Strongly Agree – Agree – Disagree – Strongly Disagree

Uncategorized Sep 18, 2005 No Comments

What history shows is that we should treat cautiously the rhetoric of those who would impose their morality on art and dictate what is or is not fit for cultural consumption. Back in 1937, then attorney-general Robert Menzies advocated the establishment of a federal art society to arbitrate taste and promote “sound” realistic painters.

During its 2001 election campaign, the Howard Government, in what sounded like an echo of the past, made a cynical grab for votes by deriding the arts as “elitist”, perpetuating the notion that the concerns of artists were somehow incompatible with those of “ordinary” Australians. Elitism in sport is fine, but the pursuit of excellence in the arts is viewed with suspicion.

So what is it about the arts that so infuriates or scares people, that prompts politicians to feel the need to protect us from its debasing concepts? This urge to protect succeeds only in infantalising, in dumbing-down, in sanitising and numbing. Decisions made behind closed doors in corporate boardrooms can be far more deleterious to the planet or to people’s lives than the stuff that happens in cinemas, galleries or the theatre. Why, then, are the arts so often a lightning rod for moral outrage?

Gabriella Coslovich, Beware The Art Police, The Age, September 18.

When the Queensland Art Gallery paid pound stg. 55,000 at auction in London for La Belle in 1959, with the financial assistance of eccentric collector Major Harold de Vahl Rubin, it was a world record price for a work by a living artist. It proved a popular addition. Too popular, perhaps, because when, in 1967, an art lover heard unfounded rumours that it was to be sold, he broke into the gallery and stole it. The painting was returned unharmed a week later and the thief was given only a brief sentence.

Sebastian Smee, Modest Masterpieces, The Australian, Review, September 17, 2005.

Callouses and Curiosities, the name of [Alice] Lang‘s work-in-progress show, comprises a creature, called Verte-braid, plus a scatter of little objects she says are Puggle Puffs, a series of wall-mounted works called Benign Babies, and a video work, which features what turns out to be Lang’s patient boyfriend, nearly asphyxiating himself in the name of the artist’s peculiar vision.

Rosemary Sorenson, Art of Bumpy FascinationThe Courier-Mail, September 17.

I expected to be writing about how much I disliked Alison Lapper Pregnant, the 12-ton, marble sculpture that now graces Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth. I had seen pictures of Marc Quinn‘s maquette of the piece and had thought the subject matter – Lapper was born with no arms and shortened legs – too deliberately controversial, too feebly didactic and, as a result, rather banal.
But I should have known better. When it comes to sculpture, never underestimate the move from maquette to finished work. In the case of Alison Lapper Pregnant, something wonderful has happened in the zoom from miniature to massive, and it is not only the sheer scale of the thing (the statue is 3.55 metre tall and manages to feel even bigger) that demands a certain respect. White and dazzling, Quinn’s sculpture has set a grey corner of a grey space unexpectedly ablaze.

Rachel Cooke, Bold Beautiful Brave, The Observer, September 18, 2005.

The thing about art is that it is always swallowed by money. For a while it can lead the debate, surprising and confusing us in varying degrees, persuading us that we have brushed against some inner truth.

But time moves on, the art market kicks in heavily and before you know it last year’s shocking radical is this year’s fast-emerging must-have and the slide into bourgeois respectability, second homes, private education for the kids and benign magazine profiles begins. Something similar happened to Pop Art a long time ago, and this is why I can’t help hearing the clink of hotel cocktail ice whenever I find myself looking at a Warhol, Lichtenstein, Rauschenberg or any of the others.

Mark Irving, Running on Empty, The Times, August 24, 2005.

This was one of those events that make everything strange.

One entered the installation in the darkened Performance Space as though walking into a three-dimensional, computer-assisted design program, feeling perplexed.
But by the end, after writer and artist Ruark Lewis had walked around the area completing a series of highly ordered but pointedly banal readings, accompanied by block-like, cold ambient electronic sounds from composer Rainer Linz, the event had established its own kind of logic, and only the world outside seemed weird.

Peter Mc Callum, Ruark Lewis and Rainer Linz, The Sydney Morning Herald, September 12, 2005.

Compare what is on offer in Primavera, however, and you may as well have entered a different institution. I desperately wanted to like this show, but I struggled to find a single work that lifted itself above the standard of competent but cloyingly over-determined Year12 art. It is the sort of work that is just one layer of superficial understanding laid on top of another, none of it relating internally or showing the least sign of deepening.

What is going on here? Reading the obligatory artists’ statements in the catalogue is akin to scanning the eyes of an android for signs of personality. “The message I express through my paintings is that short-sighted political policies can be dangerous,” says one. “My practice investigates mechanisms of fiction and reality through the mediums of performance, video, painting, installation and photography.” “My practice illustrates a cultural past inside the global future.”
Who are these artists ventriloquising? I know they are all under 35, but do they not think for themselves? Do they not have any sense of a deeper human complexity, of the whole, hair-raising human predicament? Perhaps they do, but it is nowhere articulated in their art.

Sebastian Smee, Spring Loaded, The Australian, Review, September 17, 2005.

The Art Life

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