Andre Wallace

Friday, October 30, 2015

Speak softly but carry a big stick!

This weeks best dross copy hasn't been written by an art critic, it's a piece of promotion for the White Cube gallery advertising a forthcoming George and Gilbert exhibition opening in November. The piece in the Gruniad is written by one Hannah Ellis-Petersen ( who she? ed) and contains everything that you need to know about  the rotting corpse that is contemporary Avant Garde Lite.
This may seem like a harsh judgement but read the article and judge it for yourself. It is difficult to comprehend how two grown men can reach the grand old age of 71 and 73 and still believe that it is perfectly acceptable to produce spray canned White banners with the kinds of graffitti that most 13 year olds would be ashamed of, and then pass it off as "art." Where have they been for the past sixty years of their sheltered hermetic existence? One thing is for sure, they have not been cultivating literacy.

" The “appalling messages” of Banners, says Gilbert and George, are not about violently attacking the viewer, as was the purpose of their Scapegoating series shown at White Cube last year, but about liberating audiences from liberal complacency.

“Europe is frigid,” says Gilbert. “People don’t know what to think and they are not able to say anything anymore because they are so liberal they are not allowed – they have lost their moral fibre, the moral strength, lost all their conviction to act.” 

So how does this inane verbiage actually present an assertion of moral fibre, strength or conviction? Surely it merely represents the tired same old attempt to offend and then fails dismally.

“We are in advance of politics, we think,” says George. “It’s a very simple fact that the novels of Dickens preceded legislation that stopped children working in factories. You have to have the knowledge and the culture first and then the politicians are dragged into doing things and changing things. The force of culture is generally misunderstood.”

Indeed if only the world were that simple; “More and more it is difficult to speak as an artist,” admits George. “Nobody hears you because there are too many and there are too many different ways of making art today that there didn’t use to be when we started out in 1969.”

“We have to shout louder with our pieces,” adds Gilbert. “Much louder now, all over the world.”  Yep! but they have the White Cube, and the Tate and the RA to promote their shouts. One cannot help but feel sorry at their plight.

Indeed one Karen Wright in the Independent of 30th November writes this: " Why does this work make me feel so angry? In a world transformed by the events in Paris, can we really stand by a banner saying "Ban religion.?" Is this art of our times dealing with the issues of our times - or work to be hung on the walls of the rich to look prescient and cool? Over to you reader."

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Challenging subversive contemporary art?

Jonathon Jones is getting all worked up about challenging subversive contemporary art in today's Guardian.  Rarely has one come across such a fawning piece of toady textual double think as this misbegotten article. He writes:

"Contemporary art may have all the hallmarks of establishment culture, but it is still Challenging, Subversive and Radical. It must be. The cleaners are still throwing it away."

So the knotty question of the value of contemporary art is easily resolved by it's having been disposed of by the cleaners. This is the measurement of it's artistic value and aesthetic significance. Bin it: therefore it is art! Art critics like Jones have no hesitation in attacking someone for their religious belief, but write trite tripe like this when they are extolling the virtues of their own unquestioning self deception concerning the significance of contemporary art. Doesn't he yet understand that the terms he uses as value judgements, i.e. provocative, challenging, subversive, radical and dangerous are completely defunct and redundant as terms of description for post modern art. Contemporary art is none of these things, it is establishment approved, all-pervasive, repetitive, passé, turgid, lightweight, boring and dominant.
Moreover, he cannot resist a dig at the lately deceased: "But still, the cleaners keep chucking stuff away – cussed working-class critics of modern art who are the last bastions of criticism now that Brian Sewell has gone." The truth is that many artists involved in making art are sick to their back teeth of this kind of dross copy from so called art critics. That said, cleaners have thrown contemporary art in the bin many times over the past century, to the extent that it now represents just another marketing strategy.

That's enough cleaners! (ed).

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Leggo shortage and Cave Art

This week brings news that Ai Wei Wei is very upset with Leggo which is quite amusing, because they refuse to sell to political activists, and believe it or not the wunderkind counts as one of these personages. Maybe that's his primary function but he will be saved by donations of Leggo from enthusiasts.

He says philosophically:
" I think my home is on the internet. Twitter is my home and my nation and I feel very comfortable there. Otherwise, I don’t care that much about material life. Sometimes there are materials lacking, such as I need Lego for my work, but that is fine,” .

No doubt that may be true, but one may have a lot more respect for this self-taught artist!! who digs out whole and entire caves as artworks.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Art Review 2015 Power 100

This morning the Independent tells us that Somerset is now the centre of the art world for Iwan and Manuela Wirth are resident in Bruton. Spent last two weeks looking at studios in Somerset's arts weeks and cannot say that this claim is in any sense justified for local artists. If anything there has been a decline in the past few years in the scope and range of genres being produced out there in the county of Somerset. The point surely is that the claim is based upon global selling and Hauser and Wirth draw their artworks and clients from a global base.
One is forced to ask who in all that's sacred draws up these lists and for whose benefit are they made? Whose interests do they serve and who really benefits from knowing that Hauser and Wirth are now number 1 ?

The list is interesting for what it doesn't list for as much as what it does, and the absence of the usual suspects is remarkable. Confining comments to artists there are some very thin careers here, conflated to a status way out of proportion to the work done: Also the notion of plagiarism is highly relevant when considering the meaningful content of much of these artist's products.

At 2 is Ai Wei Wei - ubiquitous Chinese conceptualist

At 8 is Marina Abramovic - ubiquitous performances

At 11 is Wolfgang Tillmans - ubiquitous photographer

At 14 is Jeff Koons - ubiquitous branded artist

At 27 is Gerhard Richter - proclaimed world's greatest living artist?

At 29 is Pierre Huyghe - dubious questionable concepts

At 30 is Theaster Gates - circularity

At 32 is Ryan Trecartin - Why?

At 41 is Cindy Sherman - It has been done before

At 42 is Rirkrit Tiravanija - portentous pretence

At 45 is Thomas Hirschhorn - confusing

At 51 is Steve McQueen - film director

At 53 is Yayoi Kasama - spots that really do work

At 54 is Liam Gillick - limited conceptual gruel

At 59 is the Christopher Wool - sign writer

At 67 is Luc Tuymans - weak paintings

At 81 is William Kentridge - painter who prefers black and white

At 83 is Trevor Paglen - questionable photographs

At 89 is Rick Lowe - thin-ish

At 94 is Carter Cleveland - video-ish

What is above all noticeable about the choice of artists here is the almost complete lack of humane sensibility and sympathetic visual interest. The emotional stances the works express are all ones that we have seen over a hundred thousand times before and nothing except the formal weakness of the media handling is original.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The future won't thank you for your predictions!

There is a Chinese proverb that says it is the business of the future to be dangerous.

Was reminded of this by this collection of edwardian paintings predicting the year 2000 from the Independent which was published on the 5th Oct. What is interesting about the images is not just how wrong or correct the predictions are but how trivial and effete the mechanical concepts appear to our cynical sensibilities. Many of the se futurist ideas have come about but in other forms and as the result of completely unforeseen technological advances. This illustrates what a thankless task attempting any future prediction is.
For example the school room is now full of ipads or PCs which convey information in all forms from video to reading. Similarly most farmers now have tractors that work with very accurate Satnav, and tailors still work by hand, only in third world sweatshops. All in all a perfect demonstration of getting it visually wrong. It would have been interesting to see what they thought the art of 2000 would have looked like.

Friday, October 09, 2015

Frank Auerbach at Tate Britian

Jonathon Jones writes a full page in today's Guardian about Frank Auerbach. Haven't been too enamoured of his written efforts lately as they seem to frequently miss the point of an artist's work and this is no exception.

He writes; ""His paintings of people are not portraits. They have more in common with the genre known in 17th-century Holland as “tronies” – heads painted not to record individuals but to explore fantastical visages.""

In reality this could not be further than the truth: It makes no mention of the lengthy process by which the artist draws with hundreds of paint layers and arrives at the 3D Paint image. This process is a very long procedure of trial and error that's deeply rooted in repeatedly seeing and altering. Auerbach a direct descendant of the late great David Bomberg and he uses similar techniques as Bomberg did to root out a deep empirically based truth about the person being depicted, as Jones is man enough to admit:  

"My generation deserve a rebuke for pretending Auerbach’s genius was an outdated fashion. Instead, we get this brave and challenging lesson from the master."

Indeed they do deserve a rebuke but is anyone listening? It is good though that Auerbach is getting the Tate exposure that he richly deserves, he is one of the Uk's most original painters.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

David Inshaw and discerning eye

David Inshaw is the quintessential English artist, and his work belongs to the grand old tradition of observed eccentric landscape that goes way back to Samuel Palmer. David Lambirth is promoting his book about his painting and making claims for it's significance. He writes:
 "The challenge facing any realist painter in the 21st century is how to depict the world around us with memorable originality. Somehow an artist has to make us see the world anew and discover in it a resonance applicable to our era and condition. Inshaw has done this by investing his imagery with the sense of wonder he feels in the West Country landscape, coupled with an instinctive understanding of the deep contradictory currents of the human heart. His paintings are so compelling because he is not afraid to paint beauty and mystery with a ringing clarity that goes to the head like champagne."

"  Inshaw is not a speedy painter, but reworks and refines an image until he’s entirely satisfied with it. This long meditative process has given rise to a substantial catalogue of pictures notable for their lyrical poignancy and affectionate warmth."

Paradoxically Inshaw's work was better known in the 1980's when he was with Waddington's and a member of the Ruralists. It has gone on improving though and is proof that good art often comes from small concerns. It is all a matter of lending the commonplace a new significance which is what all great art has done throughout history. He is extremely popular with museum and gallery visitors and his cards sell well.

Which is the purview of the discerning eye exhibition at the Mall galleries. There will be some very good works to see there. Interesting video concerning exhibition at the Pangolin Gallery.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

China and Art education

This link has recently cropped up concerning China's spending on art education which is increasing exponentially whilst here in the UK a government that is hostile to fine art is very busy reducing access to art education by ensuring every school is a free school or an academy by the end of this parliament.  Which simply means that they are free of national curriculum rules that force them to teach arts subjects. In short the very important concept of a balanced curriculum for the 21st century is now within the purview of some doubtful interests.
Note too that the Independent is reporting on the crisis in our foremost art college the RCA. It's very clear that this UK government seems not to care what art colleges actually produce besides artists. The Independent reports that:
"Students held a silent protest in May, complaining about cuts to degree show opening hours, as well as how the fees were being spent. One held a sign that said “Too much rector’s pay! Not enough RCA.”

Some have complained that student numbers are increasing while the number of teachers has remained the same. In 2012 there were 1,050 students and two years later that had risen to 1,350. Like other universities, the RCA is looking for ways to cope with cuts to its Government grant. In 2014, its funding was £13.7m but in the most recent accounts it predicted a fall in 2015/16." Other university fine art courses are being closed, and here we are talking about the best art college in the UK.

Andrew Marr has also expressed his concern! he says that Christopher Frayling complains that the RCA will just become a Chinese finishing school like the London university of the Arts is already doing. A number of commentators have reported that the government isn't aware that art colleges teach design which is absolutely crucial to the recovery and the economy. If one can say anything about the conservative party it is that they are fundamentally hostile towards art and throughout a lifetime, art has been invariably marginalised whenever they have been in power. Their hostility towards design education is however utterly inexplicable.  

Meanwhile as they say, school education in the UK is also struggling and the police are very concerned about a significant rise of crime in schools.  It is hard to judge whether this may be due to the fact that every little misdemeanour is now reported or whether there is a significant rise in crime?  Way back, when teachers were in control of their classrooms this didn't happen because they usually dealt with it unless it had to be notified. There is also this colouring in, app from Disney which creates a 3d character and then animates it for you. How on earth does this actually help anyone learn to draw?  More market place technological stupidity looking for a raison d'etre, but this one actually successfully reduces children's creativity.

Over at the Sunday Times:
Waldemar Januszczak is exultant about Damien Hirsts gift to the nation of a new Gallery in Shoreditch. The first exhibition being that of the recently deceased John Hoyland who maybe undervalued but whose work is largely colour abstraction. He writes: "So far so wonderful, the downstairs spaces at Hirst's new venture and the fine selection of Hoyland's hanging in them offer some of the purest joys I have recently experienced in a gallery".

Waldemar is also very keen on the "World goes Pop" at the Tate Modern. This is pure revisionist curation of the artwork that didn't get a look in when Pop was new in the 60s or 70s. All Pop art is shallow and derivative, and here it's obvious why Martha Rosler, Evelyn Axell and Jerry Zielinski were invisible in the 1960s and their work hasn't improved one jot over the intervening time. Thats ok now though, because now that conceptual art standards have fallen through the floor, no-one at all will notice.