Posts Tagged ‘Lyotard’

Blackpaint 27

January 2, 2010

Barthes and Foucault

These French postmodern philosophers wrote about” the Death of the Author” (title of a book by Barthes)-the idea was no artwork is new or original; all art is basically a cut and paste job.  Artists are merely copying and reassembling previous ideas.  And the reader/viewer creates the meaning.  This sounds about right for my stuff again; when anyone asks me what’s going on in one of my paintings, I can refer them to these two (and Lyotard).

Sir John Soane’s House

Visited this strange, crowded museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields today; full of casts – I think – of bits of tomb, column, friezes, sarcophagi, vases, books, paintings in a gloomy house designed by Soane himself.  Bridges and skylights, arches and coloured glass.  Full of attendants, and on the chairs, what at first looked like toy mice.  They turned out to be teasel heads, I assumed for brushing up the plush seats – but no.  An attendant told one of the visitors that they were to stop people sitting on the chairs; once you received a bottomful of the painful spines, you would think twice about doing it again.

This no-nonsense approach was also displayed by the volunteer marshalling the (tiny) queue outside; in a jovial tone, he told the man in front that there was no drawing allowed on Saturdays – and continued, “If you are caught drawing, you will be asked to leave immediately.”  Maybe foreigners, particularly Americans, respond to this treatment well – evidence of British eccentricity.  I was surprised to get in, shabbily dressed in jeans, my son wearing trainers.


It’s famous for the Hogarth paintings, notably the Elections (just about visible in the gloom).  The one affable attendant – woman from Sheffield, I think – told us that the paintings were really secondary to the engravings, as far as H was concerned; they were a sort of advert or demonstration sampler for the latter.  also some good Fuselis, and scenes from Shakespeare – Lear, the Dream, Merry Wives – in which the main character always has those staring eyes and tragic expression that I associate with Blake.


Jimmy, not Reece.  Listening to: “Times are Getting Tougher than Tough” with T Bone on guitar.

“Prices gettin’ steeper, Money’s gettin’ cheaper,

Had myself a woman, but I just couldn’t keep her-

Times gettin’ tougher than tough,

Things gettin’ rougher than rough,

Well, I made a lot of money, but I just keep spendin’ the stuff”.



Blackpaint 26

January 1, 2010


Jean Francois Lyotard thought that the age of “Grand Narratives” was at an end;  the late 20th century and beyond, there would be the age of  little narratives.  So, no more Nation, Empire, bloc – from now (then) on, neighbourhood, tribe, cult, family, individual.  Historically wrong, then; Global Warming, War on Terror are both Grand Narratives, even if they are illusory or misnomers.

As far as art goes, however, it seems to me he was right – it’s all fragmentation, no great Movements, absolute truths.  He divided art into “Figural” – based on emotion, immediate reaction, shock, irrationality – and “Discursive” – rational, intellectual, narrative – and “privileged” (awful transformation of adjective to verb) the visual over the written.  the meaning of “figural” art?  Whatever the viewer sees/thinks/says.

So Lyotard is my man; my stuff is Figural and means whatever thr viewer wants it to mean (it may of course be Discursive too, if anyone reads something interesting, or appealing,  into it).  More Postmodernism from “Art Theory for Beginners tomorrow.

“Intensely Dutch”

I got this fantastic book for Christmas, full of staggering, beautiful abstract and figurative Dutch artists of late 20th century (with de Kooning included; fair enough, I suppose).  The colours are enough to burn into your brain, and the names are good too – Jaap Wagemaker, Wim Oepts, Jaap Nanninga, as well as Appel, Constant and deK.

“100 Contemporary Artists”

My other Christmas book, a big 2 volume Taschen, has more up- to- date artists.  I prefer the painters, and going by Lyotard’s dictum, picked out the following on the basis of immediate visual reaction (i.e. without reading the notes):  Cecily Brown, whose surfaces and colours reminded me immediately of de Kooning’s; Andre Butzer, ditto for Jorn and Guston; and John Currin, whose “Rotterdam 2006” can hardly fail to have a Figural effect – check it out, as the young people say.  The girls on the opposite page in “the Old Fence” are like something by Lucas Cranach, I think.  Then there is the great Marlene Dumas, with her ugly/beautiful, smeary pictures of dead women, pole dancers and creepy little girls with hands dripping blood.  And Peter Doig, of course, canoes, stars, jungles, uniforms…  Volume 2, I – Z tomorrow.

Propaganda Art

A few blogs back, I was rambling on about art and propaganda and said that only propaganda for or by “the oppressed” was likely to produce any decent art; propaganda on behalf of the powers-that-be – Socialist Realism, Nazi art – was likely to be laughable, or sinister, or both (depending on the distance of the viewer from the Power that Be’s).

This sounds like the sort of thing George Orwell would say, only much better, of course; however, what about the following?

Republican posters in the Spanish Civil War (I’m thinking of Miro, for example); Rodchenko’s posters for various Soviet Government ventures in Bolshevik Russia; murals and other art produced under the auspices of the WPA in 30s USA; murals produced in Mexico and elsewhere by Rivera and Orozco.


Listening to Steeleye Span, Bedlam Boys.

“Still we sing bonny boys, bonny mad boys,

Bedlam boys are bonny,

For they all go bare and they live by the air,

And they want no bread nor money”.

Just finished reading “Bartholomew Fair” by Ben Jonson, and was totally lost by the last 30 pages – as many characters as “And Quiet Flows the Don” and full of 17th century London slang.