Thursday, 17 August 2017

Pink Is For Girls

Pink Is For Girls, RTomens. 2017

How do you, as a parent, perpetuate a derogatory sexual stereotype? One way is to use Clarks shoe shop, obviously. Called out for it in June, it seems they haven't learnt a thing. The sad fact is that they're pandering to a commonly held belief that girls should be in pink, all soft and princess-like. Shamefully, parents are as culpable of this as those without young children. The collage above was inspired by a magazine ad in the 60s before I read about Clarks and their crusade to keep girls pink. It's relevant, so I've posted it.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Book: Hippie Modernism - The Struggle For Utopia

Hippie Modernism? An oxymoronic title, surely? It caught my attention in the shop anyway. That and geodome inferno, which is Buckminster Fuller and Shoji Sadao's Expo '67 US pavilion ablaze in 1976. A symbol, now, of The Death of Hippie Utopia? Maybe. The Death Of Hippie had already been proclaimed by The Diggers in their 1967 march/wake/event. But wasn't Hippie all back-to- nature-doped-up-tree-hugging anti-technology? To some extent, yes, but what this Walker Art Center exhibition tie-in tome reveals is the extent to which tech-utopia dreams evolved from the design office drawing board to architectural futurist and street activism. Whether through chemically assisted visions or simply the unavoidable impact of the (would-be) social revolutionaries, the idea of positive change; an alternative to square society, took a firm hold. Of course it was parodied in many adverts of the day, but Hippie Modernism is packed with examples of genuine attempts to realise a better world through architecture, social schemes, action and art. If the 'struggle for utopia' was eventually (inevitably) lost, Hippie Modernism at least illustrates times when hope was alive. Such dreaming may have proved futile, but I for one find the theoretical/visual results of those dreams fascinating. 

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Digital Collage: Wealth, Power & Industry

RTomens, 2017
The tough-looking driver with eyes the colour of the slates being thrown into the container he'd dropped off stared down at me when I asked if I could take photos of his lorry.
"As long as you don't give me a ticket."
I moved around, looking for interesting machine parts. As soon as you start taking photos people take an interest, especially if you seem fascinated by the everyday tools of workmen. Sure enough, a man in white overalls and safety helmet stood nearby, watching. Turned out they were going to demolish an old building that had been converted into flats long ago. To the sound of slates from the roof clanging into the big container we discussed gentrification. As I looked through the protective fence into dark rooms where ceiling fixtures hung down it struck me as a tragic site. He said it was unsafe, "a death trap", pointing at the anti-burglary bars on the ground floor windows. "After Grenfell..." Right. I took quite a few photos of the lorry's parts. The picture is a treatment of one. I've made several variations and will no doubt work on others.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Digital art: Book Lovers Day Special

RTomens, 2014

Just learnt that today is Book Lovers Day. So in honour of that, here's an old piece (above) and two new below. Who doesn't love books? Only idiots. Which reminds me; we were watching Channel 4 last night for a while and during the adverts I said to LJ: 
"These adverts are made as if everyone's a moron."
"Everyone is a moron," she replied.

RTomens, 2017

RTomens, 2017

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Fake Art vs Real Art

Poor Roy Walter James. It's 1947 and the 'radicals' have taken over the Los Angeles County Museum art exhibition. What is a 'conservative' artists to do? Make placards and protest. In vain, sadly. The issue of what is Real and what is Fake art is as old as the hills, as any historian will tell you, complete with examples and dates. Not being an historian, I have none to hand.

Fake versus Real is not the issue today, so we may suppose. Aren't we all 'radicalised' now? Damien Hirst is mainstream. So what's the alternative? Perhaps it's hidden in all the internet activity, the endless 'shows' taking place every minute of the day in the gallery without walls. 

The thing about that particular alternative is that it's participants have little chance of being 'discovered'. Some tell themselves they don't even desire 'success'. They may change their minds if offered a paid-for (materials) show in a prestigious gallery, but they also know the chances of that happening are only just above zero.

Net art, as it's known, has already been accepted and shown around the world. As determinedly anti-establishment as those artists see themselves, they have been welcomed into the fold by curators keen to be seen as 'cutting edge'. Hence what were once purely internet projects, complete with meta-links and savvy non-material attitude are transformed into conventional shows.

Art on the internet is another matter. By it's very nature it eludes categorisation, from the traditional to the 'radical' and all points in between, art is everywhere 'out there' and 'nowhere' in terms of acceptance or gallery representation. It's democracy gone mad. Instead of a show, these artists are pleased if they gain a few 'likes' on FB or Followers elsewhere. We, since, yes, I must include myself amongst them, are content, must be content, in simply connecting with a few like-minded souls and admirers.

Back in 1947, when painting and sculpture were the only manifestations of art, that very physical limitation rendered the likes of Roy Walter James helpless in the face of emerging radical scenes. No online consolation for him. No 'likes' for his work and no Followers. There he sits, looking thoroughly dejected. 'Must We Look At Garbage?????' he asks on one placard. If I could travel back in time, I would assure him that in the next century we would all be subjected to looking at garbage in the form of news feeds, advertisements and celebrity gossip as part of the inescapable, relentless tide of online content in which we have no interest. Including some art with which we have nothing in common.

Ironically, the info-torture many of us endure may actually benefit our art. Since it is hard nowadays to detach ourselves from all that, those of us who work on computers may, subconsciously or consciously, utilise the repulsion we feel as motivation for creating something better; or at least to our liking, as in adding a personal drip to the endless online 'canvas'.

One thing we may ponder today is: if everyone is 'radicalised' aesthetically, as Tate Modern's success would suggest, how come the Roy Walker James mindset still exists? Leaving aside those with absolutely no clue of how to look at art, there are still those who would cry "Fake!" when confronted with art made for the internet. Amongst those will be self-appointed 'connoisseurs' along with everyday 'art-lovers' and professional art industry types. The latter obviously know what is Fake and that is art from which they can neither make money nor boost their esteem in the business.

Meanwhile, it is no longer a matter of Real versus Fake. Those who think it is display a distinct lack of understanding regarding the modern art world. Unlike in James' era, to debate style, never mind the modern medium and it's message, is to fall at the first hurdle. Yet there are those who remain entrenched in that very old battle, like soldiers still defending an isolated island when, unbeknown to them, the war ended decades ago. 

Friday, 4 August 2017

Digital art/Vispo: The Will To Dispel Ghosts / Talking All That Jazz Inspiration

The Will To Dispel Ghosts, RTomens, 2017

A belated review of my book, Too Much To Bear, has appeared on the Asemic Front site. It's pleasing to see that DVS recognises an aspect of my work, namely a non-visual influence in the form of Jazz. Even artistic influences infiltrate my creativity in a ghostly fashion since I dote on no-one and certainly do not regularly seek ideas from any well-known artist. I do, however, listen to music a lot of the time and always when working. That is not to say that the sound of Cecil Taylor's piano or Ornette Coleman's saxophone in any way direct the Shape of My Art To Come; only indirectly, since the spirit of Jazz inspires me. Jazz, that is, borne of free-thinking, improvisational energy and contemplation. Most of my work is akin to spontaneous music (the solo) which comes from many hours 'composing' in my head. Composing, that is, a mood, perhaps, or structures within which I explore. TTFN

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Digital art: Nothing To Declare (five variations)

Work from a pulp paperback of mine. Cheap literature transformed...into even cheaper art!

Franco Grignani: Art as Design 1950-1990

So off to the Estorick Collection in Islington we go, on the bikes, to see Franco Grignani: Art as Design 1950-1990. Rain does not dampen our spirits; we are, after all, going to see some art as opposed to merely cycling to work (as we both do). When cycling to Work in the rain your already damp spirits become drenched and take some drying out.

Grignani is best-known for designing the Woolmark logo. At this point I stop to wonder if anyone still buys wool. The mere site of the logo is nostalgic, recalling, for me, visits with my mum to the little shop in our village which sold wool. Strange to think that all these years later I would be visiting an exhibition by it's creator. 

The line between art and design was blurred long ago. One may question the existence of any line at all when, for instance, considering the book covers created by John Heartfield, as I was this morning. But the snobbish world of Fine Art has little regard for the art in 'design', even when the artist is Heartfield, presumably. Or Andy Warhol? Superstar status does, however, guarantee an interest in an artist's commercial industrial work if not, ultimately, the respect given to their Fine Art.

Grignani designed some superb covers for Penguin science-fiction paperbacks... my eyes, they're as good as a lot of stuff that passes for 'Fine Art'.

Despite starting out as a Futurist, the results of which have since been lost, Grignani proved himself a canny commercial designer who obviously kept something of the Constructivist aesthetic close to his heart and utilised early lessons in geometric dynamism when it was ripe for use in the 60s...

Wideangular, 1965

...this one's called Imposition of Geometric Space in a Reticular Field (1962) or, as it is now known, Imposition of the Photographer in a Piece by Franco Grignani...

A great little show, then. The only setback was discovering that two pastries and two cappuccinos in the cafe cost us £13. That dampened my spirits a little...

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Print/Digital Art: Keep Shut

From a photo taken of a door on Finsbury Park station a couple of years ago. The first is a print, the other two digital treatments or 'computer art', if you prefer, although that used to mean something else, as you know. There was a time when a few artists took to using what was a new medium and whilst what they created may not have been visually arresting those were pioneering steps towards the multitude of uses we can put the computer to now in the name of art. Much of it serves to simply create old forms via new methods, but if you want a digitally rendered tiger, good luck to you.   

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Vispo: Matrix

Some word play recently, with text taken from the Cobra manifesto - pertaining what what, you may guess. Suffice to say it's not embracing the matrix of cultural convention, but who does? Many for whom it proves beneficial, naturally. I've never been caught up in that matrix although I'm sure it would benefit me to become part of it's grid world of complex interwoven components designed to reinforce The System and reward those who adhere to its rules. Vispo (or concrete poetry) itself seems to have avoided the mainstream cultural matrix, existing as it does in visual limbo land, outside of Art and Literature.