“‘Bath and slept with Gladys,’ runs one entry in the diary. Such Gill family intimacies seem routine, a habit. A few weeks later there are more surprising entries; ‘Expt. with dog in eve’ . Then, five days later, ‘Bath. Continued experiment with dog after and discovered that a dog will join with a man’”
Fiona MacCarthy quoting the diaries of Eric Gill from November and December of 1929, in her eponymous biography.
The Wellcome Trust, London, 28th March–30th June 2013
Having seen this great exhibition of so-called Outsider Art– i.e. art by untrained people in care– I’m more convinced than ever that there’s either an absolutely massive number of respected contemporary artists running around with serious but undiagnosed mental illnesses and learning disabilities… or going to art school, having an MA or a PhD, knowing the right people in the art world, being shown in the “right” [sic] galleries, and being spoken of and approved of in high level critical discourses around contemporary art all signify absolutely bugger all about an artist’s talent or ability in most cases. Because there’s basically no difference between much of the work in Souzou and much of the work to be seen in contemporary art galleries and art fairs all over the developed world. Except possibly there’s a slight difference in the sense that some of the Outsider Art is much better because it completely lacks the cynicism, arid conceptualism, dated Modernist concerns, condescension and sneering pretensions of the Frieze brigade.
Some of the artists in Souzou don’t know, don’t care or perhaps even can’t comprehend how their work is received and understood outside of its original and intensely personal therapeutic context. It doesn’t effect in the slightest their ability to make art that connects with people; art that it beautiful, art that is well-crafted, art that in some way says something to us about our own lives, feelings and thoughts, art that expresses something of the artist’s soul for other people to share, art that is special and desirable enough for somebody to want it on their wall. Continue reading
ICE AGE ART: ARRIVAL OF THE MODERN MIND, BRITISH MUSEUM, LONDON, 7th FEBRUARY-23rd MAY 2013
My review of Ice Age Art at the British Museum goes like this: it’s interesting, go and see it. The British Museum is one of my favourite museums in the world anyway; how could it not be when it’s full of all the brilliant stuff we plundered from around the world while we had an empire and we could get away with it? Their little Ice Age video installation is quite poor, though. Provincial Chinese museum of Communist art level of quality. Seriously, British Museum, I’m a professional and I do that kind of thing for a living: email me. Or at least contact somebody who knows what they’re doing. Continue reading
Takeshi Kitano has an art exhibition on until September in Tokyo, the same show that was at Fondation Cartier in Paris, 2010. Being a genuine jack of all trades and master of them all, Kitano is ubiquitous in Japan and something of a national treasure to them. British people could imagine David Dimbleby zipping off from Question Time to blow somebody’s brains out in a gangster film, while also featuring in various items of merchandise, while on another TV channel he’s doing silly and smutty skits about trying to get his end away, and in what little leisure time he has left he’s working on super-saturated paintings and glossy pop art sculptures. In fact I’d love to see David Dimbleby doing any or all of these things. I wonder if there’s any way I could make this happen?
Kitano is known in the West, if he’s known at all, as the washed-up teacher turned sadistic facilitator of a rigged, murderous game in Kinji Fukusaku’s film of Battle Royale (AKA the film and long-running manga/novel series about teenagers being forced to fight each other as a bread and circuses distraction from a fascist regime that the author of The Hunger Games somewhat implausibly denies all knowledge of…) or for occasional films of his that make it to the Anglophone world in the art house Trojan horse (Sonatine, Zatôichi.)
you sign on you’re self employed and you live in the UK, you might know him from the British edits of Takeshi’s Castle that cycle around endlessly on various satellite or cable channels; like most Japanese gameshows, there’s a definite element of sardonic sadism or gung ho masochism– depending upon whether you’re a viewer or a contestant, respectively– although fortunately it stops short of actual homicide. As far as I know, anyway.
I wish I could see this exhibition, but I haven’t. I used to love seeing stuff like this when I was in Japan. That was very wanky, wasn’t it? I had to just drop that in for you all. Yes, I’ve been to Tokyo many times– what about you, plebs? What I’d really like to draw attention to, though, is Kitano’s statement about the exhibition, as seen in the video embedded below.
”I don’t define myself as a contemporary artist. I’m just a modest ideas maker. I feel very embarrassed when people define myself as an artist. I want to show pieces. Easy to understand, funny pieces. I want to share with you the pleasure that I had by creating this exhibition.” Continue reading
4TH JUNE-12TH AUGUST 2012
To paraphrase Groucho Marx: I wouldn’t want to be a member of any royal academy that would have clowns like these as its members.
There’s a shop on Brighton seafront that seems to sell little or nothing else but gaudy, jolly paintings of cows. Perhaps they do very well, I don’t know one way or the other. If they sell a lot of gaudy cow paintings and there’s a steady stream of punters who want gaudy paintings of cows then good luck to them. The people, I mean, although it would be remiss of me not to also wish cows good luck.
The RA summer exhibition is like that, except that the cow painting shop fills one entire wing of a large neoclassical building. These are works (painting, mostly, because that’s proper art) that are for the most part in a modern idiom but are not actually contemporary because there is no engagement with anything resembling any kind of idea, let alone any engagement with what our culture is doing or thinking or heading for right now. There may be (and is, in some cases) impeccable craft to be seen in the work, but absolutely no rigour of intellect.
About the only good thing about the RA summer show is that they still show all the work more or less as they did two and a half centuries ago: all crammed in and crawling up the walls. I wish more galleries just showed the maximum amount of work by the maximum number of artists in this kind of visual cacophony. I wouldn’t even be very sad to see the end of the solo exhibition. We’re all engaged in a quasi-Darwinian struggle for survival and attention against other artists anyway, so why not just embrace it? Let gallery visitors decide who they think is worth looking at. I think quality- however one chooses to define it- does and must come through. Another visitor (or even the same visitor) on another day might value completely different work. It’s not inevitable that one of these people should be disappointed. They could both be satisfied.