Andre Wallace

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Art student unrest

Students at Central St Martin's are revolting as they often did way back in the sixties. Their present beef is financial, although to read their online demands they are using the opportunity to make some odd requests.  Remember long ago in the 60's when a sit-in was taken down by an art school principle who had not long before survived a Japanese prisoner of war camp, he did not take prisoners, it collapsed.

Occupy UAL: Demands
- No cuts to student places
- No staff redundancies
- UAL should use its weight as a large arts instituition to lobby the govt. against the FE cuts
- Stop the £500k Widening Participation cuts
- Liberate the curriculum (we want more black artists, theorists and lecturers)
- Implement anonymous marking – Mark our work, not our names!
- Financial transparency, what is going on with budgets and how are they allocated.
- Student and staff reps to sit on the Executive Board
- Fair pay for all staff, including outsourced staff – close huge the pay gap
- No nepotism
- Take a stand against tuition fees, cuts and student debt
- Abolish materials and printing costs
- No to privitisation
- Affordable accomodation
- No sanctions or punishments for students & staff involved in this peaceful occupation
- Freedom to move in and out of the occupation

Anonymous marking, now that really is revolutionary. How will that one work when they are practising as "anonymous" artists and designers? The bitter truth is that there are far, far too many artists out there trying to scrape a crust as it is, many of them being exploited by employers in jobs they are over-qualified for. But that doesn't mean to say that the creative industries don't need workers because they really do. It is also about time these industries started actually paying their way and providing decent salaries, so we can vaguely hope that the revolution starts here.     There has been too much exploitation of artists and unpaid internships for way too long. If you are thinking of taking an unpaid internship, carefully consider the fact that only 7% lead to an real job. We are perfectly entitled to despise promotors of slavery (to call it what it actually is) and that is exactly what it is - exploitation.

Today 10th April brings the news of legal action by the college against the students which is proof if proof were needed that education is business. Shelly Asquith, president of the student union, is one of those named on the injunction. She says: “I was not consulted whatsoever over huge changes to our courses; and now I have an injunction being brought against me for having the nerve to protest against the cuts.

News of the same thing happening in South Wales where they are trying to save a course from the cuts.

Which brings us to Turner prize artist Marvin Gaye Chetwind who has found a new street-wise and relevant moral and ethical role designing playgrounds for children. She has started in Dagenham, which was once upon a time a byword for inner city deprivation. Only now, it has good well performing schools and it is the poor white children in UK rural locations who are the deprived. 
She says:  “In Britain, artists are often thought of as tricksters or p--- artists – and certainly not as useful. But in Europe, they are really respected, and that’s great. I think of this project as art that has come out of the studio. It’s not elitist, it’s on the street, it’s art being functional – and that’s amazing.”
Well yes, it is very good to be useful but doesn't that mean that it is really design rather than fine art, because it is actually functional and useful.

Very depressing there is more evidence of the endemic British sickness, cultural amnesia and the consequential race to the bottom, the Guardian fears for the future of the arts after the next election whichever party wins.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Richard Diebenkorn at the RA ?

This week there has been very little art apart from the Goya and Impressionism exhibitions. There is the Richard Diebenkorn exhibition at the RA though which Laura Cummings has reviewed in the Observer. She writes accurately this tribute;

"This is what connects late with early; all of these paintings are bent on seeing and depicting the same thing – cities and landscapes – in new ways. The elements may be the same, the architecture of lines and planes, the suave black drawing, the patches, clusters and veils of atmospheric colour. But the sense of endeavour, of tension, scrutiny and indecision changes every time and makes each painting vital and restless for all its composure. Even at the end, Diebenkorn is still trying to work out another way to give us the light and space of California."

Diebenkorn is a grand old man of american painting along with Wayne Thiebaud both of whom have grown in stature since the 1950's. Their work will survive long after most of the rest of today's dross has been washed away because their art is rooted like Picasso's in the real world. It depicts real perceptual phenomena. Diebenkorn has produced some of the best late twentieth century life drawings in existence. Highly recommended if you want to see some real art. Adrian Searle writes: "Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park paintings occupy a sort of hinterland. They’re a beautiful distraction, paintings to lose your way inside. They’re not quite landscapes, not geometric abstractions and not exactly colour-field painting either. They belong to a time and place but have in them times and places all their own. They’re accumulations of incident within a larger scheme of things. You can see Diebenkorn thinking as he paints, getting lost, turning back, wandering off into the fields, finding the larger view."

Down in devon Damien Hirst has run short of photo realist painters so if you are an artist and fancy moving to Devon apply to extend brand production. Hirst is a publicity junky so there is this story concerning an original spot painting whose sale has been blocked by him. "Jess Simpson, who has owned the home with her husband Roger since 2005, has removed Bombay Mix, mounted it on an aluminium backing board, and framed it in the hopes of selling it. In doing so, she has run into firm opposition from the artist and his team."  

Jeff Koons is also ramping up the production of his brand, he now has 12 computer-operated stone-cutting machines, two robots and around 30 employees and he has a large public $8.000.000 commission for Sacramento Basketball team to complete. This is not very popular however, the protest gathers momentum.

Then there is the great Impressionism blockbuster that is drawing all the crowds at present at the National gallery. This has been extensively reviewed by everyone and is a bit boringly passe. Strictly for the newly converted to art as a religion types. Dorment tells us it's fantastic here.

Lastly and very depressingly more evidence of the endemic British sickness, amnesia and the consequential race to the bottom, the Guardian fears for the future of the arts.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

The Fourth Plinth - a horse skeleton

The BBC held an arts question time in response to the Warwick report on the state of our culture. It was a very disappointing program full of time serving self promotion and a total failure to expose the truth as is usual with TV.  The Telegraph couldn't resist using it for a poke at the arts and published an article by one Rupert Christiansen with the worst piece of unconsidered dross copy I have read this year.
Particularly this unconsidered pig ignorance :"And what about the role of "the arts" in schools? Should we really be so fervently encouraging young people to be "creative", when standards of literacy and numeracy are so low? Shouldn’t schools be more focused on priding children with useful practical skills, such as speaking foreign languages or understanding the legal system? Our universities spend billions of pounds half-educating people in "the arts", when society has far more urgent calls for manufacturing and industrial skills: aren't "the arts" ultimately enfeebling us as much as enriching us?"

It isn't worth arguing with a clown who doesn't know what a useful practical skill is, never mind the accusation of half educated arts graduates....... Or one who isn't aware that high achievement in the arts leads to improvements in basic subjects such as maths and english. As for the UK's industrial and manufacturing skills, the comment is risible. The copywriter for that is all he is, doesn't realise that 85% of his readers have no economic access to the precious legal system. He is the one who is half educated, and he should know that his Tory political masters allowed our industries and manufacturing to go off to China. (Which is now building, 230 art colleges)

 Mary Moore daughter of the great sculptor has taken exception to Damien Hirst for putting art back 100 years. The issue with the work of Hirst and others was that it relied on title and the cube it was in, she said. It was much more about having to read the label to know what was going on." 
She is quite correct to make this criticism, lack of considered formal values and sculptural considerations is the main hallmark of avant garde lite. She argues that Hirst brought back the frame after her father had dispensed with it. This is a purely formal issue, anyone who has studied sculpture knows that the object - whatever it is, has to work in the round, that it has to be seen from all points of view - which is exactly why Michaelangelo said that painting was women's work. Hirst presents natural and manufactured objects usually in a rectangular box or frame. It can be simply understood from one 90 degree angle it's symmetry and it's label. 

Moving on there has been much discussion by our erstwhile critics of the Victorian sculpture show at Tate Britian. Laura Cumming writes this which is incomprehensible:"Yet Tate Britain’s claim that this is “a golden age for sculpture” is itself outlandish. It might be a golden age for commissions, and popularity, but the art itself is wildly variable." When was it not in any situation one might ask? There are real skills on display here and not a little real art.  You have to be able to see it!

The Spectator has a pop at Penelope Curtis which seems to be a common press pursuit these days (google it!). The real culprit is Sir Nicholas but the conceptually addled Richard Dorment couldn't resist putting the boot into the Victorian sculpture exhibition. The poor dear has only just at the tender age of sixty nine, it seems, woken up to the fact that art history and art criticism as forms of knowledge are contingent upon the reason for their production, no more no less. Which says much for his capacity for reflection upon his own writing. He writes this in genuine anger: "I couldn’t care less when they to publish their low-grade, pseudo-historical twaddle in periodicals no one reads. But to see it in a catalogue published by a respected institution like Tate is depressing, because it will now be repeated over and over until it becomes the accepted view of Victorian sculpture." He really should get out more. Since when has that not always been the case? Reminds me of the paper I wrote on the hatchet job Sir John Rothenstein (former director of Tate Britain) did on Sir William Orpen. If you want to read that, it is on the Jackdaw website. 

The fourth plinth is in the news again, this time due to a skeletal horse by Hans Haake. A stock market ticker tape runs around the horses neck, so we are informed that the whole thing is a critique of rampant capitalism as in the 2008 banking crash. Haake has some form for this sort of political comment, but one can and one is entitled to ask would the symbolism work without the conceptual description to tell us that he is having a go at the city? How and why does a horse's skeleton symbolise the city of London and the banking crash? 
The answer is this:  "Asked whether his piece was a criticism of the power of money, Haacke said: “The title is Gift Horse and that implies that something is off…"

Monday, March 02, 2015

History is now - at the Hayward!

Waldemar Januszczak - Sunday Times 22.2.2015 writes an article entitled The state we are in concerning the "History is now", show at the Hayward which purports to be a selection of meaningful art for consideration vis the election. 1970's and 1980's stuff mainly and no, do not see the connection?

Seven artists have been asked to curate the exhibition and with one exception they are state art acolytes. The exception is Richard Hamilton's 1980's canvases of the Northern Ireland troubles and Januszczak says the show starts well and finishes well but the middle is very poor. "Confused and confusing" there are some artists here who don't work with the exhibition brief, Roger HiornsHannah Sarkey and John Akomfra for instance.The tenor of his criticism is also poor, state art hype to the front he remarks that: "the sight of the redundant bloodhound missile on the forecourt made for a thrilling sculptural sight" which is the usual. No missile can be a work of art and only a conceptually biassed critic would confuse the two. What one is entitled to ask; is life enhancing or positive about a guided missile whose sole function is to kill? Mind you the Tate did it first with Fiona Banner not long agoRichard Wentworth's missile,  is a quaint piece of non meaning, it is certainly not a sculpture, you far are better off going to the Hendon aircraft museum or Duxford, and UK people are doing exactly that as the Tate's attendance figures have recently proved. People do not want to see this stuff.

Our lad Alistaire Sooke likes it as a statement because it is pointed at the city? but he says he is exhausted by this exhibition.
He writes this bunk: "Moreover, Wentworth is unafraid of visual drama: outside on a balcony, he positions one of the few surviving Bloodhound surface-to-air guided missiles deployed by the RAF during the Cold War. (It appears to be aimed in the general direction of the City.) If only the weaker, impenetrable parts of this exhibition had been more like his one." Which only goes to prove that he was not around in the cold war......  He also pens this piece of brown nosed name dropping: "I left in a cloud of unknowing, defeated by the cacophony of so many competing voices, but sympathetic towards officials such as John Chilcot, who have to sift masses of evidence like this while chairing inquiries in order to compile their findings. No wonder it takes them so long."

The Standard has lost the plot as it seems to no longer employ the feisty Brian Sewell and someone called Ben Luke pens this hype : " - there’s Sam Taylor-Johnson’s celebrity-tastic, feelgood film of David Beckham sleeping, for instance. Fujiwara’s might be the most contemporary section but everything here feels pertinent to now in its own way. It’s a portrait of Britain as a deeply complicated, often inspired and sometimes infuriating place.
It leaves us with much to ponder about our past and present as we head for the voting booths in May." Oh yes does it then, like how we got into this degenerate state? State art as a critical comment on the status quo - how does that scan?  One can only say that Brian would have made justifiable mincemeat of this.