“You won’t believe this but, I was reading an art exhibition review which is pretty damming, not only to the exhibition in question, but also to the artist who made it. This isn’t an anti-post modernist twentieth century rant, nor is it an intellectual twenty first century tirade of what Art should be or indeed what it actually is.
Not at all, this review is more like those angry comments one sometimes reads after an essay about Contemporary Art in a left leaning national newspaper. You know, those rants directed at some arts columnist who infuriates everyone with his almost myopic intellectualism – the one that uses sentences filled with nine letter and twelve letter words that were lifted from a thesaurus the night before.
To be honest, at first I laughed and then I was taken aback at the ferocity of the attack and then I felt really pissed off….” (30 September – 19.07 sms from Spike to painters Tubes magazine Sweden article to follow).
…the newspaper reviewer started off with, “that he found the exhibition so boring… that he could hardly find anything [to write about]. So, what was this horrendous exhibition he was so incensed about? – Artists vomit ‘installed’ on the floor of a gallery perhaps? Or maybe a live performance of an artist asleep? Maybe digital prints of someone else iPhone selfies? Or even a person standing and staring into space for an hour or two naked in the middle of a gallery whistling out of tune? Nope… none of those, it was a visual art exhibition showing paintings hung on a wall. Paintings, the most ubiquitous of all art was what this supercilious art critic railed against. He announced that painting (as an art form) was dead if not buried. So what if the artist had mounted an on-line exhibition instead of a bricks and mortar gallery exhibition? Would he have had to encountered such negativity and venom against the artist and the work? I don’t think so. On-line etiquette is far too well enforced, as far as commenting (read criticising) art is concerned. If you do critic any art on line – well, you know what happens guys…you get a bad case of the International Troll Gang gunning for you, social media is vicious towards critics. It’s sort of reversed in real life.
Do you Sell on line?
Showing paintings on line, seems to be the main stream for the dissemination of an artists work. Even though real life exhibitions are still relevant for many artists, an on line presence is essential (if only for street cred). Perhaps this particular critic didn’t realise that the “painting is a dead art” conversation has faded away as fast as padded shoulders did in the middle 1980’s. There has been a major change in attitude to painting in the last decade or so. In part, this may be entirely due to the need for the high street galleries to survive the financial crisis, the one that started in earnest way back in 2008. High street galleries need to sell ‘stuff’ and earn a profit – And paintings sell much quicker than ‘cool’ installations that rely on high brow art academics to authenticate the cultural importance of something that most people wouldn’t actually install in their homes (even if they don’t say so publicly). And the institutions are happy to underscore the ‘Art’ as a thank you for the generous support (financial donation) made by the mega white cubed gallery brigade, whose artist is the latest exhibition in the museum. ”
“there’s something rotten in Denmark, me thinks.”
Yet, the installation art marketplace is tiny compared to what the two dimensional art market is and I think the galleries have woken up to that as a fact – so now painting is the ‘thing’ again. Today the sheer size of the visual art market (because of the internet and the web) has outgrown all that ‘arty farty stuff’ by leaps and bounds – certainly as far as turnover is concerned. So the www has become the place to set up your stall. Major funded on-line art galleries and some not so well funded independent artists, all have a go at selling direct to art collectors and art lovers. Many of these artists and the one man art galleries start-ups fail quickly- some have a sort of:- ‘in the third year we will make money plan’. Most, in reality, loose much more money than they bargained for and are wrapped up prematurely by the investors that backed the idea in the first place. It’s not a case of chasing huge profits for many galleries though, on the contrary, it’s survival we are talking about here. Many on-line galleries are simply losing too much money, year in and year out. Consumers are going direct to source these days, via instagram.
“there is no money in Art…
…a very wise man once said to me (back in1990). He may have been right but for the wrong reason. Should Art really be treated as a commodity and be sold as such? – ‘Stack ’em high, sell ’em cheap is not an effective strategy for art, unless of course your selling from a production line of ‘copy’ paintings, you know, technically good, but utterly soulless. The high street galleries are having some degree of success especially the well positioned bricks and mortar establishments. They really do use the web effectively. Many sell-out their latest exhibition on-line, even before they hold the opening night. A night which also serves a vital purpose for the prospective client to actually see the Artwork for real – then the deal is invariably clinched on the spot. Sounds good, but nothing has changed for the artist who hasn’t the right connections or a million+ followers on Instagram, he or she still don’t even get a foot through the door let alone a painting to sell.
But – and it’s a big but…
….will authentic original art win out in the end? Or will the major on-line galleries self appointed art selectors continue to advance those artists that fit the preferred ‘style’ of the month and advise their visitors of the artists who are the ‘ones to watch’ (read invest in) – thus employing the ‘stack em high sell em cheap (at first), then up the ‘anti’ later strategy – all with an ‘additional discount to buy’ of course, which the Artist who created the work in the first place has to ‘agree’ to accepting the higher percent they take off the top line. Will High street galleries continue to be flooded by the hopeful newbie or the forsaken mature painters ? To be honest they really don’t stand a chance of being let over the gallery threshold as a exhibited artist. High Street galleries have more than they can handle on the books already – so they tell me. And then of course we have the the on-line educators come experts (anyone can be an art expert if they say they are, all you need in a minor degree in sociology). They tell us – “How-to Sell Your Art On-Line” does this unquantified advise make any difference – or is that bull shit too? Only Time will tell. Real artists have to keep painting and have to wait and see with their eyes wide open to all the possibilities – or maybe and better still – perhaps artists should create their own ‘marketplace and stick two fingers up to the lot of them.
SPIKE is an independent art critic painters TUBES magazine and does not neccessarily represent the opinions of painters TUBES magazine – BUT WE DO LIKE HIM
The danger of ‘Art on Web’, if there is one, is there is possibly too much Art to look at. And perhaps too many twee images…
Abstract Formal and Free
a new beginning for abstract painting in the twenty first century?
By the turn of the century there was a significant uneasy feeling among creatives, it was because the conceptual, come installation art form, had dominated contemporary art for decades [in Europe], it had reached the point where it had become ‘institutionally-approved art.’ – and therefore only represented the Art Establishments opinion of contemporary art and no-one or little else. The conventional medium [painting] had not only been ignored unfairly, but often ridiculed by many academics as a serious medium to create a new contemporary art form.
This was more apparent in Europe than it was in the USA. Which had, in the main, accepted and had retained ‘painting’ on the curriculum of universities and art academies. This wasn’t the case in Europe, especially the UK, where slowly but surely ‘painting’ was removed not only from Universities curriculums but also actively eradicated by discouraging students of including painting in their portfolios for year ending assessments (some made a threat of immediate failure if they did so). Talent, skill, colour understanding and artistic authenticity became a thing of the past and all these later day basic elements and knowledge for art creation was declared ‘obsolete’ in favour of a Post Modernistic approach to art where plagiarism was not only allowed but expected of the student.
Not every one agreed with the post-modernism dogma, and many Artists, in general, became tired of restricting themselves to the non-physical involvement of art creation, mixed with the re-making of someones else’s original idea from the recent past and where the actual process of the creation was secondary, or unimportant. Disillusioned with the philosophy of post modernism and conceptualism, where only the ‘idea’ of a work of Art was the thing that was worthy of consideration, traditional painting became more and more attractive to Artists once again. This was despite the uneven handed approach to painting in the Art Education system. Painting flourished, especially with the underground artists, mostly dogged painters from the 1980’s, also the graffiti artists and with help of small exhibitions by the commercial galleries on some high streets and in provisional towns, painting began to prove that it was very much alive and had not ‘died off’ as it was predicted it would in the later stages of the Twentieth century.
The catalyst for paintings resurrection may have come from a movement that became known (in Europe) as the ‘Transavantgarde.’ Achille Bonito Oliva, an Italian critic overseen the new, or more appropriate, renewed an art philosophy that rejected the left wing [political] thinking in art and its corresponding artistic psychoanalysis. They returned to encouraging the use of traditional materials and the creation of Art imbued with not only talent but the invention of new image communication forms or symbolic signs. They gained an international audience in 1982 with an exhibition that was mounted in Rome.
The leading Transavantgarde artists included Chia, Cucchi and Clemente with Baselitz and Keifer in Germany, who are often thrown into the mix of the artists in this re-engagement with painting. What was also significant, was that a few artists in the USA seemed closer to the European Transavantgarde mind set than they did to the ‘pop’ or the ‘hyper-realists’ practitioners (for example, Julian Schnabel).
This goes to illustrate how the Art in the public view (media coverage), the one sanctioned and approved by art institutions, can be misleading, with the implication that Art is binary or lineal. Most artists know that Art is and always has been, dynamic and multifaceted.
We are only in the 17th year of a new century, but these last seventeen years are proving to be milestones in painting development, albeit not to the same extent that Cubism changed how artists think about how they could create a work of art.
The neo-expressionism of the Transavantgarde of the 1980’s led to more and more figurative interest in art creation. And in certain ways figurative abstract painting has asserted itself as the popular choice of many artists. Today figurative abstraction appears at the forefront of recent painting. It can take the form of abstracted human forms, landscape, emotional or personal experiences. The resulting artworks all carry something ‘real’ as the key element in the work of the artist. Art for Art ‘s sake, or Art as the object itself is no longer the main concern.
Picasso once said that… “there is no such thing as abstract painting, everything comes from something..”
What is apparent today is that the visual art playing field has widened and levelled itself to be inclusive rather than exclusive, as it was once was not so long ago.
Realism, semi-realism, abstraction in all it’s forms, gestural, expression, geometric formal, and informal and combination abstraction (objectivity mixed with non-objectivity), photographic/painting montages, video, digital art and graffiti, all have an active role to play in the kaleidoscope of todays visual art world. The whole history of art and art ism’s seems to have merged into an array of visually stimulating and exciting art forms, but only new in the sense that they are created in the ‘here and now’ and reflect that ‘here and now’ – it’s perhaps a more short sighted view of culture that is held today than it was in the middle of the twentieth century.
everything in painting has been done already, so why bother to paint at all?
“everything in painting has been done already, so why bother to paint at all.”
It is probably the ‘realist’ paintings of today that is easy to critic. After all they’d say, what is the point of copying something in front of you, when we now have the digital camera? – To a large extent I can and do agree with that statement. What I think they missed is the point of the process of painting, one that changes the reality and why that entails a complex relationship that a painter has to develop along with the work. And not only from spending a great deal of time working on it per sé- but creating something that didn’t exist before. To understand that process fully one has to actually paint, not talk about, not write about, and certainly not curate, to gain a total understanding of why painters still paint, by hand and not by computer or instruct other people to do it for them. These new artists of the late 20th century were impatient and young, they had no time to hone a skill or tap into a natural talent, let alone develop one or need a natural talent whatsoever, what was the point when the new Art Marketing machine would triumph over Art, they said, and they were right.
“talent is not enough..” …was another banner held high by the supporting tribe of over valued culture writers at the time. The new young artists all succeeded, they all became rich beyond their dreams. They had titles and honours poured over them. They have since then, been elected into positions that were once held by Artists who, perhaps unlike them, actually deserved the accolades bestowed upon them. This was the art world environment that appalled me as a 47-year-old painter of over 20 years [in 1998] when I was given the task of seeking out other real-artists to participate in a special exhibition called Heart 2 Art . It was a project commission from the International Support Group in Sweden and the Swedish Government Estonian Trust Fund. The show was in benefit for the survivors and the families of them that perished in the Estonia Ferry disaster of 1994. It was the most important and difficult exhibition that I had ever agreed to be the lead Artist, designer and curator of. I was given the lead by the Anglo-Swedish Art Group W.O.R.K (Waxholm Organisation [for the] Reformerandet av Konst).
It was at this time and in this frame of mind that I discovered a painter in far away [from Sweden] Argentina called Gabriel Grun. He became one of 27 Artists selected from nine countries that was finally exhibited in the Heart 2 Art exhibition in 2002 in Stockholm. The show was an eclectic mix of mediums of visual art that was to demonstrate the altered realities of humankind. And Gabriel’s work was a part of the show that visualised the link with the past and a new-vision how that link can be interpreted for the future. As the years have passed since 2002, Gabriel has been recognised in Argentina as one of their finest ‘fine artists.’ His dedication to filling the gaps that he feels have been left by the renaissance artists has, to my mind, been an impressive voyage. Yet, beyond that he has also ‘tuned’ himself from the stubborn art student who walked away from a modern art establishments curriculum in Buenos Aires, to a husband and father and a more mature artist who has perfected his craft.
“the idea behind my work is to pick the thread of the long line of visual narrative I love and cherish and give body to certain paintings I perceive somehow to be missing, to constitute gaps that are to be filled, that Rafael or Van Der Weyden just did not have time to do.”
….. I still keep in touch with Gabriel, and recently he told me that after a year or two or working on illustrating a book he is about to embark on a new series of paintings…I have to say I am excited to see what they will be…
I strolled through the car park sucking on my empty pipe and coming to terms with an altered perception of my existence.
a fictional story by painters TUBES art critic ‘Spike’
I strolled through the car park sucking on my empty pipe and coming to terms with an altered perception of my existence. A figure approached me. “Hey mate have you got any skins.” He asked me. I took a step back as I cautiously looked him over. He was a youngish man with a wild haircut and friendly eyes. “No.” I said a little startled by him having spotting me in the shadows. “You see mate, we’re doing our first set of new tunes tonight. It will be an all night rehearsal thing for a gig this weekend. The drummer remembered to bring the weed but forgot to bring the skins, the dick head.” He said with a grin. “Oh I see, what is it you want from me again?” I was still unsure what he was talking about. “You know mate, papers…’skins’ to make a spliff.” I stared open eyed back at him. “It’s just for a smoke mate whilst we are playing.” He said. Still a little confused, as I didn’t know what he was referring to in the first place, I replied.
“You can borrow my pipe, if you want.”
Then I pushed my arm and hand forward, holding the pipe up with some reverence. “Nice one man.” The young man said. “You can come up to the rehearsal room if you want and have a poke, that’s if you like to try the weed.” I thought about the word ‘Poke’. I presumed he meant a smoke of his ‘wacky baccy’. I agreed to the offer of the poke and followed him through the yard to the old buildings urine smelling elevator, which we had to take as the rehearsal rooms, which was on the third floor of the old cotton mill building. It’s odd, I thought, why these young people never take the stairs? He looked to the corners of the lift.“Bands today man, what are they like?
They piss everywhere, they think they’re all fucking Oasis or something.” The boy showed disgust at his fellow musicians lack of respect and I was more empathic about their bladder control. We arrived on the third floor and was greeted by the mural I had painted many years ago of the Beatles. I looked at the mural casually, but made no comment about it. The paint was slowly fading away, but somehow that gave it more authenticity. “Sort of ironic reminder of Pop music.” Said the young musician and he pointed to the mural. “Why ironic?” I asked him.
“You know, it’s fading away, like all pop bands fade away, when their fans fade away. or grow old and die…”
…and so the story begins.
…The old rehearsal studios were very old, but loved by the local musicians, because they are cheap to rent space in. The building carried a renown musical history going back several decades. I first came here as a young ambitious artist, wanting to be around the new music that was exploding onto the scene at that time. They called the place ‘Green Door,’ due to the large metal doors of the entrance that were painted green for as long as anyone can remember – I knew why they were that colour of course, because it was the one that painted them, when I first created the wall mural of the Beatles on either side of the doors. The young man and I walked through the Green Door and there seated on two old leather sofas was the rest of the band. He introduced to each of them in turn. “Ok, this is Monny our Singer and this is Spider our lead genius guitar and this is Woody our mad drummer and I’m Smiffy the quite one on base. And this guys is the provider of the pipe, sorry man but didn’t catch your name?” The he said. I shook each of their hands and introduced myself as Spike, my own nickname back in the day. “And I’m the bands public relations expert.” A young blonde girl came out from one of the side recording rooms, she held out her hand. She resembled an updated version of Marilyn Monroe with heavy red lipstick, matching finger nails and the possessor of an curvy figure. She shook my hand gently, but firmly. “Pleased to meet you, my name is Anthea.” She said, “But the band call me Andy.”
Are you an artist? She asked me. “Of sorts.” I replied. Before Anthea could develop the conversation Smithy had loaded the pipe, fired it up and handed it to me. Blue smoke already filled the air accompanied by the sweet aroma of marijuana. I decided to be polite and not refuse to partake and sucked on the pipe before blowing out a cloud of smoke. It caught my throat and I coughed. “Good Mary Jane.” I said. The band looked at me confused. “You know, – MJ.” I said. They laughed at the dated references to the drug, as each of them took turns to suck and blow in between refilling the pipe with the weed. “Did you say you’re an Artist?” The singer said. “I was a painter, many moons ago.” I answered. “You didn’t you do that old mural at the entrance did you?” The lead guitarist asked. “Guilty as charged”. I said smiling. “And I was actually paid for doing it.” I replied. “That’s sick man” ‘Woody’ said and after a silent pause in the group conversation.
“I thought it was Ok when I did it, but it may look sick now I guess.” I replied. Smiffy explained that ‘sick’ was good and not ‘sick’ as in meaning bad. “Nice one, I always wondered who painted it, now I’ve met him.” Said Spider laughing.
“My company is called Sync-In” The blonde bombshell interjected. “That’s with a ‘Y’ and a ‘C’. She clarified her companies name by handing me her business card. I looked at it impassively. ‘Sync-In’…keeping you in touch with todays sounds. The card said. “That’s Cool” I replied to her card, trying to appear as ‘cool’ as any old man could be, given the present company who’s average age I guessed to be no more than twenty one years old. “Are you a well known artist?” She asked. I stuttered a little before answering her. “Yes, but only to myself.” I said and the band laughed. The pipe finally arrived at me again and I took one huge drag and then passed it on to the blonde bombshell. “Oh, thanks, don’t mind if I do.” She said politely. “Hey mate” Smiffy shouted. “Wanna hear a tune or two in a bit?” “Sure.” I answered enthusiastically. After all I had nowhere else to go, also the blonde bombshell intrigued me. We walked into one of the smaller rehearsal rooms and the band began to warm up their respective instruments.
Andy Sandy sat next to me. “They are really good” She said. “I’m organising a video for the BBC New Sounds show. “We decided to record a live gig.” She purred. After numerous twangs of electric wire strings and drum rolls, the band launched themselves into their first new song. ‘Smiffy’ created a base line that led the lead guitarist into a hook line whilst ‘Woody’ became one with his set and clicked his sticks together to ascertain the beat, his bobby hat being the only thing in view behind the large drum set. The band spun-off from each other as the rhythm and lyrics began to slowly gel together into a melodic beginning. It went well until Andy decided she wanted the band to rehearse how they would appear on stage, (for the video). She began positioning them, explaining from which best direction they would be videoed. The band went along with her for a while. Then Woody got up from his drums and went back to the sofa, quickly followed by Smiffy leaving only the lead guitarist and Monny.
I excused myself and joined Smiffy on the sofa. He sat smoking my pipe and looking glum. “She does my head man.” I looked at him with sympathy. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, she’s good at what she does, but I don’t see why she has to be at rehearsals every fucking week. I mean she maybe shagging Monny, but for fucks sake…we gotta get some real rehearsing time in..seriously man…we a’int anywhere near tight enough yet for this BBC gig.”
He took a suck on my pipe and then handed it to me. “You know she is probably wasting her time anyway.” I said to Smiffy. “What d’you mean?” He sensed I was on his side. “Well, of all the best bands I’ve ever seen in here, and thats like hundreds and hundreds in my time.” I stopped for a puff on my pipe. “How old are you man.” Smiffy said. “As old as pop music my boy”. I said with a wry smile. “Now as I was saying, of them all, the very best didn’t so much play music as feel it.” “Well yea, we all do feel the sounds man, what’s that gotta do with Andy and her fucking about with our rehearsing time?” “Perhaps you should mention to Monny that if the video is to be of any substance, musically speaking, then Andy should video you exactly how you feel when you are performing the tunes. No rehearsals are needed for that. You should be creating the togetherness at rehearsals and only performing the sounds at the gig. If anyone has to be in rehearsals at all, they should be like me, invisible. That way it will be a great video and not a cheesy one, like so many of these video artists seem to be these days.” “If he’ll listen, I think he goes deaf when he sees her big knockers, he can’t concentrate on the words of the tune.” He was right, as in so many cases, personal or physical relationships and creating music cannot be mixed and if they are, generally it’s for the worse, at least that’s according to my observations of the years. #” The mad thing is Andy’s got a brilliant voice – I want her to be in the band – and be a sort of co-singer – that would have solved everything- but I was out-voted. I persuaded, with a promise of support for many of Smithy’s viewpoints, and persuaded him and Woody to go back into the rehearsal room and try again to play at least one song from top to bottom without Monny’s girlfriend’s involvement.
Andy was still positioning Spider and Monny for camera angles as we walked in. When the band set up again she sat down next to me. “So, Andy, tell me, are you planning to be on stage with the boys at the gig?” She looked at me as if I had insulted her. “Of course not, this is about the Band and not me.” I sucked on the pipe, which was, by now empty. “Oh, I see, I thought you would be.” I said. “Why? She asked turning towards me. “It would be natural for you to do it wouldn’t it? or have you employed a camera person for the job? “Not exactly, the BBC said they would have to use their own camera people.” “I see, so you have no real input with them do you” “None at all.” She said. “Yet I hear you have a good voice? – Couldn’t you persuade Monny to be a back up for him.” I asked. ” Well you know what bands are like…they are very funny about letting in new members.” She with a frown on her forehead. “I see so now, you are trying to get the band to put themselves in a position on stage as if you would be filming them, so you are involved, is that it?” “Well, I hadn’t thought of it like that but I suppose so.” I looked at the pipe and looked at Andy. “Could you do me a favour.” I asked. “Depends on what it is.” She said with a cheeky smile on her face. “Can you find something to put into this.” I held up the pipe. “I believe you will some ‘weed’ in Woody’s jacket on the sofa. Andy obliged and being a bright girl, I think she was thinking about our conversation, and seriously thinking about making music for herself.
The band began their first tune of the night. And repeated the introduction as they had before. This time Monny was concentrated. “Rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, rain” ‘Monny’ sang and faded out the last of words as ‘Spider’ caressed his electric tool and produced an addictive repetition of notes. Smiffy played a pulsating captivating hook base line throughout. Monny looked up from the staring at the floor and began to sing with emotional power. “A million thoughts are spinning round my head, a sinking feeling like I’m in a dream.” He continued. “Remembering all the things I could have said…to you.” He turned to face the drummer and turned back grabbing the microphone in one movement while simultaneously upping the volume of his voice. “When you’re gone there’ll be no second chance, you made your bed now lie in it.” The rest of the bands volume increased three fold and Monny roared. “Rain on me and wash away my tears, shine on me and brighten up my years.” Spider played a haunting solo on lead as Woody rammed the drums with powerful expression. The instruments then fell silent except for the faint base rhythm played by Smiffy. Monny looked down at the floor and shook his head from side to side as if he was crying. He looked up at the ceiling and quietly sang with a sad delivery. “We all come to a bridge of life.” Monny then looked to his side and then looked directly at me. “Has it ever occurred no-one crosses it?” The guitar kicked in much louder and the drummer became a blur of flashing sticks. “Rain on me” ‘Monny’ cried out and then repeated the same lyric as he expanded the line. “I’m taking one day at a time, one day at a time” He followed it swiftly with an emotional tone. “Rain on me and wash away my tears”. He pleaded “Shine on me and brighten up my years.” He asked with passion. He repeated the line “Brighten up my years.” Building up to a crescendo. As the band slowly played in unison to the fore with an immense addictive sound. It was, I thought, the best song I had ever heard for many a year behind the Green Door.
I found myself standing up accompanied by Andy, who had come back into the room smoking and hot. At the end of the song I collapsed exhausted into the chair. “I have to leave.” I said. “Wanna a poke before you go?” ‘Monny’ asked me. I looked at the pipe and looked at Andy. “No thanks Monny, but you can keep the pipe, because that was what I call a great tune.”
till next time…
I walked to the Green Doors, as I opened them I turned my head to the band. “What do you call yourselves?” ‘Monny’ rose to his feet and proudly said “Teaser.” “That’s with a very big ‘Z’ in the middle” Andy added. “ I looked at Andy – “Let the band do the video exactly as they have, it will be a smash hit. I said and walked out of the room making my way towards the urine perfumed elevator, but detoured towards stairs, preferring the smell of mould and dirt to that of urine. “Rain on me and wash away my tears, Shine on me and brighten up my years.” A tear fell as I sang the tune as I slowly walked down the stairs and through the yard and back into my non-existence, that is until the next time I cross the bridge of space and time to once again go behind the Green Door.