Monday, November 4, 2013


Sharmila Samant: Against the Grain, installation 2008.
The cobras weren't stuck on with this clipper, but messy looking green wire.
I consider giving up this blog. These days, the world is so full of people's confessions. So much blabla that no one has the time and energy to listen to. Do I really need to add to this noise?

On top of that, I feel unsure about my future as an artist and writer. Frankly, I need to simplify my life even more. Living is too tiring. My head is too weary for any deeper analyses about life and art. All that noise is getting to me. I'm not sure I even care that much anymore about recording my impressions. Plus I seem to mostly see bad art about. I could say that it makes me feel a bit better about what I'm doing. But it's depressing as well. It would be really good to feel totally blown away sometimes. As it is, we're already drowning in the sea of mediocrity that Grayson Perry was talking about.

We went to see "Shakti Cymru" in Oriel Davies Gallery in Newtown where we go to shop for food when we can afford it. The entire space was filled with only one person's work. The artist is Sharmila Samant. Cotton wool on the floor and some handmade cobra heads in the style of traditional Indian crafts stuck on green plastic sticks and fixed with green plastic wire, all of equal length. "Oriel Davies is proud to showcase a major exhibition of work by Indian artist Sharmila Samant in her first solo show in the UK. Her work is visually arresting as well as critically and politically engaged." Basically the project is criticising the way cotton is being produced in India. There are a number of problems with the show...

a) The cobra heads seems to have been an installation in the cotton fields themselves. It's been transported directly into the gallery rather than being an adaptation for a different space, hence the naff looking green sticks and wire that are supposed to blend in with the landscape. It would have been so much better if the cobra heads had been suspended from the ceiling with invisible thread. They could have been arranged in an evocative way, at differing heights and slightly moving in the draft. There could also have been creative lighting. Or evoke the cottonfields in India somehow..!
b) The project is to literal. The cotton wool represents cotton wool. The cobras represent themselves too, possibly something else as well, maybe traditional values, threat, poision, etc. In combination, it just doesn't work. There is a soundscape, but it's just a straightforward recording and nothing creative has been done with it (so I wouldn't call it sound art, but documentation). I have to say there's one more thing... craft is a bit too close to art, yet so far from it at the same time. Craft seems a bit laden with negative associations. And finally, using other people's craft to vindicate one's own creativity seems to demean the craft rather than elevate it.
c) Poorly executed art should be banned! If a piece of art is neither aestethically pleasing nor intelligent, it really isn't art. It's possibly documentation, but not art. Even the fact that the cobra heads were made by crafts people rather than the artist herself puts me off. I can imagine it was difficult to bring stuff from India and that could have limited the materials, but surely the gallery should curate the show and help in making it appealing to the public? This show looked like something out of playschool.
d) If I want to hear about the problem with cotton in India I can read an article about it. I really don't feel that it works particularly well as the subject matter for some art, and the fact it's political doesn't make it anymore art. I dont also get a sense of the artist's passion, of the transmission of her zeal. The topic simply fails to touch me.

So this is the kind of art that gets grants.

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