Andre Wallace

Monday, February 08, 2016

Stem Stinks

Stem stinks, it is being rigidly pursued by western governments despite the considerable evidence that it fails to produce educated students. What it's imposition is doing, as the article argues is putting students off all education permanently. 
This is only half the story, there is required consideration of the total effect of technology on the dumbing down culture. This education experiment is the part of the effort to turn education into a business which is downright cretinous. Every parent is aware that education is infinitely more complex than the simple minded consumption of consumer goods but the current incumbents are hell bent on creating business opportunities, this in spite of the huge mass of available evidence that it simply doesn't work that way. Ask any teacher why they need to create their own teaching materials, because using other peoples sources never works, students detect second source values instantly. Teachers have to teach from their own value systems to be effective.
The politicians will probably rue the day if still in power, because people are not simple minded consumers, they exercise discrimination and choice according to innate complex value systems that lie well outside the simplistic ideas being applied by politicians, companies and curriculum designers who do not know what their decisions truly entail. These keen social engineers may well find that down the line, the decisions that they made have created exactly the opposite conditions to those that they had intended to bring about despite their blaming teachers for failure. The harder politicians impose so called regressive "reforms" the more they fail, despite all their efforts and they do not understand why. Much like communist Russia's efforts to stamp out christianity. That real problem is that schools Heads and senior management teams are now so results driven, focussing all their efforts upon the EBacc subjects to which funding is closely tied, any subject that does not get included in their results scores is of little or no interest despite the pupils real needs and interests. So much for the future of the creative economy.
They could have taken the trouble to ask any experienced educator to discover this prevailing truth, - cause and effect does not work in education at any level. Fortunately, people are far more complex but politicians go on stupidly reinventing the wheel. One by-product of removing the arts from the state education system may well be more arts at other cultural levels. We see this process evolve as people turn to the arts for religious consolation in bad times. Be that as it may, without an art education system  - visual discrimination, or the capacity to distinguish good from bad does not develop, so the entire culture becomes the poorer.

Enough of the rant, this week's Observer is warning of the consequences of closing down permanently hundreds of small local authority run museums around the UK and selling off their contents. They will not be replaced and the Victorian philanthropists who donated their art to the public are being abused by local councils eager to cash in. Vanessa Thorpe writes;
"The question of how the government intends to respond to a wholesale loss of regional access to heritage remains unanswered, although George Osborne is considering tax relief for museums and galleries to encourage them to take exhibitions on tour." Loss of cultural memory, courtesy of the Banksters yet again. 

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Threadneedle Art Prize

The Threadneedle art prize is a good bell-weather of the state of figurative art in the UK and as is usual, this year is an interesting one.

The winner by Lewis Hazlewood Horner is a study of an umbrella repair workshop which illustrates how little subjects can make sound and big statements, as does Laura Smiths Shells.  Saied Dai produced the usual very high quality portrait and Tim Goff's abandoned Caravan seems to belong to a more and more common genre of abandoned and decaying vehicles. Sally Moore's Handmaidens whilst beautifully painted belongs to the Paula Rego genre of fierce feminism and Barry McGlashans After Hogarth (similarly well painted) plays with "why?" narratives. There is also evidence of very sound drawing from Richard Tomlin, Howard Read, Nikki Stevens, Graham Martin and Pauline Evans. 
If contemporary Avant Garde Lite was in as healthy a state as UK figurative art there would be no reason for this blog to exist. Sadly the avant garde patient is critical. Always worth a visit to the Mall galleries but closes on 20th February!

RA Garden art and confused values.

Much publicity concerning an 80 year old artist called Rose Wylie whom our erstwhile Sooke tells us is the current toast of the "art world". Sooke opines: "Wylie’s paintings are often described as “cartoonish” or “childlike” – terms that she finds derogatory. “They are not cartoons,” she says firmly. “They are paintings.” Two years ago, the art critic Brian Sewell dismissed one of her pictures as “a daub worthy of a child of four”, and the “worst” work in the Royal Academy’s annual Summer Exhibition." Damning with faint praise is that.
We are informed that as the wife of Roy Oxlade, once the children had grown up, , she went back to art school, graduating from the Royal College of Art in 1981. This is a puzzling assertion as the RCA fine art school has always had an age bar to students over 30years of age. However ; "The childlike quality [of my work] is difficult for some people,” she says. “They dismiss it and think I can’t draw and know nothing. But then they find that actually there’s stuff in it relating to Dürer and Cézanne – indisputable figures: Dürer, crikey! Cézanne! Then it becomes more difficult for people. I find that funny."
Germaine Greer in the Guardian wrote: "The house is crammed with canvases, because Wylie's work doesn't sell. Gallerists beg her to send them works in smaller format but, as part of what Wylie does is to magnify small motifs and lack of pretension itself to become something huge and arresting, their pleas are in vain."

It is surely a measure of how coarsened we have become that we should be forced to accept that the sophisticated inclusion of references to Cezanne or Durer immediately validates these "slurbs" as works of art. 
In the Guardian of 2nd Feb we also have a confused values problem. Our conceptually addled critic Jonathan  Jones is having a pop at HRH the Prince of Wales and a pretty stupid piece of writing this is! He moans on and on about the fact that the Prince sells his work and sends the proceeds to charity. He writes; " Gallerist Anna Hunter, who has helped Charles to sell his art, claims his watercolours “are a really good reflection of the talent that lies within the royal family for art”. It’s hard to see that talent in Charles’s watercolours. They are not awful. They are merely ordinary – and obviously amateur. He looks like what he is, a hobby artist. His pictures are nice efforts but no one would think they were worth putting on the market if they did not have his name attached."  This is pure tripe, have seen many of the Prince's watercolours over the years at the RWA and they more than hold their own. When one takes a second to consider some of the awful dross that Jones has promoted through the years it's hard not to resent this very stupid complaint. Not once does the addled critic mention the enormous force for the good that the Prince of Wales has been in the art education world, by keeping real drawing alive at the Prince's Schools when the education world dropped it, addled by Duchamp. The truth is that there are other real artistic values apart from the transient, the ephemeral, the empty and the fashionable. As a critic, reason seems to be more and more absent from Jones click bait.
The press is also full of big publicity for the Blockbuster RA exhibition of garden art. Despite Monet this has always seemed a particularly incestuous form of painting, make your garden (Monet, La Notre, Humphrey Repton, Capability Brown) then use it's growing aesthetics to paint from. Touching upon this Waldemar Januszczak writes in the Sunday Times: " Artists, he said (Paul Klee) were trees. Their creativity was the sap, rising from their roots (or unconscious) through the trunks (the artists eyes) to the branches (the works themselves).......... 
Gardens are what we make them, and painting the Modern Garden makes a fine flowering indeed."  Have not read Klee's pedagogical sketchbook since 1968? This is note, a practical and empirical process and one that the conceptual artist recognises not but would do well to consider.........
Laura Cumming is as usual understated, she writes: " All you see is water, flower, foliage, reflection, light, on and on, round and round. There is no up or down, no end to the beauty of these constellations of colour in liquid space and air. Monet’s garden is beautiful beyond measure: his field of vision is limitless." 
Truly a pseudo-religious aesthetic experience. She seems to be the most considered art critic in the popular press.
Coincidently discovered this Utube video where Tomas Gonzalez Cueto blames Monet and the Impressionists for the values of contemporary art. Shurely shum mistak that?
Finally this week's really dumb art prize goes to Ai Wei Wei for this truly insensitive stupid dumb crass trashy re-enactment. It displays a complete absence of humility and humanity.