Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Anyone can be an artist

Can anyone be an artist. The answer is both yes and no.

Because the question may as well be can anyone become a rocket scientist. First you must have the desire to be a rocket scientist, if you do not have the desire you can never be one. Second you must train or act on being a rocket scientist, it is not enough just to want to be one. Finally you must find other people that recognise you as a rocket scientist. If what you do doesn't appear to be rocket science maybe your not a rocket scientist.

So it is with art. You must desire it, do it and then be good enough at it that others must acknowledge that you are in fact an artist. It also helps if people will pay you to do it, but this is not as important as the first 3.

So yes "Everyone's an artist."
But only if they want to be, do it and are hailed as one.

Samuel Durkin

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Why Duchamp was Lowering the Bar

Duchamps Urinal "Fountian"
was by some been hailed as genius.

For those who don't know about this piece, its basically a urinal bought from a builders merchant and signed R Mutt, which possibly means poverty in German, but it could just be a mis-spelling of the Mott a sanitation manufacture. (Duchamp says it was the second) Duchamp entered it into a gallery and called it art.

This then was the start of the end. If we can take any object and present it as art anyone and everyone can become an artist. Skill, technique and even thought can be entirely removed.

For some this was a liberation, and allows anything to go. But the real effect has been that many see this form of art as an insult to them. It asks a great deal more from the audience, than it does from the artist. Who didn't make it, but just chose it.

What it really does, is it lowers the bar for entry so anyone cane say they are an artist. This on the face of it, sounds like a grand utopia of free expression. But what it has lead to, is that since anyone can be an artist, it's more important who you know, than what skill you have. To judge what is an isn't good looses it's importance and the power of the buyer to declare something art has increased. Ironically this is probably the last thing Duchamp would have wanted being a socialist. But this piece handed the Capitalist of the Art world, a fantastic gift of power.

This effect is essentially an emperors new clothes and puts off the real people. By inference it means that those who declare they "know" about art can feel superior. But if everyone can make invisible empty art, then how can we choose what is to be the great art? We can't, because we are not blind, and we can see that it takes no skill. But for those who wish to pretend to see the invisible clothes of this "art", they will have to pretend to keep seeing them, teaching others to see it and convince us we can see them too. They must do this or they the loose value of their worthless art.
This leads to the trade, publicity and inflated price of this junk art. It comes from the same place as the tulip mania effect that happened in the Netherlands in the early 1600s. Deluding art students, critics, gallery owners and dealers to make, buy and sell rubbish to each other. However just like the tulip trade fell to pieces when people realised that a tulip was not worth a years salary, this art can only have value while we keep being deluded that it's worth anything.

In the mean time the internet has burst the art world wide open and those who used to hold control over what is and isn't art are slowly losing to the people. Now artist's all over the world show their art to real people ready to spend their hard earn money on art they like. This could mean the end to art movements and the true liberation of art.

Of course If you do like Duchamps urinal and the concept is of course more important that the object, you can pick one up at any builders merchant and a permanent marker from the stationers next door. It should cost about $201/$402 ($2 for the marker). Sure you can't buy the "concept" or the "statement" it made. But if concept and statement where all that was needed to make a piece of art, then a fart in a bath tub is of equal import. (and some fans of Duchamp will probably agree that it is...) We can all do it, but I thought it and If I sit in a gallery farting into a bathtub, or better still employ someone else to fart in the bath tub, it makes a statement about something (make up what ever you like, the artist can't be bothered). But the real statement that it makes is I'm a pretentious (insert your expletive here) with no respect for my audience.

But I'm sure the circus will continue and we'll keep seeing rubbish displayed as art. All the while sensible people will buy art that took some kind of skill to make.

I love painting

I love painting,
but I never find it relaxing. After I finish I'm always drained mentally and physically. For me a painting is a battle of wills between image, paint and the inner critic. I want to see the paint, I want to see the image and while I must listen to the inner critic I must also ignore him.

It is the fight, the battle that keeps me coming back. Winning is creating something worthwhile. Fail and face the darkness that cannot be faced. The stakes for creating art cannot be higher.

Samuel Durkin

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Mechanic by Cathie Tranent

The Mechanic by Cathie Tranent
In the moment his hand closed around his weapon,

His mind readied itself for the battle.
Man against the machine. Cathie Tranent

What I love about this great piece of Photography/digital art is the almost metallic feeling you get from the skin, the hand looks like its almost cast in iron. Not only be a mechanic, but mechanical. Yet it is the battle with the machine that is our society, the wrist is exposed and vulnerable to show us the human. To fight the machine we must become the machine and then be greater that it.

The photo is enhanced using only the traditional photographic tools, (although within photoshop) of dodging, burning and filters. This gives the photo power and a professional legitimacy.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Treasured and Burried by Deb Gillett.

Treasured and Buried by Deb Gillett.

You know the very top of the beach at a king tide, where all the really scummy stuff gets washed back and forth? Well here it is, complete with ephemeral footprints under the sea. Yes I know you can hardly see them, but I wanted you to know about them because I took such effort to put them there. Deb Gillet

What I like about this piece most is the organic textured nature of the artwork. It almost feels like its growing out of the canvas. I also like it because it's a move away from Debs more traditional and directly representational pieces. While all stunning work for me representation is no longer enough. The skill they take to produce can never be in doubt, and Deb certainly has an eye for depicting the world in colour. For me this abstract and her more free pieces show a desire to engage with a deeper translation of the world.

See Deb Gillets Online Gallery

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Modern Abstraction Vs Classical Realism and beyond.

The rise of the camera and the effect on realism and abstraction and their re-birth as abstract realism.

For well over a hundred years we have lived in a world where the camera has allowed us to record pictures of the real world in such detail that it still fills us with awe. What did this do to the traditionalist painters still producing portraits, landscapes and still life images of the real world in magnificent detail. Well in 1826 when the camera first appeared, painting still held strong in the face of those early grainy sepia tone photographs. But it soon became clear that the modern world was moving into a new era. The artists working in the classical style would soon be superseded by the technological camera and those with a wider concept of what it meant to be an artist. It was great artists like Britain’s J W Turner in 1832, creating paintings that we can see have strong abstract elements. It is the light he is painting and not the landscapes, and this gives us one of the first glimpses at what will one day become abstraction. The impressionist painters in France in the1860’s also moved art away from the classical style. Artists like Monet, Manet, Pissarro and others, bravely all helped break out of the classical tradition , allowing us to see that art could be more than we had come to accept. In their time these paintings were seen as revolutionary. The classical art establishment for a long time refused to hang their works. It was only though determination and the patronage of Napoleon III setting up the Salon des Refuses (exhibition of rejects) that allowed their work to be seen by the world. Their art and the art of those that followed them has Lead to art movements in pointillism, post-impressionism, cubism, expressionism and modernist movements. By the end of the 19th and beginning of the early 20th century the camera was now so common that almost anyone could afford to have a photograph taken and more and more people owned their own camera’s. So it was that the ideas of abstraction and a move away from realism started to grow in the art world, no longer did the artist need to depict things from the natural world. They could use colour and form to show images that were far less representational. Cubist and futurist artwork tried to depict objects in ways that showed their intrinsic qualities, and many of the artists credited with abstraction started out with more representational paintings. It is not entirely clear who started the abstract modernist movement, it could have been any number of painters from Robert Delaunay and Piet Mondrian to Kadinsky or Balla. What is clear however is that a spontaneous change had happened, and it came at the beginning of the 20th century. This seems to have caused such a shock to the world that even after over 100 years, many still cannot deal with it or understand this “new” form of art. However it’s roots go far further back than 100 years, to the time of our ancient ancestors, those who created decorative artworks on pots, mosaics and walls. This Modernism is just a re-awakening of an older understanding of art. But what of today in the 21st century. Abstract art is often still misunderstood as the art “anyone could make” and it’s value seems to have be eroded by just this. We now see what is called Abstract art sold in major retail stores for little more than the canvas and paint. The artist virtually removed and replaced by a production line worker, painting the same “abstract” over and over again. These mass produced wall hangings may have devalued abstract art in the eyes of the many people. But even these fast food versions of abstract art, can never ruin the true wonder of an abstract painting created by true artist with vision and passion. Of course Realism has never gone away. There is some built in desire to have images created by human hand that show an eye for the real world. It is easy to understand what makes a good realist piece. If the apple looks like an apple, it must be a good painting. And this basic human desire to marvel at the amazing skill and dedication of the artist at recreating the real world must go very deep. While Photography can instantly recreate our world, the skill to actually paint it seems for many the greater. So while photography has evolved and we now all own cameras that came free with our phone. This easy access to realism, it would seem, can never take that away from the artist, who can paint it or draw it. So what of the future of abstraction and realism? Well I’m sure they will both continue. However many artist are now working in what is a mixture of the two, what I call abstract realism. This abstract realism is a form of art that sits between realistic depiction of the world and a non representational abstraction. No longer are the two separate and opposed, but come together to strengthen each other and form an alloy. The artist who can make realistic images, but takes that skill and creates a more abstract painting that is greater than sum of them both. This movement includes not just painters but also photographers and even digital artists. I see it as the new way forward in art. The Abstract realist touches something in us all that. Our desire for the comfort and skill of the real and our need of those abstract aesthetics.