TUBES issue #5 An extensive article on landscape painting from the early Chinese artists to global contemporary painters. Featuring some of the most gifted landscape painters, both known and unknown. “fantastic issue full of great content and information all in a really good read.” one of the comments from readers about this issue. Link: http://online.mobissue.com/badm/hfli/
TUBES issue #6 The Year Review of the magazines with an excellent front page of one of the great North West English Street painters since L.S.Lowry, Dave Coulter. Plus a full review of the exhibitions that year and more. A great magazine issue. Link:
TUBES issue #7 In this issue… “the pleasure, the passion, the power and the panache of painting”… is well documented by four superb artists – Colin Halliday, Richard Fitton, Patrick Blower and Ian Norris. not to be missed .
TUBES issue #8 Shaun Smith is the main artist featured in this issue. He created a huge portfolio of paintings and drawing over three years documenting the construction of the Mersey Gateway Bridge. Designed and part Constructed by Samsung Construction (Korea) it is the largest infrastructure project carried out in the UK since the M25 motorway.
I strayed across an interesting old video on You Tube….
It was was on those that you find popping up on a feed after you have watched something similar, which is annoying. But, it got me thinking about the relationship between Artistic freedom and Modern Religious Art. This particular You Tube discussion, come lecture, come educational piece, was presented by a line up of tenured academics and young post graduate teachers.
The panel argued how Contemporary Art institutions reacted negatively to work that was based in some sort of religious subject.The discussion started after an initial lecture by one of the Academics, David Thyrell. So began two hours of surprising statements, amusing quotes, some fairly logical reasoning, heart felt speeches and many contradictions from an art academic viewpoint.
Thyrell reckoned that… “Only Art that is critical of (western) religion of faith is acceptable as Contemporary Art. And all other art that could be read as religious, is translated to one of a post minimalistic view.” (And)…”that all references to faith and religion is edited out at source”. (And)…”the contemporary Art world does not seek any debate on this form of art because they see it as non-progressive, as propagandistic and not supportive of an advancing culture or indeed, enlightening mankind for the new centuries ahead of us.”Thyrell spoke with passion and summed up his lecture by stating…”it seems, that religious work that is non-specific, for example, non-stated religious, ambiguous or totally abstracted with very loose associations, are acceptable as Contemporary Art. Providing the images are not from a Judeo Christian slant. However, the tribal, the Asiatic or the cultism subjects are OK.“
Judaeo-Christian made up the bulk of the audience (note: it was held at a Roman Catholic University) I guessed they must have been appalled by the status-quo of the implied bigotry against religious art levelled against the- ‘Artists of Faith’ – as they call themselves. For me personally, there is no need to be religious specific to appreciate (or create) Art that is good, even if that Art owns its very existence to institutions of any religion persuasion who sponsored it, or indeed created by an artist that holds a particular belief system or faith.
detail of Pontormo’s ‘deposition’ (1525‒28) at the church of Santa Felicita, Florence
Good Art is what floats my boat, I don’t care who or why or for whom it was created for. As for the rest of the Art that floods the web and the mass media art reviews, much of that Art that personally I find sort of shallow, egoistically based, trendy or with intellectual invested admiration intentions, I simply pass quickly by, metaphorically speaking, without so much as a cursory thought. For me to be anguished by an Art as the above, only goes to validate it as important to human cultural advancement, which I think it is not.
Most artists, (those I do know personally), when looking at a work of art that could be deemed as ‘Religious’, tend to ignore the possible original intended propaganda or dogma of it, but rather they concentrate on the pure magic of the Art work in front of them. For example some the work of by Pontormo and El Grego, to mention only two (religious) painters of the far distant past, whose work I greatly admire and gain much from. After a while I began to feel that the lecture, come debate, was myopic, but Thyrell’s argument did instigate an examination of my own thoughts on the subject of Modern Art & Freedom of Creation and Modern Religious beliefs in our, so called, multi-sectarian developed Western societies.
If a contemporary artist can go beyond an intellectual subject matter and demonstrate a visual power conducted via an innermost and deeply held belief, then surely that is still a vital and sustainable contemporary Art, is it not? No matter what religion the creator of that art subscribes too, or not as the case maybe. After all, isn’t atheism a brand of religion by another name?
Rothko Chapel Texas USA (rothkochapel.com)
If we look closer to our own time, rather than the centuries when the Church and Monarchies of Rome and Spain dominated major art commissions, say from the early and middle centuries, we can find a new sort of religious art. Malevich, Kandinsky, Mondrian and the like studied theosophy and talked of a ‘spiritual’ art. Pollock, used the practises of the the Indian Sand Painters, which involved connection with ancestors souls or spirits. Rothko and the gang of colour field painters also spoke of mediative involvement and introspection. Are all those artworks a form of religion? If you have ever visited the Rothko ‘Chapel’ in Texas, you’ll know what I am talking about. And what of Chagall. Are his paintings nothing more than illustrated nostalgia based on childhood memories of stories taken from the Old Testament? Or let’s take Vincent Van Gough, was not his paintings a projection of the love of nature reinterpreted through his own deep seated belief in a universal God? How about Agnes Martin or Sam Francis, each with a Buddhist inclination for transcendentalism or meditation. Is that not religious Art ?
Sam Francis painting in his studio
In the early 20th century the word nihilistic art was being brandished about to describe the work of the Futurist (Italy), whose dogma was Machines and War to cleanse society and shock it out of it’s perceived malaise [of the time]. The Dada movement used the same framework with banal poetry, non-sensical drama and outlandish visual presentations [to hide away from and in reaction to the horrors of World War One]. Again, the essence here is that the Dada movement believed in something – however abstract that was – rather than nothing. And this obtuse oddity of their belief carried on manifesting itself decades later as the impatience of post-modernist [young] artists and the ambitious driven post-post modernists, and the current belief that ‘selling art, means that it must be good ‘Art’ – And made by a succesful artist (rounds of applause by living painters, can be heard here on instagram and facebook) which where I guess we find ourselves in today’s visual art world.
Though, just maybe the web is changing the ground rules. I don’t know about you, but when I view art on the web, I find more and more of it has a growing and obvious ‘belief-structure’ of some kind behind it. And much of it is good Art, mostly created by ‘unknowns’. Sure, there is still that twee stuff and the obvious bash it out to sell it for financial gain ‘ hamburger art’, not forgetting the overly academic art whitterings of art professors and so called art intellectuals who try to convince the audiences in the cities of the world, that this piece of stuff or that offerings of purely conceptual ideas, is great progressive Art (and not just simply a novel or good idea). After all it does put a high monetary value sticker on it, provided it is accompanied by the obligatory academic recommendations, especially if the Art has the blessings of Art Directors of state run institutions.
So, do Artists have total freedom to create what Art they want? Maybe not entirely, if you agree with David Thyrell in the You Tube video I mentioned earlier. Is Religious Art (in all it’s manifestations) making a comeback? The Zeitgeist signs suggests it may well be, but not in the ‘normal’ sense of the word. In this world of the politics of infusing the inhabitants with psychological terror, global climate change fear, mega disaster predictions, the accelerating greed for money and power, irresponsible political leaders and not forgetting the inhumanity to humanity we witness daily, a world that we live in today (and perhaps always have). Maybe it’s not such a bad ambition for visual artists to ascend to a higher level and start to transmit messages of hope. And if you’ll pardon the religious, (come 1960’s hippy reference and of course the Artist known as John Lennon) visual art messages of Love and Peace, for all who reside on this tiny insignificant planet tucked away in the corner the limitless time and space of the universe.
As David Byrne once wrote,
“Heaven is a place, where Nothing ever happens.”
So, now I have to gather my courage and meander slowly to my studio, where another blank space awaits. I wonder what will appear? I guess I just have to have faith that something of real artistic value will show itself, maybe even holding the restorative creative power of the universe itself ?
One never knows, that’s one reason to be an Artist, isn’t it?
small part of the many Universes – photograph from NASA
“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…
Those are questions asked by the artist in the illustrated poem – PALIA HORA – which is Greek for Old Capital City (or town). Palia Hora of Aegina island once was the home of the entire island. It was in the centre of the island and afforded (and still affords) magnificent views over the entire Saronic Gulf – which was it’s downfall, as the inhabitants turned to piracy – and the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire ordered his General (Barrabus) to destroy the town and kill all its people – as a matter of a lesson to all – The Greek people built the town over a thousand years – and each important family had their own Chapel to worship God (Greek Orthodox) . Barrabus – (who mother was Greek) however left 32 chapels standing in remembrance of his brother (who died at the early age of 32) and out of respect for his mother. Today the Chapels have been restored (respectfully) by the Greek Church and visitors can now see murals in the chapels from the 12th to the 15th century by master Greek painters whose names have faded with time.
‘Spike’ – resident critic of painters Tubes magazine takes a stab at the vanity galleries and the ‘pay to enter’ commercial competitions and art fairs.
“Vanity and pay for exhibition spaces or Galleries, are they worth it?”
So, what is an alternative to the favoured High Street galleries for the artists who cannot break the cycle of rejection, (however reluctant that may be, from a Galleries viewpoint). The so called ‘Vanity’ galleries have been around for decades and over the last two decades they have sprouted up everywhere, in one form or another. It is rarely they that are bothered or (overly) concerned about the quality of the artists work, the ones who wish to pay them for their space.
This type of gallery is in the business of renting ‘the space only,’ usually in a well located high street shop, for a profit. They use a branded banner on the outside and send out invitations of ‘applications,’usually from commercially acquired mass emailing lists of artists, ones that are gleaned from, you guessed it, Social Media platforms. Some advertise directly on mass media or other social media with attractive wording that will entice the Artist to go one step further and start a conversation with their ‘curator’ (read Salesman). It’s only when you actually read the ‘deal’ that you discover that it will cost a ‘shit-load’ of your own money, that you begin to temper the ego and dreams of exhibiting in a gallery with that of your own financial reality.
Those who are brave and drown out the ‘money’ objection, one being screamed at them for all corners, convince themselves that they will ‘break even’ financially – if only given the chance to show their work, but usually they have either, miscalculated the cost, or are unaware of what it takes to ensure a reasonably successful ‘selling’ exhibition. Or they simply cannot get past the artistic‘blue-sky’ thinking syndrome. Not so long a go I did a cost analysis of exhibiting in a ‘pay-for-space’gallery. This was based on an out of City centre location, (in the UK) with reasonably accurate costs for space, marketing, transportation and so on. The final figure came out at a cost for a 5 to 6 day solo exhibition of around £3500 ($4,800). Major City centre space was nearer double that price, when I looked further into it. That’s a lot of painting to sell, based on the market average price for a half decent sized canvas for an unknown painter, at the lower (attractive) ‘stip-end’ market price level of around £350 each (circa $500), So is it worth it? Just for friends and family to rub ones ego and confirm you are a good artist?
How about selling on the web and creating a virtual reality exhibitions on your own website?
Sure, but I would suggest for that to be really successful, (i.e. selling on a regular basis for a consistent period of time) the artist will need a very good e-commerce enabled website (i.e. one that is not cheap to acquire and maintain) – And spend a great deal of time making strategic posts on social media – Or hire someone to do that specific task, and with a regular advertising budget. In this case I would suggest an annual budget for Marketing and PR of in excess £3000 per annum, for doing it all yourself, or £5000 to £8,000 annually, to hand this ‘job’ over to a professional full time SEO and art marketeer to do it for you. Who will no doubt, not give you any guarantee of a return for your money.
How about entering Art Competitions to gain recognition?
Why not, if you can live with the rejection element, nine out of ten times of entering the ones that, according to their pre-publicity, ‘give You the chance of lifetime’ to be internationally famous. Let’s be honest here, it’s a bit of lottery. The important thing to remember is, who does the judging – Usually there is an academic, a curator, another well known person who knows (not a lot) about art and the winner from the previous years competition. So the winning entries are somewhat vacuous in their preferences because of their own bias to one form of art or another. There again, if you actually ‘Win’ or come second or third, what does it bring you? – Well if it’s a National Competition’ then about 15 minutes of fame and a commission from the sponsors of the Competition, and loads of Facebook likes and messages of congratulations (ego gratification again). Plus, maybe 3 minutes on a You Tube video interview or a feature in your local newspaper.The rest of the smaller comp’s are really a bit like Vanity Galleries, except they don’t make as much money out of the ‘customer’. It can cost around £30 to enter three paintings to an ‘average’ competition – And if you are short listed you have to physically take your paintings to a central point – for ‘further judging’ and then schlep them back again (when rejected), which can cost you up to ‘whatever’-depending how far away you live form the nominated place of ‘drop-off’. The on-line ‘competitions, to my mind, are simply a money gathering exercise, full stop. And, again only in my opinion, are really not worth bothering with – unless they are free to enter of course.
Read ‘Spike’ in painters TUBES magazines back issues on line and now on TAG (Tubes artists Gallery) link: painterstubes.gallery
painters TUBES favourite art critic and muse, known to all unsundry as Spike, returns to the latest issue with a pragmatic look at the back side of Art – business and selling. What follows is a extract from the full article that you can read free on the latest issue of painters Tubes magazine…
Showing paintings on line, is now 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). That “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 few years. 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 in 2009 and is still having an effect now, not to mention adding to the problem with (thinking here about) Donald Trump and the European Union on the brink of collapse helped along by French Riots, and No Deal Brexit.
Today, more than ever, high street galleries need to sell ‘more-stuff’ and earn extra profit to pay those stupidly high ‘business rates’ in the major Cities – And lets be honest, paintings sell much quicker than sculpture or worse those ‘cool’ avant-garde installations of nonsense 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 usually there is a heavy price tag for that sort of contemporary bull-shit art. Consequently the contemporary ‘arty farty’ marketplace is tiny compared to the ‘popular paintings’ art market. Even though there are only so many landscapes that anyone can put in their homes. That market will also run dry soon unless some risk taking by galleries start, pretty damn quick.
The sheer size of the (art) market (because of the www) 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. Even Tubes magazine are having a go (although they already know there is no money to be made so why bother trying – the space it is giving to artists is in keeping with the magazine policy – Art before Money at all cost).
The one man art galleries start-ups fail quickly- some have a sort of ‘in the third year we will make money fiscal plan’ and obtain a bank loans. Most, in reality, loose much more money than they bargained for and are wrapped up prematurely by their investors (or more commonly the Bank) the ones that backed the idea (with solid security that could be recouped) in the first place.
Today it’s not a case of chasing huge profits for many galleries, on the contrary, it’s survival we are talking about here. Many on-line outfits are simply losing too much money, year in and year out. “..there is no money in Art..” a very wise man once said back in 1989.
He may have been right but for the wrong reason, as far as I am concerned. Should Art really be treated as a commodity? And be sold as such? – Stack ’em high, sell ’em cheap is not an effective strategy, not for original art, so when times get tough, (in Art) the tough bottle it.