Tuesday, June 18, 2013


Mostyn Oriel (Gallery) is situated in an old Victorian Art Gallery with some added modern bit sinside
I am soon done working on another collage, it was a tricky one to put together. This morning when I was trying to sleep I had some idea about a short multimedia project about insomnia. How could I make it express it without being too literal? I have some initial thoughts and will get down it soon. The two other more extensive projects (including creating the complete Traces) are going to have to wait. It occured to me, however, that I haven't posted the trailer for Traces yet so I will do in a separate post.

About a week ago we went to the North of Wales to pick up the second hand printer my husband bought on Ebay with the money we raised through the crowd funding project. It was a sunny day, and a lovely couple. We had picnic on the beach, then saw Llandudno, which is beautiful and quite sparkly summer resort. We also managed to get to Portmeirion, which really captured my imagination, so I will create separate article with photos from this magical place.

Mostyn Gallery is situated in Llandudno so we had a little look at it as we'd not seen it before and it's fairly prestigious, at least by Welsh standards. It's quite heavily into conceptual art. There was a show about interactive art, called YOU. Now some of the pieces, such as the typewriters that were set to create different patterns that the audience could control in order to create different kinds of images was quite cool. Interestingly, nobody had done anything to the paper itself. At the really bad end was a teleoscope that shows reality upside down. Apparently by looking into it, it will challenge your view of the world and blahblablah... thumbs down! 

Another piece I thought interesting but not necessarily in a good way was a large floorspace filled with candy. Apparently the weight of the candy corresponded with the weight of the artist's wife, who had been wasting away with cancer. The audience was invited to (morbidly?) eat the candy and it would thus symbolize the loss of her weight. To me, the idea was as far fetched as you can possible get. Candy - a human body? If anything, this contrived correspondance devalues the human body in question. I also feel uncomfortable because to me it sounds like emotional blackmail. In other words, you feel almost obliged to give thumbs up for the work because it's about a dying person who's now dead. I honestly can't think of anything less pretentious. Afterwards, when Martin and I discussed it, he said he really regrets he didn't mess up the place a bit and step on all the candy, because after all, you were invited to interact! We agreed that some artists would have welcomed this and others would have been horrified that their carefully dictated form of interaction wasn't respected (so how honest is the piece if it's very strictly monitored?). Of course, art should ask questions, and the discussion we had bares proof of that, but it still doesn't mean it was any good.

Another thing I've noticed when approaching conceptual art is that there's a vast amount of text telling you what you're supposed to understand, written by a curator. They write it so it sounds as if you should really already have understood it and they are just clarifying it for you. But without this explanation the audience would understand very little. So it all becomes strangely circular and maybe, just maybe, it's the explanation that is the art?

Nowadays I'm curious about conceptual art but I find it sad that so many authorities within the arts still value this type of art higher than other forms of art that are more directly expressive of feelings and experiences. Not only is the artist often in a highly analytical frame of mind when he's constructing his piece, but even if it's just created intuitively, by the time it reaches the judges it turns into this object that has to be approached analytically in order to be either approved or disapproved of. 

Another exhitbition I meant to write about was a collection of collages from the Arts Council, but it's long gone and I wasn't immensely impressed. One that stayed in my mind, however, was a piece by Chris Ofili. It's a lovely and colourful collage except he's stuck elephant dung on them to support some ideas about national identity. But... it's dung. Honestly, it would be quite a beautiful piece (not by far one of his best though) if it wasn't for the dung, which no only is not aestethic in the context of the rest of the collage but only says very little. The "shock" isn't doing anything for me. I'm not sure the juxtaposition works from any point of view. I think it's a good thing to be experimental with "combines" (this term derives from Rauschenberg). Still. I think in fact the artist was noted for his beautiful images inspite of the dung, but still... Call me conventional but for me it's thumbs up for the fantastic collages but thumbs down for the addition of dung.

Detail of Chris Ofili "Holy Mary" 1996 - a controversial piece

Read my blog post 'Is Conceptual Art Just Bad Philosphy'

Rauschenberg: "Canyon", 1959.
Rauschenberg's collages made of stuff from the streets hold a strange appeal to me.

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