I have two apologies followed by two rebuttals this week. I have been warned that I could be shooting myself in the proverbial foot, but I fear I have little of either feet left to dispose of!!
My first apology goes out the Hereford; the galleries in that area and the artists that work there. In my last blog I made a very ‘off the cuff’ aside about not knowing the whereabouts of Hereford. Of course I know the whereabouts of Hereford! My poor joke was a reference to how the provinces are often seen; just as that, provinces. However I am a little saddened that such comments like these are taken so seriously, the world needs a little humour, even if it is of a low quality. If I (as a Geordie) got upset every time a comedian made a joke about the ‘lads and lasses’ walking around Newcastle in the middle of winter with ‘nowt on’ but a tea shirt or skimpy dress, I would be demented. Not only that, it still makes me laugh simply because it is based in truth.
When I visited Australia last year with my wife we attended an opening at Fish Creek; ‘where’s that’ one could equally say and you would be right. It is a small ex dairy town in the southern part of Victoria State that has reinvented itself as a small artist’s hub. We attended an opening of the children’s author and illustrator Alison Lester, a very big name in Australia but unknown to me at the time. We came across this opening almost by accident. The question that crossed my lips was: why on earth would Alison Lester hold an opening to showcase the illustrations in her new book in such a small ‘where’s that’ town? The answer was revealed when I spoke to her agent; she was born on a farm very close to the town and had historic links to it. However, listening to her and her attitude to life, I’m sure she may well have embraced any ‘where’s that’ aside with good humour and a sharp retort. By the way, for all you knitters out there, the annual Tea Cosy festival at Fish Creek is a must see event; it gave me much humorous joy.
My second apology goes to Grace Robinson the facilitator of the ‘Space to think’ session on the ‘originality of art’ held at the Baltic last Sunday. The session was intriguing and Grace facilitated the session extremely well. My apology to her concerns my lack of ability to move away from the originality of the specific, the work of Jesse Wine, and open my mind fully to the philosophical debate concerning the ‘originality of art’ in general. I could put forward the excuse that I am new to the environment of direct philosophical debate, but I fear the problem lies in a far more critical corner of my mind.
I am normally the most pestiferous defender of fine art, always trying to give grounds to those who question it an argument for the artist’s creative and intellectual concepts and freedoms. However lately I have found it harder and harder to do this, especially with a good proportion of the work I see on my monthly visits to the galleries in the Newcastle area. I do not wish to single out the work on show at the Baltic presently, but it was my inability to defend this work after hearing two possibly ‘off the cuff’ comments concerning it, that prompted me to question why? To paraphrase the comments:
‘It just looks like lumps to me’ and ‘they call that art, a badly made rotating cucumber’
After much thought, I came to the conclusion that these comments may have hit a cord deep within me. Maybe that’s what I actually thought. Maybe it’s because I have seen so much art that all I do is spend my time referencing it to work I have experienced before, not in a positive way, but a critical one. But why? Could it be that I am starting to see the ‘emperor’s new clothes’ for what they are? I know that when I do see work that moves me visually, intellectually and emotionally I do not reference the work, at least not until I have left the exhibition. Could this be the benchmark for the more innovative, dare I say, ‘good/great’ work? Last year I was lucky to see Richard Hamilton show at the Tate Modern and Douglas Gordon’s ‘the only way out is the only way in’ which I experienced at the ACCA in Melbourne; for me two shows where I did not reference at all, (definitely no ‘emperor’s new clothes’ there).
However, let me finish on a positive note concerning some recent exhibitions in Newcastle; the Anselm Kiefer exhibition was immense; elements of the Jim Shaw and Mark Wallinger shows were impressive; to see the Erich Heckel self-portrait woodcut and the Siegfried Sassoon diaries/poems close up was for me historically emotional and the Side Gallery, well, virtually never lets me down. (sad to see it closed for two years for refurbishment)
This entry to my blog may well have left me open to personal criticism, so be it. Please visit my website: http://www.markcarrartist.com, where my art, my music and my poetry can be accessed. All thoughts, comments and criticisms gladly accepted.
PS. The ‘Kelpies’ public art piece at the Falkirk Helix, is probably one of the best pieces of its kind I have seen in the UK. I loved the construction technique.