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Wednesday, April 16, 2003


Thinking again about the silly
Turner Prize and the questions that asks about 'what is art?', the Turner prize and the Tate Gallery in particular, seem often to focus on arty-farty trivial things with one thing in common. The works rarely 'speak for themselves' and either require explanation or essentially beg the question 'what is art?', because so many of the new the things just can't be art if you are reasonable sane.

The whole business, these days, it seems to me, is completely subjective pretending to be objective, and, yet, alas, are more and more tied up with government grants, patronage, politics, profit, and sensationalism. The latter is the cheap, fiscal led, fast track; at worst, putting the modernists against the 'romantics' and very probably the neo-romantics ( those that draw paint and sculpt things that you can recognise, would pay for, and would invite into your home.)

There is no longer the self-destructive imperative to be content to starve to death in a garret but you sometimes wonder if, in the light of opus, old world values, like hard work, craft and imagination have gone out the window. The muses used to visit and drive people on; now I am not sure whether to be amused', bemused, confused or abused by some of this outrageous stuff.

At the risk of being subjective, (and how can person genuinely not be in most things,)the better new works have that courteous, unpretentious undefinable 'I like that, clearly modern, but I am not sure why it is pleasing' quality . Then there is that huge, alternative catalogue of 'works' that puzzle for all the wrong reasons; make you think 'How many minutes did that take to do ?, and 'I could have done that'( did something similar in nursery school ) [kindergarten] and would be too embarrased to parade it as serious art!

With these works, out goes one notion; the idea that you expect an artist to have skills that are better , in the field, than Mr. Pedestrian. Consider, for example, that genre that look like mocking colour samples on white canvases, where they look like the average householder amateur decorator, armed with paint pots and a roller, could have done as well!

Modern galleries have things that please, amuse and beg genuine questions and respect, and which posterity will very much appreciate and, charitably, you hope that this is a feature of the majority of things that get a permanent exhibit. Then there are those hangings or standings that come with the distinct feeling of 'You really think anyone would want to buy this or take it seriously?' and a sense that the artist is laughing very loudly, at you, all the way to the bank.

When I was an early teenager, at a private independent school, we had no idea how priviledged we really were to have an art teacher called Mr. Russell. He had the look of Claude Monet, I liked to think, in his latter years.(If you could imagine Claude stretched upwards, thinner and taller you'd get an idea of what he actually looked like.) He had desheverelled longish hair, an amazing white beard, looked like an refugee from Montmartre and of course sported a wardrobe of corduroy, (all unironed and looking as if he dressed from a charity shop.) He had no control over the boys (it was a single sex school)of course but was a masterful, old school , locally grown, very, very good landscape artist working with great skill,equally, in oil, water colour, charcoal or pencil, with consumate ease. He probably was forced to teach simply to survive because we gave him a hard time. You knew instinctively that he had never had a teacher training day in his life, but oh how he modelled what we should do. He showed us a range of classical and twentieth century masters and I recall being miffed that, having shown us a range of modern abstracts, he was totally unimpressed with my designs. He raved enthusiastcally over those of my friend Richard and I just could not see why.

And now, as we come, close to my 53rd birthday, I offer the electric blue abstract image that heads this entry and is all my own work. Had I produced it in 1963 , Mr Russell would, I am sure have liked it. 'Not great but, sort of modern abstact, maybe promising' might have been his eight-out-of-ten comment.

Now the above image is, as you will immediately recognise , sort of modern, and I suggest a significant work of Art.

I'm not chiefly known as an artist, but, on seeing the image recently, a notable local art academic and gallery owner commented. 'the electric, threatening blue, as I see it, represents man, insignificant under the endless expanse of sky and no longer at one with the universe, or understanding of it. He is imprisoned under it. The stark black geometric patterns symbolise man's imprisonment on earth and the constraints diseasing the modern mind , enmeshing and holding in the spirit and imagination.'

I have to confess that I made that bit up and in fact it is a cropped digital photo. I was at the riding school, bored with watching the lesson and went, armed with my digital camera,looking for things to photograph. I stood directly under a huge electricity pylon and snapped upwards, not expecting a result in the dimming evening and, by luck rather than design, given the limitiations of available light and my little in-built flash, I had a reasonable picture and wondered what to do with it.

johncoxon 10:42 PM - [Link] - Comments ()

DANDELION (Taraxacum dens-lionis (Desf.),Leontodon taraxacum (L.),

The dandelion is a beautiful, tough and amazing plant but it is victimised by gardeners especially, simply because it is the most prolific, invasive weed in Britain, (a weed being a flower or plant growing where it is not wanted.)

It bears a rich yellow flower; a gorgeous sunburst of small petals, ( scientifically speaking ligulate bisexual florets) and when it bears seeds, each domed head is a myriad of delicate gossamer-thin seed threads, called the fairy clock. Traditionally, our children pick and blow these fluffy headed fairy clocks. They count the number of breaths it takes to disperse all the seed heads and thereby tell the time. One puff for each hour.

In France, the dandelion is also known as pise en lit( wet the bed) because of the diuretic property of its leaves. It is also known by the names pee-the-bed, lion's tooth, fairy clock, blowball, cankerwort, priest's crown, puffball, swine snout, white endive, wild endive. Its humble leaves and roots are a veritable pharmacy as suggested by the derivation of its Latin name
Taraxacum, derived from the Greek taraxos (disorder),and akos (remedy), on account of the curative action of the plant. And just take look at the extract from a herbalist website in my comment box to see what this humble weed is good for !

As if the plant knows it is good for us, with all those hundreds of wind borne seeds from the 'fairy clock', it spreads like a plague. As well as it's staggering potential to multiple seed, the plant has an amazingly tough tap root and it you try to pull up a plant by hand, you inevitably leave part of the tap root beneath soil level and that , magically, produces another plant.

johncoxon 1:55 PM - [Link] - Comments ()

john/Male/51-55. Lives in United Kingdom/Engalnd/Salford, speaks English and French. Eye color is brown. I am what my mother calls unique. I am also creative. My interests are photgraphy/local history.
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United Kingdom, Engalnd, Salford, English, French, john, Male, 51-55, photgraphy, local history.