Now it’s not that I don’t like art, some of my best friends are artists, it’s just that sometimes the art goes a bit too far… in the direction of strange, confusing and a frankly bit dull. I found the Shanghai Biennale a bit like this, though on reflection I think I’d seen too much art in the last few days and really, if you want to take in lot of art that is based heavily in theory, then you need more than one day to consider everything to do it justice, because I think that sort of art requires more thinking time. The Biennale was at the Power Station of Art, a fantastic venue though there’s not much natural light and I wondered if that was one of the reasons they included so much video art. I have discovered that my issue with the video art is actually more a practical one, not about the art itself. Firstly, there is often nowhere to sit to watch the film. If there is a seat it is often uncomfortable with no back rest. The second issue is that if you are in an exhibition where there are 5 videos and each one is more than 15 mins long and you want to do them justice, then you would need to devote over an hour to those videos and if there is a lot of other art to see in that exhibition as well, then that is just not practical.
Art often forgets about practicalities. We can add this to the list of things to get the public more engaged with art – make the art more comfortable.
Of course I saw some work in the Shanghai Biennale that I really liked and it’s always worth it for those moments.
Now I’m back in Xiamen trying to make my own art. It’s really difficult and for me at least it doesn’t come naturally. I hope I can make some paintings that I am satisfied with. There are lots of interesting things that I want to say about the way we live on this planet, but at the same time I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that I believe that great painting is also about the composition, the colours and the use of the paint. Andy sent me a link to a Hockney interview on radio 4 from the other week which made me remember this. He’s gone back to looking at perspective again. Hockney will just paint anything around him because how the painting interprets what he sees matters more than anything else.
Yesterday I went to the art shop with professor Jin Xian so he could show me the best quality oil paints. They were all old and oozing out of the seams a bit because no one buys the expensive ones, so I got them at discount price. We fist went to to the art shop near the studio but it has closed down. Like in the UK the shops are suffering because of people buying online instead. We talked about Hockney and Jin Xian reminded me that Hockney visited China and took lots of inspiration from the Chinese ways. This is where he was told about the idea of ‘Hand Eye Heart’ – the things you need to make a great painting. Jin Xian said he likes the artist Tony Bevan. I think we have similar taste and I’d like to speak with him more about his views and see his paintings.
We arranged that I can go to see the Xiamen University Fine Art Course next week. My art friends here are always careful to make sure I understand that the fine art course is more about teaching skills and traditional techniques rather than theory. There was a point when Ineke, worked closely with the University to create a really progressive Fine Art course, but when a new more conservative board came into power in the Uni they told her to leave. That’s when she set up CEAC.