Andre Wallace

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Newly defined - but - Not Art ?

A number of exhibitions around at the moment seem demonstrate that little contemporary visual art is being produced. Never before have so many been pouring out schlock for the market place all in the name of art whilst passing themselves off as self-taught artists.

This irritates Waldemar Janusczcak who gets very hot under the collar in the Sunday Times of 14/07 about the latest Art world insider wheeze. Apparently those intense artworld acolytes have discovered, courtesy of the now deceased Richard Hamilton, that food is contemporary art. Elbulli the now defunct restaurant  at the end of the universe is feted as art at Somerset House. Waldemar says no, it is not art and never will be despite the dearth of real art out there. All the will in the world  will not do, art is an artistic and aesthetic pleasure that is absorbed through the eye and the mind and not through the guts or the intestines. Have a look at these conflated gastronomic disasters and see if you know which is art ?

This brings us to other examples of pseudo-art; saying that it is contemporary art when it truly is not. This can be literally infantile in intention. This mostly applies to exhibits which cannot redefine art, which is now an antique gesture from 1917!

This could form the basis for a whole new MA Paper entitled It is certainly art - Self justification and self delusion in contemporary art forms."

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Archeologists angry with the usual suspect

Two articles in today's Independent have seemingly nothing in common.

The first one is on the usual suspect Dead serious Hirst student photo riles Richard 3rd academics. The archeologists concerned have been sufficiently annoyed to state publicly that the photo disrespects a dead man, which of course it does. They said that a person who in good faith left his body to medical science - a philanthropic act, has been betrayed by an insensitive student for egocentric reasons. Quite so, this blog also said that over a year ago, the image lacks all sensibility and is exploitative, an abuse of power over the powerless. An act of desecration on a dead person, it was shown in his big Tate Modern show and is now at the Walsall art gallery - as is usual the artist's spokesman have failed to respond to their letter.

The second article, again from the Independent concerns A young lady who is one to watch. In the subsection Radar there is this fluff concerning a seventeen year old student at Westminster public school Atalanta Arden Miller who is seen posing with her self portrait which she has sold for £300 and was accepted for the prestigious 2013 Ruth Borchard self portrait competition. She intends to go to art school we are told! Good for her! but where is she going to find an art school that can nurture her precocious figurative skill in the UK? Apart that is, from the Princes Art School in Hoxton?  Self taught artists, that fashionable tripe, are merely the blind leading the blind. Don't wish to rain upon her parade, but, and it is a very big but - The image that accompanies the article says two things, one, that no-one has taught her how to measure the proportions of the face. Two good though it may be in the present educational system it is at a level of achievement that was normal for a grade B at A level art and design in 1964. Children simply don't do much art any more, too many academic exams to pass.

How are these two articles connected you may ask? They are both evidence that despite all the media tedious hype there is no such animal as progress in visual art. The first because young usual suspect should have been sufficiently sensitive to have known what he was doing. His photo drags contemporary art into the gutter (doesn't he look guilty in the photo?). The second is evidence (if evidence is needed) that figurative art skills have bombed in the past 50 years. A competent performance of the 1960's is now triumphantly held up in the national press as evidence of a future art genius.

Ever tried getting hold of 1950's or 60's GCE examination papers in any subject? It is quite impossible because the truth is so embarrassing the exam boards really really do not want anyone to know. There is a school website which has links to old examination papers - every year it is inundated by journalists seeking copy to prove that examination standards are improving. They quickly find that today's examinations are light years away from that which pertained 50 years ago - but not at all in the direction they expected.  So it is with art, all A2 students in the country should be working at Atalanta's level. They aren't,  and degree students aren't, because talk and essays are more important to conceptual art education than visual art or drawing skills. What would musicians do without notation? So it is with art, drawing skill comes first before everything else and despite the national curriculum where it is enshrined there is now no-one who is able or willing to teach it in the education system.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Art Attack

This week's news includes a piece about an artist who made a mistake with his skip resourced materials which has proved very costly!  Difficult to feel sympathy for him as nothing is free in this world!

Also this week, news of a forthcoming Tate show dedicated to attacks upon art, or iconoclasm as it used to be called - which is disturbing Jonathon Jones and has indications of becoming fashionable - the usual suspects Jake and Dinos already make a career out of defacing others artists work ( as do some other trendys ) and they will be showing alongside all the historical vandalism. They do this in the name of financial rather than aesthetic improvement. Thanks to hedge fund managers they are rich enough to deface even Goya's etchings. No-one mentions the cultural damage of this graffitti to a finite cultural resource, unlike Chapman brothers on-going produce. 
Note that the curators name is Stacey Boldrick. She says that the show will not be passing judgement on the art,  just exploring the reasons for the attacks.  The reasons are often not so much the art itself as the concepts or privilege that it embodies or represents. Historically when Henry 8th dissolved  the monasteries the art was attacked because of what it represented to protestant reformers. Similarly fathers for justice pick upon iconic images or images that represent the establishment. This isn't to say that women don't have form too, both suffragettes and feminists have physically attacked art.

Definitely a subject for yet another PhD art history thesis the world doesn't need, there are much more pressing issues for the chattering classes to attend to, but our institutions are good at creating distraction that confirm the self absorbed zeitgeist.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Looking at Lowrys

This years BP sponsored portrait award has thrown up a mixed bag of efforts. Generally interesting this year they seem to be the usual mix of extreme realism and quirky idiosyncratic images. These artists have made quite interesting paintings; Miseon Lee, Carl Randall, Ian Cumberland (again), John Devane, and Clara Drummond

The Saatchi gallery is hardly ever out of the press, and is now showing an exhibition called simply Paper. Charles Darwent states the obvious when he says it is being oversold and has oversold itself. Nothing new to see there then, just the usual stuff?

The press is full of L. S. Lowry at present, the critics Charles Darwent, Waldemar Janusczcak, Laura Cumming Richard Dorment and Adrian Hamilton have all had their penny worth, and what a dismal effort they do make of it. Mildly amusing, their stance is predictable - as state art acolytes, presume to slag off T J Clark - the most revered modernist art critic of the past thirty years for his curation of the show mainly because he is american. Would that they had his in depth knowledge. The heart of their remarks is a complete failure of  empathy, they don't like what they see or even want to attend to it.
Darwent says that Lowry dehumanises the urban working class into a mob of flat-capped morlocks frozen in a dreadful day of back to backs and malnutrition choking smogs and lice.  This simply betrays ignorance of the truth which Lowry carefully observed - younger folk do not know what they do not know, it makes them uncomfortable when they are arguing that old age pensioners are not pulling their weight and suffering the recession like the rest of us. This is because many of these old age pensioners have a far more direct knowledge of real suffering and deprivation than any metro art critic could even begin to conceive of - that it was actually quite bad up north in the thirties, forties and fifties! The internet, the media world did not exist. Darwent then admits he finds his work repellent - which speaks of privilege. His text is made worse by the fact that he thinks Moores shelter drawings depict subhuman proles. These are sculptors working drawings, they are not careful expositions of the human condition.
Janusczcak is a little more sympathetic and agrees that the arts council commission Lowry did in the 1950's in the final room of the exhibition are notable in both their size and their importance. The problem with Lowry's painting is that it is all cliche, all repetition and all fairly depressing. But who, apart from Saatchi decreed that all art has to be light and entertaining? Some of the most beautiful western art in existence is very depressing, think of the raft of the Medusa, or any crucifixion.
Laura Cumming cannot get away from Lowry's people,  she finds them bizarre and only half real. She explains that people want to make him a socialist or a sentimentalist, a genius or an outsider. He was all these things and more. As such he tends to be all things to all people and leaves a gap for the viewer to fill. I suspect that Cumming is right that there is a curious absence, a void at the heart of his work, maybe he just did not like people. Certainly you cannot argue that he was a rabid or passionate humanist. He, like many landscape painters such as Turner or Claude, could not depict human beings, maybe did not even want to. Whatever else they do, Lowry's paintings state uncomfortable historical truths about the vicious class system in the UK. They were never intended for the consumption of metropolitan elite in the south east, except as criticism.  Brian Sewell also has little time for Lowry, accusing him of limited aesthetics and intellect, a victim of his own style but with no real empathy for the people he painted! This may be quite accurate in substance.

Ageing YBA Gillian Wearing has come in for a drubbing re-evaluation from Jonathon Jones at the Guardian. He accuses her of ordinariness, which is plain ridiculous, she cannot be held responsible for mass imitation by her peers. Note that he seems to have had some kind of Pauline epiphany and is now suffering from a distinct bout of honesty, it won't last though!