Andre Wallace

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

David Shrigley and Sarah Maple.

Saturday 28th January.

I note a full page spread in Saturday's Guardian devoted to discussing with eminent seriousness the work of David Shrigley.
This article, deserves attention for it's dissemblance. Such as these gems buried in the text; "the (taxidermy) animals faces look as though they have been drawn by David Shrigley.   -   They have become subsumed into his world - now that really is clever". Not really - just posing them would do it or maybe photoshop. Then to compare it with Hirst's Po-faced taxidermy - obvious! Lends credibility to the unwary.

Doesn't any artist, no matter how adolescent his or her drawing always do this? Isn't that what drawing actually is, the personality of the artist expressed as marks or photograph - Nicholas Lezard author of the piece, doesn't seem to have drawn much himself.  Then this gem, " then you might ask; are we looking at a cartoon or a work of art? Surely something so rudimentary cannot be art?" We know the answer to that one - depends entirely upon what you are willing to tolerate as art.  "Using the aesthetic of a disturbed adolescent who cannot draw" - the author claims, allows Shrigley to sneak profundity in under the radar. Might be that he is merely using his training as an artist at Glasgow school of Art. Etc. Later we come across this double think; "Looking at his work makes us wonder about style, or what it is about an artists vision that makes it recognizable; how you can see the artists hand in it." Well indeed, it is the skill of the artists hand that is deliberately missing, despite the claims that he spends 8 hours a day drawing. If he does, then why does he produce such infantile "crap" which is Shrigley's very own arch dissembling description of his work. Then we have the obligatory Google search which fired up this article and has produced a tea-towel entitled "Tell me when I am no longer needed and I shall go"! Why is this kind of humorous cartoon drawing now taken so very seriously by adults - postmodernism and Duchamp have much to answer for.

Also to draw attention to the work of  Sarah Maple in the Independent - she at least has a measure of painterly skill, albeit fairly undeveloped, more so than the RA professor of drawing herself, to whom she is compared . Then its not how you say it, that matters in the state art enclave, its just who can shout loudest. Maple is interesting because she is is capable of visual insults, as her last exhibition proved!
The piece finishes with this contradiction in terms "That's the one (self portrait painting with cat and grand-parents)  I really put my heart into. I am quite private, even though I show my face all the time. I don't really want people to know what I'm feeling." Nuff said, it's a hard life living with conceptual art. getting it right all the time.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Damien Hirst - Spots before the eyes!

In my last post on Damien Hirst I mentioned that he had offered a free print to anyone who visited all his eleven Gagossian Gallery Spot exhibitions.  This mornings Independent provides the information, that one Valentine Ohovski of the website Artruby is so keen on spots as to jet round the world to visit all 11 locations. Three people (also Jeff Chu and Chan Wong) are also reported to be demanding their free spot print. The very least they deserve for their dedication to the inane is an actual spot painting but no, a print will have to suffice - their airline fares appear to be approximately equivalent to the cost of a print.

Hubris aside, whatever his aesthetic and artistic failings, we have to admire his financial acumen. He certainly wins an accolade for promotion, that his marketing skills are superb. One can only look forward to the huge retrospective (2 floors) at the Tate Modern in August.

Sunday's newspapers were full of the Hockney exhibition at the RA. Janet Street Porter was sufficiently incensed to have a go at other critics such as Adrian Searle, (Hockney is superficial)  Alistaire Sooke ( who's judgement is purely conceptual, he has no handle on the nature of the visual image ) and Brian Sewell ( Pure connoisseurship - some of it seems to be accurate) for their negativity and then she states that whatever they say doesn't matter. Presumably that also applies to what she writes? Pleasingly someone who has gone completely overboard in favour of Hockney is Waldemar Januszczak in the Sunday Times.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Drawing yet again!

Is David Hockney Clement Freuds' successor asks Jonathon Jones in Tuesdays Gruniad? Jonathan Jones finishes the article with an ageist blast at old white men who are not part of our groovy contemporary art culture. So we know where he is coming from then.

Advance publicity of Hockney's RA show has been very extensive, he has been called a National curmudeon and an Artist for all seasons. One has to take issue with Richard Dorment's article in the Telegraph for it's crass remarks about Thai food being poetry. Grudgingly accepting that the Thai performance artists Rikrit Tiranvanija's cooking may not be art, and it cannot be; by definition it (cooking) cannot communicate anything except gustatory pleasure, he says that he likes to disagree with Hockney because he is always right and simultaneously wrong. This somehow betrays, a quite extraordinary lack of consideration of the real and complex nature of aesthetic experience, to say nothing of visual experience.

One site that is worth a look is Boooooooom.com a facility for people who wish to publish their own remakes of great paintings. Why anyone would want to waste time doing this, unless they use an alternative media to construct the image and thereby pointing up the power of a particular means of expression is puzzling. It's a kind of reverse life drawing or tableau vivant based on a masterpiece. A good alternative to worth1000 which is largely artistically crude and inept. Guess it's fun to waste time upon, but the discrepancies between the two images makes for some interesting reflection. Paint isn't photography and its impossible to re-create an actual image. Looking at the re-imagining of Vermeer's Girl with the pearl earing, one is only aware of the photograph's short-comings. Perhaps this site is actually doing something of real value by drawing attention to the aesthetics of the actual masterpieces.

Another article which cannot escape examination is in 20th Jan Independent "Where have all the artists gone" by Melanie McDonagh. The reason publishers cannot find illustrators, she argues, is because their are no artists around who can draw. She uses Brian Sewell to support the case which gives him scope to hammer art schools as their are none he asserts that teach drawing. Well you only have to see who the professor of drawing at the RA  is to question the truth of his assertion. Not only are there no schools that can teach drawing, there are no longer any artists around that can teach it, except those well trained generations that have retired. Kosuth and other conceptualists have a lot to answer for, as do certain collectors and curators.

Where I think Sewell goes to far, is in his assertion that the Princes Drawing School in Hoxton (a little ivory tower) is staffed by artists of no real reputation. Beg to differ, had he any actual experience of the superb levels of teaching that does occur there he wouldn't be so cavalier in his opinion. Having attended workshops there with Victor Koulbak (who found the level of drawing of the British artists who participated, frustratingly poor) and other teachers such as John Lessore  or Andrew Ratcliffe. I know this to be totally and utterly untrue. Musicians read music, artists draw, no real argument. Having some experience of the Kindle, I hope that Melanie is right and that the Kindle fire and ipad will encourage a return to illustration in publishing. Which brings me to a superb Kindle book on academic drawing technique, available free on Gutenberg. It will repay any artist reading and studying the techniques many times over if they want to explore how to draw in depth. This is Harold Speed's "The science and practise of drawing." That said there are no short cuts, its just practise, practise and more practise.

Monday, January 16, 2012

More advance publicity!

The build up to the cultural Olympics continues apace.

The Sunday times 15/1/2012 notes that the Tate has asked three experts in old masters to take voluntary redundancy. Ann Lyles, their Constable expert, Ian Worrell a world expert on Turner and Karen Heard a 17th century expert are all to leave. Critics, the Times reports, have been quick to point out that this reflects the bias towards 20th and 21st century contemporary art at the behest of Tate Britain director, Penelope Curtis. This significantly undermines the Tate's remit to provide the best resources for art history research from GCSE upwards. It reflects the Tate's increasing promotion of contemporary art whilst the rest can remain in the cellars.  Perhaps it will be available on the BBC's your paintings. No-one who has followed the Tate over the past 20 years will be surprised at this, - it's not as though contemporary art has only a few state run outlets, is it?

A remarkable piece of art journalism from Janet Street Porter in Sunday's Independent. She remarks that Steve MacQueens film shame is a joyless experience that prompts the remark "Why did I bother?" indeed, but she then after stating that Damien Hirst is the master of the superficial, she explains he is exhibiting spot paintings at 11 galleries world wide, a very busy boy is Damien. She comments that one critic found them as satisfying as cigarettes. Quite, but then she spoils it all with a category error when she says "I get more joy eating breakfast contemplating my Hirst spot painting than from hours staring at Fassbender's naked backside!" Apart from the YBA background's of Hirst and MacQueen what on earth do these two things have in common? The enthusiasm for spots continues with a lot of hype in today's (Monday) Independent. We learn that Damien is offering a spot painting to the first person to travel the globe visiting all 11 galleries of spots! Adrian Hamilton author of the piece, compares Hirst's spot paintings with those of Gerhard Richter in the sixties and argues that with Richter there is the sense that the artist is trying to communicate something, the artist is talking to you. With Hirst's spots however there is the exercise and nothing else, but they are entertaining. Damning with faint praise he also adds that "The fact that Hirst is so cavalier with originality is no reason to dismiss his very considerable talents as a conceptualist and more recently as a painter. (Tell that to the artist's whose work he has used)

Returning to Sunday the  Observer which has two whole pages on Hockney's exhibition, Lucien Freud's coming retrospective and inevitably Hirst. Tate media guru Marc Sands argues that Hirst will be the show of the year. Challenging, right! "The divisive nature of the show will only make the discussion, the debate, the interest more prickly and more alive", he puffs. "I note he adds there's no room for Hirst's little appreciated skull paintings but there will be one new piece. Ann Gallagher head of Tate collections (contemporary art ) adds that; "she would like people to come and look at the work, whatever you have heard of him just look at the work." This is exactly the problem, when you look at the work you feel you have been cheated with kitsch imagery of watery gruel instead of porridge. Which brings us back to the spots or spin paintings. Even the split specimens in formaldehyde, are what the Natural History museum once upon a time had as their main remit.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Investing in Art

Once again the art market has proved a better place to invest than the stock market.

Also note that the Chinese government are deciding to go easy on their conceptual friend.

In contrast to the previous post and on a positive note these artist's works are all worth a view for their superlative craftsmanship and visual skills.

Roberto Bernardi
Martin Bentham 
Max Klinger 
Gregory Scheckler
Natasha Kissell 
Victor Koulbak
Nicholas McLeod
Ralph Brown 
Jonathon Yeo
David Prentice

Monday, January 09, 2012


Asserting that the visual culture of the past was superior to that of today requires evidence. in the 1960's the ICA was the leading venue for contemporary art in london, most heavyweights of the time such as Jim Dine, Claes Oldenberg and Roy Lichtenstein showed their new work there. Browsing the ICA today, Bloomberg's new contemporaries 2011 however suggested this alternative post, artists who are not just challenging, but are seriously challenged.

The question arises as to why they consider themselves to be visual artists, with 1.6 million unemployed anyone who is self-taught can claim the status of artist. (Some of these had extensive art education) These examples are literally beyond words.
Artists who have had any experience of art education will recognise their haptic credentials for what they are. That anyone with a visual art education would take them seriously says much about the state of graduate art education today, despite their conceptual orthodox status. Make up you own mind by viewing the work! Don't expect evidence of fine art, imaginative sensibility, aesthetic interest or visual connoisseurship though.

Tom Howse
Martin Moloney
David Shrigley
Daisy Delaney
Daniel Rapley
Jeremy Dower
Mark McGowan
Sarah Brown
Santiago Sierra
John Latham

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Cultural Olympics?

Sunday's news that David Hockney is to receive the Order of Merit from HM the queen is very re-assuring. The recognition of his life-time of work devoted to furthering the cause of looking, the use of new technology and above all the continuation of the skills and craft associated with representational painting stands in marked contrast to some of the more high profile conceptual celebrity artists. It is also significant that his show at the RA followed by a Lucien Freud show will be the most significant exhibitions commencing 2012. Damien Hirst is scheduled to have 2 floors of the Tate modern in August. This morning the press is full of references to Hockney's dig at conceptual art, in the advance publicity he states that all the works were made by the artist himself personally in the past four years. The critics have jumped to Hirst's defense stating that many artists in history ran factories such as Rubens or Leonardo da Vinci. This may be true but when you purchased a painting by Ruben's you knew the faces, hands and expressive details were from the hand of the master. I wonder how many of own Damien's paintings will be on show at Tate Modern in August.

Which brings up the red-faced embarrassment of Arts Council England's Cultural Olympiad art at a cost of £5,400,000 of taxpayers money!

How in the name of all that is good in art did they manage to come up with this compost heap of trite, inadequate, pseudo-conceptual, mis-begotten, challenging conformity that they think will engage the general public in art.

It all kicks off with Martin Creed's concept work No 1197 when all the bells in the country are to be rung for three minutes as quickly and loud as possible. Are the C of E going to press gang all bellringers and all shopkeepers with doorbells be forced to comply? Perhaps I'm missing something but who will enforce this? There is no accountability here, no Ofsted for Olympiad arts projects - more's the pity. £500,000 will be spent in Merseyside on a 60 ft wide corkscrew of steam and light (courtesy of one Anthony McCall) that has not up to now been tested as functional. The press will have a field day if the technology fails.

Similarly minor YBA Alex Hartley is receiving £500,000 for towing 6 tons of Svalbord around the South West in a barge. As someone who is very familiar with 19th century Thames sailing barges, I have to ask where is the visual or any other interest in this concept. In the Midlands an outfit calling themselves Imagineer productions will be towing a 30ft replica of Lady Godiva (clothed - seems like a contradiction in terms) to London with 25 bicycles. Then there is lone twin - a 30ft sailing boat made from donated wooden items (any that is) . I hope that they have lots of no-nails because they will need it, if it floats

Wales will host the fuselage of a wingless DC9 which will travel from town center to town center at night. The roads may present this stunt with some logistics problems. Scotland will host a new football pitch made from woodland demolished south of Edinburgh which will be used for games by amateur clubs and returned to woodland after the year is up. Sorry but, cannot see where there is any art in this, football involves 22 grown men and a bag of wind. It is a tribal ritual who's sole purpose is to win, and there is no communication taking place here, none whatsoever, so by the simplist of definitions it isn't art in any sense. Other items of interest include a German artist (why) draping flags along the giants causeway (really origonal, have they not heard of Christo?) and Yes Yes No from New York are making an installation along the 84miles of Hadrians wall. I particularly like the LED panels on the roofs of London buses which will give school-kids more scope for bullying than the use to which they currently put their mobile phones but then I'm jaundiced. Finally there is the Olympic park's artist in residence whose conceptual art credentials are impeccable.

You do have to ask where is the visual art in all this, who commissioned it and why? Is it really the best that the art world can come up with?