Saturday, 30 July 2011

UnMasterclass 31

In 1981 Thomas Lawson wrote an article in October's issue of Artforum as a response to the emergence of new American based painters (Schnabel, Castelli, Clemente etc.). In it he referred to what set these apart from previous painters was a recognition of history in their work, an antidote to the constant search for 'newness' of Modernism. Yet Lawson cannot but betray his scepticism in his writing, at odds with the fervour of championing these painters at this time. "These young painters ingratiate themselves by pretending to be in awe of history. Their enterprise is distinguished by homage to the past and by nostalgia for the early days of modernism. But what they give us is pastiche of historical consciousness, an exercise in bad faith.....For by decontextualising their sources and refusing to provide a new, suitably critical frame for them, they dismiss the particularities of history in favour of a generalising mythology, and thus succumb to sentimentality." We believe that within these lines (and most probably justified in relation to the artists he is discussing) there is a core concern of how to move on with painting. For how does painting, both refer to it's past without descending into pastiche, inferiority or boredom and manage to do something new that retains the critical and progressive nature of the medium? How does one stop from creating bad copies or versions of other paintings and painters? How do you make something more interesting than the centuries of history that painting has. We do not know the answers to these, here at UnMasterclass, but we believe that ignorance of both this history of painting and of technique is never going to make painting a valid art form. We are tired of the so called death of painting, but we are also tired of paintings that are tired. This weeks episode of UnMasterclass is now up online, viewable here

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy

All this week I have been in a rather mini residency at The Burlington Fine Arts Club with 4 artists from the Royal Standard in Liverpool; Frances Disley, Dave Evans, Kevin Hunt and Emily Speed. We have been doing a variety of activities|: watching The Shining, trying to hula hoop, playing table tennis and backgammon, talking, eating, drinking (very little alcohol), listening to music, reading and above all making art. My efforts so far on day 4 are displayed above with Dave Evans in the background. You can see a visual diary of what we have been up to here There is more about the Burlington here and the facebook event page is here

All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy
All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy
All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy
All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy
All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy
All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy
All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy
All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy
All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy

Without time off from work, a person becomes both bored and boring.

How could anyone be bored at The Burlington Fine Arts Club?

For one week five artists will come together to work, play, read, talk, eat, write, make, crit, plan, faff, drink, dream, listen and try not to be bored. They will be following the tradition of the original Burlington Fine Arts Club and eminent members Luytens, Rossetti, Ruskin and Whistler. None of the contemporary artists know what will happen in the week long residency.

In the spirit of collaboration and making connections that the Burlington encourages Manchester based artist Andrew Bracey has invited four artists - Frances Disley, Dave Evans, Kevin Hunt and Emily Speed - from The Royal Standard studios in Liverpool to spend the week with him at the club. There are no rules and no outcomes anticipated. A clean slate has been wiped. They must all remember that no work and all play can also make Jack a dull boy.

Visitors are welcome to come and see what the artists are doing at The Burlington Fine Arts Club during the residency, except Monday 25th July. Please also attend the private view on Thursday 28th July 6-8pm to see what the artists have come up with.

Residency period is 22-28 July, 2011.
Residency Exhibition open until 30th July.
Open 3-8pm every day except Monday.
Private view 6-8pm on Thursday 28th July. Bring your own bottle.
Burlington Fine Arts Club, 3 Piccadilly Place, Manchester, M1 3BN.
www.Burlingtonfineartsclub​ for more info

More about the artists

Andrew Bracey makes paintings, but not always with paint and rarely on canvas. Solo exhibitions include Manchester Art Gallery, Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Transition Gallery, London and firstsite, Colchester. He curated UnSpooling: artists & cinema at Cornerhouse, Manchester with Dave Griffiths in 2010. He is based in Suite Studio Group in Salford and is Senior Lecturer in fine art at The University of Lincoln.

Frances Disley works with printmaking, drawing and sculpture. She creates work that challenges the media’s current negative representation of teenagers. Transforming society’s wastelands into magical landscapes Frances seeks to emphasise the exciting yet terrifying transition from childhood to adulthood.

Dave Evans works with printmaking, sculpture and multimedia to explore how and why we speculate about the future. He ties, balances and hangs fragile materials that emphasise the constructed nature of past and future history. His influences include 70's sci-fi movies, the work of Issac Asimov, and the writing of Frederic Jameson.

Kevin Hunt is an artist, curator and writer. He constructs sculpture utilising the redundant. Recent exhibitions include a solo presentation of new work at Art Brussels, Belgium with Stephane Simoens Gallery, No Noise at The Agency, Deptford, London, NO SOUL FOR SALE at Tate Modern, London and Rendez-Vous 09, at the Institut d’art Contemporain, during the 10th Biennale de Lyon 2009.

Emily Speed works in sculpture, installation, drawing, and photography exploring the temporary and the transient through reference to architecture and the body. She currently has a solo exhibition 'MAKE SHIFT' at Yorkshire Sculpture Park until September 18th.

About The Burlington Fine Arts Club

Originally The Burlington Fine Arts Club was a London gentlemen’s club, established in 1866. The club had its roots in the informal Fine Arts Club, a gathering of amateur art enthusiasts that aimed to combine their specific interest with the atmosphere of a typical gentlemen’s club. The club also doubled up as a regular exhibition venue.
In 2011 the Burlington Fine Arts Club will be resurrected for a limited 4-week period, existing as pop up social space running parallel with the events of the Manchester International Festival. Following the original premise, the Burlington will give local creatives a space to exhibit, establish networks, discuss ideas and an opportunity to engage in Manchester’s grass routes contemporary art scene. Like all good gentlemen clubs The Burlington 2011 will also provide a space to relax, meet and have a stiff drink.
The Burlington 2011 is a project devised and directed by Liz Murphy and Anna Stogdon.

Friday, 22 July 2011

UnMasterclass 30

Gerhard Richter is perhaps the living painter UnMasterclass holds in the most esteem (the question of who might hold this honour has been raised this week with the death of Lucien Freud, closely following Cy Twombly's own death just a few weeks ago). The way Richter has continually questioned what painting can and should be, from a painterly and conceptual basis is to be both applauded and strived for; a painter seen well beyond technique. We came across this quote recently in UnMasterclass HQ from the great man himself, “One must really be engaged in order to be a painter. Once obsessed by it, one eventually gets to the point where one thinks that humanity could be changed by painting. But when that passion deserts you, there is nothing else left to do. Then it is better to stop altogether. Because basically painting is idiocy.” Here Richter succinctly encapsulates a lot of what UnMasterclass is trying to raise; a) Be obsessed by painting if you want to be a painter (if you are really obsessed by it, then seeing reproductions of paintings is not enough, you must see and learn from the real thing). b) If you do not feel this passion and drive for painting, or if it leaves you then stop painting, one can always tell a bored painter through their paintings. c) Painting is idiocy; well of course it is, but of the most perfect variety of idiocy. This week pop along to a gallery and ask yourself whether the painting you see before you is idiotic, is the person who painted it idiotic and if you cannot find your self answering yes to this then pop along to this weeks UnMasterclass which is of course idiocy of the highest order.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

UnMasterclass 29

We were leafing through old copies of Frieze the other day at UnMasterclass headquarters and came across an article on Glenn Brown that caught our eye. There are obvious connections between Brown's meticulous painted (not strictly) copies of  famous paintings and the copies we produce each week. Well there may be one obvious connection, we both produce paintings that directly reference other peoples paintings. Brown's work takes months to produce, as he replicates, accentuates and emphasises the flawed printed reproductions of Dali Auerbach and Valesquez. The intricate and fine brush and skill of Brown as an artist are laid bare for all to see. Meanwhile over at UnMasterclass HQ we also seek to draw attention to the flaws in understanding painting from a reproduction, instead of the real painting as Brown's work class to attention. Lets just say that we lack the skill, patience, finesse, time and will power to go down Brown's line of enquiry, and .anyhow, he has made that particular line of enquiry his own, why would we compete? (a friend of UnMAsterclasses once spent months producing a meticulous pencil drawing of Brown's painting of an Auerbach when he showed it for the first time to some fellow artists, they murmured a less than impressed why would you do this? response and so they might, but we digress from the point here.) Here at UnMasterclass we do not want to become the master that the public hold in awe, rather to show the folly of not learning a craft and doing it properly. Our paintings are all produced too quickly and without enough knowledge of the original painting to be held in any sort of esteem and in this we are mirroring society, in an age where knowledge is gained and forgotten at the clicking of the Google search. In the article on Brown in Frieze number 12, Stuart Morgan rightly refers to Walter Benjamin in relation to Brown's work, saying that Brown uses his traditional painting methods as an act of sabotage. Morgan earlier states that "photography, in particular, banalizes works of art: eliminating traces of the hand, it minimizes the role of size and scale, alters colours (however subtly) and insidiously provides a version that replaces the original." Here Morgan has got to the crux of UnMasterclass, and of course Brown's work. We have become familiar with works of art, among other things, through photographic reproductions of originals. These reproductions are not the originals. Yet we hold great sway by them, our world exists on seeing reproductions all the time. And maybe, at least where painting is concerned, we need to devote ourselves a little, to seek out the original and not rely on the reproduction. So put down the mouse, shut the laptop and pop along to a gallery and see some art first hand. However if you cannot bear to part the pixels then pop along to to see a pitiful attempt at a Cotan masterpiece in the latest UnMasterclass.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

UnMasterclass 28

Marcel Broodthaers once asserted (about a piece of his work) that what at first you believed to think was a painting, was actually a film. At UnMasterclass we think of what we are doing in a similar light, however we would hasten to add other variations on this theme, so that all these statements are all equally true, depending on whaichever way the viewer chooses to read the piece of work. There is no hierachy as to which appears first or last on this list.
  • What at first you believe to think is a painting, is actually a film.
  • What at first you believe to think is a painting, is actually a painting.
  • What at first you believe to think is a film, is actually a film.
  • What at first you believe to think is a film, is actually a painting.
See the latest UnMasterclass at or of course pop along to any gallery and see soemthing real and is less confused about what it is, see some real painting and some video art, learn from them and go and paint a film or film a painting, or paint a painting or film a film.

Monday, 4 July 2011

6 Degrees at The Monks Gallery

UnMasterclass goes on the road this week and has it's first gallery outing away from the internet. I have been working hard in the studio and have completed all 52 episodes of UnMasterclass and all of these will be on show around the gallery. So if you fancy having a sneak at further episodes then Thursday 7th July is the night for you! Please pop along to the opening of The Monks Gallery in Lincoln, run by the most esteemed Nick Simpson and Tom Cretney who will also be showing work. All the artworks in the 6 degrees respond to the gallery's location, a fully functioning house. There will be 5 more shows and we shall see if any of the final artists have any link to me (6 degrees of separation for those who need the hint). UnMasterclass will be playing on its Bob Ross connotations and will appear on numerous TVs and laptops that normally habit the house/gallery. Other artists in the show are Alan Armstrong, Ian Manicom and John Plowman. more details can be found at

Sunday, 3 July 2011

UnMasterclass 27

Bruce Nauman is known as an artist whose practice is rooted in the studio, by an enormous investment in a sense of discovery and rigorous play, he has come to transform not only what the studio is and can be in a relationship to an artist making art, but also transforming what we think of as art. His early performances saw him pacing around the studio, bouncing a ball, plucking violins incessantly and so on. All tasks he set in the confines of the studio space that have had an impact on not only the art he has gone on to make, but also that of countless other artist. Coosje Van Bruggen has said about these early performances;  "Nauman felt strongly that the important thing in doing these performances was to 'recognise what you don't know, and what you can't do', and as an amateur never to allow himself to slip into traditional music, theatre or dance, where he would put himself in the position of being compared with professional performers in those fields. Nauman believed that if he chose the right set of circumstances and structure, was serious enough about his activities, and worked hard at it, his performance would have merit. His intentions and attitude would turn the performance into art." Here at UnMasterclass Nauman has long been an inspirational figure and the attitude he expresses in his words above certainly have currency in what we are aiming to do. We are placing ourselves as the amateur painter and thus trying to say something about painting. However we are also position as the tutor trying to get across a message of how others could (or should) learn how to paint, not by example, but by pointing out the flaws in learning how to paint by not studying how and what others have done before properly  Definitely a case of do as we say and not as we do, and do what we say with a pinch of salt.So in Nauman's words 'recognise what you know and what you can't do'. In this case realise what you can paint well and look to what you can't do, both accept the impossible of not being able to be the master painter of old, whilst believing you can do better. Aspire to be a different painter from those before, one that becomes a new professional by achieving something new and different, based on what has been done before by others. Do not copy, but take on what others have done and regurgitate in a fresh and different way. And learn from what past painters do, not replicating exactly how they do it. Understand how to move on with your own voice. So endeth this weeks lesson. Pop along to see UnMasterclass 27 at and of course pop along to a gallery to see some paintings in a flesh, look them all in the 'eye', work them out and then start anew. And pop along to see a Nauman video while you are there and if you can. He is the don.