exist and half the artists being offered will no longer be represented.
Over the page Waldemar is criticising the Turner Prize, he writes; "The Turner is true to it's times because the decision makers who shape it are the inhabitants of a trout pond congregating where the food is dropped." Trout pellets presumably, made from Horse meat and offal, an amusing comparison and accurate, trout are also voracious cannibals. He calls Spartacus Chetwyn ridiculous - performance art which lacks a sense of purpose. Luke Fowler's 93 minute film on RD Laing he says is an insult to the word art whilst Elizabeth Prices Chorus film is flawed but serious. It is art reflecting a generation of artists determined to make their own films but lacking the skills. Art Schools do not teach skills of any kind, nor can they now staffed as they are by suspects with no skills to impart. Waldemar also criticises Paul Noble, a traditional artist and once again the sordid phrase "the turd in the plaza" crops up. Seems to be the standard lazy google insult referring to Henry Moore which is tasteless and unwarranted, much like our erstwhile critics because Charles Darwent uses exactly the same phrase in describing Noble's work in the Independent. (the second time he has done so this year) The noticeable thing about Waldemar's effort is that it is largely critical. One can only surmise that the Turner prize is really trawling the muddy bottom for Waldemar to suggest that the trout prefer midges to horse flesh pellets. Charles Darwent is enthusiastic in judging all the Turner prize artists. Luke Fowlers tedious film is described as extraordinary, Elizabeth Price a poor also ran. Spartacus Chetwynd he fails to address on the grounds he has an aversion to performance art. Alastaire Smart (unlike Richard Dorment whose excuse for criticism is almost always risible ) and who is also in the Telegraph says Spartacus has the production values of an infant school play. He argues that the prize merely reflects the personal prejudices of the five judges in the trout pond. He cannot understand Elizabeth Prices film Chorus and thinks Luke Fowler belongs in a cinema not an art gallery. Arty film not film art. Of Paul Noble he writes that he may be too soulless for some tastes although he likes his Bosch like vision and that as he works in traditional media he won't win. The Tate will whip up a media stir on the judges failings - which brings us right back to the limited and inverted world frame of the trout pond where the entire pond surface outside the trouts window reflects back to the fish what is beneath the water. This trout thing could run and run!

Back at the Sunday Times Bran Appleyard has interviewed Anish Kapoor. We learn that he went into
engineering when he left school at his fathers insistence but it did not last. "I couldn't draw!" he bleats, "so I decided to become an artist". What does that say? Now worth over £80million he is known, we are informed as "a hard as nails negotiator." Bet he is. He worries that art has been commodified  whilst he himself is a well-branded artist  and he is worried about producing luxury goods. Kapoor argues that he does not do this: "There is something about sculpture in general to do with the body .........that is very old, proto-religion. One of the things about abstract art is that it allows you to go back to the beginning to ask daft questions 'what is consciousness?' 'Who are we?' 'Where are we?'." This says more about Kapoor than anything that Appleyard pens.
If the sculpture asks these daft questions, then why pray is it so devoid of any humanity, so vacuous and so empty, why so lacking in any sense of the numinous, the ineffable and unknowable? Cannot see it because it is just not there, just visual illusions, reflections, smoke and mirrors.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Frieze Masters 2 30/9/2012

More Frieze Masters 
This post was provoked by publicity for Luc Tuymans portrait of Queen Beatrix. Tuymans has been all over the press recently as he is here in association with the Frieze masters - several articles have mentioned the fact that he says that the Arnolfini portrait in the UK National Gallery is the greatest work of western art in existence? Greater than the Sistine Chapel? Greater than "The School of Athens"  Greater than any Velasquez? Hence the Frieze masters, old is the new, new - promoting old art as the prices of new contemporary art are now quite astronomically stupid. Sothebys and Christies evening sales have been recently reported as reaching the giddy heights of 2008. The very unfashionable subject of artistic value appeared in an article on the re-run of Robert Hughes "Shock of the New" in Saturday 29th September Independent by Tom Sutcliffe. He asks the question why we can no longer accept that most contemporary art is rubbish? Even when the art trade itself accepts that 85% of it is garbage. He asks "when did we become so nervous as to be unable to distinguish good art from bad." The answer is when we allowed the market to assume all precedence over connoisseurship. Some things such as genetics, Heidegger or Plato are not available to everyone, so it is with the more arcane shores of contemporary art to time-poor individuals. Sutcliffe argues that questioning whether art is good or bad risks bringing down the entire house of cards; "........it wasn't Robert Hughes enthusiasm alone that made him such a riveting broadcaster, but the reassuring knowledge that not everything automatically received it." How true is that!
There are many very successful contemporary artists whose depiction of reality in paint, is, it has to be said, downright questionable, but have the temerity to conflate their skills as having some great inherent post modernist quality aided by confusing groundbreaking modernist images such as Cezanne, Van Gogh or Picasso with their own efforts. Some examples to consider;
Nancy Spero
Elizabeth Peyton
Liu Xiaodong
Tomma Abts
Andre Butzer
George Condo
Richard Prince
Alex Katz

The Independent has Charles Darwent's analyses of the Freize Masters marketing fuss in Sundays sheet. Singing from the same hymn sheet as the previous post he dishes up the previous publicity plus this real food for thought from Jasper Sharp "I asked him (Jeff Koons) whether he thought it crazy that one of his works could fetch 10 times as much as a Poussin" Koons replied slowly; "Jasper everything turns to dust." Darwent writes "So is the old really the new (what)?" thereby covering the cold fact that so much money is chasing meaningless efforts it needs to find a more secure haven. As Iwan Wirth of Hauser and Wirth is reported by Darwent to have said with an ocean of hubris; " People are collecting now in the way that Kings and barons did in medieval times. " I.e. The wealthy fiddle whilst Europe burns .............."

The Sunday Times has Waldemar Janusczcak confusing "Bronze" at the RA with oddly enough one Poussin (Extreme Unction) now at the National Gallery, and which is subject to a campaign to save it for the Nation - specifically the Fitzwilliam museum in Cambridge. Not even a rational comparison, just one where his attitudes towards the chief curators shows through the copy.  The bronze exhibition for once allows the objects to speak for themselves - they are not mediated through the eye of a curator. The Observer has Laura Cummings tackling Thomas Shutte. For once, a sane piece of criticism about a significant heavyweight.  We have also had Edward Lucy Smith raving about the possible re-valuation  of the usual suspects, and how you can buy a usual suspect from Sainsburys for £1.86 if you wish for spots, in the same issue. He is also promoting an exhibition of the infamous Stuckists!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Frieze Masters 23/9/2012

Today's artists salute the bad boys of the past by Vanessa Thorp. This is pre-publicity for the Frieze Masters in Regents Park 11-14 October. This is a new art fair that draws links between artists of the past and the usual suspects. As such it's a marketing wheeze for work made before 2000. "When we started to cover contemporary art in Frieze magazine in 1991" enthuses Matthew Slotover - organiser of Frieze, "it was considered an insider joke, now we have got to the point where historical work can almost be over shadowed by it."  Which just proves how much money is chasing contemporary art. Ranting about how all contemporary artists were the bad boys of their day, only they weren't anything of the sort, many like Rubens were very very good boys, we learn that : "A few contemporary artists working today will be in the history books in 100 or 500 years time."  -  This displays a naive and very touching faith in the future, almost, one might almost say with tongue stuck in cheek, a modernist faith in progress. But then contemporary art is all illusion is it not?
Talks at the fair will develop this increasingly common curators theme, conflating the new, the useless, the transient and the temporary by association with the tried and tested values of the old:  We learn that Chris Ofili will lecture on Titian, Lynette Yaidomboakye on Degas, Cecily Brown will discuss traditional imagery with Nicholas Penny of the National Gallery, Luc Tuymans will talk about historical moments with a senior curator of the Louvre and Glen Brown with discuss works with a Zurich Kunsthaus Curator. This is in order to have a fresh perspective on the older work and discuss how it informs contemporary art, and yeh it's not marketing is it?  Then the punchline; "Artists have always wrestled with the art that has gone before them, but the media and public tend to focus on the new."  The word "wrestle" here smacks of hubris and of course millions of people visit traditional gallery's every year, looking at older art. This is another example of unintentional dumbing down, comparing past artifacts with those of the present when they have absolutely nothing whatsoever in common, except marketing.
In the same paper there is an informative article from the New York Times on contemporary Art's ability to shock. The critic Maggie Nelson raises the question "Once the original 'urge' is gone you have got to look at what the next emotion is." Strange isn't it, that the emotion is hardly ever what it ought to be if the work under discussion is art, namely a considered and measured aesthetic response? 

In the Independent on Sunday Claudia Pritchard comments on "Sculptors drawings" at Pangolin London and the Queens place gallery. These are not just drawings for making sculpture but also drawings by sculptors. There is a real and subtle difference. One piece of horror among the rest of the drawings is Dead Andy by photographer David Bailey and there are some poor efforts by the usual suspects. They are in the company of some serious sculptors such as George Fullard, William Turnbull, Lynn Chadwick, John Maine, Sarah Lucas, Richard Serra and Ben Nicholson - they do not stand up to comparison even in the online catalogue. Some very serious drawing here notably by Ralph Brown, Reg Butler, Don Brown, Ann Christopher, Eric Gill, Giacometti, Gabo, Nigel Hall and Carl Plackman
Moving on, Laura Cummings tackles the Bronze show at the RA. The article is accompanied by a photograph of a head of King Seuthes 111 which is a real revelation. The power of this object is undeniable and proof if proof were needed that we do indeed live in degenerate times. This is an exhibition that allows the objects to speak with their own authority away from the foibles and fashions of curators wayward interests.
Waldemar Janusczcak in the Sunday Times takes on the Liverpool Biennial in the Times and claims it is a revelation, but then he would do? The Tate's contribution to the Biennial is the usual suspects Gilbert and George and Mark Wallinger they are hardly a revelation. Mona Hatoum comes out of it well.
He also reports that this year the John Moore's is fresh and exciting whilst the New Contemporaries is tedious beyond words; This is certainly true of the New Contemporaries; Nicola Frimpong has an MA from Wimbledon and her drawing skills are actually this incompetent. The John Moore's also has little to recommend it certainly not Cullinan Richards "horse" Matt Welch's pretentious Ikea riff or "the good terrorists" by Emma Talbot.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Revisionist Pre- Raphaelites - 16/9/2012

Critics and Curators
The 16/9/2012 press brings us news of the Tate opening of a Pre-Raphaelite re-hang. The last big Pre-Raphaelite exhibition was apparently in 1984. Waldemar Janusczcak at the Sunday Times and Laura Cummings at the Observer both tackle this show. We learn that behind the Pre-Raphaelite show is an eminence Gris, Andrew LLoyd Webber, the collector who has kindly loaned many of his paintings to the Tate in an attempt to convince us of their true value. Waldemar says the show disappoints, it promises a re-evaluation but doesn't deliver one. He argues that the revision seems half-hearted and the best way to enjoy the show is to enjoy the individual paintings, amen to that! He says no revaluation is possible, the works are as bad as he remembers them to be. "This is an avoidance of reality on such a cosmic scale that for long stretches of the display I found myself suppressing the need to laugh" he writes. Simply put, the imaginative escape from vicious London Victorian life depicted by Sir Hubert Herkomer and others is easily condemned by a revolutionary modernist for being divorced from reality. Yet this man is a critic who continually colludes with current state art as being challenging, innovative and popular when in reality it is none of these things, it is as devoid of protest and engagement with reality as any Pre-Raphaelites painting.
In a 1988 copy of Modern Painters Janusczcak was interviewed by John Bull, having just become the literary editor of the Guardian. In an arguement over a Jeff Koons Hoover in a glass case he said this to Bull (who had stated that Koons had done nothing to the hoover apart from present it in a glass case); "Surely the real fool here is you because you cannot see what the rich fool saw. All you see is a hoover. And that does not explain why rich fools queue up to buy it. You lack the critical imagination to put yourself in the mind of the rich fool. And you are therefore in no position to comment meaningfully on the artistic transaction that has been engineered." This is guff and a totally untenable position thirty years later. At the end of the interview he also said this, having been asked why he had resigned from being the art critic of the Guardian; "The idea of being seen to be in the same profession as Brian Sewell suddenly became too absurd to countenance. And because I did not want to be around as the Tate was gradually transformed into the Millbank Super Loo" My, how words said in anger can come back to bite one!

Laura Cummings is convinced that the avant garde arguement is pure bunk. She says this is a specious arguement because the painting is the most passionate denial of 20th century modernism possible. Millais is the "method painter par excellence" she says. Modernist right on critic credentials to the fore she pens this:  "The characteristics (of the paintings) are always the same, glistening excess, lurid colour, that all-over emphasis and oppressive density of detail that leaves the eye with nowhere to go, that demands your obedient attention. This is an art that wants to turn you into a passive Burne Jones zombie"  This says nothing whatsoever about the art and everything about the attention span and visual abilities of the critic.

The Tate curators try to argue that the PRB were Victorian Avant Garde only the definition cutting edge,  can have no meaning twinned with art that looked back to the Renaissance. Why cannot the art speak for itself, why does it have to be filtered through some other godforsaken sensibility and regurgitated as something else? Rossetti et al were foggy revisionist escapists and nothing good ever came from eclectic or plagiarised ideas. Still, they do have their stunning visual moments, Millais will always be valued for transcending the other artists. He was a singular talent  but was also capable of true silliness, be that as it may, the show is well worth a visit.

Charles Darwent in the Independent takes on the RA Bronze exhibition. problem. Again why do curators think it is right and fashionable to place objects with no relationship or relevance to one another side by side? Compare and contrast! Here the link is the material - bronze, as if this has any intrinsic aesthetic or artistic meaning or significance? Why can't we have similar shows entitled plaster of Paris, paper or felt? Truly a lazy way of curating art history, relevance and significance thrown out with the bathwater. Darwent cannot resist the reference to Jeff Koons bronze Basketball made in 1985 when we are informed the artist was 30. "Although brazenly just what it says it is, Basketball has all the platonic beauty of Boulee's cenotaph for Isaac Newton." Only it doesn't do to compare proposed architecture with small inadequate bronzes and it is not even an original post-modernist idea merely a 1980's re-hash of Jasper John's cans of 1960. We are also informed that Anish Kapoor has  been given a place here among the Renaissance bronzes only he doesn't earn it, his polished copper (not bronze) relates to nothing else in the show. Darwent complains that as 90% of the objects are sculpture you cannot walk around them, which is essential and rather defeats the purpose. "What we are presented with in the end is a great many bronze objects." Complaining about a show in which the art is left to speak for itself!