Art for ***’s Sake….


eclectic absorptions

eclectic absorptions

A year or so ago it finally struck me. I had a completely wasted youth.
While other people played pool, football, cricket, tennis, ‘the field’, and other vital social skill arenas of skill acquisition, I hid away in libraries, my room and coffee bars where I ate rolls, drank coffee and watched other people ‘being young’.
Don’t get me wrong: I wasn’t being ‘good’ or ‘conscientious’:- I was being terrified of boys, ascerbically critical of fellow ‘girls’, and also, let’s be honest, I was being repulsively ‘intense’ and ‘earnest’ re garding my desire to get to grips with what the hell got Watford Art School into such a divisive culture that you could have cut the atmosphere between Charles Harrison (and his mate Mike Murphy – irish- liverpudlian painter, just in case you didn’t know) and Peter Shmidt , lecherous lecturer cum painter (and Michael Werner – self consciously German Jew – lovable but hopelessly outdated ageing man – probably demised by now – he was about 60 back in 1975).
My loyalties back in 1975 were easily identified. I got more praise from Charles than I did from Peter and Michael. I barely understood a word Charles said – but I yearned to, whilst Peter and Michael were incomprehensible by virtue of their gaga mysticism. Not lady Gaga – just gaga.
[Not in their public profile – Peter got Bryan Eno along to Watford Art School on more than one occasion in those 70’s days (I took Eno to be a pseudy-nerd at the time, though I’ve yet to return and check that out) (I’ve a sense that Michael Nyman showed up too, there…. but that could have been Nottingham).]
Don’t get me wrong: I love a mystery – I’m addicted to murder mysteries, have watched ‘through the key hole’ and spend hours, days, weeks – day dreaming in thought about unanswerable questions…
But I saw no mileage in surfing this life with some hazy profile and presence of mystique – especially where that mystique was appliled with an actively lecherous and arguably paedophilic appetite.
Charles made himself a real pain in the neck: but he did it with integrity (though he and his side kick had a marked soft spot for a Scottish 21 year old ‘wild kitten’ – but that was less lechery and more masculinity- she had that mixture of erotica with vulnerability that would sing to any ‘real man’s’ heart lol).
I, on the other hand was comfortably pre-adolescant. I was 18 by d.o.b. but they had probably encountered 12 year olds at a greater maturity of social and sexual identity and confidence.
Oh – and appearance. I was adult looking – my hips had spread for example, marking me out as a woman.. but it was the only symptom of my gender I think. I was flat chested, tiny waisted, short haired, scrubbed not painted face, and scruffy not scrubbed, nails lol.

Staying under water - timid of the world

Staying under water – timid of the world

I think a little of me felt jealous that others were so lovely to men and I was so invisible. It’s what I sought because anything else would have petrified me – but – I yearned to be a woman in my inner most heart of hearts. Whilst being petrified: PETRIFIED- of ‘growing up’.
Yeah, well…..
Where were we… This is why I began this essay – THIS IS WHY I BEGAN THIS ESSAY:- I wanted to tell you of my response to critiques of Clement Greenberg and of Charles Harrison.
Please notice my move there. You will see it again.

Clement Greenberg

Clement Greenberg

That’s right. I have given Charles a status of equality and comparability with Clement.
Oh dearie me = what a liberty I take – I never met Greenberg and now he’s dead. Charles wrote me a cross letter after I’d sent him a ‘moralising lecture’ about his private life decisions and never talked to me again… and here I am using their Christian names as if they’d been mates of mine.

Lol – the joy of funerals 😉

[not that it was re Charles – I was tipped over for months, cried a lot and wondered how it could have been that he went off and ‘left the room’ of this life before he and I could have had a peace making conversation… I guess that I just wasn’t important enough to him – to be fair, he didn’t figure in my thoughts much after the 1980’s] [‘til now]

Back to the ‘reason to write’ then:-

Clement Greenberg was not as far from Kandinsky’s idealism as people think. The formalism of his articulating framework was merely a method of drawing attention to the MEANS BY WHICH ARTISTS COMMUNICATE THEIR INSPIRATION. He was a better ‘realist’ than Courbet in this sense.
Greenberg was ‘handicapped’ by the imperative duty of all Americans’ during the 40’s and 50’s – to champion American Cultural production and to raise America to the foreground of International society and culture. He was, of course, doubly handicapped: there will have been his own internalised identity and then the determination of others around him to use whatever came to hand to champion and celebrate ‘American Supremacy’ across the world following the Second World War.
He could neither win nor lose. He became a pawn in the hands of official American Culture. I can’t believe this had been his wish or thought. As it happens he closely allied his own personal identity with that of the ‘official American story’ = thus it created no unbearable caveats of interest and commitment.

Let us retrieve the learnings of ‘formalism’ before we move on to ‘conceptual art’.
With formalism we learn two things:
1. A painting always resembles another painting more than it resembles anything that is not a painting.
2. The outward appearance of a thing bears an integral relationship with it’s authorship and thus with the energy and intention which brought it into being.
3. Now let’s get onto ‘conceptual art.’ You could say that conceptual art was the point at which artists in the West endeavoured to assign the greater status to the energy and status which brings into being anything s/he does.
The product/s of this process are of less value and less interest than the concept that informs the productive process….. goes the theory (does it? Just a hypothesis. If this is the case then ‘conceptual art can be seen as a ‘reaction against formalism’.. …Where formalism has in any case been misunderstood……?

Charles Harrison

Charles Harrison

Moving onto conceptual art in more detail : I’m too tired to do that now (3.51am 7th Sept 2013)

It occurs to me that truly ‘contemporary art’ and an art of ‘realism’ and of ‘aesthetic accomplishment’ will take steps away from every ‘ism’ around… It will also step back from Tracey Emin and the diamond head- dead shark in a glass case arena…’Shocking Art’ has become passé. .. Saatchi and Saatchi, sadly can’t recognise art as anything other than this… because they wouldn’t know a good work of art if it hit them with a hammer on their funny bone…
I suspect….
There are so many questions to be asked. .. So many answers to be questioned… so many assumptions to examine…. so many ‘realities’ to compare…
And so much fun ahead …….;-)

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