Posts Tagged ‘Barney’

Blackpaint 31

January 6, 2010

Conceptual Art

I think my problem with this sort of art is an unwillingness to engage with ideas that are not immediately apparent in the work.  If I have to read a plaque on the wall in a gallery in order to understand what the artist is saying, then the chances are quite high that I won’t bother.  I may still like the art; I may get a lot from it; but it probably won’t be what the artist intended.

I’m not sure whether this is legitimate or just crass.  Visual art surely should engage you visually; maybe its impact can be deepened by accompanying text – but if you end up writing great chunks of explanation (or having them written for you by critics), then it seems to me that you probably ought to make your message clearer visually.

That said, I’ve just trolled through the whole of “100 Contemporary Artists” (Taschen), both volumes, and the earlier “Art Now”, same publisher, and I haven’t found a single artist whose work doesn’t engage me visually to some degree, without reading the (mercifully brief)higher art bollocks written about each of them.  Some are more arresting than others, of course – and I prefer the painters, as I suppose I would.

Probably it’s because the conceptual artists are in a book rather than a gallery and you can return to that again and again.  as you flick through to your favourites, the others become more familiar and you start seeing things you missed at first.

More favourites: Tom Friedman – especially the “Green Demon”, Elmgreen and Dragset – the Prada shop in the middle of nowhere; Gursky, Albert Oehlen and Luc Tuymans.  and Pipilotti Rist – lovely videos and even better name.  But the images that stop me as I flick through are by Cecily Brown, Marlene Dumas, Tuymans and Oehlen.  Buy the book or look them up on the net – I’m worried about copyright if I attach images to this, other than my own.

Actually, there are two instances where I’m glad I read the text.  The first is Matthew Barney, who made the “Cremaster” series of films; there is a startling still of a red haired young man with pig’s (?) ears flopping down on each side of his head – reminds me somehow of a scene from “The Shining”.  The text reads, “The title of the series is derived from the cremaster muscle in the male genitals from which the testicles are suspended, and which is retracted in a reflex movement produced by cold or fear inside the body.”

The second relates to the work of Nobuyoshi Araki, who obsessively photographed his dying wife up to the point of death and beyond.  The text reads, “The photographs which have become emblematic of Araki’s work, however, are his portraits of young women – prostitutes and schoolgirls – either dressed or naked, hanging from the ceiling or thrown to the ground, their hands tied together, their legs apart, or even engaged in the sexual act.”  I’d like to know what Susan Sontag would have to say about him – this surely qualifies him as a “transgressor” ( Meaningless coincidence – Sontag was also photographed after death, I think, by Annie Leibovitz, wasn’t it?

Listening to Cyril Davies, “Chicago Calling”

“Well, Chicago calling, hear me call your name,

Yeah Chicago calling, come back home again,

I’m goin’ back to Chicago, Chicago callin’ me,

Yeah Chicago calling, Lord that’s where I long to be”



Blackpaint 30

January 5, 2010


Tomorrow, I have to take down an exhibition of my stuff in a London gastropub.  Sold one;  hardly a world – class result.  Got another one starting next week, and some stuff still up in another pub, so all is not lost, but a depressing start to the year.  I could do with some art journalist dropping in for lunch and being bowled over and tearing back through the snow to the office – or the computer, if they’ve been forced to go freelance – and writing a glowing review, recommending everyone to rush down and see (and buy) the amazing stuff…  Sorry, fantasy organ now back under control.

I had a good run – for me – in the few weeks before Christmas, sold three or four, but I’m back to normal situation now, with exactly the same amount in the bank as always at this time of the month; about 200 quid less than I need to see me through until my next payday arrives.  I’ll need about 50 quid’s worth of canvases before then.

HOWEVER – I’m still 100% happier than I was in my “proper” job, so that’s enough moaning.  I find it gives me a lift to look at some of the paintings (let alone installations) that pop up in art books and galleries; who would have thought that someone would have the foresight to make, and others to like, some of the stuff that is produced?  I don’t mean that in a sneering way – I mean art that is a challenge, is ugly or crude or shocking or feeble or trite or apparently lacking in traditional skill – that’s the art that may open eyes or minds and lead to something new and good.  But obviously, people tend to work in the style before last – isn’t that what they say about armies, they prepare to fight the last war, not the next one – and the audiences too.  It’s a sort of assurance of quality for something to look a bit like a Bacon, or a Hilton, or a Peter Doig; you can buy it knowing that a number of people who know, have already spent big money on similar (but of course, astronomically better) works.

So that’s what I’m doing – rehashing ideas and techniques and textures worked out in the 50s and 60s, and producing far inferior stuff that sometimes vaguely reminds people of my heroes in St.Ives and USA.  I don’t do it consciously, however; I don’t copy and it’s only when I’m writing this that it’s obvious to me.

For the record, some of the contemporary artists I really like are;

Cecily Brown, Matthew Barney, Rineke Dijkstra,  Andre Butzer….. more tomorrow.

listening to, “Elgin Movements”, by Blue Smitty (words borrowed from Robert Johnson);

“She got elgin movements from her hips down to her toes,

Break in on a dollar anywhere she goes.”