Whispers

Whispers
Andre Wallace

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Art and Sponsorship

This week there isn't much art around due to the Christmas break but came across article in the Observer about arts sponsorship which is quite revealing. Prince Charles was giving out gongs last week to those who had contributed the most to arts sponsorship in the past year. The fact is that the people who sponsor the arts are now getting too old and more significantly they are not being replaced by young city slickers who are giving next to nothing to the arts despite their hedge fund gazillions. So much for banksters who invest in their own art but their public sponsorship arms need twisting.

Took in an extraordinary exhibition by an artist I'd never heard of one Jack Coulthard, it was very strange and imaginative work - for once beautiful craftsmanship. Jack is typical of the sort of artist that the State art world ignores.

Adrian Hamilton in the Independent again waxes fawning toadyism over the Bloomberg New Contemporaries at the ICA. (Bring back Charles Darwent!) Everything about this exhibition suggests that the art schools are failing to educate, the paucity of ideas and imagination on display here suggests that the current crop of students are very very confused about what it is that constitutes a work of art. There is no way you can argue that the ideas displayed by Julia Parkinson, Mark Essen, Hannah Regal, or Ferdinand Saumarez Smith as examples are original, exciting or even vaguely artwork. Saumarez Smith  for example goes no further than this internet research!  Pity that all this has to be hyped up by Mr Hamilton's lack of critical faculty.

Laura Cumming on the other hand can often be right, and she reviews the French Algerien artist Kader Attia at the Whitechapel in the Observer. Sure this is very worthy stuff, but the word artist should be replaced with curator for it seems that the exhibition is literally a museum exhibit, with nothing to see, just objects and mind games to indulge in. Instead of asking what is a vision? the artist could be advised to provide one, likes repetition does Kader.  This trend is frustrating in it's growth, seems it will become more popular, but where is the aesthetic engagement in the museum experience?

Lastly truly amazing news that the NHS is a huge consumer of art, only it is not!  David Prentis general secretary of Unison has said hospital surroundings are important for patients as they recover but when budgets are tight money should be spent on patient care - Who would have thought it? Fact is the sums are pretty paltry - 89 trusts spent £1.894,278 since 2010, about the price of an average Picasso but then those few who can afford to spend $142million on a poor Francis Bacon won't have to worry about their health spending will they? Whatever is spent it raises patients morale and that is the most important thing.


Sunday, December 08, 2013

Ten worst contemporary artworks

Recently was asked to make a list of the ten worst contemporary artworks and found it the most difficult task. Choosing the worst art of purported cultural significance was incredibly difficult as there is mountains of it about, but any object culled from the web museum of bad art or from locations such as skips or walls was banned. It had to be art that has been well publicised by galleries and the cultural media as very significant artwork, but also;

  • a work with no redeeming merit 
  • a work with no art history reference
  • a work with no artistic skill or value
  • a work of no aesthetic value

A real challenge; would be interested in other suggested lists.  For your disputation this was the final list.

1 Fountain - Marcel Duchamp

2 Black square - Kasimir Malevich

3 Bad dog - Richard Jackson

4 Work No 517 - Martin Creed

5 Boot print - Gavin Turk

6 Sleeping arrangements - Martin Maloney

7 Pail - Jeff Koons

8 Spring angel C - Gary Hume

9 Forever Marilyn - Seward Johnson

10 Sell the house - Christopher Wool

NB Not one female artist made the list!

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Chapman Brothers and Saatchi gallery

This weeks press contains lots of criticism of the latest abuse of trust from the Chapman Brothers at the Serpentine. Critics make the same point, that we are now so inured to the usual suspects shlock it just doesn't work, which is depressingly true. A regretful loss of innocence by us all.

Alastair Sooke at the Telegraph effuses enthusiastically when he opines; "If this is art held up as a mirror to nature, then we as a species are infernally doomed." Fortunately the glass cases full of airfix kit is no mirror held up to nature, despite the references to Macdonalds, Nazis, Belsen, and the Klu Klux Klan, it's just the amoral imagination of a pair of rebels. The one sensation one gets when staring into a Chapman vitrines is the all-prevailing thought that it's truly amazing what you can do with an airfix kit and a little imagination! The brothers are a fair barometer of public gullibility, with their perverted semiotics. It is all wearing thin now though. Those generations that suffered at the hands of the nazi's even at one remove, find that sly nazi humour was never even vaguely funny. Some things are too serious to laugh at and their loaded cornucopias of shlock porn have provoked real revulsion.
Adrian Hamilton fawns dreadfully over all this as only he will, but he accepts that the slap in the face is wearing thin. He isn't very critical of the abuse of Goya either. Waldemar at the Times is more accepting, he says it's all tat but he loves it in spite of himself. He quotes Hannah Arendt "the banality of evil" and asks why the Tate hasn't yet bought one of their horror vitrines of thousands of Nazis doing the unspeakable. The best joke he makes is mentioning the fact that you don't want to be a corporate freebee aimed at kids when the Chapmans are about. He also claims that they are now Britain's most important artists but that's in a fairly empty field of competition. Laura Cumming is quite perceptive when she asks if there exists a true intent to shock? It's never clear she says, and the trick of painstaking craftsmanship with moral nihilism has now lost its potency. The only appropriate response she says is to laugh, but she finishes ;"the torture must never stop"!
The FT however goes with Scopophilia and pecuniary value of the objects - money is more important than art values for them of course ...........

Another show being given lots of press hype is the Saatchi show of good old Body Language stuff at the Saatchi gallery. - This is poor figurative art defined by Saatchi's utilitarian values and taste.  Laura Cumming visits and argues that the fast food of contemporary art is being served up here. Swiftly absorbed with one or two munches. The demand for novelty produces poor representation. The message is marred by the poor performances, e.g. Kasper Kovitz ham sculptures are Basquiat rendered in meat. Stegner's policewomen are glorified stick women. She says Body Language is a shopping spree of current US figurative art.
Waldemar Januszczak is similarly critical, the artists are all unknown in the UK and he says not everything deserves our attention, as there are some self consciously bad painters here like Henry Taylor and the manga artist Makiko Kudo. Chantel Joffe is a lifetime Saatchi favourite who raises the tenor of the show according to Waldemar, and he finishes his piece with the remark that Stegner's paintings should be in the Women and work show at the Tate.  Joffe is rather low on visual skills by any measure.
Adrian Hamilton in the Independent is once again overawed by crap. As the weeks go by one increasingly misses the level headed and cool intelligent perception of Charles Darwent who saw it as it is. Hamilton is obsequious in his praise of this poor fare, ranting on about subversion. He really is old enough to know better, for subversion substitute real incompetence. Stegner's policewomen have unconvincingly drawn limbs but Hamilton rants on about the open brushwork and use of colour - both of which only ever work when you can actually draw things. Why bother when you cannot actually do the work? So no change at the Saatchi Gallery, just the same old, same old, slick shallow brained, short termism being foisted upon us for the enth time.  It's time we had some grown-ups around to improve things.






Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Arthur Danto - RIP

The death of one of the best 20th century aesthetic philosophers has been announced. Arthur Danto wrote much dense prose in his lifetime, most of which made sense; "At some point, I had decided that my task as a philosopher must be to compose a theory of representations, which would be a philosophy of what it is to be human." Happily this project also shed some light on what it is to make art.

Which brings us to that $142 million Bacon Triptych of Lucian Freud which Jonathon Jones with state art credentials to the front says is a portrait of two geniuses. He writes; "Now they orbit one another as the two great British artists of the 20th century, and probably will always be grouped in art history as blunt individualists who defied the supposed inevitable progress of the readymade to paint like modern reincarnations of Velázquez".
Jone's copy includes the statement that Bacon painted like an old master but he actually did not, he had none of the painterly skill or visual acuity of a Rembrandt or Velasquez and what he actually did was to smear up and distort bad press photos - this Freud portrait is not that exactly, and it tells us little or nothing about the real character of Freud. Bacon's technique was so slack he mixed anything with anything and he actually put oil paint over chalk pastel, which inevitably flaked off. In the future more and more of his works will shed paint.

Sarah Kent (where has she been for the past few years?) is uptight about the kinds of people who now find contemporary art exciting - she is right to be concerned about the current state art stupidity that is promoting Tino Sehgal as an artist because as we have said many times  - he really really is not a visual artist, but a luvvy!

Meanwhile this week 17th November both Laura Cumming and Waldemar Januszczak get worked up over the latest small painting show at the Tate. A comedy of small aspiration, but there is in there one figurative artist who shows some promise in the five artists. He is Simon Ling who works from life and produces accurate but oddly dissonant representational images. This is a true rarity but one to be noted because he has the potential to achieve a genuine new vision.  Gillian Carnegie also has good form but her work is self limited and her genuinely dark and empty vision leaves you with a feeling that you have missed something. Art for the unstressed. Catherine Storey's painting is preciously over reverential and it's content is formal. Tomma Abts makes small abstracts that communicate little optical tricks and are not major league in any sense. Lucie MacKenzie is an enigma, both conceptual artist and depicter of trivia. This is the state of state art painting today!

A more interesting alternative group of five painters could have been these, five painters who really know their craft, who have real skills and can actually see:


Natasha Kissell
Rebecca Cains
Lisa Wright
Charlotte Sorapur
Daniela Gullotta







Friday, November 22, 2013

Eric Hobsbawn on contemporary art.


A small slice of criticism from Eric Hobsbawn:

One of Hobsbawm’s more appealing prejudices is with regard to contemporary art. "He insists that the fine arts, and especially painting, have been killed off—or, at the very least, perverted—by the rise of the camera, the motion picture and the mass market. Because their traditional preserve, pictorial representation, has been lost to them by the advent of photography, artists “have ideas, sometimes bad ones,” leading to installations and videos that “are less interesting than the work of stage designers and advertising specialists.” Avant-garde art, he states pungently, is merely “a subdepartment of marketing.”

Monday, October 28, 2013

Philip Hook on art language - an alternative reference list

Apposite article in this weeks Sunday Times about art-bollocks by Philip Hook. Reading very heavy Tome called Art since 1900 by Rosalind Krauss, Benjamin Buchloch and other solid pillars of visual culture and found stuff. Anything as plain daft as this description, would be hard to find anywhere but it makes a point; that art language is carefully designed to make the outsider feel stupid or ignorant, when the truth is that anything actually meaningful or intelligent about the artwork is being obscured by garbage.

Describing Duchamp's "Etant Donnes" came upon this gem: "The spectacle behind the door is, meanwhile, fashioned to articulate this "carnalization" of the viewer. Exactly replicating the model of Renaissance perspective, the mis-en-scene presents its nude behind the jagged opening of a brick wall in parody of Alberti's notion that the plane through which we look in a perspective construction is like that of a window. Further, orchestrating perspective's geometries through which the cone of vision (coming to a point in the viewers eye - the viewing point) is the exact mirror of the pyramid of projection. (coming to a point in infinity - the vanishing point), Duchamps peepholes set the viewing point as mirrored twin to the hole directly opposite to them, namely the point between the nudes legs, spread-eagled on her bed of twigs. Writing about Duchamps transformational systems, the french philosopher Jean-francois Lyotard captured this bipolar collapse of viewing and vanishing point into twinned bodily orifices in the pun "Con celui qui voit" ". (you translate using google) It's probably a solid truth that Duchamp has been the major source of most of this sort of baloney, particularly when conceptual art is being discussed.

Now this isn't just glorious art-bollocks it's use of renaissance perspective is not even vaguely truthful. There is nothing in the image that Duchamp constructed to describe a location for the main vanishing point (no perspective cues) or the point at which the viewers cone of vision starts, which can be located anywhere in the plane of vision. The concept makes the viewer a peeping tom, forced to peer through a peephole, all the verbiage support is to conflate Duchamp's skill limitations - he was, unlike say Dali, quite incapable of any accurate perspective drawing.
So here, culled from many sources, is a handy guide for use when reading gallery art-speak; please bear in mind that art-speak always degrades in translation

Abject Art - truly pitiful stuff
Accessible Art - any village idiot can understand it
Anticipate - suggest, usually unsuccessfully
Aphoristic - a downright intentional lie
Appropriation - culling from or copying other artists - e.g. chinese contemporary art
Canon - a banksters collection of minor significance
Capital deployment - Investing ill gotten gains in art
Challenging - objectionable, always a good reason for censorship
Charming - dismissed as horrible, often beautiful
Chromatic - same idea repeated ad nauseam in differing colours
Collaboration - forcing some poor sod to do the legwork
Consumerism - art object obtained from the supermarket checkout
Commodification - same as previous but applied to selling groups of the same objects
Conceptual - mental, usually literally
Contextual - someone else's idea
Convention - rules for conforming to someone else's idea
Corpus - words describing a corpse
Critique - assess, usage; usually a pecuniary pursuit
Curator - a person who feeds off artist's objects
Cutting edge -  Newly made in the past month
Deconstruct - attempt to explain the inexplicable
Decorative - a pejorative or a dismissive
Defensive - repeatedly attacked as pathetic
Deterritorialized - indefensible on any grounds
Discourse - art-bollocks, to talk it up!
Diaspora - a rash or it's global ethnic spread
Dichotomous - the same as something else, only a just little different
Difficult - sick, tasteless or tacky, possible lawsuit
Discrete - difficult to comprehend
Eclectic - stolen ideas and images
Engagement - to look at with feigned disinterest
Estrangement - divorced from reality or totally lost as in outsider art
Ethnicity - not one of ours, see diaspora
Evidence - any hint of, in usage an imaginary quality
Feminist - gay art curation
Figurative - any attempt to depict something or someone, often a failed attempt
Formal - conventional, tedious or boring
Funky - a bad smell
Gallerist - a posh galleria
Gem - a small gesture of approval
Gestural - touched in both senses
Globalisation - approved of, in Iran, Beijing, Saudi Arabia or Ulan Bator
Gnostic - unbelievable
Hermeneutic - philosophically unbelievable
Honest - simple minded, the work of an amateur often accessible
Hosting - enduring, tolerating or parasitising
Iconic - hide bound by convention and form
Identity - that which it certainly is not
Image making - the work or hard graft, or someone else's problem
Infantile - adult theme, see abject art
Important - of little or no artistic value
Inimitable - much copied
Intention - any artist's failed plan of action
Interdisciplinary - idea stolen from another academic discipline
Interesting - cash exchange for an artwork
Interrogation - torture, can be sadistic or masochistic
Installation - On a galleria floor
Institution - definitely certified
Italicisation - words posing as images
Interlocuter - big mouthpiece
Journey - process, or long walk as in Richard Long
Kitsch - sentiment, disguised as irony or bathos
Landmark - object best kept at a great distance
Legacy - ideas still ripe for copying or eclecticism
Manifesto - the declarations of an interlocutor
Mapping - trying to get somewhere without any directions
Market - cash in on successful commodification
Masterpiece - object that was made by any artist
Matrix - the festering pond bottom where bad creativity festers and rots
Mature - due for payment now
Mediary - neither fish nor fowl
Metonym - not what it says it is
Mimesis - mimicry as with a talking parrot
Monumental - Anything totally trivial on a plinth i.e. the fourth plinth
Narrative - usually a tissue of lies or fictitious memories
Nominalist -  doesn't exist - even in the imagination
Numinous - an imaginary belief or faith
Outmoded - more than a week old
Objet trouve - stolen from a skip or dump
Phallogocentrism - Sarah Lucas's sculpture
Phenomenological - any old artist's belief system
Place - where it's been put
Plagiarism - Stealing ideas and images - worse theft than eclectic
Polysemy - abject art confusion
Possibility - the worst that can happen, and it will
Post-colonial - made after liberation or republic
Post-modernist - made after modernism passed away
Post-structural - written by Julia Kristeva Derrida or Lacan
Praxis - handicraft, dirty hands
Primitive - pre-renaissance as distinct from ethnic
Procedural - long approved traditional way of making e.g.oil paint or casting
Promiscuity - dirty ideas in all senses
Quasi-ethnographic - pretentiously ethnic
Radicalise - conform to a dead idea
Rationale - a reason to conform to
Referent - a reason why it conforms to
Readymade - Found in a recycling depot
Schema - lack of any plans
Seminal - idea that led somewhere
Semiotic - road signs or instructions
Signature work - artist unable to sign his/her name
Signifier - a metal road sign
Socialisation - Artist in rehab
Statement - a word pretending to be an image
Synecdoche - confused marks that could mean something
Syntagm - groups of marks that should mean something
Syntax - any marks that may mean something
Simulacrum - maquette or very tiny person
Specific - you cannot ever mention it
Source - where a stolen idea came from
Space - anything that is currently free i.e. air or nothing
Subcultural - literally beneath contempt
Subvert - make something beneath contempt
Synthesis - pick and mix takeaway
Taxonomy - In a class of its very own navel gazing
Telos - an artist's death
Thematisation - use linked big sentences
Trajectory - usually from the studio to the dump
Transgressive - Meriting a jail sentence
Transitive - part of a sequence of works or ideas that have legs and will travel
Trope - a repeated image much like a burp
Unique - a single image much like a hiccup
Unmediated - a surprising image or loud belch
Verticality - upright, as in, is bigger than yours
Viewing experience - usually 10-20 seconds
Watershed - the point at which an artists career begins to go off the rails through problems with chemicals or dealers
Zeitgeist - Moody or sulky, also means anything produced in during the sixties or seventies






Saturday, October 26, 2013

Money and Art

This is a post about art and green folding stuff in response to the Art Review power 100 list - which makes for interesting reading. The publication of this list has provoked the critic Sarah Kent into a fit of the  fine art values. She is complaining about the inverted snobbery of the art world moneyed socialites and their lack of engagement with the art. She says that Anthony Gromley's fourth plinth highlighted the fact that "no-one has the faintest idea any more what public monuments and public art are for. What or who is worth commemorating? " Very true - public art has become a particularly dim witted area of fake and pseudo art.

The five richest artists in the world are not all those that you would expect. Two of them you have probably never even heard of although the usual suspect leads the pack with his industry. The link between cash and art is broken, A Willem de Kooning which the artist sold for the princely sum of $33,000 in 1957 recently exchanged hands for £63,000,000. The big money seems to be in pursuit of an objective form of illusion. There is no way that any painting is worth that sum but so divorced from reality are collectors now, the fiscal competition is all that the art serves, the quality of the art is totally irrelevant.

This interesting post from Mark Vallen has cropped up concerning the inherent elitism of fine art, as a response to a truly inane article in New Republic concerning the suggested replacement of bankrupt Detroit's art collection with fakes after the originals have been sold off by Christies. They are reportedly hovering over the corpse of Detroit's exceptional municipal art collection.

Mike Kelly R.I.P. is back in the news again with a show at MOMA psi.  His artworld sainthood continues to progress speedily onwards. Whether his installations are art or entertainment is for you yourself to decide?

Meanwhile investment in art continues, a Sotheby's sale yesterday realised $290 million. A middling Giacometti realised $50million.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Turner Prize annual

It's time once again for the annual State Art merry-go-round the Turner prize.  
This years list is a usual roll call of Tate - State academy approved faux-artists. More and more political similarities are emphasized between the Salon in French 19th century art and Tate - State art conformity of the decadent UK contemporary art scene. As testing the bounds of defined art form is de rigeur, it's more observable that the confusion concerning the form the work takes with the lack of visual content is the main problem. 

They are all the kinds of "non-visual artists" we have got so used to in recent times, apart from Lynette Yiadom-Boakye whose intellectually undemanding paintings betray little more than lack of technical and visual competence thrown up as a distinct virtue.  

David Shrigley - comedic cartoonist is asking us questions about what good and bad drawing is? - which is a great effort from an artist who doesn't actually draw in any meaningful sense of the word. Shrigley is an illustrator first and humourous cartoonist second. A lightweight who can be charged with the criticism that the faux life room exhibit lacks any kind of in deep engagement or inspiration.

Laure Prouvost is French, which is remarkable, so when did anyone last hear of any contemporary french artist of any significance? Her work is predictable and dull navel gazing of family affairs.

Lastly, the right-on current darling of state art, the one and only Tino Sehgal whose amateur dramatic performances have nothing whatsoever to do with visual art. The notion that what he does is testing the boundaries of contemporary art is specious and deluded cod-psychology.  His talk work belongs in the theatre and not an art-gallery, to argue otherwise is cognitive dissonance and deluded. Which goes to prove that current State art values are so perverse he is the most likely performer to win the prize.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Frieze art fair 2013

This years Frieze art fair opens this week in Regents Park so the media is full of hype for this trendy marketplace. All species of galleries are here - wonder how many of them will be around in 5 years time let alone the proverbial 100?
The Modern Institute
Frith Street
Hauser and Wirth
Timothy Taylor

Be that as it may, there is this article about the usual suspect's prices which are of due concern for many "investors". A company called ArtTactic has produced a report to support of the notion that he will be around in a hundred years time even if he is going to mentor the young. Cannot help agreeing with Jones on this one. How cynical is that oft repeated sore, will ArtTactic be around in a hundred years time?
ArtTactic state; "It appears that the low activity in the auction market in the last 5 years does not accurately reflect the state of the overall Hirst market. White Cube Gallery has confirmed that gallery sales of Damien Hirst were in excess of $110 million in 2012, which is more than five times higher than the equivalent sales achieved at auction." 
Hope they do not rue these words; "With the amount of negative news and media coverage in recent years, we believe the market has built up a certain immunity to the criticism directed at Damien Hirst and his market, and it is difficult to see Hirst market sentiment going any lower." Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac thinking that got us all in the poor house, sooner or later the astronomic prices of contemporary art will just have to adjust to sanity. As art is treated more and more like shares it may take a while.

This weekend 13th Oct Waldemar Januszczak is concerned about all the women in contemporary art, which leads us back to Sarah Lucas, he is quite keen on her working class laddishness. He writes; "People like Lucas don't usually become artists, they become barmaids or checkout girls. How marvellous that such a voice has made itself heard in contemporary art." Someone out there ought to do a PHd on the subtly differing value systems in the work of Tracy and Sarah, could be an interesting bit of paper? How many lads could get away with what she does, let alone be feted by Waldemar, even Alan Jones has had a very hard time of it? Such are the duplicitous double standards of the contemporary art scene and it's effete and ephemeral illusory lack of values. Lucas has one thing going for her but it's not the content of the work.

Laura Cumming is concerned with the Vienna portrait exhibition at the National Gallery. She argues that the strongest section of the show is that devoted to death which was the secession obsession. She also assesses the show as a failure, in both the hanging and in the quality of the bourgeois old master pastiches that have been included. This argument is one with the entirety of the history of art and not with the National gallery.

To be seen out and about;
Banksy is making waves in New York - then he does it again with sly wit
Paul Klee - THE genuine giant of modernism at Tate Modern
The kind of art that gets beauty a bad name - crude A Level stuff 
Grayson Perry - his superbly entertaining Reith Lectures
More Henry Moore bronze theft - seems to be a growing enterprise?






Friday, October 11, 2013

Links of general critical interest.

Due to time pressure this weeks research in short form - will resume normal critical commentary next week. Please make your own value judgements about the nature and scope of the critical content of these current links.  Grayson Perry does Reith Lectures

Chris Burden Extreme measures

Raymond Pettibon yet again

Banksy in New York

Banksy in New York 2

RA Australia 1

RA Australia 2

RA Australia Sookes comment

RA Australia Rachel Cooke comment

RA Australia Brian Sewell comment

RA Australia Blog comment

OTT Artistic video from Roberta and Bob Smith

Martin Gayfords Blog

Love and death in Vienna

The Armoury Show

Elmgreen & Dragset







Respected Artist attacks Frieze marketplace -a Preview

Crop circle sting? is it actually Viral marketing?

New Crystal Palace?

Stephen Bayley our foremost cultural design critic has taken umbrage at attempted Chinese cultural appropriation - that they should presume to re-build our Crystal Palace.
He makes a good point when he argues; "Copying the Crystal Palace is a shaming refutation of everything its prototype stood for: originality, pride, enterprise, ingenuity and a refusal to compromise. The legacy of 1851 was Albertopolis, the extraordinary collection of colleges and museums that make South Kensington one of the great intellectual centres of the world.   The new Crystal Palace will not be edifying. It will be a monument to a heartless global parasitic culture that, having no inspiration of its own, finds it in badly translated history. It is a bad-taste insult to the intelligence. If it gets built, it will only remind us of what we have lost." 
He could also have said that the finest legacy of Prince Albert's perspicuity was the building of the network of art and design schools for every town in the country to provide the designers needed by UK manufacturers, both of which; industry and art schools, have been destroyed in the past fifty years and handed on to the Chinese, all very, very sad and unnecessary.  Building this fake would be adding insult to injury.

Continuing the theme of destruction at Tate Britain the Art under attack exhibition is receiving consistent reviews. Both Laura Cumming in the Observer, Brian Sewell in the Evening Standard, The New York Times and Waldemar Januszczak in the Sunday Times cover the exhibition in the 8th Oct editions.
Brian Sewell is particularly annoyed at the contemporary section of the show; "I have some sympathy with the New Yorker so offended that he smeared white paint over Chris Ofili’s Virgin Mary, and with the women who threw acid over the obscene Chair of Allen Jones; I am, indeed, inclined to offer my support to any who, on well-founded aesthetic grounds, are willing to fell much, if not most, public sculpture erected in Britain in the past decade or so." But this isn't about iconoclasm, as he argues, the show loses it's theme when it arrives at contemporary art. 

Laura Cumming is very even handed and says that the last section, the attempt to include contemporary art is unnecessary and irrelevant.  "The attacker acts upon these feelings, inexcusably, but he or she is reacting to something that many people (and indeed many museums) ignore, namely the power of art to affect us."

Waldemar Januszczak argues that any history of UK art must be misleading because of Henry VIII and he also says the show comes adrift when it deals with contemporary art. He attacks the attempt to include the Suffragettes as iconoclasts. There are no plausible links between the Chapman Bros mind games and the smashing of medieval stained glass windows in Canterbury cathedral in 1643. The Chapman's he says, are merely self regarding and narcissistic in defacing Goya masterpieces.  One could add hubristic, adolescent and irresponsible.

The New York Times does make this distinction;
"Defacing art to make new art raises unsettling questions. Some might argue that the Chapmans’ act is equivalent to that of the young man who scrawled his name on the Rothko last October and is now serving two years in prison as a result. One major distinction is a legal one, however: the Chapmans buy the art before they deface it." So that's all right then, possession is everything in legal terms, but is it right or excusable in cultural terms? Have they not some adult responsibility and a duty towards the future?




Thursday, October 03, 2013

ILEA art collection

Came across this post recently which gave a pause for thought, as remembered coming across three Michael Rothenstein prints in an ILEA school art department cupboard in 1970s and remarking to the art staff - bet none of you knows what these are worth. Now we know what happened to some of the other works in the ILEA collection - it seems that they were stolen - As this september 16th conversation about the fate of the Inner London Education Authority’s art collection reveals and no-one blinks an eye lid. Meanwhile in Oldbury they are using Monet's for show and tell a very very good thing!

Frank Auerbach is now the UK's most senior painter - he was a pupil of David Bomberg's Borough road polytechnic teaching. Bomberg was marginalised by the 1940's UK art establishment despite being one of our very best painters, but his work is now greatly valued by the few who know what he achieved as an artist and a teacher. Both are artists whose work will be around in 100 years time.

Jack Vetriano has emerged from the woodwork this week having been honoured with a twenty year retrospective at Glasgow's Kelvingrove, apparently he earns £500,000 a year from royalties from his Singing Butler prints alone. Nice!  He is undoubtedly very popular but is he any good or is his painting kitsch? That is for you to decide?

David Shrigley pens more self revelatory pseudo tripe as he is one of the four artists battling over the plinth. Shrigley's effort is a crude and undemanding gesture - anyone who would think the thumb idea sophisticated, needs to get out more, the idea is simply a large scale clay willy gesture beloved by 12 year old schools boys and on the same intellectual level.

Richard Dorment has been getting all in a lather over the latest Iconoclasm offering at Tate Britain, but his piece contains this non-value judgement;"Plenty of artists including John Stezaker and Dinos and Jake Chapman alter inferior art works to create greater ones. But this isn't iconoclasm." So Jake and Dinos are permitted to destroy Goya prints because they are actually improving them! Where did that sophomoric garbage come from - the stupid art market?
Jonathon Jones who has it seems, seen the light, in the Guardian; "The Chapmans' disfiguring of portraits could only happen in a cynical moneyed art world that has no soul. They have the cash to buy oil paintings in order to trash them. Their clients find that kind of thing amusing.  -  I go back to the Dead Christ: a passionate work of art made to help ordinary people contemplate the biggest realities of life and death. The contrast damns the Chapmans to hell." In the end values are all.

The spanish artist Francisco de Pajaro makes trash into art, and quite endearingly quaint efforts they are too, they don't cost him too much though - they are sourced by skip surfing.

This week the usual suspect tells us that he has felt the power of art from an early age - So he's now just had to produce an alphabet  book for young children who aren't doing art because it's too expensive. The educational value of exposing toddlers to sheep in formaldehyde is specious, tedious and pretentious crap art marketing for over-achieving bores of parents. It will probably put the little dears right off visual culture.  The whole project smacks of a guilt trip - kind of thing.
Speaking of which Sarah Lucas has been causing a big fuss again at the Whitechapel with another truly "outrageous" and "challenging" show. How those two abused words - grind the teeth. Adrian Searle in the Guardian waxes with the usual sad trendy enthusiasm for all the bits (literally) and he writes;"she familiarises us with things we know, things we regard as beneath our attention. Dealing in the repressed, Lucas is irrepressible." Sure but some things are sacred for a good reason and are best left that way, there is way more than sufficient visual garbage around to ruin the male populations brains permanently. Not an intellectually demanding exhibition this, largely because  anything that Alastair Sooke recommends as "really really good" cannot be other than state art. He writes; "they (her sculptures) also manage to pack a hefty punch not only formally, in that Lucas knows how to work effectively with compositional elements such as colour, mass and space, (unlike our Sooke does with words) but also tonally, in that her art can turn on a sixpence from comedy to despair.   -   That takes serious talent. The exhibition at the Whitechapel confirms that Lucas is the most important of the YBAs, whose work stands the best chance of still feeling relevant in 100 years."
How does the use of the word 'tonally' in this sculptural context have anything to do with expressive attributes such as comedy or despair? How does a tone express comedy or despair in a sculpture where it relates only to the colour of a surface finish and texture. What is a despairing texture or finish? Why does Sooke need to add yet again the boring old 100 years legitimisation tag? Yet another perfect example of artbollocks!

Beg to differ - the YBA that will be still around in 100 years time will probably be Michael Landy, he at least is dealing with our sad and illusory cultural values and the boy can draw. 



Saturday, September 21, 2013

Tate screens installed

The Tate has installed video screens to encourage visitors to be artists or critics - one has to ask why is this necessary - more digital indigestion? Is it because they can learn from the man on the Clapham omnibus. One wonders whether the imagery is retained in any form for future inspection or is as disposable as usual. Michael Craig-Martin wasn't keen on it but has changed his mind and now says it's easy to use and very sympathetic!  Sir Nicholas says that Tate digital experience will be extended to reach new audiences, maybe in Ulan Bator or Burkina Faso? Note the article footnote that the Pre-Raphaelite exhibition attracted Tate Britain's largest ever audience of 240,000 - you would think that the curators may learn something from this fact, one can only hope so!

Tracey Emin has been abused in the media yet again by her good friend Sarah Lucas, who called her work second rate in july - this from the girl who worked on this juvenile stuff for the salon. Perhaps one should be cynical enough to believe that any kind of publicity is better than being ignored but these artists are now members of the establishment and one even advertises MandS.  Lucas tells our Sooke that she looks at less art than anyone else on the planet which is a rather arcane admission for any artist, can't see what it proves unless she fears being influenced by her lessers!  There is much to be gained from having more front than every branch of Sainsbury's.

Stupid debate about whether fraud is art here but the photograph says it all?  news from A_N that state arts provision in the Uk continues to decline as more local authorities close down resource centres.  There is even an organisation called lost arts collecting the evidence.

Spotted on a hoarding in Cadogan square - A crude Banksy entitled Rude Pope. Whoever stencilled it cannot draw hands.



Thursday, September 19, 2013

Recovered archeology and stuff

Archeology
This blog is at a tipping point, criticising critics has a poor future as many of the quality UK newspapers are dispensing with art criticism. So this blog will change, how is yet to be decided.

Sci Fi Sculpture
A whole new sculpture entertainment genre is opening up which could be termed Prometheus pretence.
Rachel Cooke is getting aerated about one of these exhibitions in this week's Observer. An Artangel event in central London, a fake archeological dig by former Slade student Daniel Silver. She writes; "Isn't it just like Artangel commissioning the right artist to make the right work in just the right place?" Well yes, an unused vacant building lot, but this is all about derivative Herms and neo-classical references.  Science fiction - shades of Stargate Atlantis and all those Van Vogt novellas about humanity wandering into the decaying museum of some long lost and dead civilisation on the planet Tharg on the other side of the galaxy and unwittingly resurrecting their worst possible nightmare. Rather like this sculpture which begs the question where does film set design start and fine art end? Not an easy question to answer - unless you strip out sci fi knowledge from your judgement.  The piece finishes with the most inane piece of art critical fluff it is possible to pen: "The analyst, the archaeologist, the artist: they are all of them diggers of a kind. What they bring to the surface is our sense of ourselves: where we came from, and where we might be going." And how will we get here? As if there was any remote possibility of any of that happening here?

More end of the millennium angst from one Adrian Villar Rojas an Argentinian artist who is worried about the end of the world. Aren't we all, some have us have been living with potential nuclear holocaust for over sixty years. Syria is potentially just as dangerous as the Bay of Pigs. Rojas says his work is human culture as a readymade? What nonsense some artists talk! It is traditional sculpture - modelled and sculpted clay. Why does he not bother to fire or cast the clay of his Curt Cobain hero worship fetish to preserve it. Seems to defeat the point of creating it, allowing moisture to decay and disintegrate it. The work is - horror of horrors representational! The decay won't increase his sales but the arts council seem to be paying for it as usual and they have lots of form for burning our public cash so that's all right then. More than a tad pretentious, the lad has been selected for the grand reopening of the Serpentine. Can't wait - me neither.

Another piece of archeological recovery is the news that the RA is doing life drawing lessons again - about time, and better late than never. Note that the tutor is not the renowned professor of drawing and the classes are for those who can draw which puts the noses of 98% of recent fine art graduates out.

State art awards

Antony Gormley has won a really exceptional art prize (£95,000) and two gentlemen - Gilbert and George have been given honorary doctorates by the university of Plymouth, a step up from the university of East London. This is the time of the year when these approved gongs are awarded to state approved artists in the late careers.......



Thursday, September 12, 2013

Kelly Grovier - 100 works

Kelly Grovier has had plenty of advanced publicity (even a spot on radio 4's Today) for an effort to boost the status of state art. Once fashionable, contemporary artists continuously drop off the radar. The artworld is precisely the same in people turnover as the world of popular music and who listens to the Bay City Rollers or Slade today? How many contemporary art galleries from 1969 are still going today? Very few, galleries come and go, artists come and go.  The whole system promotes rapid turnover and nothing lasts for long, attention spans just go on getting smaller. Such are the demands of the market and capital.

The whole premise of the book is an intellectual conceit, no-one can know which artists will define our present age - because those assumptions rely upon knowing that the way in which the present will be viewed by any specific era in the future can be predicted. The specious idea that it's possible to predict that the usual suspects skull littered with diamonds or Tracy's bed define our time is something often disproved by the thousands of artists who commanded huge prices in their day and whose work is now gathering dust the store-rooms and warehouses of galleries and museums. Artists like MeissonierLord Leighton, George Frederick Watts or Greuze. Only one thing is certain, and it is this, that when the present hedge funded distorted values of contemporary art have been washed away - as they will inevitably be as sanity returns to the market - the artists that define our age will slowly emerge from obscurity. Many are invisible, many unknown except in their own locality, quietly getting on with the job of creating real art that is not kitsch. Telling the truth to the future is what they are being compelled to do and the truth in their work will not be marred by present pecuniary distortions and the all too ignorant market.  Anyhow one wonders what art objects we will leave for archaeologists to discover - undoubtedly very very little. That bed or shark won't stay the course.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Waldemar Januszczak

This week 8th Sept art critic Waldemar Januszczak lines up alongside David Lee in a Sunday Times piece criticising the appalling state of the Artworld. He mentions the resignation of David Hickey who's had enough of it, as things are really tragic in the good old USA, where hedge funds have completely ruined the real value of art. He also accuses Charles Saatchi of starting it all, "rarely can a pot have spied this much blackness in surrounding kettles!" Then he takes a swipe at the careers of the ubiquitous Curators, (which this blog has often done,) he writes; " The curators doing the damage are the berks who run the Biennales, who befuddle us with artspeak and 'curate' events of ever increasing unnecessariness, privileging their creativity over that of the artists - these are the real villains  of contemporary art." The event that inspires this negativity is the experience of sitting in a French quarry surrounded by vast scale reproductions of 20th century greats. The problem with so much contemporary art, Waldemar says, is the lack of content, something to think about and something to understand - indeed something to appreciate and contemplate or put simply any art. All this tradition of excellence, the hard work of engagement with the real object has been dumped by the market and curators, and as Januszczak says once you go wow twice, nothing is left, not even the memory of the experience ..........Art isn't just entertainment!

The Independent on Sunday has sacked all it's art critics as part of it's cuts which is a shame as we will miss Charles Darwent's good sense. Darwent has an eye for truth - which is more than one can say for the rest of the UK's art critics.
Speaking of which Rachel Cooke emerges from the woodwork to pen a piece on the Henry Moore and Francis Bacon show at the Ashmolean in Oxford. This is revisionist criticism, full of revealing little gems of very poor perception such as this gem "these two cleaved to the figurative as if it was a life raft."  Having lived through criticism of these artists when they were alive it strikes one that real perception has coarsened and degraded over the years. Rachel Cooke argues that Moore was kinder and more tender to humanity and the body than Bacon, whose vision was bleaker and more painful; This is to ignore through lack of historical knowledge, the fact that in the 60's Bacon's works were perceived as sour homosexual nihilistic protest, at a time when this was criminal activity - the context was all. Henry Moore on the other hand, was perceived by the press as a former war artist, a socialist and a humanist who was optimistic about the human condition, so he distributed artworks to new towns and local authorities. This is something that the usual suspect has also done for his local Ilfracombe. Motives are the cogent explanations here.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

David Dawson at Marlborough

Some artists are leaders and some are followers, this week sees the launch of an exhibition of work by Lucian Freud's studio assistant David Dawson at Marlborough no less.  He has taken the traditional atelier path to learn his craft from an artist who was technically worth learning from and so he may emerge as one of the best painters around when he frees himself of the influence. Apparently he once shared a studio with the RA's professor of drawing.

Charles Darwent gets worked up in the Sunday Independent about morality by discussing a set of Robert Rauschenberg "drawingsfor Dante's Inferno. Only they are not drawings, but off-set printed collages made by rubbing the back of a printed image immersed in solvent (usually white spirit) with a biro - a very eighties technique that produces a very distinct nebulous printed image of limited expressive content and scope. They must be brilliant because they are by Rauschenberg, but everyone produces dogs sometimes, and these are undoubtedly dogs. Darwent admits as much when he says that they attempt to de-trash trash and fail on all counts. Darwent is one critic who actually does try hard to express the truth.  He tells us that Rauschenberg came to see modernism as a variant of his Texan parents fundamental Christianity, - how does that work then, Modernism = Morality?

This week too we hear of two artists in advanced  hype for the Victorian socialist realist painter no-one ever heard of ( Frank Holl - who he? a hero of Van Gogh's letters apparently ) at the Watts gallery and a Brazilian artist no-one ever has heard of Mira Schendel ( Who she?) at the Tate.

Frank Holl a contemporary of Hubert Herkomer was forgotten within  months of his death  at the age of 43. He worked himself to death in 1888. He has come back into fashion because his imagery was disarmingly honest and like Charles Dickens he was straight in dealing with the social problems around him. Definitely a good guy whose well regarded work exists in private houses all around the UK. We need this kind of art today, only there are no contemporary artists interested in or capable of producing it. You can admire him for his humanity, his concern for the poor and his ability to show both sides of the social contract as well as his easy on the eye naturalism. He came from a long line of great engravers so he know about hardship first hand. Rachel Cooke at the Observer takes pains to give us his life history.

Mira Schendel, born in 1919 has been given a major retrospective at the Tate Modern as a right on hard core neo-conceptualist.  Her work isn't visual, it's the common State art conceptual non-visual attempts at profundity from the school of scratchy drawings and cartoon pretense, many of the works we are told have never been exhibited before. She is also we are assured an artist's artist, only she isn't, and inevitably (yawn) her work is canonical!! What is it with these stupid attempts to sanctify largely unknown artists as the saintly leaders of some sort of pseudo-religious conceptual art cult?  Why, art is not religion?

John Bellany a great scottish painter whose work was about colour and suffering has died at the age of 71 after a long illness.

Lastly RA Tom Phillips has a new show in Cork Street. Phillips is that very English kind of understated painter whose career has spanned many movements and trends since the sixties, his latest work is particularly interesting in it's quiet understated technical painterly complexity and maturity.



Tuesday, September 03, 2013

S-Tate art - purchase

Today 3rd September brings us the news of an exciting new art purchase by the Tate, who have saved Martin Creed's "Work no 277 - the lights going on and off" for the nation. Purchased for the putative sum of £110,000, it will be going on tour soon. 

The news is accompanied by artbollocks  from Loiuse Buck Tate curator "Arguably Creed's most famous work" and Fiona Bradley director of the Fruitmarket gallery who enthuses that "it is a sober minimalist piece in  a long line of artists using everyday materials for potent formal and psychological effect and a great work by one of Britain's most important artists." Planet Zarg stuff this, the serious question is, where is the potent formal and psychological effect in turning lights on and off?  Bradley burns her own case with this revelation; "When quizzed by a member of the audience who said he found the work difficult to understand, Martin said: ""I do not know what you mean. When I go around galleries I can find some work hard to understand, such as Velasquez, so I make work that is really easy to understand like a light going on and off,"" He wasn't taking the mickey."  So simple to understand, there is nothing artistic or aesthetic to consider!!! even state art critic Jonathon Jones is not sure of his ground with Creed.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The power of the image - "50,000 feet is the best".

Some serious stuff this week from Charles Darwent in the Independent on Sunday from the Imperial War Museum no less. A particularly apt exhibition when the west is considering getting entangled in the Syrian civil war.

We forget that we are animals, indeed our whole culture is designed to disguise those aspects of our humanity that are animal. So with the issue of sex, which in the past was surrounded with taboos and restrictions because it so often posed a threat to society's function, it has now become entertainment in our culture in the form of pornography. The discussion now centers upon the argument that this is harming children. In short the screen and the internet make taboo images easily available where they are inappropriate, we all know this. The argument is not whether pornography corrupts, but whether it corrupts children and anyone can see that it  can corrupt anyone. Religious restrictions on sex existed for good rational and sane reasons to do with respect for the humanity of the whole person.

The problem here is the desensitising nature of the screen image, what pertains to sex also pertains to death, they are in truth opposite ends of the animal pole only we are terrified of death. The cultural fetishisation of death is smaller, for little boys obsessed with Lord of the rings, 007, Bruce Willis or Jason Statham, etc, etc. The film show at the War museum "50,000 feet is best" asks the question - is killing by drone easier than face to face? The answer is obviously yes, it is and the IT world has been de-sensitising children for some time using computer war games and graphics. The technology has been around for some time - in arcade games.
Darwent quotes a drone pilot as saying “It’s like playing a single game every day but always sticking on the same level,”. He argues that the film by Omer Fast is an attempt to make us  morally puzzled by films of people being morally puzzled by films  - which is to make us  complicit in our own alienation. This is a really serious issue, we have all been unwitting victims of experimentation with our mindset and we need more art and films like Fast's to hammer the point home. It may be way too late to repair all the damage, as we stand on the brink of a repeat fiasco with huge potential danger in store in Syria.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Threadneedle Prize time

This has been a quiet week for art apart from the pre-publicity for the Threadneedle Prize. Some change is going on here, there is a distinct shift towards the quirky end and psychotic imagery, i.e. "issues" which, whilst having the pretensions of art are very difficult to live with on the wall. Artists that stand out are Hannah BrownJan Mikulka, Harriet White, Alan Stewart, and Sarah Ball for their often excellent bare faced realism. The depressing and very commercial UK landscape and weather daub section is well represented here by Gill Rocca, Martin Layton Jameson, Sax Impey, Caroline Kha, Carlo Groppi, Ernesto Canovas,  Jacqueline Abel,  Jonny Green, Donna MacleanLisa Kronenburg and  Mi-Young Choi. As a group this kind of landscape painting seems to be an artistic cul de sac with little seen and observed content to develop.

Some of the artists in the show do aspire to the condition of art, notable here for quality are Clare Macormack, Lisa Wright, Catherine Barron, Mandy Payne and Raoof Haghighi whose quietly assured works suggest that art is not yet a totally lost cause.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Edinburgh Art Festival

A comment from Laura Gascoigne ; "Nine years ago, John Keane wrote a letter to the Guardian in which he distinguished between three categories of contemporary art: 1) Searle approved (and so reviewed); 2) non-Searle approved but bearing the imprimatur of the art establishment of Charles Saatchi (and so reviewed); 3) the rest (ignored). His conclusion was that, for all the critical attention they got, category three artists might as well be on the planet Tharg. He signed off: “What’s the collective noun for art critics? Herd, I think.” 

The herd have focussed attention on the 10th year of the Edinburgh Art festival - Hugh Pearman in the Sunday Times offers the thought that the exhibitions offer light relief. Mentioning Modern one From Death to Death at the Scottish national Gallery of Modern art we learn that the classics include a Hans Arp beside that dreadful relic of decadence to prove that what's on show isn't proof that it's all of no consequence - Duchamp's Urinal, which here seems superfluous! This accompanies a work by Ernesto Neto "It happens when the body is an anatomy of time".  Truly the one legitimates all the others - as if we didn't know that guff.
At Modern Two you have to pay to get into "Witches and wicked bodies.". So from Harry Potter to the Scottish National Gallery we have promotion of medieval primitivism, after we have taken two millennia to climb out of the slime, utterly depressing. Charles Darwent at the Independent says that the visit involves seeing things that he doesn't like, stuff that is over conceptualised, if that's possible. He raves about Peter Liversidge's appropriation of Max Klinger's "The Glove." Another non-art curation event bringing Max Klinger's incomparable etchings to the people through other media which is quite beside the point.  If you have seen the original etchings you will know that the sheer fantastic quality of Klinger's Glove suite has rarely been equaled in the entire history of etching, enlarging it with photography rather defeats the purpose and makes no sense apart from ruining the ontological value of the real life etchings.

This is an interesting post about the future of publically owned art an issue that may be coming soon to you in the near future when cash strapped UK district councils start auctioning off more of their art collections.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Dame Laura Knight and Peter Doig

Jeffrey Deitch, the director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, will step down from his job, the institution’s board of trustees said on july 24th. Interesting how wrong he got it, upsetting the artists and ultimately succeeding in reducing the museums income - not a happy story?

Ah, Ha! The harsh vagaries of fashion and of membership of the RA!  Dame Laura Knight was a very good figurative painter who vanished from the art world shortly after her death in 1970. Unfortunately she was a faded anachronism, completely out of sympathy with modernism during the 20th century. This didn't affect her real life popularity though? Now the National Portrait Gallery wish to have her rehabilitated to accompany the film Summer in February about the Newlyn School with which she was associated.  She was an illustrator as well as a fine artist, her people are beautifully drawn and boy could she do the hands and feet. Her work knocks Tracey's drawing  skills into a cocked hat. That said, our erstwhile critics have got tied into knots over the contradictions inherent in the National Portrait Gallery show. One in particular, Waldemar Januszczak says that women cannot do war art and having seen the room at the National Gallery full of her war art, do have to agree with this assessment, it looks for all the world like a room full of over large Picture Post front posters, which it isn't. The cockpit of a Lancaster bomber is an illustration, she spent more time on the texture of the aircrews leather jackets than empathising with their facial expression or real life situation. What does work are her beautiful paintings of Gypsies, and noted that the show was over-crowded.
Rachel Cooke in the Observer 14.07.2013 waxes lyrically about Dame Laura's work at the Nuremberg Trials and says that at least one painting in each room convinces you that she is under-rated. This is, she argues entirely due to her hostility to modernism, and not due to the illustrative nature of the imagery. Her work is about ordinariness even down to the Nuremberg trials. Charles Darwent says her style was midway between socialist realism and the Saturday Evening Post. Truth to tell there is more of the evening post in the exhibition than socialist realism, one gets the impression that she thought the very english trait of good manners was more significant than telling the truth.
Waldemar Januszczak at the Sunday Times describes her as a Miss Marple with a brush, both a progressive and regressive painter. She was, he argues, totally inconsistent, brilliant and appalling by turns. She had, he says, no cutting edge style or technique, unlike David Bomberg, John Nash or Henry Moore. He also says the Nuremberg trials painting is the worst war painting ever made, it simply doesn't work - have to agree that it is a formal disaster of a painting. She was, he assesses, a talented gadfly with an annoying lack of endurance.

At the opposite end of the figurative pole we have Peter Doig at the Scottish National gallery. He is an art world enigma, a contradictory but contemporary figurative painter, there seems no logical explanation of his huge pecuniary success. He has a very painterly imagination and he seems to produce art whose style is derived from early 1960's pop with very thin runny paint. It isn't visual, it is druggy and hallucinatory. He uses postcards and photographs to resource his imagery and he doesn't bother about the extra drawn and seen precision that comes from using an actual object or scene. What one has to respect is his ability to thrive in adversity, he has gone on ignoring the vagaries of conceptual art fashion and made something original in spite of much criticism, an object lesson in how art often needs adversity to become worthwhile.
The paintings are unfashionable to the extent that Laura Cumming's review in  the Observer 4.08.2013 betrays all the hallmarks of a conceptual art critic at sea with a representational painting. 
"This is a picture, that of a mirage that has the characteristics of a mirage itself: you have to squint to see the image (such as it is) in the hazy surface of the canvas and the more you look the more it disappears." she writes; but "at least he is original." Others go on in a similar vein, Sean O'Hagan, Charles Darwent and Adrian Hamilton all produce their peons of praise which focus on the other-worldly aspects of his paintings. None of them get to the heart of why the vague and loose imagery is so popular? Alastair Sooke is downright rude about the exhibition and he says he actually loathes some of the paintings which is rich - from most of what he has written he just doesn't like painting.