Andre Wallace

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Cornelia Parker sometime YBA

The weekend press has articles about Cornelia Parkers forthcoming exhibition in Manchester to celebrate the re-opening of the Whitworth Gallery after a £15 million revamp.  First off she talks to Tim Adams in the Observer and he says this of her;"

"She has that sense that some of the freedoms fought for in the 60s and 70s are being erased. Though she has always, she says, felt herself an outsider to any art establishment – she studied at Wolverhampton Poly rather than Goldsmith’s, and though sometimes co-opted was never a convincing YBA – she enjoyed that golden period of free education at art school. " 
One would think from the writer's condescension that Goldsmith's was the only art college out there and yes, oh yes, freedom, that happy illusion; that is another art education casualty in a recession, after free higher education which they still have in Scotland.  She is, she tells us an artist who wishes to distance herself from all the taint of advertising;  Maybe that is what distinguishes her from the products of Goldsmiths.
“I think just being an artist is a political act. Just doing things that are not mediated by anyone else. I don’t do many commissions because I don’t want to tick anyone else’s boxes. Sometimes I’m a bit tempted. I got approached by the Formula One team McLaren who wanted me to do something with the bits of a damaged car. It was a nice idea, but I don’t want to be a jobbing artist, or do anything that seems like advertising.” 

"She’s not sure she has a mission, but if pressed she’d say it was to close the two cultures gap between literacy in science and art – not least because it represents our best chance of preserving the planet on which we all live." 
Considering the previous post about the aesthetics of form, Parker's sculpture is about the accidental aesthetic accidents that proceed from controlled destruction and not from creation.

Then there is this quaint anomaly, the world's biggest Giff :  Which can only be properly viewed from the air.

Finally, this blog has documented some idiocy over the years but this is a new one. French artist Loris Greaud lost his bottle with an art critic over the opening criticism of his latest show in Dallas and had a group of performance artists destroy the whole thing. Why on earth did he bother in the first place if he couldn't handle the criticism and had to throw a juvenile hissy fit?  He is in the wrong profession. Only an artist who is profoundly confused about the purpose of art criticism, which is by its very nature just an opinion, would demand that reviews of his exhibitions be simple and objective. Those types of reviews do exist; they’re actually called press releases.

Then there is this information about a west coast USA artist who had her identity and cash stolen and exacted a revenge with an art project.  A neat kind of balancing of the account!

Lastly this letter to my younger self has struck a chord with many artists and is circulating on the net.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

So what do art critics do for us?

First off:
Stupid article - 21st January Guardian by Jonathon Jones criticising Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth as minor league players in 20th century art.  Conceptual prejudices to the fore our erstwhile critic gets it all completely wrong yet again!
This is a particularly thoughtless remark:
"But to claim they are among the really great modern artists is daft. Picasso dwarfs his imitator Moore. But it’s not just Picasso who makes these modernist Brits look minor. In Hepworth’s case the most significant comparisons are with the truly great abstract artists: you cannot seriously set her works alongside those of Brancusi, Kandinsky, Mondrian, Pollock, Rothko or Richard Serra. She is not in the same class."

Well of course she isn't because here our erstwhile critic is not actually comparing like with like. Hepworth was a sculptor and apart from Brancusi he is comparing her work with that of 20th century painters. Only someone who has practised neither could be confused enough to compare and contrast two completely different disciplines. Anyone who has practised both knows that sculpture is an infinitely more demanding discipline that requires a completely different form of thinking to painting on a 2D surface.  Picasso was a poor sculptor and a very great painter, Moore and Hepworth were both first rate sculptors. Rothko, Mondrian, Pollock and Serra were all painters whose visual content was minimal in more senses than one. Jone's art criticism you might expect to read in the Sun or Star, lazy and unquestioning assertion  and assumption.

Secondly, an interesting piece of really cogent criticism from Adam Thirlwell in Guardian of 24th January concerned with the fact that art no longer shocks anyone.  He writes some really good criticism of Manet's Olympia.
He says :"Manet’s genius and the true source of the bourgeois outrage was his ability to “disappoint expectation”: “instead of the theatrical forms expected of him, Manet offered up the starkness of ‘what we see’. And each time it so happened that the public’s frustrated expectation only redoubled the effect of shocked surprise produced by the picture.” The greatness of the art was that it changed the nature of the form." "The shock was just a side effect."
This last comment that the greatness of the art was that it changed the nature of the form is the most meaningful critical remark that has been published for some time because it is so absolutely true. He explains T J Clark's remark that the shock served only to create a failure of criticism. When did this last happen in front of a contemporary artwork? When? not for a very very long time, as he says: "Even in 1865 shock was passe"

When one considers the oceans of avant garde lite we are floating in it is obvious that we no longer have artists of any stature who are capable of creating shock through form. Kapoor's efforts are mere gestures, Koons sculpture is fairground attractions, the Chapman Bros nazis's are horror shock lite and madame Taussauds, Hirst's efforts are presentation and window dressing and Emin's work is self absorbed etc etc.  Yet State art is we are continually being instructed is challenging and shocking, but this is lies and passe.
So in this inverted art world of hysterical and false values how can anyone really shock? Thirlwell argues that shock has to dismantle the ruling ideology and be offensive to those who continue to believe in that ideology. Being offensive to salon state art would be a start. 

He concludes his summary of the novels of Houellebecq with this pure piece of intelligence:
"The future works of shock I imagine are as formally adventurous as they are intellectually destructive. I’m not in fact sure that true resistance to ideology is possible without resisting aesthetic conventions." 
This is one of the most succinct summaries of the complete failure of avant garde lite in the 21st century that has been so far written. Simply because it succinctly points up the lazy dishonesty at the heart of the contemporary "Art" that fills to overflowing our major contemporary art galleries....... Supported as it is by endless written garbage about the supporting cast  - Duchamp and his rancid urinal. Odd isn't it how so few people who accept this junk as gospel can see the malevolent irony of it's content and gesture? It's a way of deifying junk!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Notions of abstraction.

News today that Richard Long is returning to Bristol for his first local exhibition in fifteen years. He will be using his standard media river Avon mud for his drawings according to the Guardian's Maev Kennedy. Do have a lot of respect for Long, his abstract work speaks eloquently of the brief transience of life in more ways than one.

"George Ferguson, Bristol’s mayor, who is an architect, said the partnership would be hugely beneficial not just for the gallery and the university but for the whole city – one estimate suggests that every pound invested in the arts in Bristol generates a four-fold return."  Same old same old elegiac leftist utilitarianism and idealism, how many time have we heard that in the past twenty years and where is there any proof that it is remotely true?

Then there is this on abstraction on 18th January from Waldemar (Sunday Times) and Laura Cummings (Observer) at the Whitechapel"Adventures of the Black Square
Abstract Art and Society 1915–2015"Waldemar comments that: "the first half of the show is an overcrowded history of art's past whilst the second half is an overcrowded lucky dip of contemporary wilfulness."
Whilst Laura says: "And this is the parallel purpose of the show: to look specifically at the kind of abstract art that aimed to change the world, or that was at the very least supercharged with the possibility of revolution. This is not just Malevich’s sky-high claims for abstraction, that it would break the bonds of earth and rise into some stratosphere of the spirit: “Follow me, comrade aviators, sail into the chasm!” To say all this stuff is boring is to give it much more credence than it warrants. It is boring and inert, of only marginal interest or relevance and defy anyone to attempt to prove otherwise, in particular any architect. Similar guff comes from Louisa Buck in the Tele wag.
She writes this :"It soon becomes evident that geometric abstraction could be used and interpreted in directly opposing ways, with the rigour of its repetitive units capable of expressing both the language of freedom and idealistic optimism as well as the impersonal rigours of unyielding totalitarianism." Re-read this several times and it still does not make any real sense, aesthetically or historically, it is wish fulfilment, of the same level of legitimacy as the current spurious asinine worship of Duchamp.

Proof that the money follows and consolidates failure, and it is puerile guff:

"The reputation of Goldsmiths as one of the best art schools in Europe is not to be taken lightly. In the last 25 years, the school has produced seven Turner Prize winners and 30 nominees. The school, founded in 1891, is renowned for its multidisciplinary approach to art making and rigorous critical curriculum." 

And this marketing refuse : "Francis Outred, Christie's Head of Post-War & Contemporary Art, Europe, commented. “Every bidder will be contributing to the future of the creative industries in Britain."
This should be re-read carefully as follows:

The reputation of Goldsmiths as one of the best art schools in Europe results from the supine and asinine way in which it fawned upon Charles Saatchi as the sole guardian of avant garde-lite and contemporary art values. It has produced more state art acolytes than any other art school, and it's educational provision, curriculum and it's approaches to art making were transitory and doomed, based as they were in lack of rigorous criticism and an unquestioning and uncritical acceptance of conceptual art. This has resulted in terminal damage to UK art education that cannot be undone because the visual skills have been lost. These skills are now sneered at by the terminally incompetent as "Craft." So now we can move move on to consolidate Goldsmith's sourced conceptual kitsch as art, which it will never be!
Cannot forgive this inane and conceited philosophical category error oak tree; an artist is not a priest, no way was this ignorant and blasphemous conceit a legitimate artwork. But then it was only Christianity that was being mocked and it is only art. If you need any further proof of the terminal damage that has been done, consider the inadequate and very expensive Cultural Olympics and their imaginary and non-existent legacy!

Lastly there is this news that Luc Tuymans has been convicted of plagiarism and one wonders why it doesn't happen far more often considering the stolen visual content of some contemporary artists works?  You decide which are guilty?

Monday, January 12, 2015

New Year 2

Yesterday's 8 jan Guardian contained these two items. Firstly there are the very sad Japanese villages that have lost their population and are now being peopled with dolls to stand in for the lost real folk.  The worrying declining population is a country wide phenomena but one can't help thinking that puppets are not the solution to the problem!

Secondly an article about 84 year old Cecilia Gimenez who destroyed a fresco  Ecce Homo in her local church and became an instant global net hit for her ineptness and lack of sensitivity. This put the village on the map and she has now been rewarded for her hopelessly inept reconstruction with art shows which have raised her prices. Ah well, such is the true sense of the market!

Thirdly we have the news via Colin Gleadell that the art market continues to be so buoyant and 2014 has been a year of market record breakers.

Lastly there is this depressing article from Guardian cultural professionals which points up some home truths. That in 2015 we read this is very very depressing, always art education has to fight and fight again it's corner in a nation of pure visual cultural philistines: Again and again the enemy within removes the most basic and obvious art education provision for ideological reasons and pure pig ignorance.

Why drawing needs to be a curriculum essential

Our most read piece launched in 2014 was this blog from Anita Taylor, director of the Jerwood Drawing Prize, on why drawing needs to be seen as an essential part of the curriculum at all levels for all subjects. “With a history as long and intensive as the history of our culture, the act of drawing remains a fundamental means to translate, document, record and analyse the worlds we inhabit,” she wrote. “The role of drawing in education remains critical, and not just to the creative disciplines in art and design for which it is foundational.”

Jeff Koons and Marlene Dumas - craft extremes

Little points up the absurdity of contemporary art values as well as the contrast between these two artists.  The Tate is giving South African artist Marlene Dumas, a major retrospective so Rachel Cooke in the Observer has been pulled in to do the text. Dumas work is very traditional painter but she is also the most expensive living female artist, her 1995 painting "the visitor" raised £3.1m yet she is relatively unknown by the general public.

"Her career, once it began, built steadily if not spectacularly: “My generation is Julian Schnabel, and he got known so quickly, just like Cindy Sherman and Barbara Kruger. It took me longer.”

She is in essence, a very traditional painter who uses thin washes of coloured shape with slick drawing effects and she admires Francis Bacon - as well she may. Adrain seale has always been a fan so he extolls his enthusiasm in the Guardian. However this text reveals much about our erstwhile critics sparse knowledge of painting:

"Looking at Dumas’s paintings, I am often struck by how little there seems to be on the canvas. The images coalesce out of almost nothing. She somehow cajoles her medium into forming a face, a body, an expression – a sense of being. Wiping paint off as often as painting positive emphatic marks, she gives us cheekbones or a forehead, a proffered anus and balls or a vulva using hardly anything. Going from extreme vagueness to almost crude and snaggly brushstrokes to make an ear or to describe hair, Dumas runs the gamut of painterly effects. The frankness with which she paints draws us in."

Then there is Waldemar Janusczcak writing up the Jeff Koons retrospective in Paris. Insiders are saying that Koon's style is over the hill - have never had much respect for his art, which has been made to exploit the newness of manufactured things and communicates little else of any note or attention.  Even the nauseous  series of self centred porn stuff cannot be taken seriously as a reflection or questioning on the role of morality in contemporary art. It is no more than what it is, as with his Hoovers it's about empty soulless shiny newness and alienation, as far removed from the humanity of art and aesthetics as you can get in any art gallery.
Waldemar writes:"These are not Pop art ambitions. Where Pop art portrayed different kinds of consumer goodies to make critical points about american society, Koons art appears to have zero satirical intent. Instead in seems entirely happy to have identified some pretty sculptural effects that it wants to celebrate."  It needs saying that what sculptural effects there are are produced by the labours of the Italian artisans and craftsmen who produce the work for him

Finally this post about the way the art world operates and the twelve things it needs to change that supposedly explains why people are not buying any art. Whilst agree with the sentiments, are fairly sure that this isn't the real problem. There industrial quantities of pure gunk being manufactured, Etsy and Ebay are drowning in sub standard kitsch posing as artwork. Then there are thousands of "artists" scratching a living and barely surviving who will do anything even work for free to get by.  At the same time the quality of what is being produced has never been lower or more depressing, one has only to put the work "art" into a Pinterest search to see what's wrong with the whole thing and it is all about marketing

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Losing the UK's Lead in the arts !

Today 2nd Jan the Guardian has an article by Mark Brown about the recently appointed head of the CBI for the arts John Kampfner. Kampfner believes that the UK's creative industries are in grave danger from austerity. It is, he says, an incredibly dangerous moment. We have the lead in all branches of the arts and creative industries and are world beaters in almost all sectors, but we are in real danger of losing all of it. The attack upon and removal of arts education from state schools  has already taken place, as this blog has repeatedly pointed out over the past two years. Further cuts after the election will probably finish the arts as a cultural force.

He writes; "if we fail to think long term, if we fail to invest in our public spaces and cultural education, the talent pool that has projected us on to this level of the past 10 or 20 years will dry up." Evidence is in that it is already drying up, a Tate curator was berating the fact that no new artists are coming through on the radio only yesterday.

“In adversity you have to equip yourself, you have to arm yourself, you have to find new ways to be resilient ... we are not in any way minimising the challenges. We need to protect public arts and its funding,” said Kampfner, “and we need to equip ourselves for a new reality, which is bringing public and private together.”

He also writes this, so much for trickle down, as if ?:

“One of the confusions I have with this government is, if there is a view that the private pound is as good as the public pound then why is still so difficult to give in this country in terms of philanthropy and the tax system? We see how many wealthy people there are in this country and the proportion of private giving to the arts is miniscule compared with other countries.

“It is partly a cultural thing, it is partly a laziness thing … but it is also a fiscal and governmental thing.”

This is not a new complaint the FT had an article that said the arts were threatened way back in July and even Sir Nicholas Serota himself has expressed his grave concern at marginalisation of art education.

The mass hysteria generated by the Tower poppies will inevitably become a serious topic of discussion for academics in the future, just as the death of the Princess of Wales became one.  Was the display of poppies around the tower any kind of conceptual artwork or was it just a pure piece of theatre? - It was certainly effective and you reader are the judge. It was a beautifully apt visual demonstration of the scale of the appalling bloodletting that overcame the country in 1914-18. 

Meanwhile there is this report that there were no New Years Honours for anyone in the Art world, this is quite a new feeling. They all come to expect something good will be their turn eventually but no not any more. Artists are out of it now things are really serious but with all the cash swilling about, they need worry? Philistines are no longer at the gate they are running the entire show so more austerity will mean the loss of more art, which might not be such a bad thing when you consider it may lead to an improvement in quality - all for that!
And finally Bill Drummonds world 25 paintings world tour!