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

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