“…the intellect that courses under the bombast of execution.” Koons in a nutshell. Great post.

Truffle Hunting

Dear TruffleHunters!

I’m pleased to be reporting from Germany this week where I will be bringing you a couple of TruffleHunting’s first international reports. Our first stop is Frankfurt, Germany where a couple of weeks ago saw the opening of two ambitious exhibitions by America’s premiere artistic raconteur Jeff Koons. The double show, held at Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt and Liebieghaus Musuem is split between Koons’ polemic between Painting and Sculpture. Both exhibitions reinforce Koons as an ambitious creative force for the new century. They also highlight the intellect that courses under the bombast of execution.

Jeff Koons, The Painter

The exhibition at the Schirn Kunsthalle is joyous and exuberant. On display are selections of every major body of work from the early advertisement appropriations to the lusty Made in Heaven series to the gargantuan collaged compositions of the Easy Fun, Hulk Elvis and Antiquity series .

The show’s most…

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Art Work of the Day, by CERN

Short post to mark what I hope will prove a truly historic day (and to offer my sympathies to my American friends: ‘#Higgs’ is trending higher than ‘Happy 4th of July’; couldn’t CERN have made the announcement yesterday? Or tomorrow? PARTY-POOPERS!!)

Beyond the Standard Model: Simulated Large Hadron Collider CMS particle detector data depicting a Higgs boson. Beautiful.

Anyways…
Just to re-iterate: There is NO DICHOTOMY between ‘Art’ and ‘Science’. It is not one vs. the other, and never was.
Both are simply aspects of human creativity.
‘Science’ demands imagination, intuition. Otherwise, it goes nowhere.
‘Art’ demands method and rigour. Otherwise, it’s a mess.

Both help us see the ‘world’ in revelatory, thrilling ways.
Einstein and Euripides; Picasso and Pythagoras; Caravaggio and Copernicus: Dirac and Dickens; Beckett and Bohr; van Gogh, Goethe, Shakespeare…
All extraordinary, all blessed with the capacity to imagine the, for the rest of us, unimaginable.

(And if you think that the ‘aesthetics’ of science, how it’s presented, don’t matter, witness the Twitter brouhaha over CERN’s use of Comic Sans:

SHOCKING!! 🙂 )

“Without fantasy there is no science. Without fact there is no art.” – Vladimir Nabokov

‘Art’ and ‘science’, cut from the same cloth: us.

Happy Higgs Boson Day!!

(To all my American friends, lest you’re not feeling the love:

Enjoy!)

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The first poem published in a scientific journal:
http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/07/06/mary-e-harrington-science-poetry/

You can now LISTEN to the Higgs boson!!

Mad Dogs and Englishmen: Adam Berry, artist

“Field Sport Series (Fear of the Dog)”, 2011-12

I know Adam and have long admired his work, so writing about his latest pieces has been difficult in that I’ve tried to forget almost everything I know about his views on art and look at them through a stranger’s eyes, as I have – out of necessity – the works of other contemporary artists I’ve discussed. (I’ve also studiously ignored the 10,000 word thesis that accompanies this series as part of Adam’s final submission towards his MA degree; if art can’t speak for itself, it’s not doing its job.)

I’ve always been struck by a certain ‘Englishness’ about Adam’s work: hard to put into words precisely; something Turneresque, perhaps? Constable-ish?
Then, looking again at Field Series, it hit me: Thomas Gainsborough.­
Now, I’ve no inkling about what Adam will make of the comparison, but I’ve come to view him as something of a natural heir to the great 18th century painter.

Gainsborough’s great love was reserved for landscape, the land; portraiture was how he earned his living. When he combined the two, something extraordinary happened, something a world away from the academic ‘grand manner’ style favoured by his rival, Joshua Reynolds:

‘Mr and Mrs Andrews’, 1750, 69cm x 119cm
The National Gallery, London

Portraits were (still are?) commissioned by the landed and wealthy to reflect their social standing back at themselves and at their peers: a kind of certificate of authenticity, of ‘belonging’.
But the newly-minted Mr Andrews got rather more than he bargained for.

The artist, having no love for the monied, landed classes, produced a painting which, while doing what it says on the tin, is full of irony, subtlety and subversion. It is what Adam would call ‘a situation in an image’, where nothing is stated and everything implied.

Consider the gawky awkwardness of the couple in posture and, in her case, dress: their relationship to the land is strictly proprietorial, not ‘natural’ –  the land has not been tended by their hands; the great oak tree, symbol of tradition and stability, is surely ironic when one recalls that Mr Andrews was something of a parvenu. But he’s got the land, the gun, the broodmare: to him, then, the history.
What he hasn’t got is the nous to see that, in that lowering grey cloud, Gainsborough is about to piss on his parade.

This, in my view, is exactly what Adam, another lover of the land, does in Field Series.

Stylistically, the artists are similar: the warm greeny-brown palette of an English late summer/autumn (the start of the hunting season); superb draughtsmanship combined with vigorous brushwork and a lively painterliness; in Adam’s work here, however, the ‘situation’ is not in a particular image, but in the series as a whole. Several pieces could be taken out of context and appear quite anodyne (and look well on a huntsman’s drawing-room wall; oh, irony), but viewed together, referentially, they imply an over-arching narrative that is as satirical as Gainsborough’s masterpiece.

Just as Gainsborough took traditional form and content and used them as a means of subversive social critique, so Adam appropriates age-old artistic tropes and genres – the hunting print, the cartoon, the portrait, the horse study – and deploys them not just to ‘condemn’ fox-hunting – too crudely didactic –  but, I believe, to allow for, while never insisting upon, a strongly political interpretation: the ‘State of the Nation’, no less.

Hunting with dogs, opposed by the ordinary majority, has been illegal in England since 2005, yet the law is routinely flouted by those with the money/power, the rich ‘them’, with their exclusive and excluding ‘uniforms’ (hunting ‘pinks’, hunt buttons, special ribbons, collars, etc. etc.), their strict top-down hierarchy, their particular and peculiar jargon, their arcane rituals (‘blooding’ of children, for one.)

The government does not give two hoots, clearly. We are supposed to live in a democracy, all equal before the law.
Ha.


The fact is, we are governed by a self-regarding ‘club’, a network of vested interests which rides rough-shod over the rest of us much like the local hunt once ploughed through a North Yorkshire neighbour’s garden. Just as we have pro-hunt types waxing sophistical about the ‘traditions’ and’benefits’ of chasing foxes and their cubs and ripping them to bloody shreds, so we have Cameron and his mob hunting down and tearing the lives away from those among us, the ‘vermin’, who have so very little to start with; at the same time they are doing nothing at all, other than engaging in diversionary moralising (Jimmy Carr), to curb the excesses and evasions of the obscenely wealthy.

It is not ‘we’ who control our land, our history; it is still ‘they’, Mr Andrews and his ilk; the toilers, like Andrews’ invisible farm-hands, the true curators of those golden, rolling acres, don’t get a look-in.

What is ‘tradition’? Whom does it serve?
Both Gainsborough and Adam raise these questions formally, through the medium of paint; ‘traditional’ content becomes the means of it’s own radical subversion. Crucially, Adam’s work shows that painting, as an art form, can still be relevant and incisive, whatever the ‘conceptualists’ would have you believe.

Oscar Wilde once described fox-hunting as “the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable”.

So it remains.

Adam’s very own (True) ‘Blue Boy’?

Come the Revolution…

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Postscript:

All Adam’s images in the series –  the above are a very small selection – are approximately 25cm x 22cm, and are framed in Adam’s own idiosyncratic, handmade style:

The frames, which would require their own blog post,  and the position of the images within the frames, are integral to the art works, but I wanted to concentrate in the first place on the images. The above gives you some idea of the look of the whole, and why, together, with this extra heft, I view the Series as something more substantial, more ‘sculptural’, perhaps, than simply ‘paintings’.

See more of Adam’s work here: http://www.adamberryfineartpainting.co.uk/
(Needs updating, Ad!)

Excellent. A timely re-visiting of an era when we thought things couldn’t get worse…

IMAGE OBJECT TEXT

Gillian Wearing, Signs that say what you want them to say and not signs that say what someone else wants you to say (Help) and (I’m desperate), 1992-3

Though Gillian Wearing doesn’t re-enact the work of a scientist to make art, arguably she does nonetheless take on another role: that of the confessor. In a number of different works, Wearing allows those she encounters – either through approaching strangers on the street or by advertising – to express their innermost thoughts in one way or another.

For the series of photographs Signs that say what you want them to say and not signs that say what someone else wants you to say, made in 1992-3, Wearing asked people to write a sign that said something they really wanted to say and hold it up for the camera. Some of the signs comment on the wider political situation of…

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Laugh? I nearly did.

Time for a bit of froth.

Now, dear readers and fellow-bloggers, I need your help.
I’m on the hunt for Funny Art and Art Jokes. Having scoured the internet (well, the first page of a Googled search – you know how it is) I have been appalled to discover just how little of the funny stuff there is out there.

And I don’t mean Bad Art, hilarious as it often is. You will recall my delight at coming across The Museum of Bad Art and the ghastly treasures therein:

No. I want Art With A Humourous Intent.
There must be some out there.

Of course,  there’s David Shrigley. But even he doesn’t find his work that amusing.

On this he and I are as one.
(I did however find the ‘catocopter’ – very Shrigleyesque – entertaining for about a minute.

I love my cat, but that doesn’t stop me being a sicko.)

And ‘art jokes’! Where are they?
And why, with a terrible irony, considering he’s viewed as the most tragic of geniuses, do most of them seem to be about poor old Vincent ?

“Man walks into a pub and sees van Gogh standing at the bar. “Oi, Vinnie! You’re my hero! Let me buy you a drink?”
“You’re alright, pal. I’ve got one ‘ere’.”

Hahahaha. Ahem. Not really.

And then there are those dreadful ‘Van Gogh’s Relatives’:

His Mexican cousin’s American half brother — Grin Gogh
The constipated uncle — Can’t Gogh
His niece traveling the country in a van — Winnie Bay Gogh
His nephew the psychoanalyst — E Gogh

And so on and so forth.
It took me a while to even ‘get’ them. We Brits – equally egregiously, I’m sure, to Dutch ears – pronounce ‘Gogh’ as ‘Goff’.
As in:
His notorious truant Brummie nephew – Bunkin Gogh
His eternally contagious niece – Whooping Gogh   (Ouch.)
His cricketing, ‘Strictly’-winning second cousin – Darren Gogh:

Athlete supreme

I know. They’re rubbish. I’m trying here.

Oh, and for the record I don’t want ‘witty’, pointed jokes. You know what I mean:

“During World War II an inquisitive German officer was harassing Picasso in his Parisian apartment. Noticing a photograph of Guernica lying on a table he asked the artist ”did you do that?” “No, you did,” responded Picasso.”

Or this:

These aren’t funny.
Sharp, maybe. Funny, no.
Unless you’re the type who goes to Shakepeare comedies and ‘laughs’ smugly and a bit too loudly to show how erudite and cultured you are. If you are the type, know this:
I hate you.

So, c’mon guys. Help me out here.
All contributions very gratefully received.
Let’s have a laugh.
God knows, we could all do with it.

____________________________________________________

Update 17/6/2012:

I thought this recent ‘Jubilee’ work by T’Art Club member Vincent Lee was amusing:

Check out also this post by Ann Jones:
http://imageobjecttext.com/2012/02/20/in-the-bank/

Getting ’em out for The Lads: Lee Horyon

(Thursday Rant.)

Lee’s work separates the vague relationship between image and desire.”

“Vague”?
Since when has the relationship between image and desire been ‘vague’? A vast porn industry is predicated precisely on the fact that  the relationship between image and sexual desire is very clear-cut indeed. How else would pornography ‘work’?

Take a look at Horyon’s work.

Am I the only one to find them offensive?

I am reminded of the old sexist ‘joke’:
“You don’t look at the mantlepiece when you’re poking the fire”.
Dress it up in meaningless, high-sounding sophistry as much as you like; the fact remains that images of headless/faceless women in poses ranging from the titillating to ‘softly’ (ha!) pornographic are, in my opinion, offensive to at least half the human race.

The last one, with her ass in your face, is veiled, for crying out loud.
This in a world where women the world over are struggling to throw off ‘the veil’, both literally and metaphorically.

Subjecting women in this fashion, reducing them, not to ‘objects’ (all art objectifies, as I’ve argued before) but to detached, depersonalised commodities purveyed to the male gaze is, in my opinion, not something to be tolerated in the name of ‘art’. There’s no denying Horyon’s technical excellence, but art is not just about how you make it; it’s also about what you choose to make. I’m all for freedom of expression – which is why I’m having my say here – but retrograde representations like these contribute nothing; they merely perpetuate the millenia-old view of women as little more than the means to male sexual gratification.
Strip-tease, burlesque, pornography, these works: they’re all the same in their rejection of an equal relationship between ‘viewer’ and ‘viewed’, and therefore equally deleterious.

Compare if you will Rembrandt’s magnificent Hendrickje Bathing:

The National Gallery, London

This is a woman, Rembrandt’s common-law wife, who was both desired and deeply loved. She has a name and a face; she is a person, not an idealised/air-brushed cipher, and is presented to us with all the tenderness and respect that Rembrandt’s matchless painterly skill allowed.
In her complete trust and lack of self-consciousness, she is very much an equal partner in this work.

That’s what it’s all about.

Picking up the Pieces: David Halliday

We are living in a world of collage.”

The more I think about it, the truer it feels.
Maybe it’s an ‘age’ thing: the awareness that there is no over-arching narrative; there’s just stuff happening, one thing and another.
A world of jarring juxtapositions, odd contiguities; dislocation; disjunction; fractured and fragmented.

Except for the Cymbalta:

“Something is eating a hole… There are too many names in my head. PINS… And a friend. In the Nut House told me. That insanity is not all that it’s cracked up to be.”

David is Canadian, a published writer and artist; that’s about as much as I know. We ‘met’ in the blogosphere; his posts, combining haunting, surreal collage/photo montage with prose poems (micro-fictions?), struck a chord; no callow, eager-eyed youth he; here was a man who has Seen Life.

Still Wearing An Apron: Confessions of a newly divorced woman:

“At the bottom of the stairs. I used to wait for you. To come down. Head first… I can take heart ache. Who doesn’t want to find their husband. Jerking off. Over the dishes?”

His style is spare, staccato, disruptive. No ‘thens’ or ‘becauses’; nothing to imply coherence and understanding, rationalisation; just the piling up of words, phrases, sentences, their only connections being those which we, as we do, read into them.
Like a collage.

There Must Be A Special Home: Drinking buddies:

” For old men. Who still pine… I have to wonder if my liver. Would have outlived. Yours.”

Life; relationships; time itself, experienced not as linear progression, but through snapshots of memories, flitting back and forth; past, present and future commingling uneasily to form an idea of ‘now’:

“Every moment around me. An ambush. Of memory.”

Too Busy Tonight:

“I sat alone in a restaurant. Eating snitzel. And reading the New York Times. Across Church Street. She stepped out of an apartment building. Swimming. In the arms of her lover. Who looked like he’d just taken her. For a test drive.”

Pudding On Your Plate: An old man goes mad cooking dinner:

“Jesus is a wrist watch. That never keeps time. But at least it distracts you from. The point of getting older. My only concern about time. Is how much I have left… The glass is too frail to be half full. Turn my head back to the table. I thought you should know. That isn’t pudding on your plate.”

Just bits and pieces.
We, it, words, images are discrete quanta, bumping up against each other yet remaining forever separate, abstractions in a composite; and this thing we call ‘life’ is something far more grotesquely absurd, far less orderly, than we like to think.
A jigsaw that will never –  quite –  fit:

“The scars from the war. Were still waking him up. In the alley. Between those condominiums that were being renovated… The President is handsome. Aren’t they all.”

The Girl In My Heart: Melancholia:

“The condition of the world. Has sucked off my soul. And you’ve got to get over the feeling. That this has been said. Before. I leave. That the girl in my heart. Is the one. Over there. Her head on my shoulder. Her hand in my pocket.”

Multiplicity and heterogeneity.
No sense of things hanging together comfortably.
Pessimistic? Depressing?
Not at all. (At least not to me. Absurdity is always blackly humourous, I’ve found.)
If art –  the arts –  have one purpose it is surely not to ‘explain’ but to record in a way that we recognise and yet makes us think differently.
David’s work does this, for me.

I’ll leave the last thought to him:

God Or Not:

“There are 2 things.

If there is no God, then the universe is like a haunted house. And freakin’ scary.

And if there is a God. He’s a prick.”

_______________________________________________

See more of David’s art and writing here:
http://hallidd.wordpress.com/

Wake up, Boo!

Just a quickie to mark what feels like the arrival of a summer that knocked on the door in March, only to wander off and get itself hopelessly lost before I had the chance to say hello:

Henley Regatta by Raoul Dufy (1933):

Not the greatest artist – perhaps more correctly termed a graphic designer/ illustrator? – his works never fail to lift my spirits: sketchily light-hearted and optimistic, full of vibrant colour and airiness, to me they’re summer’s mood.

So off with clouts and cares! A glass of something long and cold?
Throw open all the windows and let the laggard in at last…

Oh, and England to win.
(On penalties. 🙂 )

Kind of Blue: Taipei moon bridge

First up, apologies to Miles Davis fiends for getting you here on false pretenses: to you I can only say So What.
Secondly, thanks to Geoff at Gorgeous Company, from whom I shamelessly nicked these images, for bringing them to my attention. They’re probably all over the internet by now, but if you haven’t seen them allow me to share the beauty and the mystery; they are by someone known only as bbe022001 on flickr.
I wish they were mine.

“A moon bridge is a highly arched pedestrian bridge, which in its wooden form may require the walker to initially climb (as one would a ladder) and also when descending… The moon bridge originated from China and was later introduced to Japan…
As part of formal garden design the bridge will be placed where its reflection is seen when the water is still. The half circle is intended to reflect in the calm water below the bridge, creating a full circle between bridge and reflection, a reference to the shape of the full moon.” (Wiki)

Now Ms/Mr Bbe is clearly someone well-versed in Chinese/Japanese aesthetics (I’m not; please feel free to correct me); she/he has used the camera to create something wonderfully, gorgeously ‘new’ that nonetheless resonates with references to ancient traditions.
That in itself is no mean feat.

At the very heart of this aesthetic is, it seems to me, an appreciation of nature, not merely of its beauty but of its changeability, its transience, both of which make it more precious. It is not ‘in your face’ fireworks; it is contemplative, subdued, melancholy even, qualities here achieved through that soft, sad, subtle blue ‘palette’; it inspires not awe but a kind of serene humility, a gratitude that for a fleeting moment you have been privileged to share something quietly, unassumingly extraordinary in its ordinariness.

The Japanese term for this ‘beautiful impermanence’, the appreciation of the ephemeral, is wasi-sabi, and it derives from Zen Buddhism; the moon bridge itself and its reflection surely reference the concept of ensō, Japanese for ‘circle’ and signifying the absolute, enlightenment, and “in Zen Buddhist painting… symbolis[ing] a moment when the mind is free to simply let the body/spirit create.” (Wiki)

None of which, of course, you really need to know.
You just have to look at the images, relax, and let them speak for themselves; there’s a lot going on and yet nothing going on: captured snippets of time in which to contemplate the timeless.

Whoever you are, bbe022001, thank you for sharing.
_____________________________________________________

Sources:
Geoff Clow:
http://gorgeouscompany.wordpress.com/2012/05/19/taiwans-gorgeous-moon-bridge/
My Modern Met:
http://www.mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/moon-bridge-by-bbe022001-taipei-taiwan
bbe022001:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/29325798@N04/6920042977/in/photostream/

Trouble at t’Tate?: ‘re-appraising’ Lowry

 “Lowry remains popular, rather than important; it’s hard to imagine Tate Britain, which has 23 Lowrys in its basement, mounting a survey of his work.”

~ Critic Philip Hensher, April 2011

“What makes Lowry so popular is the same thing which stops him being the subject of serious critical attention. What attracts so many is a sort of sentimentality about him.”

~ Chris Stephens, Head of Displays, Tate Britain, 2011

How times change! And so quickly!
Tate Britain show to reappraise Lowry” (Daily Telegraph, this week).
In 2013.
It’s not difficult to suggest a reason for this sudden volte-face: like Tate Britain’s up-coming, ridiculously pitched Pre-Raphaelite show, a Lowry exhibition demands little more than a quick trip Up North to Salford Quays with two big lads, a wheel-barrow, and a van.
It’s cheap.
‘Reappraise’? What they probably mean is ‘repackage’. Tate Britain are surely showing Lowry precisely because, like Rossetti and his mates, he is popular, and will, they hope, set the cash registers ringing; will it have anything at all to do with genuine, critical ‘reappraisal’?

It’s all very well to state (Guardian) that the exhibition will examine the influence on Lowry of artists like Pissarro and Utrillo (and, one certainly hopes, of his teacher, Valette), but if it were to be a true ‘reappraisal’, the gallery would have to confront, head-on, the very basis of of Lowry’s much-vaunted popularity – this absurd notion of ‘a sort of sentimentality’.
Lowry’s words:

“To say the truth, I was not thinking very much about the people. I did not care for them in the same way a social reformer does. They are part of a private beauty that haunted me. I loved them and the houses in the same way.. “

(My emphases.)

There is nothing genial and altruistic here.
And this is why I, descendant of clog-shod generations of West Riding mill-workers, have never cared a jot  for the ‘matchstick’ paintings: I never believed them. Far from being paeans to the ‘Grim-Up-North-but-Salt-of-the-Earth’-ness that brings a nostalgic tear to the eyes of otherwise hardened northern hunks, they are detached, gimlet-eyed works (nothing wrong with that; the vast majority of art works are), and thus the very  opposite of ‘sentimental’. Any ‘warmth’ in them is supplied by you, the viewer, reacting to that browny/red-toned palette, itself a fib; if you’re as old as I am you’ll remember the mucky, murky blacks and greys of smoke, soot and more soot. And reacting also to that faux-naïf style, which for me grates horribly: it lends a simple (simple-minded?) ‘folksy’ feel, but in truth that very self-conscious stylisation has a dehumanising effect which in the end is not only, as Lowry admits, unsympathetic, but downright patronising.

So how will Tate Britain ‘sell’ these works? Just by bigging-up, as with the Picasso/British Art show, the influence of much better European artists? (So what? All art is referential.) Will they focus on the ‘northern myth’, Kinkade-style, in the hope of shifting a shed-load of tea-towels, mugs and prints to a heart-warmed, grateful public? And if they do, how will they give due weight to the ‘real’ Lowry, the actually quite interesting stuff? Stuff like this, a self-portrait from 1938:
And this:

Hidden until after his death, this series of drawings sheds a somewhat different light on the public, ‘cosy’ Lowry. If the people of his industrial scapes are rendered as less than human, his girls/women here are fetishistic dolls, trussed-up, sinister automatons (his favourite ballet was Coppelia, allegedly), fantastical puppets, easily controlled; this private Lowry reminds me of no-one so much as one Everard Cunion, familiar to those of you who read the weekly ‘womags’ as the owner of a dozen life-size sex-dolls, dolls being much less “trouble” than real women, and one of which he ‘married’:

Disturbing, whichever way you look at it; some might say bordering on the sociopathic.

Of course it’s no secret that Lowry was a, troubled, lonely man with, thanks in no small part to an overbearing mother, a not entirely healthy attitude to women; I’m just wondering if and how Tate Britain will deal with this ‘darker side’ honestly and informatively, because that’s the only way a full-scale exhibition of this, to my mind, decidedly second-rank artist could possibly be worthwhile.
If the show does turn out to be just another re-hash of ‘nice’ Lowry, simply another cash-cow that doesn’t lift the artist out of our comfort zone, then frankly the gallery will have altogether failed at anything like ‘reappraisal’.

To end on a more positive note, because I know that very many of you will love and adore Lowry and disagree with me vehemently, here’s one of his seascapes, many of which I hope will feature; these I do admire for their almost minimalist near-abstraction, and for me, truth:

I have been fond of the sea all my life, how wonderful it is, yet how terrible it is. But I often think … what if it suddenly changed its mind and didn’t turn the tide? And came straight on?”

My thoughts and fears exactly.
On this and this alone, LS Lowry and I are as one.