Over the last few weeks we’ve been getting random emails from people asking us if we have seen Natural Selection , a new web e-magazine that has its third issue on line now. The first email was to let us know that we had been mentioned, the second email was to complain that the Sydney artists represented in the Australasian publication weren’t good enough and the third was a very direct “hey look at this!”
So we had a look. Natural Selection is 78 pages long and has a lot of articles and pictures from artists in New Zealand and Australia. We perused the articles and found that Elizabeth Pulie had written an introduction to the Sydney artist’s section and mentioned The Art Life and said nice things about us.
In an introductory essay, Pulie and co-author Luke Parker describe what they see as the parlous state of art criticism in Sydney’s newspapers and having a go at Peter Hill for being crap. Although he’s no longer the SMH art crit, here’s what they had to say:
“Hill writes little in the way of critical responses to work. Often he will interview the artists over a latte, or regurgitate press releases/essays that accompany the exhibition (commissioned by the artist or gallery, and thus never critical of the work). He even liked the Affordable Art Fair (which would have to be one of the most deplorable, problematic recent developments in the Sydney ‘Art Market’).”
Of the many sins of Hill, we never thought his liking for the Affordable Art Fair would count against him. We’re don’t know why Pulie and Parker thought it necessary to put ‘Art Market’ in upper case and in quotes but the AAF is part of the art market, like it or lump it. Even if you don’t like the art that gets shown at the AAF and don’t like the idea of being asked to pay money to go in and look, it’s a bit unfair to criticize poor old Peter Hill for giving it the thumbs up. We would have thought that artists would appreciate a new venue to flog their wares but then again, the possibility of showing at the AAF and selling nada would be a sobering thought for artist-run space refusniks types.
The line up of Sydney people representing our fair city in Natural Selection are artists that Pulie and Parker say they know and love: Elizabeth Pulie, Jay Balbi, John Spiteri, David Griggs, Maria Cruz, Mikala Dwyer, Raquel Ormella, Regina Walters, Robert Pulie, David Griggs, Sophie Coombs, Elvis Richardson and Sarah Goffman.
One of our correspondents suggested that the Sydney artists in Natural Selection were a tad too familiar, perhaps even related to one another in the Biblical sense, and since there is very little actual writing, the whole thing is bit of a waste of time. We disagree. As much as we think a magazine is a venue for writers, Pulie and Parker are completely upfront about why they chose the people they did and that’s fine by us. But how many people want to look at a page by Maria Cruz that simply says Taxi Drivers Wanted All Shifts Available?
Let’s rephrase that – how long do you want to look at that? A magazine is a space for concentration and extended reading, pretty pictures and decorative words just fill up air. Of much more interest in that kind of context are people like Goffman’s Artists I’ve met in Sydney, since 1990, whose names I remember and whose work I know, a chart of people she knows and what they do. Similarly, Ormella and Walter’s Places I lost my keys; Places I lost my wallet; People who can’t use chopsticks is both visually interesting and worth reading as is Richardson’s lift from her web site charting the dedications in books on the JonBenet Ramsey case (even if we have seen that work before).
Pulie and Parker also ask some pertinent questions:
“The increase in artist-run publications has resulted in an increase in requests to artists from other artists, to make written contributions to their projects. Do artists make good critics? Do they make good writers? Some do, and some don’t. As artists, anything they have to say about art (their own or others’) is surely valid – but it may not be interestingly written. If something is badly written, it won’t hold anyone’s attention for long, and it’s difficult to commission good writing when there isn’t any money available to commission with.”
How true – no bucks, no Buck Rogers. Artist’s magazines – as opposed to magazines about artists – are a mug’s game. Things can look good, look crappy, read well, read badly, whatever, but the way to approach them is to take them for what they are, artists’ magazines and revel in what they do best – the sheer eclecticism of personal taste and interests. Unfortunately, there’s nothing inherently ‘valid’ about one artist’s opinion of another, it’s just their opinion and should be taken as such. And stop calling us Shirley.
The launch – February 24, 6pm – features a performance by Gossip Pop which is allegedly Sue Dodd and Phil Dodd doing ironic pop pastiche with lyrics taken directly from gossip magazines. We say ‘allegedly’ because sources close to Sue Dodd have revealed that the whole thing is scam invented by Ted Colless to further his career as a pop impresario. A friend also revealed to The Art Life that Sue Dodd is close to a split with Phil due to musical differences. “Sue has been very patient with Phil’s mood swings but she’s fed up,” said the friend. “She’s thinking of going to New York to start afresh in a new city.” We wish Sue the best of luck.