Thursday, 15 November 2018

Hansjorg Mayer and Art Without Boundaries

RTomens, 2017

If you're open-minded the idea of art without boundaries comes naturally to you or, if not naturally, after thinking about and studying the history. Yet it will come as no surprise when I tell you that the other day I had some disagreement with a supposed art-lover over his notion that 'after over half-a-century of the above crap we are getting back into paint and picture-making'. His statement was in response to this...

...which I made and posted on Facebook, potentially asking for trouble, except to say that I knew I'd be largely 'preaching' to the converted, except for one person.

I don't know who he meant by 'we' and didn't bother asking. He was spoiling for a fight and, as you know, rows on FB don't change minds, merely excite them to levels of abuse if prolonged. I'm pretty good at biting my tongue but admit to lapsing occasionally into short bursts of verbal 'fire'.

I consider my work conservative compared to today's avant-garde. Ironically, in the light of his comment, it's pretty much about 'picture-making', although perhaps not the kinds of pictures everyone would think of as Art. But you can't second-guess what everyone will think, obviously. 

Last night we attended the opening party for the Hansjorg Mayer event at Tenderbooks. We met the man himself. The work is stunning. Here are some photos from the display...

...once home I looked up Dieter Roth's print recipe again in Gerald Woods' Art Without Boundaries. It's super-cheap on Amazon and highly recommended despite very few colour plates. It's an A-Z of artists, a few filmmakers such as Godard and graphic designers.. 'Cool' artists, you might say. My point here is that Hansjorg Mayer is included (as is Bob Cobbing); now that's my kind of art book. These two aren't usually mentioned in the same breath as 'art', criminally to my mind because Mayer's books are works of art. As is the best concrete poetry. 

Art without boundaries indeed. It's usually considered to be 'conceptual' art that goes beyond the boundaries and it does, naturally. Yet there are other forms, those which push the boundaries of poetry and publishing, which deserve as much attention.  

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Small Publishers Fair CONWAY HALL, LONDON, 9 & 10 NOVEMBER 2018, 11AM TO 7PM DAILY

Untitled, RTomens, 2017
Yep! The Small Publishers Fair returns this week. I'll be there, not selling, but hanging onto my wallet for fear of bankrupting myself. With the UK's funniest zine, Clod, in the hall, along with a first time appearance by the fantastic small press publisher from Sweden, Timglaset, there are two good reasons to attend. Both are run by extremely likeable and friendly people so go chat to them and even buy something. Tell them I sent you. (ha-ha)

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Art Success/Ideas. Mission Impossible? Dream On!

Disinterested, RTomens, 2018

Idle dreams of an artist...

Sat on a step smoking, trying to disentangle one solid idea from a web of them in my head, like so much spray-on Halloween decoration currently festooning pub windows - come on, man, think! An unrecognised tune starts up via the MP3 player, which turns out to be the dub version of Nothing Is Impossible by The Interns - nothing is impossible? Really? Yes, let's be positive! Even I can muster a good idea at 7.30am!

Mission impossible: realise your dreams. But then, once realised, no longer being dreams, are they as attractive? If I'm magically given that apartment in Nice would the once dreamt of life gradually dissolve into an ordinary daily life, albeit one in infinitely preferable weather to that of the UK? Would I become blasé about the Med on my doorstep? The Jean Cocteau museum along the cost? The beaches around the corner? That sounds impossible.

The dream of every artist is to be 'successful'. How is that measured? What's your scale? Is it just a few gallery shows? A few sales? A rich investor? Coverage in Frieze magazine? (I've had that via my fanzine, Ego, thanks to Jon Savage...oh....past glories!). "Recognition!" We cry. "Gimme recognition!". From whom? Your peers, friends, critics, dealers?

The more the notion of 'success' is untangled the less solid it become, like a ball of rubber bands (not wishing to stretch an analogy here) - but 'twang...snap!', that rubber is so old it broke! You had those dreams stored away in the cupboard for years and now realise, perhaps painfully, that they're not only useless but symbolic of failure - oh no!

But let's take a leaf out of The Interns tune - anything can still happen. Perhaps that's a quietly-kept idea of middle-aged artists still doing their thing, unrecognised in the grander meaning of the word. The truth is that success may not bring happiness. You're suddenly expected to keep on doing whatever made you successful. The critics have sharpened their pens in preparation for stabbing them in your delicate heart once you slip. 

I wouldn't know what success entails, not having read anything much on the lives of successful artists, other than biographical snippets regarding the big hitters. The art gods only interest me in as much as some of their work is inspirational, but in truth I put no-one on a pedestal, or try not to. Being honest, reading biographies used to depress me in a way, the way that allows envy to take hold on reading about the cafe society, college life (Black Mountain), collective atmosphere of ages gone by when movements were afoot. You know the kind of thing, where so-and-so was in the right place at the right time with the right people and "Boom!", great things emerged. They also had the talent, of course.

My dreams are vague, making the 'mission' impossible, undefinable...and yet it's very nature allows for anything to my head. The old cliché, you make your own luck, applies. The amount of work necessary to stand a chance of making things happen is daunting, to me at least; and many others from what I see. I would rather translate Nothing Is Impossible into a viable proposition for the next piece of work. In other words, despite material limitations (cost of materials, storage and work space) in our minds, at least, anything is possible via our imagination. Whatever we dream up for the space available is limitless. Nothing is impossible in that world, at least.

It's a great tune, play it through for the second half dub.

Friday, 26 October 2018

Collage/Print For Sale: Topology Of The Body

Topology Of The Body
Vintage/various papers
Paper collage/print
Signed on the back
£170 + £10 p&p 
Shipped worldwide

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Red Menace: Socialist Plot Or Alien Invasion?

Red Menace, RTomens, 2018

Red Menace was made quickly towards the end of an afternoon's (art) work and has since been well-received although my fear that it has been misinterpreted lingers on, as do the possible interpretations in my own mind. 

It's my own fault for creating red aggressors. Why did I do that? The answer is twofold: firstly, red is a favourite colour, secondly, I admit that the subconscious mind may have played a part. After all, how much really happens during the act of creation without the hand being guided by the hidden force? A question for psychologists.

The red shapes were first and foremost 'alien' to me, both within the scenario and, deliberately, in their form. I toyed with the idea of making them more solid-looking (adding depth and shadows), thus integrating them into the fantastical 'reality'. But I opted for flat planes, a decision to render them 'alien' in more ways than one. 

Red Menace is not a 'socialist' statement, so why are the rich being attacked? Simply because that is the joke I dreamt up; a refined occasion disrupted by violent objects. The main influences are mid-century American sci-fi B-movies in which it is generally thought that aliens often represented the real Red Menace (Russia) as perceived by the Cold War mindset. 

As meanings and possible interpretations loop back into themselves, what today may be considered a Corbyn-supporting assault on the rich as a visual joke references an era in which reds were under the bed, in the Hollywood studio and virtually every other art form as subversive threats to capitalism. To one viewer the reds today are a positive anti-Tory force, to another, a genuine 'menace' once again. If socialism in Britain is a spent force, made redundant by the complexities of reactionary post-Brexit/Trump politics, for many it is also more appealing for those very same reasons.

Equally complex are the politics of Revolutionary Russia regarding art. Or at least, they were to begin with before the Stalinist clampdown on art that did not service The Revolution. Freedom of expression was ground to dust under the iron heel of the new dictatorship. As the Commissar of Enlightenment, Anatoly Lunacharsky, put it: "From now on art for art’s sake does not exist. In the hands of the Proletariat art will become a sharp weapon of communist propaganda and agitation. In the hands of the proletariat art is a tool, the means, and the product of production." Art as a luxury of the bourgeoisie was no longer tolerable.

In recent times it's been suggested that the CIA as cultural manipulators indirectly backed the rise of Abstract Expressionism as a cultural weapon against Russia during the Cold War. By then Russian art as a progressive, influential force had long-since died and it did look as if the 'Free West' had won the culture wars. What began as an explosion of radical graphic design, constructivist art, architecture and theatre had been imprisoned by it's own revolutionary ideals and a government intent on enforcing them. What became a 'menace' to the West in turn managed to menace it's own artistic community. 

Well, Red Menace is open to interpretation, depending on where you stand, politically. For me it is still simply a joke, with a nod to both celluloid fantasies and the politics behind them.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Pretentious, moi?

Reading Roland Barthes' Mythologies on the 390 bus into town who should board and take the seat in front of me but two French girls - hah! - it's just like being in Paris in the mid-50s! As I read Barthes' thoughts on wrestling I can't help but be distracted by the girls talking, thinking to myself: 'How come they sound so intelligent even though they're probably discussing the best place to get their nails done in London?' One of them has impressive, long pink nails...and I don't know if they are a sign of Love Island-style celebrity adoration, or merely her preference for nail care. Equally, they could be discussing semiotics, but from the amount of laughter going on, I doubt it. They sound intelligent because I idiotically buy the myth that the French are intellectually more advanced than us Brits.

The bus crawls down Gower Street and eventually into Bloomsbury Street, where LJ once lived and, as usual, I think of the old place with its basement toilet inhabited by slugs, a spooky, cold room, the journey to which in the middle of the night I don't think I'd be able to make nowadays, now that I'm over 30 years older...can you still buy pots to piss in or has modern living rendered them irrelevant?

I bail out of the bus journey - too slow - and seats in the sun outside the Salt & Pepper cafe are calling, along with the Oxfam bookshop opposite, whereas I had intended to go to the record shops in Soho. Oh well, instead I bask in the warm Autumn sun and, for fun, take the photo included here - yes, for fun - pretentious, moi? as they used to say - not me! I'm being ironic, darling. I could never feign intellectualism and live with myself, knowing my self to be anything but an intellectual. But the croissant, coffee and Barthes combination were irresistible - ha-ha. 

I don't ponder the intellectual abilities of the olive-skinned girl who appears on the pavement, more her sanity, poor thing. She has an overcoat slung over her shoulder and tracksuit bottoms hanging so low as to almost reveal her derrière - an unlikely-looking down and out, appearing more as if she got derailed from her Mediterranean track and tumbled into the mean, soon-to-be-cold streets of London. With her long, black corkscrewed hair and dirty white trainers, she barks indecipherable somethings at no-one in particular, then she goes.

As I write a man photographs me. Just as the girl seemed an unlikely tramp he, looking much like Soho legend Jeffrey Bernard with his luxuriant shock of white hair and lived-in dark blue suit, seems an unlikely street snapper. He moves on quickly to browse at the books outside the Lefty bookshop, Bookmarks (geddit?). I wonder, wouldn't it have been polite to ask if I minded being photographed? Perhaps he was wise, though, in avoiding his subject adopting a self-conscious air, as I undoubtedly would have done. I think he was gathering evidence of an almost lost tribe which still sits outside cafes, scribbling in their notebooks. By the time he took the photo I had returned the Barthes book to the bag for fear of being apprehended by the Pretentious Police. Not guilty, your honour, honest...

Monday, 15 October 2018

Original Print For Sale: Letter Bomb

Letter Bomb
Canon Matt Photo Paper 170gm
Original Print
Signed on the back
£135 + £10 p&p 
Shipped worldwide

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Collage/Print: There Are Too Many Secrets/ Multi-cultural Integration & the Art(s)

There Are Too Many Secrets, RTomens, 2018

BONJOUR, HOLA, GUTEN TAG, CIAO, OLÀ, NAMASTE  and SALAAM! (with apologies for all other variations left out, but, you know, life's short).

So I've been sleeping on the blogs for a while, the other one especially - why? The answer's too complex. Sorry. But now I'm back to enrich your life. How did you manage without regular emissions from moi, darling? Never mind.

There Are Too Many Secrets was born of misfortune, namely; my desktop going kaput. Or rather, to rewind, before that I'd begun exploring paper collage again and the absence of any technological tools only strengthened my resolve to continue and this collage was one of the results. You can see others in the shop. Now that the computer's fixed I'll be adding more pieces as and when I feel capable/have the time &/or inclination. Christmas is looming (yes, it looms for me nowadays) so what better time to purchase one of my collages for a loved-one? (Note to self: make cheery, colourful pieces, preferably featuring little lost-looking girls...or birds...yes, I know what sells!).

Ch-ch-ch-changes...apart from collage-making I've been doing some finkin' (which probably explains my current headache and not, surely, the whisky I was downing last night) and decided to integrate all culture into this blog rather than the previous clear cut separation (IMO was mostly music, some film etc). By 'all culture' I mean those other things, 'the arts' as they're known, simply because they, as much as art, inform/inspire my work. It's impossible to absorb so much music, film and literature without it emerging in a visual form somehow, as a shadow, ghost or upfront presence. 

It's fitting that collage (of all kinds) is probably my preferred (most-explored anyway) style since my life's a collage, arts-wise, of sight and sound. As I write Larry Young's superb album, Unity, is playing. Here's a track...

...I work to music, always, usually picking from certain genres such as No Wave, Classic Electronic or Jazz. No Wave's energy boosts mine, Electronic music's complexities encourage deeper thinking and Jazz, well, that's a constant.

So in the spirit of  'multi-culturalism' don't be surprised to see book/music/film posts here from now on. Art will, however, always be central, of course. Now that blogging is OVER I feel more determined to carry on because I'm like that, you know, against the grain. That said, despite getting on in years, I'm quite moderne in having a Instagram feed (Tomensart) - oh yes! ha-ha-ha.

Thanks for dropping by and don't forget to check out the shop sometimes for new additions. TTFN!

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Collage: The Spectacle - now available to purchase! The art of buying art.

I've opened a shop. Feel free to browse. More items will be added, of course, but for now there are three recent paper collages.

'Support living artists' is a popular mantra (among artists, usually living ones), which is easy to say and not so easy for most to act upon. Buying art is a kind of luxury, for sure, yet to own an original piece is something special, isn't it? 

Artists wrestle with the question of pricing, unless they're very professional in having agents/gallery support. You may have noticed that art in galleries tends to be on the expensive side. That's because most gallery owners take a hefty cut. I prefer to sell direct, thus avoiding having to charge more in order to pay someone else. 

The Spectacle contains text by Guy Debord, hence the title. It combines both paper collage and print techniques. 

Thanks for looking in and TTFN

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Art & politics & the internet

RTomens, 2018

                                             art post theory blogthoughts

>?>??>Wolfgang Tillmans' latest book asks What Is Different?
Good title.
Answers? It's in my basket.
Today I saw images of a page from the book & was put off by the sight of a Trump protester.

I watched the video posted below this morning & found the conversation between self-confessed Leftist Sean O'Hagan and Tillmans quite interesting. Which is why I put the book in my basket.
Not that I'm very interested in politics.

Art is not the subject of the discussion >>>>>
Is art ever a subject of worthwhile discussion on YouTube? Oh look, a lecture aimed at simpletons! Not that one. We (I) may ponder the significance of any questions, by which I mean, if we have them do we not also already have answers in our heads which await confirmation? Other than asking Google how we Brits should spell 'apologise', as I did this morning because my job demanded it, the 'answers' to political/philosophical/theoretical questions are as likely to be self-formulated as they are proven 'facts'.
(By the way, even the spelling of 'apologise' has no hard factual answer. On one site the question created a big row between Canadians who wish to remain faithful to the Empire by using an 's' instead of a 'z' & so on. Me, I'm an 's' supporter.)

           What is different today? 
Everything & nothing. Nothing in the 'corrupt' world of politics is fundamentally new except a president's ability to use Twitter. Let's not lower the tone by asking if society (UK) is 'better' or 'worse' today, although that's what Tillmans and O'Hagan get into. To his credit, Tillmans attempts to offer a relative argument for progress compared to decades ago, but Lefty O'Hagan (wasn't there a boxer of that name? If not, there should have been) is having none of it, naturally, he has his own agenda and ready-made answers. 

                                The internet the internet the internet 
That the answer & question. Tillmans cites a cognitive scientist's study of users which says many in America are only 'one person away from complete social isolation'. As many as that? I wish there was someone between me and complete social isolation. 'The internet', says Tillmans, 'gives the most remote fringe idea always a potential crowd of co-believers'. How true! You (the aspiring artist) have read all about How To Attract A Million Page Visits On Your Art Blog and How To Be A Successful Artist On Instagram, haven't you? You have. They didn't help. 

                                                           Remote fringe art zine idea
Only recently I had the 'lunatic idea' that people would want to buy my art zine. It has yet to attract a 'crowd' of co-believers'. More people believe the moon trip was fake than will buy an art zine, but hey, that's the crazy internet-inspired fake belief world we live in, eh?

                                                      Village idiot voice
Trump is in the White House and unchecked on the internet. Lunatic fringe politics succeeded. Hurrah for demockracy! Tillmans & O'Hagan mention the 'village idiot' (the lunatics have taken over the asylum), once not taken seriously, now capable of gathering followers & being important. He used to rant down the local pub/bar & be laughed at. Now he has followers. The internet is so enabling, isn't it? Any political fantasist can find his/her far out, far-Right/Left views supported. Credibility-by-numbers.

                                                           Para-universal art fantasy
On the parallel universe called the internet even artists can elevate themselves to a position (self-appointed) of importance. Look at me sat here talking as if anyone is listening. Only blog stats can threaten the art blogger's self-esteem...but here's a tip: ignore them! There's no long game on the internet but I'm playing it by carrying on regardless. I've come across blog corpses once run by supposed Top Art Bloggers. It's too much like hard work; writing & posting art. So hit Instagram...much more gratifying - post pics & watch your Followers grow in number!

                  Would you vote for art?
Well would you? Politics is complicated. Art is more complicated. People have voted out of anger, frustration, defiance & ideological enthusiasm, none of which count for anything in the art vote. Except the latter, which might drive the liberal central art supporter who, like the liberal central literature supporter will advocate 'the arts' as a nice idea overall therefore unhesitatingly vote art. Meanwhile, for others, there are problems. They belong to the lunatic fringes but unlike at major political party conferences cannot be found at the equivalent Frieze Art Fair or biennales, from which they are not banned but naturally excluded. Instead, they must seek solace from micro-gatherings in digital village halls where they rant against landscapes in saturated colours, soft porn digitally rendered figuration & popular collage on Etsy. The next meeting is tomorrow night at 8pm. See you there.

Political art, anyone?
Some say artists should be Political today - our times demand it! Right. Nobody's demands make a difference to me in that respect. They are free to demand whatever they like & welcome to it. If tomorrow I make art relating to food banks or Trump, so be it. I shall do so of my own accord. The agendarists will always try to lasso individuals in the hope of riding them until they are tame enough to be lead in the 'right direction'.

Meanwhile, Art Workers of the World, Unite. You have nothing to lose but your internet connection!