Andre Wallace

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Brian Sewell RIP 2

There is a letter in today's 29th Sept Guardian to which attention has been drawn. It concerns a press spat from 1994 no less, and it speaks ill of the recently deceased art critic. Some people have little sensibility, one should never speak ill of the dead because one will inevitably join them and then have to account for one's words. To carry on a dispute from ten years ago when the critic is dead is stupid but was it ever thus in base, trivial and disputatious contemporary art journalism. The letter is from one art consultant Susan Loppart, (who she? ed) 

The letter attacks Jonathon Jones article on Sewell for mentioning "a naive letter written by art world types objecting to Brian Sewell's attitude to contemporary art." and attempts to put the record straight for the art world's benefit. 
Ms Loppert states that Sewell was an art historian who was hostile to and ignorant of contemporary art. Further, he used the evening standard to vent his splenetic old fogeyism, virulent homophobia and misogyny, which says all about Ms Lopperts faulty world frame and her value system. Note that she tells us Mr Sewell was writing for the straphanger on the Ongar Line (which is a new one,) presumably Essex commuter man. His job and remit according to Ms Loppert was, as Stephen Stevens the one time editor informed her was "to be offensive without being libellous and to write for the lowest common denominator." She says that we felt the paper should have two art critics one for art dating from 1900 and one for old masters.
We note the 1994 letter signatories were:
Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, Michael Craig-Martin, Brigit Riley, Richard Shone, Rachel Whiteread, Marina Warner, Christopher Frayling, George Melley, Angela Flowers, and John Golding who she says objected to: ""Sewell's deliberate cruelty and viciousness and asserts that he was "a puffed up fake. " She finishes the bile towards the deceased with this remark;"Is Sewell turning in his bile filled grave for none of his flailing at windmills stopped the inevitable triumph of contemporary art?"
Aside from what she asserts, one is entitled to ask two questions that seem very pertinent to Mr Sewell's often truthful writing and judgement:

1 Where in the considered philosophical rubric is there any truth or evidence that the aesthetic value judgements that apply to old masters have no value whatsoever when applied to the usual suspects kitsch?

2 If contemporary art has inevitably triumphed, then why has Ms Loppert put pen to paper to vilely mock the recently deceased? Doesn't that act alone betray a total insecurity concerning the aberrant and fake visual culture that we inhabit courtesy of the usual suspects?

As one said at the start of this rant: "De mortuis nil nisi bonum," but that doesn't apply to the art world or does it? Taste is the measure of morality.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Steam not Stem?

During the period of writing this blog it has become apparent that mainstream secondary art education has in many ways lost direction and is not dealing with the needs of the 21st century student. Most of the reason for this is due to dumbing down of teaching and unconsidered application of technology, which is not and never will be (unless we are replaced by androids) the actual and real world. Considering this; below are a list of links to the current educational discussion concerning why art is important for everyone's education, not just for artist's. Sixty years after C P Snow's lecture on the two cultures we still have the same old, same old problems exacerbated by financial restraint and poor political reforms. The Us Congress rejected this motion.

Link 1

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

The creative Industries and government

Laura Cumming has reviewed the Willian Kentridge exhibitions at Marion Goodwin and Parafin galleries. She writes this pithy commentary : 

" Do images have supremacy over words? Kentridge certainly pits them together and strongly mistrusts all rhetoric. His slogans are self-puncturing – Repudiate the Smell of Books, Eat Bitterness, Smash the Unhealthy Slogan – and in any case, as Andrew Solomon points out in the superb catalogue, Kentridge’s “qualm-riven” art is invariably a critique of dogmatism. Images – especially his type of images, whose evolution is as freely shown in stop-frame, mark by mark, as its erasure – allow for an intense gathering of thoughts and associations that may never resolve."

These two young men Barber and Osgerby are expressing their concern about the future of the arts and of the creative industries in the UK. They feel that the Tory government is genuinely hostile and is removing the cultural advances that have been made over the past few years. They write:

"Our government doesn't really value the role of creativity in our economy," said Osgerby. "The government seems to think that creativity is just something that is here and it'll just happen, but without the ability to educate and nurture it will disappear."

"They are scared by creativity because they don't understand it," added Osgerby. "They're cutting and they're closing foundation courses, which are probably the most important courses in the country. It's totally short sighted."

Barber added: "The foundation course is absolutely critical because it teaches you how to draw and how to look at things properly, but it also give you that opportunity to really find your sort of area before you then get into a degree course".

Dan Howarth: "Is London at a tipping point?"

Ed Barber: "I think probably yeah."

Jay Osgerby: "I think so. There are only so many areas of London that can become regenerated by creatives trying to find somewhere they can afford to live but still get to work. I can't imagine they can go much further out before people think it's not really worth it for them anymore."

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Brian Sewell RIP

This week's Sunday press has reported the death at 84 of the quintessential British art critic Brian Sewell. He will be greatly missed because he wasn't afraid of the art world. He always told it exactly as he saw it and he achieved household fame as a TV media personality. Always self deprecating, he often said that what he wrote made no difference whatsoever to the art world where he was respected and reviled in equal measure. He thought the The Arts Council: “an incestuous clique, politically correct in every endeavour, the instrument of the unscrupulous and self-seeking, rewarding the briefly fashionable and incompetent”.

"Naked emperors" is one of the best books on contemporary art written in recent years and well worth a read. There are lists of his best quotes available on Google.
Two on Prime Ministers will suffice:
"A voice coach and a linguistics expert had interesting things to say, but, really, this was a good excuse to listen to some delicious voices and marvel at how Tony Blair so blatantly panders to the working classes with his erratic glottal stopping. I have no repeatable thoughts about Blair as a voice, ... It seems to me he is a man of extraordinary affectation."

and this one: "Thatcher knew nothing of the European customs and cultures with which we were allied,"

The Guardian obituary was very balanced with the following apt comments: "In Sewell’s view, Picasso produced in his dotage “some of the saddest, most degraded, most humiliating, repetitive, tedious, uninspired, obsessive and crudely painted banalities that have ever masqueraded as art”. He lashed out at Andy Warhol – “Few men have had a more destructive influence on art” – and showed no mercy for his old teacher Coldstream: “As a painterly influence, the harm he has done is extensive.”

Jonathon Jones cannot resist the chance at a side swipe and writes this nonsense.
“Only men are capable of aesthetic greatness. Women make up 50% or more of classes at art school. Yet they fade away in their late 20s or 30s. Maybe it’s something to do with bearing children.”
"The problem with this opinion is not that it is offensive but that it is nonsense. It’s a load of cobblers. It was also baloney for Sewell to refuse to see the merits of great modern artists like Cy Twombly." "He once upbraided me in person for writing an article in praise of Twombly. He couldn’t distinguish between overhyped artists who deserved to be shot down and the true modern greats. His vision, as a critic, was narrowed by this blindness to what is powerful in modern art. He had a very silly side." 

Maybe Sewell actually understood that what is significant in contemporary art doesn't always guarantee greatness or longevity.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Adam Dant election drawing and the Jerwood drawing prize

One has to have respect for Adam Dant, as he has quietly gone on paddling his own canoe and ignoring the vagaries of contemporary art fashions and trends. He has produced many stunning drawings of an eccentric, quirky and acid nature, the deeper you look into them the more they reveal of the truth. So he was a natural choice as the artist to document the last election for parliament and he produced this 6ft wide drawing full of acute observation and observed commentary.  You have to really look to understand all that is going on in the work and it rewards the effort. An excellent piece of work that puts the Jerwood drawing prize into the shade - especially as the second prize in 2015 was won by a video. It says everything about the confusion and stupidity at the heart of their so-called definition of what constitutes a drawing. Anyone entering a drawing would have the right to be very resentful of the lack of any actual definition of what constitutes a drawing.
A video film, no matter how unconsidered or casual it may be is not a drawing.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Conceptualist trials

According to todays press Anish Kapoor is going to be sued by a French municipal councillor for not removing the grossly insulting anti-semitic Graffiti from his sculpture in the garden of Versailles. One offence engenders another and another as it were.
Meanwhile back at the RA (who are going to host a huge retrospective for one Chinese artist of conceptual renown) the gentleman himself is complaining bitterly about being ignored by the British. Someone really ought to explain to him British politician's attitude to the arts. Meanwhile over at the Sunday Times Brian Appleyard has taken out column pages by interviewing the artist.  It is all summed up by this cartoon from Hyperallergenic.

Waldemar Januszczak however discusses the best exhibition in London for some time the silverpoint drawings at the BM. Silverpoint is a truly humbling media, there is no going back or erasure to be had as the metal line is permanent. Yet it tarnishes and ages to give truly wonderful effects over time. It speaks of the artist's transience but it also demands the drawing skills of a Raphael or Michelangelo which means conceptual artists simply cannot do it. This is why as Waldemar says there are no artists around now who can handle it. Do beg to differ, there is the Russian artist Victor Koulbak whose silverpoint drawings are stunning.

Lastly an entertaining series of videos from TED talks about art and artists.