Thursday, 29 September 2011

Space Exchange at Aid &Abet

Clout gets another airing in a show opening on Friday 30th September at Aid&Abet in Cambridge. Several years ago I donated a few of the painted nails to the excellent Royal Standard's 'collection' and they have now been pulled out from the Liverpool based artist run space's 'archival storage' to appear in Space Exchange. Other artists in the 72 artists strong collection include David Blandy, Andrew Lim, Josie Flynn, Dan Perjovschi, Jemma Egan, Jess Flood-Paddock, Jock Mooney, LittleWhitehead and Gordon Dalton, so good company. Joining Royal Standard in this exchange are other fantastic artist run sapces: Grand Union, Satellite, Spike Island and The Woodmill. More details are here for a comprehensive schedule of events

Here is the Royal Standard's official line on this.....

For *Space Exchange* at Aid & Abet, The Royal Standard will present an assortment of objects acquired by the organisation over the previous 5 years of its existence.

Since 2006 The Royal Standard has worked with hundreds of artists, curators and organisations through a diverse programme of exhibitions and events, performances, publications, artist residencies and offsite projects, alongside providing studio space to a wide range of artists and designers; a process which over time inevitably results in the accumulation of a multiplicity of stuff.

By re-examining and exhibiting this collection of abandoned artworks, loose ends and remnants of things that have happened at The Royal Standard, an order will be provided to our accrued mass of detritus. Questioning perceived notions of ownership and authorisation, acquisition and presentation, whilst quashing hierarchies between what may and may not seem important, the eventual 'display' seen during *Space Exchange* forming the basis of what will develop into *The Royal Standard's Permanent Collection.*

UnMasterclass 39

There are arguably two major critical attitudes that are currently applicable to a discourse of the validity of painting. There is of course the well-worn debate over the death of painting, an argument that concludes that painting has reached it’s check-mate and cannot go beyond this endpoint; leaving it to only retread previous paths and kept valid only by the conservative art market. We at UnMasterclass clearly do not believe this, though would also say that it is true for a lot of painting currently being put out there.
The other attitude is that painting is still vital and is still going strong, able to constantly be re-born in new and relevant ways to the contemporary (art) world. In this argument painting not only depicts and responds to the world we inhabit, but also seeks to become a hybrid art form, fusing and parasitically responding to other (and new) media in order to remain current and vital. In this second argument the form of the painting might not use paint, canvas, the brush or be flat. It is left to the approach and conceptual base of the artist that retains their home in painting. Thus painting can stillremain outside of the conservative system and remains radical; Of course painting can still be radical when it still involves the brush, canvas and paint in it’s armoury. That painting is responding to the times, both in subject and in the technology it can employ is only natural, one only has to look to apparatus such as the camera obscura to acknowledge that painting has always used and responded to the times. So it is natural that today’s painters use the brush in photoshop, paint with a video camera and use the internet as the modern day equivalent of setting the easel up in front of a stunning vista en plein air. To see the latest UnMasterclass oil painting streaming from the traditional artists studio through fibre optics to your computer please follow this link

Thursday, 22 September 2011

UnMasterclass 38

The painter Jeff McMilan has developed an interesting painting practice that brings together the traditions of figurative paintings with that 20th century art behemoth, the monochrome. As part of this practice McMillan dips found paintings of primarily portraits into vats of oil paint to create hybrid paintings, where a vast array of colours are shunted straight up against snouts of horses or foreheads and ears of different classes of people. The Fake issue of the excellent art journal Garageland features an example of his work. Here a girl with a yellow bow in her hair has been severed just below the eyes by a drooping, swath-like mass of pure blue oil paint. Within the journal the artist talks about different aspects of his work with fellow artist Alli Sharma. Near the end of interview he turns to saying how some of the paintings he uses are reproductions of more famous paintings, that have in the end been painted by others in order to learn their craft. “Yes, there was a time when students would go and sit in a museum with an easel and copy the paintings, you still see it in European museums sometimes. I have two paintings on board of the same Frans Hals cavalier, one is dated 1965 and is twice the size of the other…”
With this McMillan brings up an important point in relation to UnMasterclass. Like the Hals copies McMillan discusses, UnMasterclass reproduces the 52 paintings we have committed to painting this year at a completely different size to the original in the museums. In contrast to the ones discussed in the interview this is not due to practical reasons attached to painting directly within the gallery. Instead the size we have chosen is more representative of the scaled down size of the reproductions that we paint from. This is a size more familiar to jpegs on the laptop screen, the postcards of the museum gift shop or those found in the hardback artist monograph. We believe this is the size that most students of painting now encounter the paintings that influence and inspire them. This is an image far away from the intricacies of the brushstroke and range of canvas sizes ones sees in the original paintings up close and personal. 
To see this weeks UnMasterclass at a suitably removed internet distance please follow this link

Friday, 16 September 2011

UnMasterclass 37

On the outskirts of the Chinese city of Shenzhen there is an extraordinarily bizarre place called the Dafen Oil Painting Village, reputably the most concentrated place of craftsman on the planet.  Here some of the principles of UnMaserclass are taken to absurd levels, to such an extreme that nothing is learnt, only reproduced again and again. In Dafen thousands of artist live and work in a closed community; a cacophony of oil painting. There lies a strange morality of painting the work of others. is typical of what is on offer, where “High Quality paintings will be painted with toppest quality canvas and paints by years of expierenced artists. All the detials will be carefully painted, the finished paintings will be exactly the same as the original pictures.” (one can only hope that the paintings are of a ‘toppest’ quality that is better than the English on the website!) Highly skilful painters paint versions of masterpieces by Monet, Botticelli or Renoir to an incredible standard, more incredibly still they can be reproduced at any size and from as little as 60 dollars per painting, minus postage.  One iconic photograph of the place shows rows upon rows of painters behind easels, all dressed different, but all painting exactly the same self-portrait of Monet. All these different artists are all producing exactly the same painting for, primarily, westerners to pop the painting above the fireplace to fill a space on the wall.
An abiding memory childhood is of a painting that hung in my Nan and Grandad’s house. I can clearly remember a heated debate when I saw the much bigger version of (or rather the original) painting of Constable’s Haywain in the National Gallery with my parents. They tried to explain that my Nan’s version was not the original, but as I had seen my Nan and Granddad’s version first I was sceptical. As I got older I came to realise that although the image was on a canvas-like surface, the work was devoid of brushstrokes to catch the light, it was a print. My parents were right after all! I wonder if the grandchildren visiting and seeing a Dafen version of a past masterpiece will be even more sceptical than me when told their grandparents do not own the Mona Lisa or Birth of Venus, or more drastically will the Grandparents be turned in to art police by art sleuth grandchildren?!
Interestingly Dafen artists are now turning out ‘original-fakes’, versions  of master artists. These paintings have not existed before but are in the style of the artists. This is homage and forgery in the name of commerce going to absurd, yet logical levels. There is nothing new here, except that the Dafen painters are not trying to con anyone to make large sums of money like in traditional forgery, they are open that the Chinese artists are only painting in the style of past masters and now people seek out and by the versions by applauded Dafen  artists with the chinese signatures as opposed to the original artists. As I said earlier it is highly debateable whether the artists of Dafen are learning anything by painting these versions of masterpieces, they arrive highly skilled, and after an art education similar to that of past European art academies. However these trained artists then never go beyond this training, endlessly stuck in a cycle of painting these masterpieces/artists, far away from ever actually seeing the originals in Western art palaces.
To see this weeks UnMasterclass episode of a version of Sir Henry Raeburn’s painting of a Vicar ice skating, please follow this link,

Friday, 9 September 2011

UnMasterclass 36

Last week UnMasterclass saw a strange sight in a visit to Manchester Art Gallery. There, in amongst the Pre-Raphaelite paintings, was a wooden easel. Behind this easel was an earnest, wild-haired man careful re-creating a William Holman Hunt in freshly sharpened HB. He was in particular attempting to capture the expression on the lamb’s face, who is perched on the lap of a young woman who is, in turn, the subject of a flirtation with a hired shepherd. UnMasterclass watched at a distance, thinking that here was, in action, something that UnMasterclass has been bemoaning is absent from aspiring painters of today. As we watched some thoughts occurred to us. This man did not appear to be on the cutting edge. In fact he did not appear to be on the edge at all, certainly not a contemporary one.Infact we found it hard to think of the man we were seeing as being an artist; maybe he was more likely to be an amateur artist. This was confirmed when we got talking a few minutes later. 
This was when another thought occurred to UnMasterclass. Perhaps the reason why we no longer see aspiring painters learning from original paintings is because of the connotations of either being seen as a school-kid or more tellingly that of the amateur artist. To learn from directly painting original masterpieces in the galleries is also at odds with the contemporary world. Art has always responded to this idea of the contemporary world and as we live in a world of tweets and jpegs, so perhaps the earnest, wild haired man behind his easel in the gallery is also something of the past. Maybe the amateur artist remains at this status (as opposed to simply an artist) because they do not respond to the times, they only show what is there in a (sometimes) faithful representation of the world, based upon representational art of the past. Something we at UnMasterclass are not particularly interested in. Back to the drawing board, or rather the portable easel! 
See the latest UnMasterclass here

Thursday, 1 September 2011

UnMasterclass 35

It has long been said that part of the traditional training of being an artist is to study work of past masters and to in turn copy the paintings en plein la gallerie.  UnMasterclass has long treaded the long winding path of the argument that artists of today have forsaken this training and we are now, arguably, seeing the consequences of this in many recent painters/paintings. Painters of the past would use the idea of transferring the original masterpieces as a way, not only of learning their craft, but also a way to mark a difference between them as artists and the pioneering master artists who came before; and in turn become pioneering themselves. In the age of mechanical reproduction artists increasingly came to encounter paintings through reproductions and to come to question the value and worth of seeing and learning from the original. With this came an attitude of disregarding the original and artists have appropriated and used original artworks to in turn create new works. So we have Rauschenberg erasing an original de Kooning drawing, Kippenberger using a Richter painting as a coffee table or more recently the Chapman brothers defacing Goya’s Disasters of War. Here artists no longer copied from the originals to in turn create new ways of making paintings. Here the artists created new ways of working and thinking by directly using the originals. Here at UnMasterclass we would love to think that a group of budding art students have entered the galleries and drawn in their sketchbooks one of the above defaced works of art, made from works of art. See the latest edition of UnMasterclass here