This week I visited the new George Shaw exhibition at the National Gallery; the result of two years’ worth of study and response to its permanent collection as part of his Rootstein Hopkins Associate Artist residency. I’m a sucker for good decent representational painting as I’m sure you know – not just hyper realistic or photo realistic stuff that is boringly impressive and impressively boring – and this pushed all my buttons in terms of matching an interesting and individual painterly style with intelligent and thought provoking themes relating to the collection. I like stuff that is unshowy, mainly because it has such thought behind it that it doesn’t need to be willfully abstract/offensive/bizarre/WTF.
Which brings me with heavy heart to this year’s Turner Prize, just announced. It seems a prerequisite to be as WTF as possible, but last year it looked like we were getting something else entirely; I bowed to the acknowledgement that the winners Assemble was a uniquely different, socially conscious project, hopefully signaling a new direction for this more-pretentious-than-thou prize. It was not to be, as every news article plastered with the ghastly buttocks sculpture by Anthea Hamilton screamed at me. I always imagine that such an attention grabbing piece of gross automatically does itself out of the prize as it seems way too obvious a choice; you feel obliged to just not pick it because it’s already enjoyed the exposure the artist needs. My main problem with the piece is not that it is just grotesquely awful on a visual sense – I like George McCarthy arguably more than the next person – but that it simply pinches someone else’s idea: its inspiration was taken from Gaetano Pesce’s idea for a male bottom to be built in a Manhattan skyscraper in the 70s. Other works apparently do the same thing: her work Kar –A-Sutra recreates a 1972 concept car by Mario Bellini. I might as well just write: “Argument title: Richard Prince and Appropriation: discuss,” and the same case is meted out yet again, ad infinitum.
I’m far more fascinated by Michael Dean’s Sic Glyphs, a clever interplay with the visual representation of language; so you get sculptural interpretations of font or typefaces, looking into an area sorely underexplored with pleasingly rich results. Intellectual exploration = tick. Annoyingly pretentious interviewing = sigh, tick: “as much an installation artist as I am a writer as I am a typographer as I am a dramatist as I am a philosopher”. I’m afraid you lost me after the relevant bit.
Maybe, in my late 20s, I’m becoming a premature boring old fart, Brian Sewell (though don’t for a minute think I’m equating myself to the great Sewell, it’s simply an easy example) before my time.
Photo: Bunny hop: Michael Dean Image Daniel Hambury via twitter
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