Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Where did the RAF Harriers go?

Nice to see in these days of austerity that the Tate Modern artists can still exhibit massive installations that must cost the taxpayer thousands.(Why is it that every time I say the word installation I see a figure doing the inverted comma finger sign?)
The recent contribution was from Fiona Banner who has exhibited two RAF fighters. A Harrier is hung by its tail having been covered by feather motifs. It is meant to represent a huge game bird hanging in the larder. Unfortunately, when you follow the thought process through a Harrier is only marginally more edible than its duralumin partner. Unfortunately for poor Ms Banner the RAF would never countenance buying a Boeing Partridge or an Avro Pheasant (though I think there was a Snipe once). Our cat enjoys eating tiger moths though I think the Shuttleworth collection may have some objections there. Interestingly, when Jeremy Clarkson put an English Electric Lightning in his front garden, it was removed by the local authorities as an eyesore…. so beauty must be in the eye of the beholder.
When I was a member of the Guild of Aviation Artists, they would often go through terrible angst as to what type of aeroplane painting represents 'real art' perhaps Ms Banner could show them the way. I would nominate her for membership though I fear she would be rejected because her work is too representative, anyway, the Guild would have to get an exhibition venue bigger than the Mall Galleries...
Footnote; A professional artist colleague recently visited the Tate modern and was seriously unimpressed with the show until he happened to stumble into a side room which had on display an interesting collection of modern tools, a set of steps and a workbench. After commenting to a curator that this was the best exhibit he’d seen he was taken aside and informed that the room was closed and was currently being decorated in preparation for a new exhibit!
His comments as he left over the millennium bridge was that he wished the ‘E’ would fall off of the word Tate!
Tims Top Tip for cooking birds of prey
(1) Take one oven ready Harrier and a brick. Place both in oven at gas mark 5.
(2) Keep checking brick
(3) When brick is tender, eat Harrier

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Top Tips on How to Become a Rich and Successful Artist

At some stage in their career, most artist’s hope that their work will move beyond art and  become commodities. This is the juncture when the investment community takes an interest in your output not because they like what you do but because it rises in value each year. At this point the artist no longer struggles to sell their work but can rely on a steady stream of sales right to the end and beyond of their working lives. Sadly some never make it. I’ve seen very accomplished artists pass away and their widows are left trying to make a few quid out of the legacy of unsold artwork. There is nothing wrong with the art, but the artist never bothered to raise their profile, therefore passing away relatively unknown. George Soper a case in part, was unheard of during his life until his wonderful watercolours of working horses were stumbled upon after his death and made public in a book by Paul Heiney. Hercules Brabazon Brabazon was also unknown but for different reasons, his personal wealth made it unnecessary for him to publish his work. Some artists teach on cruises and unfortunately end up marrying rich widows, which overnight takes away the drive to be a great artist.
For those that do make it, great wealth and fame awaits as can be seen by the likes of Damien Hirst and Tracy Emin. This change in status can also lead to dishonesty and the ridiculous. Artists with low skill bases like Lowrey and Pollock are ripe for forgers as their style are easy to reproduce. Many museums around the world contain more examples of art than some artists could possibly have produced in their lifetime. Dali, known amongst his friends as Aviva Dollars is alleged to have sold blank sheets of paper with just his signature on to dealers. So there you have it, at the end of the day, provided that you don’t stray too far from what your customers expect from you, it’s only your signature that is worth anything. This is why I always tell my students to concentrate on getting their signature right way before they concentrate on their painting skills. There’s nothing worse than being a few years down the road displaying accomplished work supported by the signature of a five year old or worse still, initials! Artists who choose this path never see their work becoming commodities.
Depressingly, most artists are told by friends that once they’re dead their work will be worth oodles of money. People like Van Gogh are gleefully pointed out as examples of artists who never made it in life but were successful in death.
One way some artists find around this problem is to become very old or develop some sort of lingering life threatening illness. Once word of this gets about, exhibitions become overnight successes and sell outs. A classic example is Jim Cox. After a lifelong career as a coxswain, he took up painting in retirement. Most of his work is in a heavy, turgid oil painting style, yet he has slowly built up quite a following. Nowadays, whenever he develops a heavy cold, the phone never stops ringing with customers trying to buy his artwork. He’s still alive today and must be well into his nineties and his art prices are still going up and up and up….

Thursday, 12 May 2011

The Seeds of Change at the Tate Gallery

So the Tate Modern’s sunflower installation falls foul of the Health and Safety Stasi. Is nothing sacred!! I’d been quite fascinated with the news that Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei had had 100million porcelain sunflower seeds manufactured to fill the grand turbine hall of the Tate Modern. I suppose they had to sweep up the droppings from the previous installation of military aircraft strung up like game birds…
As with any artwork that is mundane and boring, a bit of colourful language can give it a lift, A bit like dropping some bright primary colour into an otherwise dull grey, muddy watercolour. Hence we have a good cover story to convince the audience who have wobbled over the Millennium bridge that it really is art.
We’ve already all been fed the cover story about the tenuous link with regards to Chairman Mao’s disciples all being likened to sunflowers, basking in the sunlight of his omnipotence.
I just wonder what an art critic would have made of it had he not known the background story. Let’s ask the opinion of Mr Chumley Boden-Boden who’s only normally used to giving critiques to Birstall Art Society. “Ahh yes” He would say, (they always start with this phrase, it gives them a little thinking time) “From a distance this reminds me of the grey featureless landscape of the Fens. As we peer closer, we see that this landscape is comprised of hundreds of seeds which the artist obviously intends to reflect the fertility of the fens. By cleverly using porcelain seeds the artist demonstrates that man’s over farming of this area will eventually lead to a grey and featureless landscape. The use of cheap Chinese labour to manufacture this artwork, not only shows that the artist represents the proletariat, above any physical input to their labours, but also the cheap, exploited eastern European labourers who currently toil the field to pick up brightly coloured pumpkins that will never be eaten, but who’s nourishing contents are thrown away to make a ghoulish mask.
A bit tongue in cheek but I think a far better story than the original, I’ll bet Ai Wei Wei wished he’d thought of it first. I think this nicely demonstrates Fisher’s Inverse Law of Art Installations, The duller the artwork, the grander the cover story!!
This sort of thing reminds me of reading tealeaves, ask eight different people and you’ll get eight different opinions….
Maybe the organisers at the Tate should consider removing the 'e' from the title to reflect the gallerie's true contents!