Sunday, November 29, 2009

Art History Archive

Came a cross this resource and thought you may be interested, Art History Archive. Lots of links to other archives.

Saatchi School of Art - What the Critic Thought

You may not always agree with the Times TV critic A A Gill, after all he does think he is Jeremy Clarkson with brains! But on this occasion his I found his view of the Saatchi X factor wanabee programme quite amusing. His comments about Duchamps Urinal was particularly apposite. I make no apology for reproducing it in full.

A.A. Gill, Sunday Times 29th November 2009:-
Right, that’s it. I am unilaterally and with prejudice proclaiming an anathema on
R Mutt’s bloody urinal. It’s wheeled out for every feeble-brained, finger-snapping, zeitgeisty art programme as a sort of shibboleth, a totem. I’ve been shown it three times in two weeks, and it was predictably used to explain contemporary art in last week’s School of Saatchi show.

Let’s get something straight about Marcel Duchamp and his pissoir fountain, the Rosetta Stone of all modern art. It was a joke; it wasn’t even shown in a gallery. Duchamp liked puns, funny names and bawdy humour. He is famous for his ready-made found objects, which he placed incongruously — a bicycle wheel on a stool, or a commercial pot-holder. The simple point of the joke is that a urinal in a lavatory is there to be peed in, but a urinal in an art gallery is there to be talked about and genuflected over for a century.

Duchamp was a bit half-hearted about art; it was a hobby, really. He got fed up after a bit and devoted most of his life to playing chess. He even carved his own set, except for the knight, which he had to get a craftsman to do. He did take 20 years to create one last secret piece. It has to be viewed through a peephole. It’s a headless woman with the full Hollywood pudenda, holding an oil lamp in a landscape. You can see it in Philadelphia. Now, no art smarties ever hold this up as an explanation for all of contemporary art, although it is far more disturbing and difficult than the unplumbed bog. Duchamp was rediscovered in the 1960s, when his found objects offered some post-hoc heritage for a lot of artists who were bored with the mechanics of making stuff.

I’ve given you this patronising pocket lecture because I’ve just been patronised for an hour by the judges on Saatchi’s art series. Yes, the young wannabe artists are made to perform like contestants in The X Factor. (They are all Jedward.) This format has already been inflicted, disastrously, on design, with that old singing teapot, Philippe Starck. The obvious difference between performing and making is that one belongs on television as its natural habitat, and the other doesn’t. Art is mostly solitary and a rather mad occupation. There is also a sadder, uncomfortable truth about artists in this programme: they are mostly very, very dim. In fact, being dim may well be a prerequisite for the calling. I say this as someone who has practised as one for most of his life; and I’ve worked in a gallery as an art critic and catalogue scribe. There is something in purely visual creation that works best when disengaged from intellect. The less you think, the more you look, the better. For every polymath Leonardo, there are dozens of thuggish Caravaggios.

The judges in this heightened reality show constantly asked the proto-artists what they thought they were making, and to explain why what they did was art. None of them could form a rational or even coherent sentence. This doesn’t make it a bad programme. Indeed, it’s rather a fascinating one, but for reasons the producers probably didn’t envisage. It is actually a vivid evocation of the reality of contemporary art. It has become all about the polemic: an artist needs to be explained by someone else who speaks the fluent, florid art-speak that is the technical jargon of galleries. This is because the market trusts explanations when it doesn’t trust a brick. Words, you can understand; art could be a lavatory. The answer to “What is art?” has always been: “That which is made by an artist.” To further beg the question, the definition of an artist is: “Someone who makes art.” Those definitions no longer pertain. An artist is someone who is validated by one of the three Cs — a critic, a curator or a collector. Any one of these contestants could be a successful artist, but they would have to be defined by successful judges. So the interesting bit of this programme is the competition between the panel of experts for authority and memorably pithy jargon.

In fact, none of the contestants will become famous artists, because they are the found object. The art is the format; they are urinals. Charles Saatchi is a Duchamp of collectors, a creator who doesn’t create, a performer who never appears. He’s probably at home playing chess. Actually, he’s much more likely to be at home watching back-to-back reruns of CSI: Miami.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Creating an Artists Statement

As every artist knows or should know, you will not get any where in the art world without an Artist Statement. The problem for most artists is that the flowery, pretentious, obfuscated, prose demanded by the opinion makers in the world of art does not come naturally. Although clearly if my previous post is anything to go by some artists are truly gifted in this department.

Not to be out done I have sweated blood and shed many a tear to produce my own Artist Statement, read on:-

Work of Post-Art in the Age of Generative Reproduction

The mind creates, the body reproduces. In the material space, art objects are reproductions of the creations of the mind -- a mind that uses the body as a Zeitgeist to de-construct ideas, patterns, and emotions. With the evolution of the electronic environment, the mind is conceiving a point where it will be free from the body to share immersions into the parameters of the Delphic space. Work of Post-Art in the Age of Generative Reproduction contains 10 minimal quick-time engines (also refered to as "memes") that enable the user to make innovation audio/visual compositions.

measuring chains, constructing realities
putting into place forms
a matrix of illusion and disillusion
a strange attracting force
so that a seduced reality will be able to spontaneously feed on it

Alistair Parker's work investigates the nuances of modulations through the use of slow motion and close-ups which emphasize the Generative nature of digital media. The artist explores abstract and deteriorate scenery as motifs to describe the idea of imaginary space. Using layered loops, non-linear narratives, and allegorical images as patterns, Parker creates meditative environments which suggest the expansion of space...

You too can churn out such eloquent bilge courtesy of the The Market-O-Matic Crapometer to be found here.

Seriously if you need help in this department you may find some here, and here.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Where is Modern Art Now? - Blackpool Art Fair!

This week has seen a veritable cornucopia of art programmes on TV. Art on Your Wall, BBC2 Mon; Where is Modern Art Now?, BBC4 Wed; Ugly Beauty, BBC2 Sat and on our own doorstep, The Blackpool Art Fair at the Grundy Art Gallery till January. It was after my visit to the Grundy that the question posed by the BBC2 programme, "Where is Modern Art Now", struck me. If I had thought the BBC programme clouded by obfuscation and pseudo-ism, it had not prepared me for the Blackpool Art Fair. We expect obfuscation and pseudo-ism from art experts such as Dr Augustus Casey-Hayford and Waldemar Januszcack but not from Stuart Tullock.

I arrived at the Grundy on Saturday morning as a privileged preview ticket holder, I had a piece in the exhibition. I was looking forward to an exhibition of the work of Blackpool's artistic best. My reaction, confused and rather disappointed. What did we have here. I walked in the first gallery space to find Blackpool Art Society exhibition sparsely spread over the relatively large wall area. But where was the open exhibition? In the large gallery maybe. No, this space was filled with a strange mishmash of installations based on Blackpool Model Train Society, Blackpool Model Boat Club, Cake Decorating, Knitting, Dog Decorating and a cutting edge avant-garde conceptual art installation by Supercollider (I will come back to that in a moment). Where the hell was the open exhibition? Ah, here they are stuffed into the two small side galleries!

Why? I had trouble finding my A1 size piece of work amongst the mishmash that confronted me. The hanging was 2 to 3 works high, titled with small postal labels typed in 12 point text. Just not good enough for a Gallery of the Grundy's stature. Half an hour later with a crick in my neck and rapidly deteriorating eye sight I still had not found two pieces of work I knew should be in there. As a contributing artist I feel affronted that my hard work should be crammed into a shoe box. Particularly when the rest of the gallery is given over to work which can hardly be considered suitable for an "Art Fair"! What was the rational behind extravagantly hanging the work of Blackpool Art Soc in a huge space at the expense of the Open exhibition?

Back to the beginning, had I missed the point? Was the "Blackpool Art Fair" really one big Post-Post-Modern conceptual nay, avant-garde "Modern" art installation? Was the analist art of the hobbyist (leisure) artist, the hobby sculptors (modellers) the conceptual "true" art (Supercollider Embassy) where modern art is now! Oh, and the work of those pretentious professional and unattached arty types will make up the numbers and help fill the rest of the space!

You have to question what sort of relationship the Grundy Art Gallery is trying to foster with the local art community and the public at large. Why have they chosen to place the polarised art of Blackpool Art Soc and Supercollider at the centre of miss titled "Art Fair". Is this an effort to be even handed? I don't think so, there has to be another agenda. Questions need to be answered! Maybe a clue to the answer lies in one of the handouts I picked up at the "Art Fair" (As I have no wish to embarrass the author)

------------------------------ ---------------------- committed to the dissemination of contemporary arts practice in the town by presenting a diverse and dynamic programme of temporary contemporary art projects. ----------------------------------------------------- is well positioned to provide the community with a forum for intellectual engagement, debate, participation and appreciation. ------------------------------------dedicated to delivering a programme of exhibitions and events which reflects the diverse and dynamic nature of contemporary arts practice, embracing artists at all stages of their careers working with a wide range of contemporary issues and concerns, ----------------------------------will also act as a point of exchange between the audience and contemporary arts practice, providing a dedicated forum for engagement. ---------------------------------- aims to develop reciprocal relationships with other institutions, groups and initiatives. --------------------------------------non-profit, artist led organisation, run by unpaid volunteers motivated by an intense passion for the arts and the cultural development and regeneration of Blackpool. Through the programme of exhibitions, projects and events ------------------------ aims to make an effective and meaningful contribution to the re-development and regeneration of culture of Blackpool.
Obfuscation or what? I clearly need to update my personal statement! Why was there was no reference to Post-Post-Modernism in the BBC2 programme "Where is Modern Art Now" is Blackpool ahead of the game?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Bombin 1987

This documentary was created sometime around 1987 and aired on channel 4. It is a follow up of sorts to the 1984 BBC documentary 'Beat This' which served as an outsiders view of Hip Hop as a new New York sub-cultural phenomenon. Here Director Dick Fontaine returns to focus on the UK adoption of this Hip Hop culture and some of the conflicts created therein. To achieve this, the production chose to focus on Graffiti Art, no doubt because this element had the biggest conflict and issues to explore with its high presence, intrusion and illegality.

In those days Break dancing took centre stage in the UK but wouldn't have provided nearly as interesting debates to explore. After providing such a strong argumentative presence in 'Beat This', Brim Fuentes (TAT) is brought over to the UK as a sort of cultural ambassador of New York graffiti in a string of workshops and informal seminars. He is also put squarely in front of international main stream media's scrutiny. To which they responded in a manner of ways that at best was condescending and at worst was a down right personal attack for being a catalyst to the vandalising of Britain's culture and heritage. From here the documentary alludes to the social implications of ethnicity and poverty, and their relationship with the Hip Hop subculture.

This is where Goldie (of later Drum n Bass fame) as one of the UK premier graffiti artists makes a strong presence in his most notable early television appearance. It's his relationship and 'parallels' with Brim that really play out the rest of the documentary as the two exchange visits to each others home environments in Wolverhampton and the Bronx respectively. The film incidentally captures some of the earliest footage of significant UK protagonists such as Goldie and a pre Massive Attack 3D (not his finest hour here), as well as a noticeably limited Mode 2 and the Chrome Angels appearance at the Birmingham wall commission. However it is debatable that the producers pushed their own inclinations towards ethnicity and Graffiti here, with their focus on Goldie and Brim. It makes for interesting viewing but considering the well documented fact that the culture transcended ethnic barriers in New York and beyond, it can be held up as a particular flaw.

You decide.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Exhibition - Kiln House Gallery

Wreck #15

I have an exhibition of photography "Rot and Rust" at the Kiln House Gallery, Thornton Cleveleys, FY5 4JZ, from 7th November to 1st January.

The Kiln House Gallery is a unique gallery space, connected to Thornton's Marsh Mill Windmill.

Open Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays.

Opening times:
Winter 11am-3pm
Summer 10.30am-4.30pm

The exhibition has been curated by Sue Godsiff. Sue is a second year student on the Fine Art and Professional Practice BA (Hons) degree course at Blackpool Art School.

"I have been photographing the numerous wrecks and rotting hulks that littered the banks of the River Wyre Estuary for over 4 years, remnants of a once thriving fishing industry. During this time, many of these historic remnants have been vandalised or plundered for their scrap content and some have disappeared forever. By recording these remains of the past I hope to at least preserve a memory of them.

If you have any knowledge of the history of any of these remains please post a comment."

You can see this and other work at