Rob Adams a Painter's Blog painter's progress

January 25, 2019

Art Bollocks

Filed under: Dorset,Painting,Satire,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Rob Adams @ 1:10 pm

In the 18thC Antoine Coypel, president of the French Academy and purveyor of syrupy classical scenes, complained of the “Vapid and bizarre jargon” used by artists and critics when describing paintings. A complaint that seems as appropriate now as it when it was first made. I might notice I suppose that both were said in an age of rampant academicism, however I suspect that Art Bollocks has a long and venerably tedious history. I am not going to amuse you with too many examples of art speak, almost every “artist’s statement” is a parody composed entirely of such waffle.  My question is more why do people feel the need to descend into obfuscation and incomprehensible language when faced with talking about art? Is it just the art world that suffers?

The answer to that is a no. Wine critics seem to be badly afflicted too, philosophers and theologians as well to name but a few. A link between the differing areas is hard to discern. Up there with the most likely is perhaps that all of these topics are trying to express and describe the indefinable. Every bottle of plonk tastes different to each swigger and each one of these in turn will come up with some memorable bogus metaphor.

The cartoonist Thurber mocked wine speak in a 1937 cartoon:

Evelyn Waugh took a poke in Brideshead Revisited:

“It is a little, shy wine, like a gazelle.”
“Like a leprechaun.”
“Dappled, in a tapestry meadow.”
“Like a flute by still water.”
“And this is a wise old wine.”
“A prophet in a cave.”

and so forth. The link is plainer to me after reading an article on wine bollocks, it hit me like an alligator dropped on my head by a drunken protractor, the descriptor I am seeking is “Metaphor” Shakespeare’s example is the classic one:

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances …”

Here we have things we are familiar with compared to other things we are familiar with so we can reflect on the similarities. With wine and art speak the problem is that the metaphors are assembled from things we cannot with any certainty know a great deal about.

So it is hardly a surprise that attempting to describe subjective qualities with objective and poetic terms results in a word salad. The next mystery is why would any one take the texts seriously? Here is art writer and professor Carolyn Guertin writing in her essay called Wanderlust:

“The shuffling and unfolding of the information of her body in sensory space is enacted across a gap or trajectory of subjecthood that is multiple and present. Subjectivity is the lens and connector through which the spatio-temporal dislocation gets focused and bridged. The gap is outside vision – felt not seen – and always existing on the threshold in between nodes. Like the monster’s subjectivities, all knots in the matrix are linked.”

Would anyone care to have a stab at what the previous quote might mean? She is not really attempting to communicate, so what is the real intent. The text is composed in a way that feels like it is making an important point, but on closer attention the point or indeed any point appears to be absent. For those who think seeing the passage in context might help… believe me it doesn’t. However you could skim it quickly without interrogating the meaning too much and feel that something deep and thoughtful has been said.

Perhaps we might trawl further back into history to the Oracle at Delphi from which we get the word “delphic”. Horoscopes today deal with the problem of talking about things you cannot know about by phrasing in way that is as non specific as possible. They never say that at 10AM today all Libras will crash their bicycles into lampposts. They might however say, that they may experience accidents today, but although the result may be uplifting or not they mostly do not effect the positive feelings that the conjunction with Saturn encourages.

So in a way Art Speak is perfectly designed to fit with contemporary art. The requirement of the consumer of each is that they bring the meaning to the words or the art works themselves rather than the onus being on the writing or creating. Obfuscation in either area points I feel to insecurity. The Oracle cannot foretell the future in any detail so must be vague, so she can say she was right whatever the future holds. If the art critic has nothing to communicate about art that says nothing then Art Speak is perfect for the job. If an artist has nothing to say in their work the the same language is ideal for a statement that speaks of serious intent where there is none.

Well that was jolly.

On with the backlog of paintings.

Sea, oil painting, plain air

Here I wished to express the impermanence of form and explore the terminus of the shadow between resurgent reality and expectation. Or a quick daub of a bit of surf on Portland. 12in by 8in Oils.

Weymouth, beach, plain air, oil painting Dorset

Here I test the boundaries between individual experience and the transition to the ineffable isolation of the individual. Or some paint I smeared about to suggest a bloke  on Weymouth beach. 14in by 10in Oils

Portland Bill, Dorset, plein air, painting

Here I explore the dilemma of substance versus illusion, working on the periphery of dishonesty, I sought to enlarge the paradigm of truth and material. Or a moody old seascape with Portland lighthouse in it painted by a tediously boring painter on a bit of cheap reconstituted wood. 10in by 16in Oils.

Studland bay, Dorset, plein air, oil painting

This is a statement of ephemeral uncertainty described by using the anodyne security of a historical modus operandi and delineating how the ego is juxtaposed with transcendent ignorance of a futile world. Or a plein air of Studland Bay done by a painter thinking more about breakfast than art and worried that unless he paints a bit quicker his feet will get wet. 12in by 8in Oils.

Old Harry, plein air, oil painting, Dorset

Here I reacted to the endless repeated depositions of the unreconcilable slimeaval past and its post structural decay in opposition to the semi-permeable crisis of the ideal self. Or a quick knock off of Old Harry by a painter desperate for a sale. 10in by 10in oils.

Portland Bill, lighthouse, Dorset, oil painting

Here I investigate the inextricable interface between being and not being using ironic reference to the desperate cry of primeval man marooned in an age of mechanisation and home baking. Or it was a really wet nasty day so I painted a picture of Portland Bill in the studio to pass the time pleasantly? 24in by 8in Oils.

That’s it I am off to the studio to wrestle with imponderables for all you poor folk who aren’t artists. So you can see beyond your poor mundane existences and be uplifted for a brief moment nearer to the unreachable mysteries that underly our improbable incorporation into sentient flesh.

December 31, 2017

The Physics of Art

Filed under: Art History,Philosophy,Satire,Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Rob Adams @ 5:29 pm

Do you have art on your walls? How long has it been there? When did you last actually notice some of it? If the answer to the first is, yes, the second, ages and the third years then maybe the art is worn out and has become uncontemporary. You may well need to replace it entirely with fresh stuff. Completely worn out art of historical significance gets retired into national institutions so that no one except the staff have to look at it every day. Any art over time becomes worn and faded and the “art” potency becomes discharged. Much like biscuits art has a best before date.

Art is you see not like a bit of practical furniture that gains longevity and aesthetic patina through usage over time. It is an object charged with art power that has half life much in the way that radioactive elements do. A new bit of art, if it is potent, fires out aesthetic particles at a certain rate. Leave it on the wall for 10 years though and that rate will have decreased by at least 50%. Leave it there for a 20 years and it will barely register as art and become just decor. There is no way at present to recharge a discharged art object, though work is being carried out at the Cern laboratories to measure the exact weight and properties of the Icon particle, as they have named it.

For this reason it is important to renew the art on your walls a regular intervals. Iconic radiation has been shown in several influential studies to fight depression and SAD, so keeping  a fresh display of recently created art on your walls can extend active life and keep cognitive faculties in tip top condition. I need hardly point out that art comes in different qualities with some artists imbuing their work with a more potently charged Iconic particle than others. However potent the original aesthetic charge of a work is the passing of 50 years will see it sadly diminished and in need of replacement.

Different people are receptive to various wavelengths from the Conceptual at 20,000 Hz through to Kitsch at about 89 Hz, some poor souls are unable to detect the radiation at all and others such as critics are over sensitive to the higher frequencies. Great art emits on a wider band of frequencies so there are many things to consider when buying new, or replacing discharged art objects. Art objects have distinctly variable half life, Iconic and Sublimic radiation has a half life measured in years but Ironic radiation wears thin very quickly, this is known as the Dada effect.

The aesthetic field and the Iconic particle are of course liable to the same weird and unintuitive properties as other sub atomic particles. For example you can measure value by auctioning the work but not aesthetic quality. If you measure the aesthetic strength then value becomes uncertain. This is known as the Rauschenberg Uncertainty principle. This in turn means that an artwork can be in a state of worthlessness and high value at the same moment until a sale makes the probabilities to collapse one way or another. Paintings or sculptures of cats are particularly prone to this effect.

This is not really an article for painters or other practitioners of art, but for buyers and collectors. Buying art is not something you do once and you can then forget about. If any work of art in your art in your house becomes overly familiar and does not draw your attention as it used to then it needs to be replaced with a fresh work from an artist or a gallery. Collectors don’t seem to realise that when buying paintings by an artist a 100 years ago they are not buying an object of high aesthetic charge, but one only with  historical and rarity value. For these objects of much reduced potency storage in a vault is more appropriate that actually hanging them on a wall.

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