Andre Wallace

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Posturing and talking down.

A piece of exactly the sort of writing this site was set up to dispute in Tuesday 24th April Guardian by Adrian Searle (for it is he) concerning as he terms it "The new Scottish Colourists" in the Glasgow Festival of Visual Arts. This starts with the justification for "art so bad they turn from it" but we are then informed it could backfire! (If only anyone cared enough). This refers to the scribbles of Paul Thek whose posthumous career (died of HIV) is to be gaining ground in the US. Over to German photographer Wolfgang Tilmans who we are informed is captivating, odd term for a much overexposed photographer. Richard Wright's drawings are next, and we are informed that it's hard to know how he works with such feverous concentration for such long periods of time, i.e.months. Indeed, this is so, but asking why when the content is mainly mandalas doesn't occur to our auteur, who continues in this vein extolling the virtues of Rob Kennedy (as much curator as artist - same old, same old, conceptual posture, ad infinitum) alas, Charlotte Prodger (boom box playing her descriptions of visiting a gay club in Berlin) again why? and dutch artist Fokert de Jong (historical rip offs in styro-foam with noxious colour a la Chapman bros). Karla Black puts in an appearance, and why not, her cellophane drapes and sawdust are everywhere else at present ( Searle tells us the magic drains away as you look!) and so to Teresa Margolles. At which point, wondering how much lottery money was been spent on this very poor excuse for a contemporary art exhibition, we are finally told to celebrate Jeremy Deller's full scale inflatable Cultural Olympics Stonehenge.

It's not just that what we have here is the purile visual lowbrow indigestion that Will Self terms Mcnuggets of knowledge that pales, but that Searle shows his crassness and insensitivity when he finishes with this tripe on the full scale, inflatable, Stonehenge (bouncy castle) thus: "Deller's work is a cheery take on heritage and the Cultural Olympiad. Celebratory, interactive and possibly even educational, it ticks all the public art boxes. On the other hand, Deller might be pointing out that our greatest and most solemn monuments have all become sites of entertainment nowadays. Hooray for our increasingly infantilised culture. No wonder his work is called Sacrilege, even if only druids will take offence."

So Deller's expensive, thoughtless, talking down to children is to be celebrated as a demonstration of our infantilised culture....... What conceivable, pretentious educational value has a bouncy castle in the form of Stonehenge? Really, what educational value has it? None whatsoever. What causes real offence and not just to druids, is the writer's lazy, and thoughtless endorsement of our increasingly infantilised culture, and this is something to be proud of, rather than truly ashamed. The writer is seeking to ingratiate himself with and identify with children and kidults. If he knew anything at all about either and this is doubtful then he wouldn't dare to assume that the patronising stance he displays is anything but offensive. The bouncy castle is called "Sacrilege," when of course it nothing of the sort, you have to have faith in something in order to create a sacrilege. There is no faith in anything here, not even in contemporary art, it's just child's entertainment. The bouncy castle is just another expensive, lazy, thoughtless, half-witted, kitsch, conceptual art posture exactly mirroring Searle's own written endorsement, and paid for by the lottery..............

Of all the spendthrift follies foisted on us by politicians The Public stands out well above the crowd of PFI school debt and all the other follies. It cost the taxpayer £72,000,000 which was actually £49,000,000 over budget and it should never have been built. The people of West Bromwich didn't want it and they have not used it. The council is now looking for an alternative function for it. What an absolutely inexcusable waste of taxpayers money that would have been far better spent on hospitals or schools, by a group of social engineers bent on improving the lot of people who refuse to engage.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Your Paintings website

If you have visited this site because you are an artist or are an enthusiast for the visual arts then you can help to catalogue the Nations artworks that are in storage. There are thousands of paintings that are patiently waiting to be tagged and if you can spare a little time regularly please visit this site and enroll as a tagger.  Your efforts will be greatly appreciated.

More interesting artists to consider:
Arthur Homeshaw
David Gentleman
Geoffrey Beasley
Jane Domingos
Patsy Whiting
Michael Bennallack Hart
Tony de Wolf
Peter Brook
Gordon Mitchell
Nicholas Hely Hutchinson

Monday, April 23, 2012

Summary of our entire cultural dilemma!

If you missed this radio piece by Will Self you can listen and consider what he has to say about Damien Hirst at Tate Modern. Quite the most brilliant summary of cultural excellence this year so far. There are many in the visual arts who have long overstayed their welcome and this blog is not the only voice calling for wholesale revision of priorities, educational and cultural.  There is a very real indication that the cultural Olympics will be a  national  embarrassment.

Listen at:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/console/b01g65tj

Article at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17777556

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Ron Mueck Sunday 15th April 2012

Interesting post in today's Sunday Times  - The author Bryan Appleyard is keen to point up the comparison between Ron Mueck and Damien Hirst to show the deficiencies of the latter's work and then enhance the reputation of the former in defiance of market judgement. He argues that Mueck is a YBA but the odd man out because he is all skill and he is not art school educated. He quotes one Craig Raine who states that Hirst's work is kitsch compared with the experience of seeing "Dead Dad". Jonathon Jones the Guardian's fully paid up state art critic who argues we are told, that Mueck's work is brainless, and his attack on our gut feelings is bullying. "I just don't think you see enough art"' he says. This comparison with Hirst is backed up by Will Self who is quoted as arguing that he isn't sure that Hirst's work is significant anymore saying that: ...."he is corrupted by money, pure and simple."

There then follows a description of the Mueck exhibition at Hauser and Writh supported by Marina Warner (for it is she) who states that Mueck is a sacred artist working in a secular way. His formidable sculptural skill derived from Henson's puppeteer factory needs a more open way of seeing. This is then backed up with the ponderous justification of Susan Sontag saying in 1964 that we need an erotics of art instead of a hermeneutics. Amen to that one. Returning to Raine we hear; "it's all about skill and there's got to be something else besides." Like meaning for instance, but this is a very old fashioned piece of truth, is it not? The text ends with this coda; "Its time for the conceptualists to stand aside and make way for the uncanny. Head for Saville Row, not the salesman of Southwark" Couldn't agree more, hope the curators at the RA and Tate are aware of this small shift in the Zeitgeist. Won't be permanent though, as Waldemar is probably on holiday.

Peter Conrad in the Observer pens two pages on Sir Anthony Caro at Chatsworth House. Nothing elitist here of course, just repeat girders and profundity. Caro's early work, the 1950's representational sculpture of human beings is truly awful, leaden, ponderous and dull. He hasn't travelled that far in terms of meaning in 60 years, although some of his vast output is quite playful. "Egyptian " we are informed makes a gloomy comment on the purpose of houses such as Chatsworth which exist for trophies and trinkets, the spoils that stay behind after the owners de-materialise and so on in the same vein. However we are then informed that the landscape is the result of gardening geniuses (Capability Brown) and Caro's achievement is to demonstrate that steel is equally malleable, as easy to shape as water. Only it isn't. It is hard, inflexible, geometric, vicious and crude in expression wherever it is placed as anyone who has welded it knows only too well. The sculpture is abstract, formal with architectural references and no allusions to the human body apart from scale. As such it is the antitheses of Mueck. We are asked to believe that; " thanks to Caro the grounds of Chatsworth have become an adventure playground of the mind."  Having spent happy hours in the gardens of Chatsworth the grounds were already that, without Sir Anthony's girders. Good sculpture functions well wherever it is placed in the environment.

Charles Darwent's copy in the Independent of Sunday addresses the curatorial enigma of Peter Feldman at the Serpentine. It contains a real gem; "When he photographs each of the 68 strawberries in a half kilo box individually and puts the results on the wall  - we can truthfully say we have seen every strawberry in a punnet. So what? It tells us nothing of of strawberries, of strawberryness ."  A precis of everything that is wrong with conceptual art. Hans Peter Feldman denies that he is an artist, which is both as dissembling and untrue as the Serpentine is an art gallery. Darwent explains thus; "His belief is that we should never believe anything - including him." One has to question the real relevance of this kind of material display, this faux curation and it's pretension to exist as an art form. Most historical museums have collections of objects of far more interest and contemporary relevance.

Lastly talking of lazy slipshod solutions as to what is art or not, two pages of garbage in today's Independent on Turner Prize nominee Karla Black at the Tate Britain no less by Hannah Duguid. Tate Britian has no excuse for this exhibition entitled "At fault". Blatantly they are "at fault" for giving this dross, house room. The artist informs us that her work is frequently ruined by children, when its' made of cellophane, ribbons, paper and white plaster cake what does she expect. In these brutal insensitive days even Henry Moore bronzes are vandalized or stolen. The piles of crumpled paper occupying the once hallowed halls of Tate Britain and the curators of this puerile childish non-sense exhibition need to be held accountable for their function and the tax payers money they waste in these straightened times. It's no excuse to say that nothing new is coming out of art schools now, even if  Ms Black was educated at Glasgow School of art. She has even less excuse, when many thousands of real artists are marginalised and ignored by the conceptual state art cartel that runs the Tate, RA, Serpentine and Haywood and who favour above all meaningless tripe such as this. There are figures in state art who have been in power too long, and they and their challenging needs, need reform and removal. Which brings us back to Ron Mueck who didn't attend any art school to learn how to make sculpture, and probably is all the better for it.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Easter Sunday - more Hirst reviews

Cannot let Easter Sunday past by without examining more promotion of Hirst. Richard Dorment's article in the Telegraph is replaced in the Sunday Telegraph with yet another chapter from Anne Gallaghers Tate book on Hirst. By a Brian Dillon (who he?) it consists of a piece of self-deluded erudition that asks a redundant question about the "medical sense" of shock that the artworks provoke. He asks this really stupid question; "What is the photograph of the student Hirst with a dead head if not a tribute to the artist's curiosity and a challenge to our own." (That meaningless word "challenge" again, the standard justification for so much Tat) The humane rational answer to this is: that it is a crude piece of obscene, tasteless, disrespectful and adolescent display that involves a desecration of a body and lacks any respect, decency or sensibility, unlike the anatomical studies he later attempts to conflate the photo with. This is not stuff on the same level as Gericault. At no point in the article are we told that the only meaning of the work resides in the words of the Titles, often lifted from Catholic tradition as with Craig Martin which points up the act of visual desecration. There is no transformation of the media, the icononography is crude and inept. Hirst's work is literally and metaphorically contemporary art for the idle rich.

Like Dorment in the Telegraph, Waldemar_Januszczak in the Sunday Times pens two pages of fluff along the lines that Hirst is a great designer. Januszczak is downright glowing in his effusive article, but that doesn't excuse it. No aesthetic criticism ! One can be can be excused all sorts of aesthetic non-sense if like Picasso you have proved you can go the distance with brilliant traditional skills. Hirst had no such skills training, his attempts at painting have been risible. Januszczak starts by expressing his sorrow that the Internet Trolls and the Twitteratti have given Hirst a sound kicking, along the lines that "He'd pickle his wife for a buck." This is due, he argues to plain jealousy and to money. His highwayman's skill with the art market has created so much enmity that you can no longer see the artist behind the abuse. He admits that everything Hirst exhibits shows a blatant disregard for the rules; "the walls of the art world are being scaled by a cheeky monkey, laughing at death, laughing at other artists, laughing at the Tate itself and at pious art historical references". He continues in this vein at last finding two revelations; the absurdest humour of the exhibition and the impeccable sense of design. Neither of which has any real significance, damned by faint praise.

This brings us to a rather more considered article in the Observer by Laura Cummings who sees through the hype. She admits the shortcomings of the work, Once the point is delivered the sting is gone. She accuses the shark of yawning; "the first work may have been the best but it was also the beginning of the end. If you doubt that Hirst's whole project fitted Charles Saatchi's requirements to a tee then seek out the current advertisement for Breast Cancer Care where an infant art director has directly ripped off Hirst's work by pasting coloured pills all over a naked model. Cummings most insightful remark is that; nothing is transformed, everything is itself. A Black sheep is a black sheep. "It's obvious to anyone with eyes that Hirst's work has become more grandeloquent and repeditive over the years" Quite tediously so!

Charles Darwent in the Independent on Sunday is even less impressed. He pens this insight; "I can't help thinking that Hirst's reputed genius stands or falls on passion, that we have to believe he's as horrified by his world as we are. And I don't believe it - glibness and slickness are part of his intent, a constituent of the nastiness of his art."  "He never bothers to change the formulae because every pull of the fruit machine ends with pound signs". He fails to challenge his own artwork in artistic terms just repeats the formula. This says much about the integrity, the values and the primacy of the damn market. For this reason alone and the bad example that it sets to younger artists, the Tate should have had pause to re-consider the whole exhibition.

The most dire drivel comes from the pen of no less than  Jeremy Clarkson, who admits to owning some of Hirst work. After several paragraphs of confused drivel he asks if it matters that Hirst doesn't make the work himself? Do you care whether it is art or not he asks? "If you like what he dreams up, then no it doesn't matter" he declares. So no aesthetic or artistic considerations there then, I know what I like and if I like it then that's ok then. He should stick to automobiles and not stray into the minefield of contemporary art criticism.

A note of interest is that the hugely financially successful artist Thomas Kinkade has died of natural causes at the age of 54. There are none of his works in any public collection or museum in the world. Why is this when he made $100 million last year? You can google image search him and judge this for yourself.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Damien Hirst at Tate Modern

How inconsistent the press can be; on Tuesday 26th March the Independent published a piece on Julian Spalding's book called "Con-art, sell your Damien Hirst's now before its too late" and today Friday 29th March there is a three page publicity spread on Hirst by his former teacher, Michael Craig-Martin.  This is a chapter taken from the Tate Modern book by curator Ann Gallagher to coincide with the big show opening next Wednesday.

Interestingly there is no real mention of the art-work in the piece apart from comments about Damien's ability to go straight to the heart of the matter. The rest is a list of how effective Hirst has been as an art market wheeler and dealer. We learn that he started young working as a waiter at Anthony D'Offay whilst still a first year student. That is, after he had set out as a building site labourer and dropped it like many aspiring sculptors before and since. We also learn the following facts about his self promotion as a student. He curated the Freeze show before he was granted his degree, which was an exhibition of four medical cabinets re-pleat with empty pill boxes.  

 Craig Martin writes: "Over the years, his ability to understand, tease,mock and exploit the art market has been one of his defining characteristics. As an artist, he takes the role of provocateur. playing with the art world's self-image, assumptions, pretensions and rituals." Later he adds: "I always find it laughable that people think that the YBA's were cynical careerists. They made work that was unmistakably British in content, but which spoke to the International art world with irreverent fluency."   This is, presumably the same International art world that has excluded all British artists from Documenta 13 in Kassel.

Disingenuous at best, for International Art market one can substitute Charles Saatchi, without whose project to twist the contemporary art market to supply ideas for Saatchi and Saatchi et al, Hirst would have been just another art student. He also states that Hirst's final degree show was four medical cabinets, "not a bad achievement". This speaks legions for the kind of visual art educational experiences and values considered valid and once feted as art education at Goldsmith's. 

Today 3rd April the hype has really wound up exponentially for the Tate show. The Independent mentions the £36.800 souvenir skulls available in the gift shop and we learn that Hirst cares nothing for his critics. He is quoted as saying "I only care when what people say when it is true." and then adds; "Money is so important because so many people haven't got any  -  It's the key isn't it, more important than languages." Presumably this is why visitors to the butterfly exhibit will have their hair and clothes checked by Tate staff when leaving as they might acquire a butterfly by mistake. The rest of this article is a diatribe on pecuniary values.
In Guardian 2 Adrian Searle makes some very pointed comments expressing his disillusion with Hirst. "My problem with Hirst," he writes; "Is not the money (Picasso made lots and nobody cares) nor the vulgarity he has opted for but his capitulation as an artist. He could have been so much better, it is an enormous disappointment." One can only speculate whether he could he have done better with the art education that he received? His desperate forays into painting haven't exactly been a success and are notable in their absence from this exhibition. Perhaps it should be pointed out that at the RA there is an exhibition of the work of someone who was actually trained as a visual artist.

Back at the Independent we learn of a nasty bit of censorship. Apparently Julian Spalding author of Con-Art was refused entry to the exhibition along with his BBC crew and two German TV networks crews. Tate staff went ballistic when he tried to gain admission, to give an interview in the gallery. He reports; "It's sinister, the Tate's job is to encourage debate. The gallery doesn't belong to the Tate staff but to the people of Britain." Which demonstrates that they are worried about criticism and that you oppose the acolytes of state art at your peril. These curators need to be constantly loudly reminded that their total remit is to the entire population, not to just serve the over publicised needs of rich art investors. On page 44 we have the authorised version by Adrian Hamilton who mentions that "the retrospective at the age of 47years arouses suspicions that it is a desperate attempt to regain some of a reputation in decline." He concludes with this:" Hirst has the courage to take risks, but does he have the courage essential to the best art of taking risks with himself. This is a retrospective that proves his coherence as an artist but not his worth." 

This is a no-brainer. One gets the distinct impression that the concern for pecuniary worth precisely expresses this anxiety. Also as Charles Thomson has claimed the ideas largely came from elsewhere.

Rachel Campbell-Johnson at the Times is measured in her response.  She mentions repetition which is a real problem with Hirst's work, as shock and awe doesn't work twice. She writes;" Hirst's skills as a marketeer have increasingly eclipsed his talents as a creator. Common sense aesthetic taste and judgement can all be bludgeoned into submission by money as his recent global shows of spot paintings proved." The show has come too late, she remarks, Hirst reached his apogee with his hubristic 2008 Sothebys sale on the day Leman Bros went down. In short she suggests that Hirst the artist is contaminated by the Global financial meltdown. The Times leader puts it thus: "His talent for promotion and his brazen exploitation of the art market all combined to produce an artist who embodies the spirit of the age and whose work offers a financial haven for the world's wealthy in uncertain economic times."

For how long one wonders? and note the comment isn't that the artwork embodies the spirit of the age, but the artist and his modus operandi.

Richard Dorment's article in the Telegraph is execrable in it's fawning. Dorment really is old enough to know better than to pen such drivel (unless the man is as cynical as all hell.) The chat line it stimulates is worth a laugh for the range of responses. Brian Sewell on the other hand, sees right through the hype and pens a very accurate and cogent criticism of Hirst's dilemma.

In all the guff that has been put out about the Hirst show one article stands out as a perceptive piece of analyses. This is the Spectator Life's article by Jack Wakefield. He draws attention to the fact that the author of this exhibition is Sir Nicholas Serota who owes Hirst for a significant donation in 2007. Indeed, Sir Nicholas is a very busy man responsible for the risible cultural Olympics, the ArcelorMittal-Kapoor tower and the further expansion of the Tate Modern.  Wakefield argues that the Director of the Tate should actually be a short term residency, (others such as the Jackdaw also endorse this view, terming Serota President for life)  and that there is too much pandering to hedge fund managers and oligarchs of doubtful taste going on in publicly sponsored state contemporary art culture. He finally argues that it was the duty of the Tate to host a rich humanity based Lucian Freud exhibition in the spirit of Shakespeare instead of such a bad choice, unimaginative, tedious and of very limited artistic interest.