Tag Archives: ARTIST

Eugène Delacroix exhibition at The National Gallery – first thoughts

WomenofAlgiers

[Women of Algiers in their Apartment (French: Femmes d’Alger dans leur appartement)  1834 oil on canvas Eugène Delacroix; source Wikimedia Commons. Picture is in the Louvre]

The National Gallery’s Delacroix exhibition is billed as ‘Delacroix and the Rise of Modern Art’ which means that there’s not as much Delacroix as one might like. It’s more focused on seeing the great “Romantic” painter as a profound influence on the ‘Modern’ artists, such as the Impressionists and post-Impressionists. There are some interesting relationships made, especially with Renoir, who seems to have learned a lot about colour from Delacroix but Renoir had more, new paints to have fun with, thanks to industrialization.

One thing s that is particularly intriguing is the linking of Delacroix to Kandinsky. The final picture in the show is Kandinsky’s ‘Study for Improvisation V’, painted in 1910. The fascinating thing that links these two artists is their development of ideas about colour (expressed in Delacroix’s Journals and in Kandinsky’s Concerning the Spiritual in Art). This would be a great show in its own right, but it’s not really discussed here. But I doubt that Delacroix specifically influenced Kandinsky at all. I mean, Kandinsky no doubt saw Delacroix’s work in Paris and no doubt was impressed but – so what?

I do have a big problem with the way Art History is often done, as a linear progression of “influences.” Influence happens all the time, and it’s not linear. People see (and hear) stuff and this finds its way into their work. Of course it happens, but sometimes I wonder if the art history approach (at least as it is offered up in exhibits like this) is a bit too reductionist.

I found myself really impressed with Delacroix’s paintings of North Africa. Painted (deliberately) long after he’d seen the places, these are vibrant with colour and movement. ‘Women of Algiers in their Apartment’ (above) is particularly glorious. Delacroix avoids the overt exoticisation seen in some of the works by his “Orientalist” followers, notably Theodor de Chasseriau, whose work is featured here.

This was just my first visit to the show, and I’ll go again so maybe I’ll have more thoughts. I want particularly to think about how Delacroix’s imagery is repurposed in cinema.

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Art and Invisibility

A really important article from the Artfund website on the invisibility of Black British artists in the art history, by Eddie Chambers.

http://www.artfund.org/news/2014/11/03/the-hidden-history-of-black-british-artists

I have written on here more than once about the apparent lack of recognition of non-white artists in the  art world, so Chambers’s article is timely. He has also published a book Black Artists in British Art: A History from 1950 to the Present.

Last weekend I attended a discussion ‘Challenging White Supremacy Within The Media & Arts Industry’ presented by  sociologist Kehinde Andrews.* The first task was simply to acknowledge that white supremacy exits in the media & art world. I could list here too many instances and examples of how it operates, but let me offer just one.

I friend of mine approached a gallery owner to show them some work by another friend, a North African artist. She believed that the work was good and the gallerist might be interested in working with the artist. Now this happens all the time and the gallerist can have many reasons for accepting or declining an artist. But this one’s response was so utterly odd, it went something like : “Ah that is really good work. I like it very much. But I can’t really take him on: I already have an African.”

I already have an African????

Now let us unpick this. Does she mean

1/  “My clients are pretty racist and I find it very hard to sell art made by Black (and black-ish) people?”
2/ Or does she mean “There is only really space for 1 or 2 Black artists in this town and I have got my share already.”
Or even
3/ “Oooh, I don’t want to be associated too much with Them. Try a gallery that specialises in Blackness.”

I would argue 2 things:
– that all of the above are true
– that she does not think of herself as racist

It is very difficult because if ‘1’ is true, then it’s hard to argue that the gallerist should be a charity and take on the Black artist knowing she can not sell his work to her racist clients.

We need to have a big, huge, ongoing conversation about the white supremacy that permeates our cultural institutions. As I argued before, racism in the arts impoverishes the arts.

I have more to say about this. Especially on how our repositories of art (museums and national collections) are so deeply in bed with the dealers, like our gallerist, who serve the interests of private collectors  and reflect those collectors’ tastes rather than the national interest.

Eddie Chambers will be talking  about his book at Waterstones Piccadilly on the 14th Nov. Book a ticket by emailing piccadilly@waterstones.com

* It was part of the excellent TINAG festival at Bishopsgate Institute.

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TAKING OVER THE KING’S LAND at Sheffield Docfest

VideoTech_logo_01 sdf

Sheffield Docfest has begun!  It’s the first day and yes, the weather is appalling, so far. Luckily though, the films are indoors.

TAKING OVER THE KING’S LAND has just screened at the Puny Gods Cinema in Exeter and is now at the Sheffield Docfest, the UK’s biggest and most important film festival for documentaries.  The film is 23 min long and is in the festival Videotheque, available to all the festival delegates.

Arts docs are notoriously difficult to place since many people associate the documentary genre to social issues, or art history. TAKING OVER THE KING’S LAND is a portrait of  an artist, and of a remarkable project set in the world’s greatest metropolis.

Short synopsis:

What on earth is an Egyptian doing painting the walls of a condemned block of flats in East London? As the city prepares for the 2012 Olympics, the Kingsland social housing estate lies in ruins, synonymous with crime and brutality. Taking Over The King’s Land follows artist Nazir Tanbouli and his self appointed task to take over the condemned housing estate and cover it with art. He battles the endless rain and the bitter weather of the “British summer.” Can art counter the urban atmosphere of deprivation, blight and neglect? Can it help Naz come to terms with life as an émigré Egyptian in London?

tn

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Paying Artists

http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/may/26/not-paying-artists-gallery-culture-publicaly-funded-exhibitions

ruble

Imagine turning up to work, putting in the hours, doing such a good job that you are roundly admired, patted on the back, congratulated for your work. Imagine the people talking about you, how good you are in your job, and that they admire you. Perhaps even writing about you in the press about how good you are in your job. Imagine that you very often take the job home with you and work well into the night, that your weekends and holidays involve you continuing to work. I’m sure you can imagine it, because it’s not completely uncommon. But could you imagine doing all of this without getting paid?

Imagine doing all of this, without getting paid, yet your employer is a publicly funded organization, the gets its income from the taxpayer and is staffed by people on full salaries, while you yourself have to go back to that same taxpayer and claim benefits.

Who on earth would think that this is an equitable system?

However, research by the A-N has shown that over the past three years, 71% of artists didn’t get paid any kind of a fee for contributions to publicly funded exhibitions. The same research showed that 63% of artists felt forced to reject gallery offers because they couldn’t afford to work for nothing. Which makes you wonder about those who did take up the offer of exhibition: independently wealthy or family funded artists? These are hardly going to be representative.

I wrote recently about representation in the art world, and how the art world is completely unrepresentative of Britain’s cultural mix. But I think that this research revealing the parlous economic state that artists are in, is very important.

We have reached the bizarre situation where a very few London art schools completely dominate the major art prizes (which lead to prestigious gallery signings, biennials and so on). This means that the only people who get chosen for art prizes are people were already fortunate enough to live in London, or are wealthy enough to move to London to study, and pay the insanely exorbitant costs of housing and transport.

But there’s another route to getting exposure, and that is through exhibiting. The national network of publicly funded organizations and institutions, including independent organizations who receive project funding, is supposed to create these opportunities up and down the country. But these are not going to be opportunities if the artist cannot afford to take them.

We accept the idea of ‘pay to play’ in small private galleries, although this itself has a deleterous affect on the art world, because it means that the small galleries which we assume are filled with ‘cutting-edge art’, are actually filled with art made by people wealthy enough and vain enough to cough up upwards of 1000 pounds a week to rent the gallery to showcase themselves.

But nobody expected ‘pay to play’ to be the norm in publicly funded galleries. But it is ‘pay to play’, let’s not make any bones about it. It’s ‘pay to play’, because if you offer me an exhibition opportunity, and you don’t pay me, then you get the benefit of my work, and your increased visitors numbers (which guarantees your continued funding), and people coming to use your cafeteria and whatever other services that you provide, and enhances your public profile. But I’m actually going to have to pay to produce the work and then depending what it is, I may have to pay to frame it, or otherwise arrange delivery and installation. You not asking me to just grab something out of my storage unit and haul it over on the bus.

The A-‘s paying artist campaign is a good one, and I fully support it. The very very very least we can ask from our organizations who have public funding is to reorganize their structures and their budgets and ensure that artists are paid.

However, there’s much more to the problem than simply cash. It is a whole complex disaster that combines elitism, nepotism, notions of cultural superiority and inferiority, sometimes sexism (which runs both ways), inequality, and frankly, I think, just pure blind pigheadedness.

I’m not really sure how we’re going to unravel all of this. Perhaps we shouldn’t bother trying to unravel it. Perhaps we should just take a hammer and smash it.

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Stigmart 10 – videofocus: features an article about my work

the 2014 edition of the online journal Stigmart10 has an article about my work. The other articles are good too – have a look!

STIGMART10 2014

STIGMART10 2014

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The Naked Truth (or, big sexy world, is it?)

Nude Greek

Thirteen years ago, he was an up and coming artist, spreading his talents across various media. Painter, graphic artist, film-maker, dancer, actor and performance artist – these are just the things I saw him doing. Handsome and charming, his performances in particular were intense and riveting. And sometimes – not always – he did them naked.

Like that of many young artists in the late 1990s and early 2000s, his art was often about the body, about its vulnerability, about movement, about endurance. It was not about sex or sexuality. For a brief moment there appeared to be a general understanding that nudity was not “dirty” or sexy. That an artist or actor or performer could be nude in the same way a statue in a museum could be nude.

Actually, in the world of art and art appreciation I’d say attitudes have not changed, but outside of those rarefied circles they certainly have.

In 2009 Richard Prince’s piece Spiritual America (1983) was removed from “Pop Life, Art in a Material World”. The Tate removed it after a visit by the police. This was unusual; in western society over the past fifty years or so outright censorship is very rare. Police are normally not involved unless there is evidence an actual crime. In Prince’s case the provenance of the work is both well documented and more than acknowledged by Prince; in fact the provenance is the whole point. The work is a 1976 Playboy nude photograph of a heavily made-up prepubescent girl (an actress) which was authorised by the girl’s mother as a commercial venture. To my mind it is an absolutely necessary piece of work to be on display. It tells us everything need to know about Western sexual attitudes in that era. (It tell us about the current British Light Entertainment scandal when Jimmy Saville and other entertainers have been guilty of rape and exploitation of children throughout the 60s and 70s.) It tell us that sexualisation of children, and the whole porno-cratic ideal, is not glamorous and clever but sad and tawdry. And about money. Spiritual America is an unpleasant art work but a necessary one. It forces us to look and then think. And so it was strange and horrible that the police removed it.1

This is important because Prince’s piece was made in 1983 after he appropriated the original photograph, and has been shown numerous times since then. After the removal it appeared on the web, where clearly it reached many more people than would ever pay to see Pop Life. What happened between 1983 and 2009? The picture was awful in 1976, vile in 1983 but by 2009 it is itself a crime? Did the Taliban take control?

Hardly. The New Puritanism in the museum has not been matched by any kind of reining in of social behaviour. The exploitation of children continues. Politicians and the media continue to score points for themselves with periodic self serving ‘crusades.’ Little has changed.

So, thirteen years ago it was perfectly all right and perfectly fashionable for an artist or an actor to appear nude. It probably still is. But this breezy assumption does not take into account what happens when for whatever reason you are no longer and artist or an actor. Thirteen years ago if you met someone who used to be an actor and did a few nude scenes, unless you had the video tape, you’d never get to see it. It’s hard to believe it but in 2000 relatively few people had the internet at home. It existed but it was expensive and insanely slow. Low grade videos, small photos and no interactivity. Broadband barely existed; it only became available in the UK in 2000, and this was far too expensive for most. Ofcom (UK Office of Communications) notes that “If you travelled back in time to 1999 and stopped the first person you met, it’s quite possible they’d have yet to try out the internet.”

Fast forward from 2000 to 2013. The dynamic young artist is now a middling-aged school teacher. Perhaps not his first choice, but Saatchi never came calling. Bills have to be paid. The Bohemian antics of thirteen years ago are long forgotten. And then comes the phone call. “It has come to our attention that there are salacious images of you on the Internet.” What? Our hero is bemused. He cannot think what they mean. He agrees to the meeting with the Governors, and rushes to his website to see what on earth it can possibly mean. No, the site is clean – just photos of his paintings, which he sells from time to time. Flickr – nope just family stuff. Picnics. Facebook? He has exactly two photos on it, one of a work party and the other of a particularly impressive burger. He doesn’t tweet and has no time to blog.

He goes to the meeting and is confronted with photos and video he had forgotten about – because they dated from 2000. Photos from obscure art festivals, and a short film in a film maker’s archive. He does not own these sites and has no control over the content. Do the governors understand that? No, they don’t. Children can find this stuff and can be harmed by it, is the line. He realises that even if they are not right about the harm (from a vague non-erect pixelated penis), the fact that this stuff has surfaced means that it’s going to be difficult for him to take control of the situation at work. The school does not seem prepared to back him up and perhaps making it a ‘teaching moment’. He promises to try to remove the offending images though he does not really know how.

More nudity:

Nude Catalan

breath | Originally uploaded by artsite

With Richard Prince it was easy. The police came, threatened the Tate’s workers, who promptly removed the picture. Though no doubt the Tate workers were traumatized, it was a matter easily rectified. With the case of our man though, it was not. He is currently trying to get various websites around the world, none of which he has any relationship with, to remove or hide the images. Legally, none of them has to. Some of them won’t want to, since they are part of an institution’s archive and therefore are valuable to the institution. I know about this because he approached me, about one of my films. I was able and willing to hide my content behind a password but some of the images of my work are on sites that I don’t own, film festivals etc.

Now, trying to help him, I see that a particularly hideous situation is unfolding. How many artists from the late 90s and early 2000s have images of themselves in positions that today might be considered compromising? Huge numbers. Virtually every performer I worked with in that era used nudity. I look at my own back catalogue and I find several other cases where I used an actor or performer – and there they are, nude on the Internet. Still photographs, too; whole series. Some of these sites aren’t mine; they belong to the curator or the exhibiting organisation. Should I remove all the ones I can remove? After all, it’s my work. And the arrangement was entered into freely. And what of the performers? Are they just to erase their creative past?

The funny – ok, unfunny – thing is that despite this insistence that children not be harmed by fuzzy low quality images of their teacher as a youth doing performance art, despite this righteous prudery, nobody sees to give a crap about what the actual kids are actually doing. The rapes, the exploitations, the neglect; the coarse sexualisation of childhood, the brutalities of social media, the ever present sexual (and otherwise) bullying .. all of this continues with impunity. But if the teacher just gets rid of his web page then it will all be okay.

There’s no space for an honest in class discussion of things like, what is nudity in art? What is performance art? Even, how we do change as we go through the course of our lives? No, no time for that. Just a big bucket of snow white paint and a massive brush, thank you very much.

Even a criminal conviction is considered spent after a while, but Internet images, apparently, brand you a sinner for all time.

nude communist

Nude Communist

 

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ARTIST OPPORTUNITIES MAY 2013

ARTIST OPPORTUNITIES MAY 2013.

Artists! Stop what you are doing NOW and read this list of generous and absolutely typical artist opportunities, the likes of which we are munificently flooded with every single day ….

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in the middle

“In the middle of the road of my life I awoke in the dark wood where the true way was wholly lost” Dante The Divine Comedy

Sometimes it feel this way – you’re not a young gun anymore, about to set the world on fire and being described as “dynamic young …” but at the same time you’re not the venerable elder statesman/woman of the craft (nor are you out to pasture). You’re just plugging away at it, sticking to it, not giving up. Your work is better than ever, but the spotlights have moved away. Jorg Colberg has a great article on this dilemma vis-a-vis photography, but it applies to all creatives:

What happened to the mid-career artist?

Jörg M. Colberg

http://jmcolberg.com/weblog/2011/10/what_happened_to_the_mid-career_artist/

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