Andre Wallace

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Whitechapel Gallery

This weeks Observer has an interesting piece by Laura Cumming on Corin Sworn at the Whitechapel. Sworn won the Max Mara art prize and is we are told fascinated by the 1548 tale of Martin Guerre. She writes; "For this show amounts to a deconstruction of something simple that was made complex by historians and is now rendered dramatically simple, and strange, once again."

When the theme has been the subject of several decent films one wonders exactly what any "artwork" can contribute to the narrative in terms of aesthetic or artistic values?  A difficult task to take on anyhow.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Lynn Stainers Exhibition

This years Lynn Stainers exhibition was an interesting one both for both new faces and old familiar artists whose work we have seen before. The winner Waj Mirecki with viaduct and tank traps was a large well deserved beautifully executed watercolour. Lisa Wright is there again as is Michael Tarr. Melissa Scott-Millers, Front garden is a patient exposition of her considerable skills and David Piddock's Hanseatic Walk is a tour de force of geometry and thoughtful elements. Ian Hargreaves is also excellent and so is John Cahill's sunlight on morning frost which is exactly what it depicts. 

It's a shame that these are the wrong kind of artists who would never get a look in at ACE galleries. Yet their work is new, fresh and deeply engaged in thoughtful aesthetic values. The world is not just.
As Peter Fuller wrote in 1983: " I agree with Geoffrey Bateson, who once said that the passing of belief in the immanence of god within nature was leading men to see the world as mindless, and unworthy of moral, ethical and aesthetic consideration". Good thing that there are many artists around who still continue to carry the torch and who engage empirically with the real and natural world.

Turner prize 2015

Well what goes around comes around again if you wait long enough. So shock and horror according to Mark Hudson this years Turner prize is all political protest?  This one has legs and will definitely run. Have noticed how William Morris is very much back in fashion, lots of people must have been reading the very sad News from Nowhere which depicts his vision of the UK in 1956. The world he described could not have been further than the truth, yet how many young things think that today's world is the best that there has ever been, which is complete and utter tosh.
Adrian Searle thinks that the change in emphasis is for the good he may be right.
Hudson writes : 

"Architecture and design collective Assemble, who engage in “ongoing collaboration” with the residents of the buildings they create, link straight back to William Morris’s 19th century utopianism and his belief that the purpose of art is to make the world a better place."

and this comment; "In contrast, Nicole Wermers’s comment on consumerism’s obsession with surfaces, which sews fur coats onto classic modernist furniture, feels at once conventional and the work here most likely to wind up the “it’s not art brigade” simply because it sounds so silly." But that may be because the it's not art brigade are perfectly correct in their assumption and they are a growing movement.

One artist makes sounds; Janice Kerbel’s “operatic work” DOUG seems part of tradition of art deconstructing language that goes back to Kurt Schwitters’ 1923 concrete performance poem, Ursonate" and the other;

"Bonnie Camplin’s The Military Industrial Complex recalls Sixties student protest, and it appears to turn art’s current obsession with research and archives on its head by turning the gallery into an archive and the viewer into a researcher."

There you have it - as much to see as it takes time to describe it , protest has become fashionable at this time, just look at the whole of 2015 Biennale, but for some undefinable reason it all seems hollow and fails to convince. This may be because their is a strong element of Hubris in the work, but then maybe not it seems well intentioned.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

On Kawara

This months Jackdaw has an interesting story about this conceptualism; the Guggenheim museum in New York have put on an exhibition by On Kawara. This paragon of contemporary art virtues has been making a painting of a day which features just the digital date on which it was painted on a blank ground. This artist has wasted decades of his life making a first folio of complete and utter futility which is presumably the point, so if you have nothing better to do, go and view the total irrelevance and of it. Life is literally far too short to waste on "art" like this.

Sarah Lucas at the Venice Biennale

The one thing about writing a blog such as this with values to the front is that there is never a shortage of dim witted art criticism. Depressing though it is, oceans of really crap art comment fill the press, so today as that great lauded old YBA Sarah Lucas represents the UK at the Venice Biennale there is loads of press muck to thoroughly rake through.

First off Charlotte Higgins in the Guardian is a real pearl with this purile junk copy 
:“To spend an hour or two with anyone from that time is a great pleasure. They were such a bunch of brilliant amusing people, and they still are.” Lucas is still close to Damien Hirst. Of his relative fall from fashion, she says: “I feel for someone as brilliant as him. I know that without Damien I couldn’t be where I am. So many people have followed in his wake. He’s a genius to me.”

At the Telegraph we have the redoubtable Alistaire Sooke and boy can he write pure sillyness: "Forget the subject matter for a moment, and Lucas’s pared-down forms, with their clean lines, are highly attractive. They’re animated by pleasing contrasts between different textures, such as the smooth gloss of a ceramic toilet versus the knobbly, rough-and-ready surface of a cast. They sit happily within a long lineage of Modernist sculpture."
What does this dregs of copy say? That we have to forget about what the sculpture is about ( Private parts ) and attend to the qualities of the textures? That is a new one, forget that Henry Moore or Picasso depict women just admire the smoothness of the bronze stone or the rough paint. Never mind the quality just feel the width. Some lessons in aesthetics, would do him the world of good.
Lynn Barber writes several pages of hype for Lucas in the Sunday Times supplement. It hardly qualifies as art criticism it's so fawning. We learn for instance that Ms Lucas no longer speaks to her former friend Ms Emin and that Damien Hirst thought she wasn't demanding enough in her prices? However the end of the article betrays unwittingly some interesting truths about the  artist's limitation. Lucas is perhaps more reflective than her peers. She says that people expect her to be a Sarah Lucas which meant being angry. The biennale show though, is a women's show: "it's quite sublime or almost fluffy. It's like that dessert floating islands with meringues floating in syrup. It's a happy show"-? Looking at the objects - happy? Happy is not the most appropriate adjective now is it? Nor have the concepts moved very far from what her public have come to expect the usual scatological crudity!

Are these critics all so blinkered that they simply don't care about what art can actually do when they write about sculpture like this.

The Independent's Karen Wright says: " I for one am proud to be a woman here in Venice, with a woman artist representing my country, with what may well turn out to be the strongest national pavilion of the Biennale." 

Well yes sure the rest is poor, but what about the art? Here there are a number of half torso's cast from life which is a very lazy way of making sculpture to say the least, it's a procedure most sculpture students grow out of after their first year in college. You can end up in hospital with first degree burns from the plaster cast if you are not careful. To say that though, Gormley and others use it as technique - but it is little more than a weak shorthand for actual sculpture. No finesse, no modelling, no skill, no finished and polished manipulation of materials and no communication except for the accidents of reproducing someones body mass. You may think this doesn't matter but it does because she doesn't do proper grown up sculpture. What is so depressing though is the endless repetition of basic scatological forms which when seen once don't carry a second visit. Here there is no inspiration nor enlightenment, this is completely betrayed by the use of the ubiquitous Andy Capp cigarette.

Wrote somewhere earlier on this blog that she was improving as a sculptor, on this evidence she has remained static, both conceptually and formally.

The write ups for the Biennale itself have been broadly similar but was amused by this piece form Alistaire Sooke in the Torygraph:  "Yet, surely we don’t need to be informed so heavy-handedly that the world is a fragile, shocking, unjust, and violent place. We know this already, simply from watching the nightly news. In the context of the Biennale, therefore, making such a display of solidarity with victims of conflict and the dispossessed smacks of liberal self-congratulation."  

In the Sunday Times of 17th May we have Waldemar Januszczak complaining bitterly that all of the art at the Biennale is curators political selections (except for Sarah Lucas, the Russian artists and Chris Offili), he argues successfully that curators have destroyed contemporary art. One has to admit he has a point, they are absolutely unnecessary for the main part and they just farm their own prejudice. Artists have become superfluous and things urgently need to change: He writes:
 "Art is in trouble. It needs to get rid of the political-science hobos who've jumped on the gravy train and to start dealing again in the tangible and the visual".
Have been saying this for years, ever since the advent of conceptual art, he could not be more correct for once.