Friday, February 27, 2004

Show Time

I've managed to break away from my compelling studio practice to visit some shows, here are some thoughts

Brand New and Retro - Up Projects

At a new space in Wadeson Street (which I don't think is permanent)
This is a very slick and expensive looking show which doesn't necessarily mean that I don't like it.
A lot of the work is by people I know - Tanya Fairey's dreamy figurative paintings, Kirsten Glass's cut out and collaged fashion goth scapes and Luke Caulfield's paintings of disaffected youth, for instance. Other stuff is by well known names such as Douglas Gordon and Jim Lambie. There are also a whole lot of videos which I am ashamed to say I couldn't be bothered to look at. My favourite things were Peter Liversidge's white framed wall of drawings of old product logos and cardboard, Blue Peter-esque 3d Super 8 and instamatic cameras. I also really liked Jim Lambies red glitter encrusted mask made from underpants (I didn't know I Loved You Til I Saw You Rock & Roll) and Jun Hasegawa's wall of schematic women.
Overall though the whole thing feels a little jaded, the neat little catalogue lists the artists favourite books and films in the style of teen mags something which has been done before and with a whole lot more conviction. The whole theme seems very tenuous and can be summarised as work now which is influenced by the past ... umm yes. The pinning on of the fashionable bedroom artist /fan thing is an attempt at trendy coherence which just doesn't work.
I also felt curiously suspicious of the free copies of the appalling Art Review and the arts council funding (surely the arts council should be funding more ambitious projects than this)

Jim Lambie's Pants

Raqib Shaw - Garden of Earthly Delights - Victoria Miro

I graduated from my MA at the same time as Raqib and his success is a source of great pride to us St martins' alumni (unlike Goldsmiths, The Royal college and Chelsea not many of us go on to greater things). This show features his trademark ornately decorated paintings. These ones are huge and must have taken ages. I hope Mario Testino has a lot of spare change if he wants one. They are enjoyable to look at but are very constrained and quite claustrophobic going against the very latest looser painting styles. I suppost they look like decorative things for rich people and would probably have benefitted from a little more rudeness (there were suprisingly few members on display). The works on paper are more interesting with their animal headed people. I still like the portrait of the queen from the MA show best though.

Boys Who Sew - The Crafts Council

I love the title of this show but it wasn't as great as it sounded. The work by Hugh Locke has been tamed and displayed in a provincial institutional style. My favourites are the pieces by prison inmates

Yoko Ono - ICA East

I didn't really want to see this as I hated the photographs that I'd seen of the giant shoe but it was next door to Victoria Miro so I had a peek. This is a huge space and I feel very sorry for the poor invigilators as it is freezing. The best things are the haunting sound track and the free badges but all in all it is a bit of a mish mash. My friend Alex (that I went with) thought that she was going to hate it but really liked it so it has some merit

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Searle and Saatchi

Today I have talked to some very nice journalists from The East London Advertiser and The Telegraph. They all want to know what Mr Saatchi said when he bought the now infamous painting of Diana by Stella Vine, how I felt (as the gallery owner) when he bought said painting and by the way is it true that Stella is a stripper. This press thing is a curious business, it seems to escalate, the act of Charles Saatchi buying a painting causing a series of ever increasing ripples.

I have just read a piece written in yesterdays Guardian by Adrian Searle where he muses on good and bad painting and concludes that all painters are conservative anyway (well I guess he would know) . Although I fundamentaly disagree with his smart assy conclusions, the piece does have some well put together points. However ultimately I think that he is all pissed off because he didn't spot what is clearly the starting point of a new movement. A movement that is all about an emotional attachment to ones subject matter, a movement which is new and dangerous and not about clever dicky, boys own, in jokes for the art world. The show Girl on Girl was ground breaking, it presented a group of female artists who were prepared to go out on a limb, who had been through the ridicule of artschool, expression hating, has been tutors. This new art is dangerous because it wears its heart on its sleeve, and because it is not afraid to appeal to its audience. It is a diy, anti-slick, hands on and heartfelt. Buy Arty, visit Transition, look at the work of Stella Vine, Alex Michon, Delaine Le Bas, Liz Neal, Karen Kilimnik, Marcus Oakley, Cathy Lomax, Sarah Doyle, Annabel Dover, Nadia Hebson and loads of others and be there at the beginning.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Its All Kickin' Off

By now you will have read about the controversial painting of Diana, Princess of Wales by ex stripper Stella Vine, as the story appears in every single national paper this morning (if you don't know about it I recommend waiting for the Hackney Gazette version on Thursday). It is amazing how the press works and how it is manipulated by PR companies. I have of course always realised that the newspapers / magazines need to fill their columns and will print stories handed to them on a plate but the fact that every single paper has jumped on this story because it is about
1: Saatchi
2: A stripper
3: A painting of Diana bleeding
is amazing.
This painting was in the Girl on Girl show at Transition for a month, the image was sent out to all the relevant people and there was no interest from the press, because there were two factors missing. Saatchi was not involved and Stella's previous occupation was not highlighted.

Saatchi to his credit came to the show and bought the painting and immediately hung it at County Hall. Then the publicity machine took over and it was decided that the painting had just the right combination of controversial factors to make it perfect to head the New Blood show. A show which would hopefull re inject that cutting edge factor into a collection with a jaded brit art feeling.

The Telegraph art critic Richard Dorment (who?) is quoted as saying that
the painting was the equivalent of gutter journalism. "It's trash," he said. '"It is another stab at creating the visual equivalent of tabloid journalism. Contemporary art always reflects popular culture and this is no different"

Hhum... I feel a new art movement coming on. The Tabloid School, thanks Richard. As for the rest of the press pack, maybe you should get out a bit more and look around at what's going on. Saatchi is not the only arbitor of taste and there is a lot of really exciting art going on especially in the artist run spaces in East London. You could all be there at the start of a story and not just one of the sheep.

As for Stella Vine, well she paints great paintings and is not just a one trick pony. Check out her work when New Blood opens at The Saatchi Gallery on March 20 and see more of her work later this year at Joe at Rosy Wilde and Goth Moth at Transition

The Lodge and Tracey - Stella Vine