Andre Wallace

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Why do the arts matter?

Surprised to find this cropped up recently:

"The arts matter because they can and do in a million different ways make life bearable and they do that in good times and in bad, for the arts are part of the enduring and and always needed zeal of Irish life"

They matter because they are our main affirmation of our humanity. As David Aspin once said: " A group of aliens arrive on earth and say they will wipe out the human race as a failed experiment unless we can offer them proof we are worth preserving. What do we offer? Not science, not technology, not anything except the arts. Just Hamlet, a Rembrandt or La Boheme, these are the things that affirm our status as animals and human beings. The arts matter more than all of the rest because they affirm our true value."

Eric Fishchl Is a very successful artist whose visual content has always been difficult to pigeon hole. Guess the content of his work is american cultural decadence but he seems to be biting the hand that feeds him with his latest work or is he actually subversively flattering the hedge fund classes? He has always been ahead of the marketing curve so expect that the visual content is designed to flatter by association. The pecuniary association of collecting contemporary art, that is.

This week has seen the Frieze exhibition in London but it seems to have had less press publicity than the Banksy that got defaced. The thing that has always annoyed about Banksy is on display here, which is that the defaced work actually seems like a distinct improvement upon the purported original. What that says about graffiti is a mystery. 

Also one of the years events is the publication of Art Reviews power 100, the top (as in most powerful) people in art, this year is headed by (the president for life) Sir Nicholas Serota. Notable for the absence of any UK artists whatsoever, Koons is there but his star has waned recently which goes to prove just how spurious these invented publicity lists are. Perhaps the Artlyst alternative list is a more helpful guide to how things are?

Lastly there is the opportunity to have your tattoo done by the Chapman bros at the Jerwood gallery. Now isn't that the most exciting artistic prospect you have seen for a long time? No, isn't it? Expect huge queues of the lost and bewildered in Hastings. One thing though, as one who believes that the unadorned human body is quite the most beautiful thing on the planet its seems right to remind readers that the cost of a tattoo is in excess of £5,000, which is the minimum you will have to pay for it's removal by lazer and the resultant scarring.

Lastly an interesting discussion about the current state of painting in the UK from Edward Lucie Smith, shame about his chosen and preferred artists though!
Nuff said.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Banksy internet hoax and some not contemporary art.

Well always said that Graffiti was a criminal act and we know it is damaging other people's property. The fact that they promptly have the wall removed and some comedian flogs it off asap doesn't alter the fact that it is technically a property crime. Banksy has a Robin Hood public profile that has so far protected him from prosecution and had a much over subscribed and heated exhibition at Bristol Museum and Art gallery a few years ago. The artist is in need of publicity to have pulled this internet stunt. Guess we will all get to know the truth soon if we care to find it.

This week the Sunday press is full of articles on the big Rembrandt Show at the National gallery. Truly the block buster of the year. Looking at the reviews is interesting in so far as it points up the contrasts between a very traditional visual artist and today's conceptualists.

To take Waldemar Januszczak for instance, he says that it all adds up to a complete rewrite of art history. The show defines his late work as that produced in the last ten years of his life. He died age sixty three. There are a magnificent series of self portraits that show, according to Waldemar a great artist at the top of his game. Laura Cumming is similarly impressed and she writes: "The final paintings are monuments of truth. Dark and knotted images that close in on many faces, they make you feel you are seeing these saints and martyrs and humble people in person as well as in paint."  which indeed you are.

Well, well, well what a revelation, that an artwork should tell the truth. But hang on for a second wasn't that what all great art purported to do above all else until Duchamp's urinal messed it up? 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

American and Chinese - abject Cultural Appropriation.

This week brings up one Richard Tuttle at the Tate Turbine Hall. Truly a huge monumental space, have never seen one exhibition there that really managed to hold it's own with the industrial scale architecture. A spatial nightmare for any artist to exhibit in, it would be far better it was broken up into manageable units of rational size for sane sized exhibitions. Not asinine attempts to promote the status of questionable artistic concerns, hubris all of it.

Jonathon Jones thinks it's all lovely, which goes to prove he is on course for achieving the status of king of state art promotion. He does say however it's all rather short on meaning, but whenever did that stop any conceptual artist in their tracks? Liked this comment ;

"Tuttle is a godfather to the most pretentious stuff you’ll find at such events. (the Frieze) Lots of apparent intelligence, but not so clever when you think about it." I.e. Lacking in any relevant or cogent meaning.

Abject art is in the news yet again. Have no problem dismissing the status of this asinine provocation as non-art. The French have become incensed over the desecration of the Place de Vendome as well they might, McCarthy is old enough to know better than to insult a whole nation with this cultural appropriation representing true american cultural values....... He was reported as being slapped across the face for insulting the French people or was that just the necessary publicity stunt to promote what is in effect a deplorably lazy piece of kitsch. What offends most is the fact that the man is passing it off as art. But then dragging us all down is what this bewildered product is all about, as if there wasn't enough to concern us with Ebola and IS. Seems that real life events may well quickly render this sort of art-excuse totally redundant.

Talking of cultural appropriation this little problem from Chinaman Ai Wei Wei slipped quietly under the radar. He has mounted an exhibition at Blenheim which coincidently is in the news due to the death of John Spencer Churchill the Duke of Marlborough. The exhibition includes porcelain crabs, and a corridor carpet with tank tracks for it's design. Why and what does it mean?  Florence Waters in the Telegraph visited and saw nothing except fun whilst Jackie Wullschlager in the FT called it a dizzying convergence of world views... So much for their lack of art criticism. Linkedin picked it up and some cogent questions got asked by other artists. The concern is this, Chinese symbolism is arcane and hierarchical requiring a completely literal interpretation whilst conceptual art is wide open to continual mis-interpretation and confusion. There is no clarity of meaning in this exhibition just legions of ambiguities which could easily amount to sly cultural appropriation in a leading UK stately home.

Present UK art education problems are pointed up by the Saatchi Gallery summary of the existentially dire and appalling state of higher level art education in the UK. The man has only himself to blame for effectively subverting contemporary art values. The goose that laid the golden eggs is truly gutted and well roasted. So oversized model airplane structure such as Tuttle's get passed off as actual sculpture.

Jonathon Jones explores invisible art here, but it's just a silly spoof.

This is a really interesting discussion from this weeks Frieze exhibition, William Kentridge on great artworks.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Jonathon Jones on Ms Emin

Guardian of 7th October has a piece of drivel by Mr Jonathon Jones. The entire article is an obsequious conflation of Ms Emin's skills as a draughts person which contains some truly awful copy. It was written to promote her new show at the White Cube called "The last great adventure is you".

Conflating and hyping that which she has problems with (i.e. drawing) with the drawings of Michaelangelo is simply insulting to ones intelligence. Yet he does exactly that with this garbage :"The human figure is just as expressive as the human face. Michelangelo knew that and so does Emin." So what does that say?

Then he goes on with this copy:  "Emin is an expressionist. Whether she’s using readymade objects or sketching, her true purpose is to communicate passion. The reason she is the most important British artist of her generation is that she really does have a powerful subject – her life, like anyone’s life, is interesting; it matters. Why not share it? Here she rises to heights of beauty and depths of horror as she shares epiphanies of love and loneliness."

What is he talking about, this is all artist's task and there is little of what he describes in these conflated scribbles. She has a sparse appreciation of the formal possibilities of form, line, tone or any of the visual values which great drawing demonstrates. Yet Jones goes out of his way to prove that turnips are pearls. Presumably he thinks we are blind, look at the discussion thread below the article for plenty of proof that the man on the Clapham Omnibus isn't fooled. All of them did art at school, all of them know what a good drawing is. What sort of parallel universe does he inhabit?

The Guardian discussion post had this post;

"She can draw, yes, but she can't draw very well. I've seen the show. The nudes look like sweepings from the floor of Roger Hilton's studio (and he could draw very well). If she is 'the most important British artist of her generation' then roll on the next.

We are already seeing, among artists born after Dame Tracey first started making her presence known, a return to craft, high seriousness, formal experiment and self-effacement."

These are true observations and have seen recent evidence of high minded and accurate academic drawing by local students. You can either do it or you cannot do it and students are beginning to demand that they are taught it.

For once Alistaire Sooke in the Telegraph gets it right; " Life drawing, bronze-casting: like many a wild-child radical before her, Emin in middle age is repositioning herself as a traditionalist at heart. Having gone back to school, though, perhaps she would have been wise to leave her homework out of public view."  And this :" Occasionally her draughtsmanship approaches something like tension and urgency, but more often it lapses into vague meandering and wishy-washiness." 

Ms Emin says here on this web discussion that she was sacked and that Michael Landy is now Professor of drawing at the RA.

We also learn from one Chris Harvey in the Telegraph that Ms Emin is sensitive to the unfair and vicious online criticism she receives. Indeed Twitter is a problem for many people but is it unfair to criticise her incompetence?. Quentin Letts in the mail is not at all impressed by the show and accuses the artist of dragging civilisation down! His anger shows in this remarks about the quality of the drawing :"Miss Emin, as her constant emphasis on sex shows, is a sensual creature. Yet she displays contempt for anything which is pleasing to the eye, while she happily pockets millions of pounds."

That is not the behaviour of one devoted to artistic truth. It is the behaviour of a hypocrite."

However, this all relates directly to this art education problem which is taxing some managers in higher education who are only to blame for their own asinine stupidity when they threw out the baby (drawing) with the bathwater. Many of the conceptual artist teachers who cannot draw in any true sense of the word are no use to anyone, least of all students who are crying out to be taught how to draw well.

    Thursday, October 09, 2014

    Tate sponsorship and corporations.

    The Tate comes in for some criticism in the Guardian of 8/10/14. The subject of which is sponsorship by BP, discussions and minutes of meetings which will have to be disclosed in future. The information commission have insisted that the minutes of all meetings with sponsors must be placed in the public realm, but the Tate has appealed and the case goes to the information tribunal for judgement in the next few weeks.
    This is no simple matter, the fight for information by liberate Tate aims to shine a light on the 25year old relationship between BP and the Tate. Even the FT has questioned the complete lack of transparency. Playwright Mark Ravenhill questions the motivation of big corporations as sponsors when their philanthropy is seen as PR, enhancing their brand, to the detriment of the institution.
    A statement from the Tate said that they do not disclose sponsorship values. The fact is that if public institutions become reliant upon corporate sponsorship it will inevitably compromise their autonomy and function in terms of the art that they show collect and value. Corporate values are not cultural values and the Tate has a duty to everyone not just BP. They are completely reliant upon public funds after all, so logically they should be subject to open public scrutiny without any trace of a questioning the publics right to know what they do with sponsorship monies.