Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Painting and fashion

I don't paint (much). My mother was a traditional landscape and portrait painter and I have somehow always felt the need to do something different. However, I admire and enjoy looking at paintings by a range of artists and I like to follow the passage of as much artistic endeavour as comes my way.

Tomma Abts
Ert 2003
A recent post by Olga Norris over at her blog Threading thoughts - a blog I always find thought-provoking - set me thinking about the vagaries of fashion and its influence on what is perceived as 'good' or 'original' in art and how painting as a medium largely fell out of favour in art colleges in the 1970s. Painting then and for much of the second half of the 20th century was thought to have run out of creative steam.

Her post reminded me of a story told to me of an acquaintance who was studying as a mature student in the 1980s for a degree in Fine Art and was told by her lecturer to change from painting (which she loved) to another medium as anything of any interest in painting had already been done. He said as it was no longer possible to do anything new and original, she could never achieve more than an average degree unless she changed and her prospects as an artist would be limited.

The more I thought about this at the time, and since, the more ridiculous it seemed - and how blinkered and how arrogant of the lecturer to assume that he and his ilk had seen everything in painting that could possibly be of any interest or worthy of acclaim?

Reading Olga's post, feelings of how wrong that lecturer was and how fashions change occurred to me. The painter Simon King, whom Olga quotes, is one of five painters currently exhibiting at Tate Britain in the Painting Now: Five Contemporary Artists exhibition. Another painter in the exhibition, Tomma Abts whose work is shown here, won the Turner Prize in 2006.

 ... and I'm glad to say that this friend of mine went her own way and, despite her lecturer's prognosis, is still painting as far as I know.

And, as an after thought, comes the feeling that I must make time to go and view this exhibition, if only to lay the ghost of fashion ...


6 comments:

  1. The depth in that painting is just unbelievable. I have a feeling the instructors saying painting was dead were deathly afraid that new painters would outstrip them. As we know, beauty is in the eye of the beholder -- just look at all the crap on museum and gallery walls that passes for art. Not all of it, of course, but some of it stinks, imho. A lot of contemporary art is pretty bad, too, not just painting. But sells, surprisingly to me, sometimes for astronomical prices. I can't help but think when I see that dreck, who in the world would pay to have that thing in their home or office?!

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    1. Tomma Abts' painting is indeed extraordinary and has prompted me to look further at her work. According to a report in the Guardian newspaper that I read, she is unassuming, likes her own space and has never had a painting lesson ... things to think about there then!

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  2. There is such an element of The Emperor's New Clothes to the art world, and too many people caught up in the facade. I'd say I have fairly eclectic tastes in art, and it isn't the medium that dictates what works for me, it's something much more difficult to pin-point, but if I said quality or depth, or emotion - perhaps that would be a start. But then, I'm not a Charles Saatchi...

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    1. Yes indeed - I find it so difficult to define what works for me personally. Your thoughts about depth or emotion certainly come into it - and to that I would add a new and unusual take on things that sets me thinking and makes me look again - all very nebulous but a start anyway as you say.

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  3. In defence of the art teachers, I suppose they possibly realised that with a change of fashion any of their students sticking with painting would have to be extraordinary to be able to make a living out of their art. On the other hand, I've always been 'old fashioned' enough to agree with the Glasgow School of Art which stuck to life drawing and the 'grammar' of art throughout changes of fashion in the art market.

    I too was heartened by the fact that Tomma Abts is self taught!

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    1. You are right to defend the art teachers - I was venting my spleen perhaps too vehemently and making a living out of art is so hard however extraordinary you are. I think what upset me was the apparent lack of lack of open-mindedness betrayed in her account ...

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