Whispers

Whispers
Andre Wallace

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Balthus as inspiration?

Balthus was a highly questionable art world enigma, ostensibly a surrealist he dug his own furrow of vaguely suspect images of girls. He was an aristocrat, an exiled Polish Count so that was an excuse (actually not), but his images have none of the totally insulting grossness and crass insensitivity of say, the Chapman brothers.

This week sees Sean O'Hagan's written publicity for the work of a Japanese photographer Hisaji Hara in the Observer. Other papers have largely ignored this exhibition. In a spirit of complete lack of real inspiration and creativity this photographer re-does Balthus's pictures and photographs Japanese schoolgirls exactly posed as in the set Balthus image with extra technical wizardry. The resultant Observer copy promoting this is a summary of drivel behind which lurks some very murky cultural water; truly inexcusable is this guff; " This is Hara's great gift: to imbue the familiar with new meaning, new mystery and a strange new beauty. Balthus one suspects, would have approved."

Bearing in mind Brain Sewell's advice on Lucian Freud i.e. speak no evil of the dead - no artist alive or dead appreciates being blatantly ripped off in this manner. Note that there is no mention whatsoever of Balthus's most questionable painting; The guitar player. It doesn't take a rabid feminist to help you draw your own conclusions as to what is really going on here.

Yet more damn Spots.




Waldemar Januszczak enthuses wildly about the proliferation of spots in an article on 82 year old Yayoi Kasama at Tate Modern in the 26.2. Sunday Times. He cannot refrain from comparing unike as usual and brings in Hirst's spots by paragraph 1. However, he is prepared to concede that even Kasama didn't get there first, polka dots being madly fashionable by the 1840's.....  Where he speculates wildly is in the latter part of the piece, writing about Eugene Chevreul whose colour charts he argues, are the true father of the Polka dot.
He writes; "Whilst researching the optical effects of coloured dyes, he made a discovery that changed art and led him deep into the world of dots. What Chevreul found is that the impact of a colour depends critically on the colour next to it." This is of course foundation course level stuff and when he asks whether Hirst ever saw Chevreuls book (or a bolderised version of it by Itten or someone else) he is really grasping at straws. Every artist and most articulate students know the debt that Seurat and Sisley owed to Chevreul's book and the erroneous hypotheses that ensued. Damian, he suggests may have been anywhere when Michael Craig-Martin was covering colour theory and we are therefore not to know if Hirst ever saw the book. This misbegotten article ends with a real gem. " Way back in 1839 Chevreul grasped one of the driving truths of contemporary art - that nobody can paint the same polka dot twice." You really couldn't make this stuff up as they say.

Speaking of which we have to look at the drivel written about Jeremy Deller at the Hayward also in all the Sunday Press.  One very sane article emerged from the pen of Charles Darent in the Independent, he sums up the problem with Deller's scatological mementos as follows; "If you subtract making from the equation of art and don't happen to be around for the happening (i.e most of Deller's contrived efforts) then you are left with nothing much: relics, a sense of having missed the bus. In spite of its title Joy in People is joyless; intriguing, but, in the end unsatisfying."  Quite precise and perceptive criticism.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Sargent Johnson sculpture

This piece cropped up yesterday. Inevitably, it will end up in litigation for resolution. It's often the case that  the custodians of national art treasures have little or no interest in them as actual objects, but rather as monetary or pecuniary artifacts rather than what they actually are. This however does seem to be a monumental mistake by the university which has been reported to be in no financial position to recover its own artwork. The objects quality is evident even in photographs.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Two small issues!

Yesterday, visited a beautiful exhibition at Exeter Museum and art gallery which examined the links between French and English versions of Impressionism. The Newlyn school, particularly Stanhope Forbes proved a real revelation as did the Monet's in the exhibition. So too, did the work of Sickert, Gilman, Pissarro and Dame Laura Knight.

An excellent exhibition and well worth a sustained visit, the experience was completely ruined by noisy primary school brats who ran around the galleries barely under control, touching and attempting to finger the Canaletto's and Renoir's. The attendants had their hands full trying to explain why it isn't acceptable to put your greasy paw on an object that is worth several million pounds to disinterested and bored middle class brats. Why do parents have so little control over their children these days? Why do they drag them around exhibitions that they have little or no interest in without explaining to them what an art gallery is for? I left in disgust when one brat threw himself on the floor and screamed the place down because other children were using the light-box to make images and there was no room for him to participate. His mother had no way of dealing with the mortification that she felt was being heaped upon her (rightly perhaps). Me , me, me, me ruined the entire experience and means, that I have to return when they are all back at school and there will be time to appreciate what's on offer!

Second gripe is this Song Dong waste not exhibition at the Barbican. Excuse me for asking, but where is the art in this exhibition? Noting also by co-incidence that there is a program on more4 tonight concerning the fixation of the obsessive compulsive hoarder which is a pathological condition and is a long way from being an art form. It does seem a bone idle explanation to claim that this exhibition is actually an exhibition of conceptual art and not a warehouse of random objects. Thought that you do actually have to do something with the objects to give them a alternative context or meaning apart from merely display them. Once again Duchamp's little joke surfaces in another advanced form of paralysis.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Lucian Freud 1

Anything one writes about Lucien Freud's work is unlikely to be taken seriously, he is a definitive representational artist, as such he tends to be all things to all people, nihilistic, existentialist, humanitarian, kitchen sink are all adjectives that have at various times been used to describe his images. Three articles promoting the show at the National Portrait Gallery will suffice, the Independent on Sunday, the Evening Standard 8th Feb and the Sunday Times today.

Januszczak in the Sunday Times admits that he had misunderstood Freud over the years. He was, he writes, not a painter of low-life, but a peerless painter of humanity. He then argues that Freud was capable of genuinely unusual moods such as his portrait of a mother expressing tenderness ( admittedly not a common feeling in challenging contemporary art) and his Large Interior 1981-3 which is in every inch a masterpiece. He describes the exhibition as stunning, definitive and brilliant.

Januszczak makes no mention of Freud's shortcomings, but Charles Darwent in the Sunday Independent has actually looked at the art work. More concerned to get it right, he defines Freud as a still life painter whose subject happens to be people rather than apples or pears. There is substantial truth in this observation, a genuine love of humanity doesn't shine out from a Freud painting in the same way as it does from a say, Peter Mallison, Rembrandt or Velasquez.

Darent further observes that the Elder Freud drew the essence out of humanity  in order to cure it whilst Lucian did so to throw it away. What Lucian ended up painting was the externalities with the internalities removed. This is pretty accurate, there is no love or empathy in the faces he depicted, just heavy, dense, gritty, chalky paint marks as the result of too much accelerator.

Brian Sewell in the Evening Standard argues that one should not speak ill of the dead, but he still finds time to make the same point that Lucian Freud's paintings are actually still-lives. He adds that "When all is said and done, for all his perversity, Freud was perhaps as great a figurative painter  as is now possible." Presumably because there are no other artists alive, who have the figurative skills and the sheer depth of perception. Those artists who have these skills are retired and now are no longer passing their skills on to others. Still, it does seem a pity that Freud's genuine love of ugliness saturates all his imagery.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Masterclass for artists

There is a Photographic exhibition at the London Imperial war museum that would reward a visit by any artist; "Shaped by war" The photographs of Don McCullen. The show is a masterclass in the art of communicating the truth through imagery. Marked by his front line experiences as a war photographer for the Sunday Time magazine , McCullin admits that it was "A terrible way to make a living!" and adds that he was sometimes ashamed of humanity. Many of his images have become iconic because of their sheer power. He didn't use colour because he felt that it weakened the effectiveness of the image and one can instantly see why. Less here is truly more. He is a man whose work commands infinitely more respect than all the efforts of the Chapman brothers. You cannot look at his images of the Biafran war without coming away marked by them. The exhibition stands as a real and terrible witness to the very worst aspects of humanity and his work actually influenced the way we now regard ourselves. There can be no finer praise of an artist. He now photographs portraits and landscapes in an effort to expiate the guilt that he has to live with. You leave the exhibition emotionally transformed.


Some other artists to note this week:
Michael Lucasiewicz
David Kassan
David Carpanini
Eduardo Labrada Acuna
Terry Watts
David Frazer

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Two small things.

David Hepher

An artist of real integrity whose exhibition at Angela Flowers opens this week is David Hepher. His pictures of urban London tower blocks are gritty and real, well worth a consideration. Although he has dug a single lonely marginal furrow in terms of urban content and engaging with real peoples lives, he has done it with real integrity and dedication. Even his work from 1970's has a real concern with visual truth.


Obituary 
Peter de Francia -  painter.
With a constant welter of guff for artists who are seriously challenged, many really substantial painters are overlooked and ignored. One such is the painter Peter de Francia who has died at the age of ninety. Fortunately it is posterity that has the last say as to his real artistic worth and not the Mammon driven market. De Francia was a victim of the purge at the RCA in 1986 when  Sir Jocelyn Stevens, CVO sacked the entire teaching staff , a political act of vandalism from which the academic world of art has never recovered. De Francia was implacably opposed to the British art world and it's values, he is reported to have said that leaving Italy to work in Britain in 1949 was the biggest mistake of his life. He never really felt at home in the UK. He leaves a substantial body of work dense in political meaning and allusion. Perhaps now he may get the recognition he deserved and he was due, albeit too late.