Blackpaint 203


Martin Rowson

Glad to see in the Guardian a week or so ago,a Rowson cartoon featuring a long tongue issuing from the mouth of a toadying pressman and winding towards Cameron, who was descending from a royal-type coach.  Unfortunately, it (the tongue, not the coach) did not approach the anus of the said politician, but formed a slimy red carpet for him to tread.  More subtle than arse-licking but somehow less satisfying – hang on, that didn’t sound right.  Anyway, must end this obsession; this blog is  becoming more obscene by the day.  I see that a reader used the terms “tate modern vaginas” to find the site. 

So – from now on, no obscenity, no pointing out indecent little details in works of art – only good, clean, mature discussion on artistic matters, in the highest of moral tones.

Ai Weiwei

Coming soon to the big hall at the Tate Modern, how do you square the work of an artist like Ai, who tangles with an arbitrary and viciously reactivr regime like the Chinese government with artists who paint about paint, or “investigate materials”?  Difficult one – there’s nothing heroic about the latter.  Ai, who has recently been provoking the government about those missing in the Szechuan earthquake, is like a lion tamer sticking his head in the lion’s mouth – but without taming it first. 

I suppose, say, asking questions about the liquid qualities of light passing through various media doesn’t really match up in the credibility stakes – but someone has to do it.   One day, when all the dictatorships are overthrown, global warming has been halted and reversed, famine is no more,  peace and plenty and democratic socialism reign, we’ll still have art surely – or maybe not, because no struggle.

A thread in Chinese art –

Ai Weiwei famously dropped and smashed a Han dynasty vase and filmed himself doing so;

Huang Yong Ping destroyed A History of Chinese Art in a washing machine;

Cai Guo Qiang blows things up with fireworks.

I don’t know, but I have the feeling that, in the context of Chinese history and philosophy, this destructive streak must be especially shocking.  Then again, Mao and the Cultural Revolution… maybe in that context, destruction is culturally familiar.  Woefully ignorant here, as is obvious, so please comment.

Wayne Thiebaud

Now 90, I mention him because I like his work and it’s apposite to the comments above about political art.  He does pictures of consumer items like  cakes, shoes, lipsticks set against flat, highly coloured backgrounds.  He has a background in signwriting and cartoons which clearly shows in his work.  There’s something funny about a lovingly-painted slice of cake with a cherry on top,  on its plastic shelf in an automat, or a stout, shiny pair of black brogues set at a jaunty angle.  Is it political?  Of course – something to do with the worship of consumer items, mass production, etc., etc.  But then, all art is political in the sense that it represents a choice of what to represent and what not to represent.  Its not necessarily commited, though. 

More about this, when I’ve thought it through clearly – might be some time.

Broke Line Tide

Blackpaint

8.7.10

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