“As far as I can judge, I am not actually mentally ill.” Vincent Van Gogh, shortly after cutting off part of his ear and giving it to a prostitute.
Kirk Douglas as Vincent Van Gogh in ‘Lust for Life’, 1956.
Poor old Vinnie has been pathologised in a hundred different ways: epilepsy, chemical poisoning, bipolar disorder, alcoholism. Clearly there was something seriously wrong with the paint-eating, ear-slashing, self-medicating and ultimately suicidal painter who sold almost nothing and was known to almost nobody during his lifetime. But in that last fact, it seems to me, lies a large and relatively simple part of the answer. As somebody who’s spent their whole adult life battling to become and remain a worthwhile artist and writer, and to much more success while I’m alive than Vincent ever had (albeit still not very much), I can wholly sympathise with and understand his sadness, frustration and depression upon finding that his passion was deemed ridiculous, that his way of seeing the world got him labelled a lunatic, and his vocation was dismissed as a hobby that had no value either monetarily or artistically. Continue reading
From ‘Paint by Number’ by William L. Bird, Jr, published by the Smithsonian/Princeton Architectural Press, 2001.
“ANYONE CAN DO IT” THE LADY PAINTING THIS PICTURE IS NOT A PAINTER. JUST PUT COLOR NO.17 IN SECTION NUMBERED 17 ETC. IT’S AS SIMPLE AS THAT. SURPRISE YOUR FRIENDS WITH A BEAUTIFUL OIL PAINTING ON CANVAS PAINTED BY YOU. THEY CAN BE WASHED WITH SOAP AND WATER.
A lady (not a painter) demonstrates paint by number sets at a trade show, 1953. The oxymoronic “this painter is not a painter” reminds me of Magritte:
Rene Magritte, The Treachery of Images, 1948.
Ceci n’est pas un artiste… Also from 1953, this Woolworth’s Annual Report image:
I like the artist’s get up, especially the huge and completely unnecessary blue bow. I might try to put this outfit together, next time I have to appear in public and talk about being an artist.
I’m sure coulrophobes will appreciate me pointing out the lovely John Wayne Gacy clown painting, top right. NB: anyone who paints sailing ships may not be a serial killer but they are definitely mental.
“Felix, darling, try not to whine when we get inside because this is daddy’s work, OK?”[Islingtonista dragging her son against his will into the London Art Fair. Daddy, grim faced, trails behind.]
I can certainly sympathise with Felix’s determination to have a little tantrum at the London Art Fair. Perhaps Felix already knew he’d be compelled to commit a homicide if he saw another frigging art work with skulls, butterflies and/or cut-outs from old books, maps and prints. Seriously, everybody knock that shit off. I wish I was exaggerating when I say that every third or fourth gallery was showing something involving butterflies. I think we could also usefully impose a ten year moratorium on white box frames, anything involving birds or feathers, and figurative painting with a few token smears, runs or drips to denote that it’s “contemporary” or “gestural” or whatever because being able to paint without making drips or smudging somebody’s face is boring and square, apparently.
Whitechapel Gallery, London, 14th October 2011-1st January 2012
Wilhelm Sasnal isn’t a very good painter and his subject matter is trite, shallow and random, so there is a certain inevitability in the fact that he is popular with Sadie Coles and has been given a major exhibition at Whitechapel Gallery. The public gallery in service of driving up value for the private art market again. Apparently Sasnal couldn’t think of a name for his exhibition, either. The publicity /poster/book cover image for the show is Sasnal’s flat, spiritless and defiantly unrevelatory copy of ‘Bathers at Asnières’. Georges Suerat already painted that, mate, over a hundred years ago. His one is nicer. No need to do it again.
I’ve asked before and I ask again, semi-rhetorically: why is Wilhelm Sasnal, who directly and uncreatively copies paintings and photographs, a fine artist with art world imprimatur… but Bob Dylan is ridiculed for doing the same (albeit without it impacting his sales or gallery representation much), and the Chinese hacks who directly, uncreatively copy paintings and photographs at Dafen painting village (for example) aren’t regarded as fine artists at all?
The other half of the Biennale/’Illuminations’ main presentation takes place in the idyllic-sounding but totally not idyllic Giardini. It’s where the first international (i.e. non Italian) pavilions were built to reflect the ongoing pissing contests for prestige between the great powers of the Industrial age. In reality they’re less a garden paradise of art and more like an indifferently maintained municipal cemetery, complete with hulking mausoleums dedicated to the colonial age. They should spend some of their prodigious income on having the gardeners in, because for a place that’s called a garden it looks extremely tired and in need of somebody’s green thumb. It’s like a Chinese park in there, where they plant expensive greenery and then for some reason they just leave it all to fall apart and die. Anyway, I expect there’s a metaphor (not very) hidden in the fact that the whole place looks like a neglected graveyard. Continue reading