Archive for October, 2007

Moot Icon Pt. 6

Posted in art, work-in-progress on October 22, 2007 by artbizness

I was going to title this blog post “Loss of Perspective”…

I’ve found it quite difficult to decide where to put the perspective, and tried it about three different ways – first with the centre somewhere in the middle of the table, then in various other places before finally deciding to centre it on the head of the figure in the middle. Which kind of make sense, thinking about it.

Now that’s finally settled, I just have to paint lots of very straight white lines, and frankly I’ve got performance anxiety.

And there was me thinking it was going to be finished within a week…

Still – I’ve photographed it without the overhead lights on this time, which gives you a better sense of how it looks. Nearly there….

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Drawing Restraint – Matthew Barney

Posted in art, Shows I've reviewed on October 22, 2007 by artbizness

Drawing Restraint 9 2005.jpg

I went to see Drawing Restraint, a show by Matthew Barney, at the Serpentine Gallery in London this afternoon.

Matthew Barney’s work is very good, and I’ve been a fan for a long time. Its the kind of work that you can keep going back to over and over. It never gets boring and each time you go back there’s something new that you didn’t notice before.

It has to be seen to be believed.

Try this – one of the biggest pieces is a series of 30 – 40 foot slabs of petroleum jelly in various states of solidity, lying on, under and around 1-inch 8×4 slabs of plastic, topped with a great big long thin chunk of ambergris (or whale vomit) encrusted with prawn shells, speared with a plastic harpoon trailing a plastic rope that runs off to join up with other works in other parts of the gallery.


Spend some time there. Walk around it. Smell it. Once the full force of its physical impact has registered you may find that other ideas and thoughts appear. Barney’s work often has mythological links and references, sometimes using masonic symbols in his work. Its quite intimidating if your not familiar with the lexicon, but its a great incentive to go and find out more, and I find his work thoroughly thought-provoking and educational.

If you’ve never seen his Cremaster cycle of films, I recommend that you watch at least one – they are the most heavily laden symbolic events that I’ve ever seen, and there you’ll get a true feel for his work.

The works in this show make me think in terms of whaling and the various ethics involved, of Moby Dick, and of oil-industry by-products. Whaling was once a much-used resource that has fallen out of favour. There are also interesting thoughts to do with escapology in this show. Much of the work focuses on the physical act of attempting to draw drawings whilst being prevented from doing so (hence the title) – trying to draw on the ceiling by bouncing on a trampoline or scaling the wall with climbing gear, or trying to draw on a boat that is being tossed about in rough seas – all of which are documented on video, and the results displayed for you to peruse – alongside Barney’s trademark photos of satyrs.

I’m always intrigued by artists who create a whole environment rather than just a finished work on a wall that stands alone, and Barney seems to be able to do this well without resorting to huge projected images in darkened rooms, un-like many other artists.

You know what? I’m going to give up trying to explain this to you, because I can’t. It’s too awesome for me to describe. If you only go and see one show this year, then please, please see this one.

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I Cannot Tell, Verse 1

Posted in poetry on October 18, 2007 by artbizness

This is my take on an old hymn – I’ve re-arranged the words to make a poem of lament. To me, this is a little more real than the usual triumphalist bullshit.

Blogged with Flock

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I Cannot Tell Verse 2

Posted in poetry on October 18, 2007 by artbizness

Blogged with Flock

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I Cannot Tell Verse 3

Posted in poetry on October 18, 2007 by artbizness

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I Cannot Tell Verse 4

Posted in poetry on October 18, 2007 by artbizness

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Doris Salcedo’s Crack

Posted in art, Shows I've reviewed on October 9, 2007 by artbizness

I’m sitting in the main turbine hall of the Tate Modern, looking at a giant crack in the floor. This is the new work by Doris Salcedo.

The first thing you notice about it is it’s very obviously made. It looks quite cartoony. Not at all natural. It runs the length of the entire turbine hall, right from the door-post to the other end, and under a glass wall out of sight, maybe into some office space that we don’t know about. In fact, it runs right under Nicholas Serota‘s desk. Probably. When you look into it, it’s got bits of metal buried in the concrete. I don’t know how much concrete you’ve seen in your life, but normally concrete has stones and “bits” in it – with steel rods for re-inforcing, so it’s obviously not the real floor.

I’ve already seen some dumb student land flat on their face because they tripped over it, and I’m wondering how long it is before health and safety come and put barriers everywhere. It’s a very physical presence, and slightly disturbing (how did she do it? Did they raise the floor? Is the structural integrity of the building compromised?)

So, we’re in a turbine hall, that’s now a museum of modern art… turbine hall… power…? Dividing between those who have and have not…? Am I warm…?

On picking up the leaflet, I’m told its about racism. Huh? Well, the turbine hall was built around the time of the greatest imigration into British society (rebuilding after the war, 1947, etc.) Its called Shibboleth, because the word “Shibboleth” means “a word used as a test for dectecting people from another district or country by their pronunciation; a word or sound very different for foreigners to pronounce correctly.” Modernity is a European construct that excludes non-Europeans, etc..

Oh, and the bits of metal in the crack, are suppoesed to be like the chains of slaves.

Right. This is a particular bug-bear of mine. How are you supposed to get that? The problem is, some one at the Tate has written that as an interpretation, and it becomes the authoritative one. There’s the fascism right there. The leaflet says “Walking down Salcedo’s incised line, particularly if you know about her previous work..” Well, I don’t.

It’s a great work for people to walk around, trip over, drop things in, sit by, and so on, and so on. That’s ok. It doesn’t need a leaflet to tell you what to think about it. I’m also a bit pissed off with the security guard jackboots that have been pacing around me since I first sat down and open this laptop up. Grr.

I’m going to start a new tradition. When you see this work, come and drop a coin in it, and make a wish, like a wishing well. I’ve already dropped the first pound coin in, as you can see from the photo above. My wish is that art would get better, and that people would stop crowding work with their own interpretation. Heal the cracks, you might say.

On a lighter note, I just can’t resist a good innuedo. I’ve been trying to hold back for this entire post, but I can’t contain myself, so here goes.. I’ve been to see Doris Salcedo’s crack. Her crack was a lot of fun. Lots of other people had fun too. At the same time. It’s quite a deep gash. It’s huge. I could spout forth on her crack forever. I saw right into it. Etc., etc.,…

If you think of any other good ones, let me know.

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Untitled – a poem

Posted in general, poetry on October 8, 2007 by artbizness


The thought has come to me before
at times I want, at times of stress
like now. I look at flowers grow
too beautiful for words, I think
about their death. And mine. Amongst
a thousand others. Hidden here
this garden quietly grows between
the city’s noises, roads and buildings,
as if some grass could halve the pain
we know we have to carry knowing
that death will bring us to a stop.
I sweat blood.

The thought has come to me before –
my life has been a gamble, not
on rolling dice like these two here.
I’ve understood experience
as something bringing change to this
short life. I might be wrong. I think
of everyone I’ve known. The women
are here. My friends have gone away.
Their lives are finite, too. And how
remembered will we be? Too late.
There’s nothing I can do about
it now. My breathing is erratic.
I’ve finished.

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Art London

Posted in Shows I've reviewed on October 5, 2007 by artbizness


So, I went to Art London this afternoon, at Royal Hospital Chelsea. Art London is a collection of galleries under canvas in the centre of London, UK, and it runs until Monday. There are a few events like this throughout the year – Frieze, the Affordable Art Fair, and the London Art Fair (which is a LAF a minute).

They’re spaces for selling work. And that’s all they are. This is where the art meets the commerce, and its these kind of events that are re-vitalising people’s interest in art, whilst creating a problem at the same time

Basically, someone has realised that if you set up an art fair in the middle of Chelsea, charge some medium-to-big-time successful galleries a shit-load of money to exhibit there, take a commission on any sales, AND charge the punters £12 just to get in, you stand to get very rich indeed.

What this means is that you and I go in, and are confronted by a) hoardes of paintings placed far too close together for you to look at them properly, b) hoardes of people placed far too close together for you to look at them properly, and c) Chelsea pensioners.

It’s a bit like a guitarist playing 50 of his songs at you all at the same time, and then asking you if you want to buy his latest album. “I don’t know! I have a headache!” is the correct response.

It’s a shame, because there are some genuine curiosities here, that might repay the time and effort of waiting and looking, but it’s far too exhausting to make that effort worthwhile (the best stuff seems to be on the right of the marquee as you go in).

The prices are a little more out of reach than something like the Affordable Art Fair, and the quality is not as brilliant as it could be, in my opinion. I suppose I should be networking, but the people running the stands look like they’re there because they have to be, rather than because they want to be. (I mean really, look at the photo).

The one to go and see is the Frieze Art Fair next week. The prices will be out of my league too, but as a snapshot of good contemporary art, it’s second to none. There are bigger name galleries there, the paintings are placed at a decent enough distance apart for you to look at them, and the people there are far more interesting to look at. Plus the quality of the work is about 100 times better.

Roll on next week.

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Moot Icon – Work-in-progress Pt.5

Posted in art on October 5, 2007 by artbizness

OK, those of you who are following the progress of this work, (it’s the icon I have been commissioned to make for the moot community) will understand what I mean when I say that I think I’ve got this back from the brink of disaster..

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you can chart the progress of this work here, here, here, here, etc.

I dealt with the issue of the table and seats being too vivid with a black wood patinating wax. I realised that the colours need to be more muted in keeping with the tone of the work. Its tempting to think that bright colours can be wonderful and eye-catching, but sometimes a more sombre tone can be better – in this case, if I’m doing an icon that is going to be used in a reverent and quiet way, then it makes sense to have more muted colours – its much more sensitive to the end use of the thing. So the wax has made the colours look a little less obtuse. The blue fairy lights are enough colour.

However, I also realised that the whole thing had become a bit too floaty and ethereal, and that it needed something a bit more solid about it. So I’ve picked out the edges of the table with white gloss paint. Obviously, I’ve just tried out a small part of it – the table needs feet, for one thing – and I’m going to paint the edges of the blue cube “seats” that the figures are sitting on, too. The lines will be a bit more stricter and straighter when I’ve finished with it, but I think I’m finally back on track, and I’m well pleased (as Chas ‘n’ Dave would say).

The white paint kind of looks a bit like chalk marks on a school blackboard, which I suppose could raise issues about didacticism in religion. Nice thought.

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