I must confess that, in spite of my love for visiting bookshops, especially when I am in London, I am contributing to their demise. I'll enjoy the experience of browsing but more often than not, it'll end up being a snooping mission as I guiltily slide out my phone and take a snapshot of a book cover so I can compare prices online. On a recent trip to London I came across a little book which had me howling with laughter and I determined to buy a copy online..ok, look I'm not such a cheapskate, it also has to do with those dastardly budget airline luggage restrictions. However a dear friend of mine, otherwise known as Mr. Fat Hairy-arsed Bastard, beat me to it and sent me the book as a present. He too has a filthy sense of humour.
The intro blurb on this little gem, the first of Miriam and E. Elia's Dung beetle series entitled "We go to the gallery" sets the mood:
"The jolly colourful illustrations will enable your child to smoothly internalise all the debilitating middle class self-hatred contained in each artwork."
This little book hasn't half stirred up a storm particularly with Penguin Publishers who tried dragging her over the coals to get the book withdrawn. They lost the court case and then went straight on to copy her idea with a series of their own in a similar vein, but oh so dull.
I am so grateful for this book. Given that it's a runaway success, I clearly am not alone in my opinion of much of what gets passed off as modern art. How often have I thought how delicious it would be if I were to submit some of the art produced in my Junior art classes to a prestigious modern art gallery without divulging the age of the artists. And get a reply enthusiastically offering to represent them. The letter might go something like this: "Dear Sir/Madam, the work of your post-graduate artists has been viewed favourably by our gallery's board of trustees. The works' modernist deconstructivism with kafkaist undertones propels its viewer forward into the seemingly infinite progression of possible reproductions of playfully and subversively inverted subjective constructions which radically interrogates formalist relativism of the aesthetic emotion underlying the existential drama of the human condition. The gestures on the canvas are a gesture of liberation from value—political, aesthetic, moral. Like Pollock's work… they fuse the detritus of urban demolition with a Minimalist aesthetic. Ps.We take 75% commission.Yours Sincerely, Mr. W. Anker"
Ah ok. My reply might go something like this: "Dear Pompous Git whot is redolent wif inflated Midol Cless insecurity issues. It took several quizzical re-reads and a glass or three of pure rocket fuel to get mi 'ead around your insightful critique. Your pompous paradoxes and plagues of adverbs, endless sentences and strained rebellious poses indicate you are clearly most erudite and learned in the art of IAE. As for art itself, the jury's out. Yours most sod offingly…" (Hmm, for a few brief shiny moments there, I sounded remarkably similar to Daphne Caruana Galizia doing a send-up of Malta's Leyboor Clesses. Her tongue is so deliciously acerbic I wouldn't be surprised to find it being used as a marketing advert in local hardware stores on the shelf labelled "Paint Strippers".)
Many of those gobbledigook phrases were cut and pasted from various websites about art. Here's a complete quote: "Susan Smith's timeless constructions, on view at Junior Projects through February 27, fuse the detritus of urban demolition with a Minimalist aesthetic, making order out of chaos and wittily evoking the Modern masters of De Stjil and later monochromists, such as Robert Ryman and Brice Marde." From a leading art blog. And that there's an exhibit. Goodgrief..this makes Malta look like its an open art gallery..there are zillions of similar "timeless constructions making order out of chaos" by Maltese handymen after they've creatively resorted to fixing wobbly doors or uneven floor tiles. Much to the bemusement of the homeowner who, driven to distraction by endless lame excuses for no-shows, exclaims "But the whole point of a door is that you can bl**dy well OPEN it!".
As for IAE? I refer to the User's Guide to International Art English. The two researchers of this phenomenon, American artist David Levine and sociology student Alix Rule produced an essay which since publication has, according to this article in the Guardian "become one of the most widely and excitedly circulated pieces of online cultural criticism". In the article Levine comments: "The more you can muddy the waters around the meaning of a work, the more you can keep the value high." Love it!
But hey, on a positive note, you too can become an art critic! No need to spend years expensively consulting therapists while trying to come to terms with the fact that your domineering mother squashed your childhood aspirations of becoming a creative artist by making derogatory comparisons between your penis and the length of your chewed up pencil. Simply download this remarkable crash course app: Critical Response to the Art Product (aka CRAP). Its an art phrase generator and its hilarious. Enter the world of waffle here.
I recently came across this quote by author Tom Stoppard:
I can't quite figure out if he was being derisive or not. But this thing about imagination without skill being the foundation of modern art often leaves me in a quandary when guiding my young students. Do I let them be, drawing an elephant which looks like parts of it have shrunk in the wash? Or do I advise them to focus on observing shapes, forms, negative spaces etc to produce a truer likeness? Zillions of adult artists have cashed in on the modern art cow and made their fortunes painting and drawing exactly like these kids do. I generally let the kids do their own thing, not because of anything to do with expressing themselves in a modern art style, but because I find their spontaneity and energy and lack of inhibition fascinating. Many of those characteristics flourish because of the non-judgmental environment in which I encourage them to express themselves. Picasso's famous quote is always playing in the back of my head: "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."
Why then do I dislike so much modern art which emulates kids' art? Let's take as an example of modern art the work of American painter draughtsman Cy Twombly.
Described by art dealers as one of the greatest artists of the last 100 years, one of his blackboard paintings recently sold at Christies and Sotherby's auctions in London for 30 million dollars. I'm baffled. In reference to Twombly's work, I found this quote from the Director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the most important gallery in Sydney Australia: "Sometimes people need a little bit of help in recognising a great work of art that might be a bit unfamiliar".
Here are two artworks.One was produced by a child attending my art classes. Guess which one sold for 30 million dollars and then tell me why. I need help.
Some of my young art students' work can be seen here
Quote: "Like most sensible people, you probably lost interest in modern art about the time that Julian Schnabel was painting broken pieces of the crockery that his wife had thrown at him for painting broken pieces of crockery instead of painting the bathroom and hall." P. J. O'Rourke