What Am I Looking At?

This is a good article from Rick Poynor in the Design Observer (from some time in 2010):

Excerpt: "...It’s an enduring conceit peculiar to the conceptual art of the last 40 years that the most important thing about an art work is its “idea” and that the visual dimension really isn’t the issue. This is like poets holding the view that crafting well-turned lines is of marginal interest for literature, or jazz musicians claiming that being able to play their instruments is a red herring and then informing audiences that they are simple-minded to see it any other way.
So we need to put more emphasis again on the visual in art, and it’s clear that many young artists with visual talent have decided to ignore the art world’s weary, self-serving conceptualist strictures and just go ahead and make the art they feel like making. They want to create optical art experiences of their own. By paying too much attention to the extremes of high or low we run the risk of undervaluing what’s happening in the densely populated middle — graphic novels, graphic design, illustration, low-cost film-making — where the expressive possibilities of the visual are still embraced with conviction. This, rather than art scene-mediated art, is the real center of visual culture in our time. Are we overlooking great work only because we have been instructed for so long to assume that anything presented outside the art world’s walls must be inferior?..."

Link to the full article here. 



Rick Poynor is a writer, critic, lecturer and curator, specialising in design, photography and visual culture. He founded Eye, co-founded Design Observer, and contributes columns to Eye and Print. His latest book is Uncanny: Surrealism and Graphic Design. He is Visiting Professor in Critical Writing in Art & Design at the Royal College of Art, London. 

The Wheels of the World

Acrylics on canvas (1m x 30cm)
This is now the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, where
Arf  'I'm not Irish!' Wellesley and Abba fought the combined legions of the French Empire under Napoleon Dynamite. There were some Prussians involved who turned up late/or just in time, whatever your point of view.

I wasn't there, in fact. And neither were you. But for the Irish, it was a win-win/lose-lose situation considering we fought on both sides. Isn't that a topsy-turvy way of going about? Not at all odd, really considering the circumstances in Ireland at the time.

So here are the lyrics of a song which has been passed down through two hundred years and which still ring true. If you think my painting is mad, try European politics:

The Wheels of the World

Come all you true sons of Erin; attend to these few simple lines:
I'll sing you a song about spinning. It was a good trade in old times.
Some they spun worsted and yarn, and others they spun flax and tow.
By experience, my friends, you may learn how the wheels of the world they do go.

Luther spun out his existence, and so did King Henry the Eighth.
John Calvin by Satan's temptation, their maxims he did imitate.
Tom Cranmer he joined the new system, and swore he'd make spindles of steel.
Pluto himself did assist them, perdition that turned their wheel.


CHORUS: So these are the wheels of the world, my friends, you must all understand.
For three hundred years, they've been spinning destruction all over the land.


John Mitchell the brave son of Erin, declared that a spinner he'd be.
He got all his wheels in full motion, his dear native land to set free. 
But Lord Clarendon the lieutenant, at spinning he was fully bent,
And unto the Isle of Bermuda the sons of Hibernia were sent.

Lord Nelson he was a good spinner on board of the ship Victory.
He was counted the greatest of spinners that ever set sail on the sea.
His shipmen were all famous spinners. For Nelson they spun very well,
But the French spun a ball in Trafalgar, and on the ship deck Nelson fell.

Billy Pitt too was a good spinner, and so was Lord Castlereagh.
Sure they spun out the Union from Ireland. To England they shipped it away.
Poor Billy spun out his existence, and banished in Charon's old boat.
Then Lord Castlereagh saved his distance, by cutting the rim of his throat.

Napoleon he was a good spinner, for freedom did always advance.
Over deserts and great lofty mountains, he led on the brave sons of France.
Old Wellington he went a-spinning. His wheels they were at Waterloo;
But if Grouchy had never been bribed, the French would have split him in two.

Prince Albert came spinning to England. His wheel by a compass did steer.
He spun out a queen for his consort, and some little thousands a year.
John Bull must now go a-spinning. A few thousands more he must fork,
For the Queen has another young son that was spun in the city of Cork.

The factory masters are spinning. Their wheels they are turning away,
And now they are wanting their hands for to work thirteen hours a day.
They don't care a fig for the poor. They heed not their sighs nor their moans.
They don't care a pin if you work till you spin all the flesh off your bones.

The rich they are all famous spinners, and you are very well sure
They are always contriving a scheme to crush down the rights of the poor.
So if you're compelled to go spinning, let each of your spindles be steel.
Let "Liberty" then be your motto, and glory will turn your wheel.

***
You can even hear a version of the song sung by the excellent Len Grahamhttps://beta.prx.org/stories/141307 Starts at 15mins 15secs.

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Sentinel: A Lonely Posting

Well isn't this a turn-up for the books? It's the Friday evening of a week where I've actually managed to paint a couple of pictures. I know that seems an odd thing for a painter to say but it's perfectly true. 

My regular art classes are finally finished for the summer and I now have a few months in which I can indulge myself. Most of my time is spent up to my oxters in admin for my classes -and once you start into that craic, whole days are lost, for admin is the opposite of art. 

Sometimes I have to force myself to paint in order to get anything usefully artistic done. It wasn't the way I thought it would be when I started: I thought that running art classes would make a perfect dovetail joint with my artistic endeavours. Oh well, it's better than penury!

Early on this year I bought a set of Golden 'Open' acrylics in Evans just to test them out. For some reason, I bought mostly cool colours: Pthalo Blue, Alizarin Crimson, a rather toxic-looking yellow, Titanium White and Viridian. Luckily I also bought a Pyrrole Red which helped warm up all the hues in this painting. 

In the end, though, I figure that it turned out exactly as it would had I used regular acrylics. I didn't find the slow-drying quality helped in this instance. It's not that kind of painting.

So here is the result of my late freedom, 'Sentinel'.  Acrylics on canvas. 10" x 8"

By the way, if you're about and you want to attend a workshop in portraiture that I'm holding in Terenure this Sunday June 14, call me on 086 247 0737. Mention where you read this and I'll give you a discount of 15% on the €60 fee. You would need to book, though -don't just turn up! There are 3 places left.

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