Starting from 4.45pm I’ll be talking about ‘The fun and irony in art’ at TEDxLondonBusinessSchool 2016.
Please follow this link to watch: http://livestream.com/TEDx/events/5288559
Delighted to announce that I’m one of the speakers at this year’s TEDxLondonBusinessSchool. Feel free to join me on April 29, 2016 at The Royal Geographical Society.
I’ll be talking about ‘The fun and irony in art’
‘As a freelance art critic for the BBC and Sky News who is also trained as a fine artist, Estelle Lovatt is well placed to offer her expert opinion on the theory, practice and intention behind great artworks. Estelle believes art is a universal language that best communicates human emotion as it breaks down barriers regardless of idiom, race, age, culture, gender, religion, country or ethnicity. In her illuminating talk she opens your eyes to the hard-to-fathom masterpieces, explaining how best to appreciate different art styles at work and understand the artist’s original intentions, allowing you to discover the hidden critic in you.’
I’m delighted to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Affordable Art Fair, I worked with the brilliant Reduced Shakespeare Company, to produce a 10 minute comedy. The result is a hilarious romp through art from the ancient times of the caveman to contemporary artists such as Banksy and Damien Hirst, via Cubism, Impressionism and many other ‘isms’ – poking a little fun along the way.
Since the 1990s, the phrase Conceptual Art has been unfairly manipulated to become an all-encompassing term, generating derision, which some erroneously apply to the Turner Prize, and other anti-figurative art.
As change comes politically, so it follows artistically with art imitating politics, reflecting its time. And so it was, that under former-President George W. Bush art moved towards temporary sculpture, with artists remembering 9/11 as a ‘sculptural’ event based around two Giacometti-tall Judd-shiny minimal ‘sculptures’, razed to the ground. Demolished as a Happening art-from. Now with President Obama in charge, figurative artist Shepard Fairey was selected to paint Barack’s official Presidential portrait. Deem it au courant for artists to investigate the ‘self’, promoting the figurative back into art, back into vogue.
Putting the ‘F’ word, figurative, into ‘Neo-Figurativism’, Go Figurative – a new web site gallery championed by co-founders and Directors Sally Perry and Janine Collins – respects the value and importance of reality-based fine art. With creative ability, aesthetic value and sound artistic judgement, Go Figuratives’s Figurescapists depict life, retaining strong references to the real world and the human figure understanding what Picasso projected, when he said, “There is no abstract art. You must always start with something figurative.”
As our visual appetite demands something that is visually easier to understand, Go Figurative believes traditional artist’s skills, which have been lost amid cries of ‘my child could do that!’ are reworked and brought up-to-date by ‘Neo-Figurativists’.
Working from reality and object sources referencing the real world, creative rationale is being brought back to contemporary art. Reinforced by representational masters from the likes of Giacometti, Bacon, Freud and Hirst, who all appreciate strong figurative references (marked since Egyptian idealization through Classical sculpture, the Realism of Courbet and Manet, through to contemporaneous modern art today) in fine art, as aesthetically satisfying.
Principally, the philosophical question is not whether a work of art is, indeed, a work of art, but, does it need to be aesthetically pleasing? Well, yes, it does. If art does not aim at having aesthetic value, what then, will set it apart from non-art? Making the ghost-of-Rubens proclaim of us again, “This Island seems worthy the consideration of a man of taste…by the incredible quantity of excellent pictures and statues.”
Ivan Massow (one-time Chairman of the Institute of Contemporary Arts) and Kim Howells (once Culture Minister who denounced the Turner Prize as “cold, mechanical, Conceptual bullshit”), think that which is artistically deficient, posing as Conceptualism, appalling. Even the banknote-rich culture-poor agree these vacuous non-aesthetic DIY efforts fall apart, on many levels. It is only saved from degeneration, with the talent and skill that is Martin Creed, Rachel Whitread, Simon Patterson, Simon Starling, Bethan Huws, Douglas Gordon and Liam Gillick. Even Tracey Emin’s ‘My Bed’ is effectively ingenious.
Don’t misunderstand; there is some wonderful, breathtaking, eye-popping Conceptualism. But it’s dated 1960/70s. When it was truly brilliant, it responded to political and social changes of the time, and of Dadaism, Surrealism, Suprematism, Abstract Expressionism and Fluxus. It was awe-inspiring, humbling even. Yet Conceptual artist Sol Lewitt said, “Ideas can be works of art; ideas need not be made physical as a work of art may be understood as a conductor from the artist’s mind to the viewer’s. But it may never reach the viewer or it may never leave the artist’s mind”. This is the problem with today’s unskilled ‘Bob-the-Builder’ artist, refilling Duchampian type urinals with copycat tins of Manzoni-faeces. It’s been done before, only better.
A difficult symptom of the mentality of the amateur Conceptual artist is his disproportionate concern with manifestos and unintelligent commentary, absolutely necessary in explaining his political aims and methods. All hype, this badly-made tat – unfortunately posing as Conceptual art – gives art a bad name. With no aesthetic value, its best described as rubbish-tip utility ware. A craze mercifully not lasting its anti-establishment anti-consumerist spirit longer than Warhol’s prescribed fifteen minutes.
Wave goodbye to the shocking ‘wannabe’, devoid of originality and ignorant of any creative craft that fine art labour alone brings with competence. The second-rate artist fraud recognised by the way he despises the delicate tools and beautiful material great artists always delight in handling. So he fails to draw on them.
As we see the beginning of the end of this quick slick Art Star, we are now buying art for sheer enjoyment and attraction to the art itself, created by the enormously talented. Those now reinventing the objective that is present in figurative art, focus on the positives of the aesthetic; beauty and skill. Cherry-picking from these Go Figurative’s perhaps lesser-known artists means you pick art that will increase in value as their career credentials and sales increase. Furthermore, as the buyer, you are rewarded from living with the artwork.
And no better time than now in a recession, to buy art, and to consider the valuable lessons we’ve learnt from the 1930s Great Depression; when money is limited, people find distraction and calm in art. As Wall Street opened the art world to new talent and ideas, artists started making worthy, affordable, intelligent, original and innovative art.
Also remember that after the UK’s last financial crash (late 1980s), the art world’s tightly guarded gates opened up to new talent, with fresh ways of thinking and seeing, which proved magnificent with the YBAs (Young British Artists).
The virtual internet gallery and community, Go Figurative, is the latest innovative on-line market place for talented sculptors, painters, photographers and print makers to form collectives with like minded professional artists, buyers, art critics and art historians.
The response from figurative artists has been significant. Whilst many have websites, most do not, and even those that do lack the traffic to be able to create significant awareness through them. Perry adds, “The artists I have spoken with have responded well to the idea of community based website focussed purely on figurative art. They like the idea of having a platform dedicated to the work which has references to reality at its core”. The concept of the future is figurative. www.gofigurative.com
© Estelle Lovatt FRSA
The public resentment and hostility for America is striking in the art world as well as the political arena. It has been for a spell. The penchant to burden America for all the evils of the world, even the art world, is completely surreal. But it is real.
The exhibition Saved! (100 Years of the National Art Collections Fund, Hayward Gallery, London), 2004, shows anti-Americanism in the European art circuit, with the saving of Botticelli’s The Virgin Adoring the Sleeping Christ Child, c. 1485 (National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh). This painting was saved for the nation in 1999 with the aid of 550,000, the biggest grant the National Art Collections Fund has ever transferred. It is one of the greatest Renaissance paintings secured for any museum in the UK since the Second World War. It was about to be sold to the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, USA, when the Art Fund learned of its impending export to America from editorial in the press and saved it. The idea that America would have plundered and deprived us of this Botticelli masterpiece had us digging deep into golden purses, crying and hissing that America is not worthy of it.
But how much do we in this country really think of art? Consider, that in Britain, history of art was not thought of as being important enough to be taught as an academic subject until 1932. By then it was all too late, for the French and German art fascists had already invented anti-Americanism way back in the 1920s and 1930s. The French and German were partisans of a close-mouthed pure country, against the cosmopolitan melting pot of America.
Why had the French and German such disrelish for America, when on the whole and for various reasons, the USA was more receptive to the art of continental Europe with L’Esprit Nouveau, the School of Paris and the Bauhaus? Proven, when the Nazis shut the Bauhaus, and many teachers and artists went into exile in the United States.
France and Germany wanted to challenge the United States. The anti-American feeling spread amongst the arts world intended to blitz the command of the American art scene. Why? Such a slow project, you’d go through purgatory quicker than understand this. Today it is the 1930s all over again. European artists are jealous of their American cousins.
I thought art was supposed to deliver the universal qualities within us. To pass boundaries. To identify us from one another. To be the best form of diplomacy. Instead, it is surprising that European artists should have so little respect for American art and culture. A bit too humdrum and impotent in their anti-Americanism, what the Europeans don’t realise, is that America’s culture, makes America the greatest mechanism of modern art. Remember that America has two margins; The Atlantic and the Pacific. On the one side it looks towards Europe, on the other to the Far East. From European art to Oriental painting. This is an example of the roads of culture crossing paths. And that from the USA began the all-influential shaping of an international art and culture, that I shall name Internationalism.
The American dream then shifted, as the new artist hijacked art of its antique responsibility of bearing witness to events, to political beliefs that enabled us to ‘live’ in art, politically. When Andrew Wyeth, Grant Wood or Grandma Moses painted a farmer and his wife, the American painter was unconditionally preoccupied in the passion that is only the American life – the American dream.
American art and culture is not only songs by Madonna and sci-fi action films starring Schwarzenegger the governor of California; it is 1,700 symphony orchestras, opera visited by 7.5 million people annually, and museums that are seen by 500 million every year. All American museums where entrance is free owe their existence and subsidy to private supporters. Isabella Stewart Gardner is an inspiration. So is the Harvard University Art Museums collection donated from past graduates. And the Las Vegas casino billionaire, and one of the world’s biggest private art collectors Steve Wynn.
The narcissistic use of American symbolism grows as the world becomes more fearful of terrorism. Why? Because the animosity attached to America is stuck on American culture, as American culture is so all-powerful.
Take a look as German artist Sigmar Polke takes pot shots at American gun law, Afghanistan, Iraq and al-Qa’eda. And the French, who opened Disneyland Paris in 1992 and unveiled the event as a ?cultural Chernobyl.? But, the Europeans can’t get enough of America’s 3 Cs (culture, cinema and consumerism). Ironically, the anti-American extremists triumph in making Europe even more clinging on the United States.
Works by Turner Prize artists Jake & Dinos Chapman show African masks and fetishes as ideal and appropriate for celebrating contemporary leading culture by applying American McDonalds symbols and emblems.
Inasmuch as six hundred galleries up and down the country benefit from the NACF, the Arts Council is supposed to be the national development agency for the arts in England. The problem was, and is, the total inadequacy of government funding for the arts here in this country to create anything of any benefit. Distributing public money from Government and the National Lottery, where are Tessa Jowell and Estelle Morris keeping England in the first rank of world arts?
The Arts Council England serves the truly talentless. With a grant from the Arts Council, a replica of Camp X-Ray complete with blindfolded prisoners in orange boiler suits was built in Manchester. This mock Guantanamo Bay prison is nothing but a Herculean political misappropriation and an outrageous waste of public money, on a political subject, that has nothing to do with art. The Arts Council is simply being dishonest funding this as art, when it is nothing more than anti-Americanism expressiveness.
The influence of American culture is now so all-pervasive, it seems like art history has come full circle, and imperious European artists just about cope with their American peers. Take a look at Paul McCarthy’s video, showing the Queen hosting a disgusting tea-party orgy for George Bush, with Bin Laden. It’s a cathartic artless and boring insult, screened at you.
Bill Viola best uses video to illustrate his interest in religion. I’ve heard people say “what a waste of money! Religious voices drive us mad!” But they are positively at home in a country whose money has “In God We Trust” on each coin and note. Viola champions differences between the religious right and the non-religious left, between conservatives and liberals.
America’s monumental personality is victorious in symbolising free-expression in art. We can bear democracy and individualism, so long as it’s not American. When you get to this, the scale of antipathy and disdain of the perverted level of which you would associate with propaganda about an enemy in wartime, you realise European art that is anti-American is nothing more than a little cultural jerk, done by the same.
© Estelle Lovatt FRSA
A major statue, ‘Isis’ (pictured above), has been donated to London’s Hyde Park – the first major installation to a London ‘Royal Park’ in 100 years.
The Halcyon Gallery has arranged this commission and a commemorative book, and asked me to write a profile on the sculptor, Simon Gudgeon (page 26). These books – with a forward written by Prince Charles (page 6) — are not for sale but will be given to people who sponsor a plaque at the bottom of the statue for £1,000.
Read the press release.
©Estelle Lovatt FRSA
The Post 9/11 Relationship Between The Artistic, Political and Moral Stance Created By Artists During The Bush Administration.
The public resentment and hostility for America, is striking in the art world. Since 9/11, the Iraq war, and the Bush administration, art has been created to target America and her loyalist allies in the ‘war against terror’ – the UK and Israel.
When artist Damien Hirst said the terrorists responsible for the September 11 attacks “need congratulating” because they attained “something which nobody would ever have thought possible” on an artistic level, artists went political for publicity. Describing the image of the hijacked planes crashing into the twin towers as “visually stunning,” Hirst said “you’ve got to hand it to them on some level because they’ve achieved something which nobody would have ever have thought possible, especially to a country as big as America.”
Consider too, 9/11 as a sculptural experience happening, in which two minimalist architectural shiny iconic totemic symbols were brought down to debris by the fundamental act of fierce philistines. The reality is no other art form has been as closely concerned in the worldwide unscrambling of humankind. All the time, the news tells us again of the exclusive bond that art and sculpture has to our past.
As the world becomes more fearful of terrorism, the narcissistic use of American symbolism grows. Why? Because the animosity attached to America and its government is stuck on American culture as American culture is so all-powerful.
Post 9/11 political artworks by some artists display such disrelish for America and former President George. W. Bush when, on the whole and for various reasons historically, it is recorded that the U.S. has always been more receptive to the art of continental Europe (from L’Esprit Nouveau, the School of Paris and the Bauhaus – when the Nazis shut the Bauhaus and many teachers and artists went into exile in the United States). So one must consider and investigate why. Why this artistic challenge to the United States, results through ‘anti-America-ism’ art.
While art is supposed to be the best form of diplomacy, delivering universal qualities within us which pass boundaries, which identify us from one another, and identify us to one another, simultaneously. Instead we have seen the opposite in this critical representation of America.
While it is, on some levels, not surprising that artists have chosen to create images that show little respect for America, Americana, American art and culture, what the Europeans don’t realise, is that America’s culture, makes America the greatest mechanism of, and for, modern art that artists are in today. Remember, America has two margins; The Atlantic and the Pacific. So from the one side it looks towards Europe, and on the other to the Far East; from European art to Oriental painting, the roads of culture cross paths and amalgamate in the jamboree of all visual worlds.
The paradox being that America is growing ever-more monumental and victorious in symbolising free-expression in art. Realising America as the nucleus of 21st century art looking towards the 22nd century.
Today artists hijack art of its unique antique responsibility, to bear witness to events. Instead choosing to live their art, politically; to make a personal political statement that includes depicting the all-powerful former President Bush as a monkey.
The framework and approach upon which to base, research, and look at why the narcissistic use of American symbolism grows, is triggered as the world becomes more fearful of terrorism.
Albeit conditional and some believe to be caused by America’s capitalist consumer society, the United States’ feeling-of-plenty and premium has always been reflected through its art. Think of Andy Warhol and Claus Oldenburg, with their food-inspired artworks, maintaining that with communism you hunger for food, whereas in capitalist America there are dozens of foods from which you have choice. Choice that is opportunity. From huge sides of smoked ham to one hundred cans of Campbell’s soup.
Researching, investigating and analysing exhibitions and artists, from the Tate to the R.A. etc, include counting German artist Sigmar Polke taking pot shots at American gun law, Afghanistan, Iraq and al-Qaeda. And works by British Turner Prize artists Jake & Dinos Chapman showing American ideals that celebrate our contemporary world, and its much appreciated culture, by employing American McDonalds symbols and emblems as part structure of their sculptures. Brilliantly. And what of an artist’s replica of Camp X-Ray, this mock Guantanamo Bay prison, complete with blindfolded prisoners in orange boiler suits, built in Manchester, England?
Likewise compare Paul McCarthy’s video, showing the Queen hosting a tea-party orgy for George W. Bush with Bin Laden, to Bill Viola’s video illustrating his interest in religion – that drives Europeans quite mad, but are positively at home in a country whose money has “In God We Trust” engraved on each coin and note! Viola champions differences between the religious right and the non-religious left; between conservatives and liberals; between Americans and the rest of the world in Europe.
Discovering how political art, post 9/11, was triggered by artists looking at the world in which they live and, more specifically the war in Iraq. And by looking at how the ‘Christian’ artist’s vision – being a totally different vision and truth to Christians Bush and Blair – uses Christian iconography, which is poles apart from that traditionally associated, as universal matter for the artist.
It is neither unanticipated nor casual, that post 9/11, the veil as a form of clothing has been relied on as a potent abbreviation, taking on dress codes symbolic of oppression. The veil, observed as a declaration of religious and cultural differences affiliated with foreign political assumptions of the East, has appeared in the art world as a symbol of cultural suppression.
Look at the art exhibition Veil, Modern Art Oxford, Oxford, England, 2004, where a more perplexing interpretation of this garment is explored. Showing that under spin, bound with censorship, the sexuality and limits of the body reveal the veil as being the visible symbol of women, history, religion and politics.
Barely an Islamic innovation, the veil has been used in art from the earliest Biblical illustrations of the Old Testament –Genesis, when Jacob fell in love with Rachel but was tricked into marrying her sister Leah instead — to paintings of the Virgin Mary in prayer. Here the veil is overworked with symbolism: brides put on white veils, as widows’ parade black ones. Consequently the veil symbolises death and wedded joy. From black to white. Good to bad. As of artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe to Matisse.
Looking at the symbolic consequences of the veil, and veiling, in contemporary art post-9/11, seen in the work of international artists as painting, photography, film, video and sculpture, they merge historic material with the present-day. See how large-scale photographs by the Jewish Moscow-based art collective, AES art group, from the series ‘The Witnesses of the Future’, is created for maximum political force. AES art group consists of three Russian Jewish artists, Tatiana Arzamasova, Lev Evzovich and Evgeny Svyatsky, creating deceptive, actually even quite odd, looking and deceiving Machiavellian cityscapes of the leading Western capitals from New York to Paris, Rome to Sydney and Moscow to Berlin. Of how they could look under the rise under a changed regime. But not as we would instantly know or recognise them; As in AES’s photograph of the Statue of Liberty, dressed in a full white burka carrying a Koranic text where the Declaration of Independence should be can be identified as ridiculous and foolish. This photograph, ‘New Freedom 2006, AES The Witness of the Future’, is particularly anti-American because it is the gravest assault on American civil liberties. The French gave the statue to the people of the United States over one hundred years ago in recognition of the friendship established during the American Revolution. It was back in 1886, that President Grover Cleveland accepted the Statue on behalf of the United States and said “We will not forget that Liberty has here made her home; nor shall her chosen altar be neglected.” And so it is, that, over the years, the Statue of Liberty has grown to embrace freedom and democracy.
As this bizarre exercise of wrapping of the Statue of Liberty, a la Christo, will not convert its nature, or its significance, why do it? Is this artwork a cheap and tacky political joke by these AES artists? Who, especially being Jews, should know better about Judaism teaching respect for women, and female liberation. Not to mention the thousands of first generation Jews, only in the last one-hundred years, escaping the pogroms of Russia or the Nazi death camps of Europe, who came through nearby Ellis Island, witnessing the Statue and partaking of the fruits of American independence first hand – for them and their artistic descendants.
In fact, it is the rights of free expressions, recognised and guaranteed in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, that has allowed people who, under totalitarian regimes would, as servants of the state, not be allowed to express themselves in such a manner –in some instances facing re-education camps, even the death penalty. In the States, this guarantee of expression has allowed scientists, musicians and artists to flourish. To expand and advance their respective fields. All while questioning the authority of the U.S. government; if not the First Amendment itself.
With artists visualising the veil as an Islamic institution associated with Muslims and Islam, is it not, that art that incorporates the image of a veil anything but anti-Islamic? Or, in fact, just simply insulting and abusive to Westerners, in what can be nothing more than an invidious and crude attack, in these post 9/11 times.
Satirical computer digitally-manipulated images, such as the above mentioned AES photographs, are like Hollywood-esque storyboards. Chasing the deep-rooted phobia of today’s post-modern, postcolonial, post-Cold War alliance, their artwork is lost in taste and discernment for truth that is acquired by a surreptitious anti-Americanism?
Another AES photograph, ‘London 2006’ has an onion dome capping the top of Big Ben and columns on top of the Houses of Parliament looking like a mosque, surely giving false credence and testimony to the invention that Islam is totalitarian.
This is surprising, as Islamic art has dominated Western artistic traditions for over five hundred years, and opened up the possibilities of abstraction; of colour fields; and of relationships between form and content. It begs questions about why art, that is supposed to transform barriers, is actually creating them.
Even Edward Said’s influence – being the spirit of left post-structuralism and Orientalism – shows, the alliance between al-Qaida, the Taliban, the Afghanis and the anti-war artist is ever strong, following the brush-marked-footsteps of British graffiti artist Bansky, painting over Israel’s West Bank security wall with images that no doubt politically challenge Israel, and America.
By exploring how the artist has an uncanny knack of having his finger on the pulse of what is concerning people, by asking is anti-Americanism in art a Herculean political expression (against Bush or America), or, somewhat independently, a mere misappropriation of artistic skills – that has nothing to do with any President, or indeed art. Nevertheless has in fact more to do with consciously insulting the skeleton of the American people per se. Remember, according to artist Robert Rauschenberg, “it’s only through the arts that people can speak to each other, that’s why artists are more dangerous than soldiers.”