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The revealers and the understanders

Stephen Hornsby-Smith

Whilst trying to reconnect with the ancient human need and capacity to create, I stumbled on to Joseph Beuys and Gabriel Orozco and landed myself into the world of Conceptual Art(CA), a world I do not like except for these two guru's. There are two types of CA's, the 'revealers' and the 'understanders', and they hypothetically have equal merit. The first asks the viewer to unpick or retrace your steps, recycling ideas that can reinforce or emancipate. It becomes quite a new experience analysing ones previous or present stages,renewing or freshening-up or finding a new part of the underrepresented self. These are intelligent steps that can become a new narrative or a new Art demographic! Secondly, the 'understanders' often blitz accepted 'truths' and re-examine failure or success that can unplug aesthetic and media predictability or galvanise with new technology an accepted convenient but now defunct moral or technical 'truth'. I find the two Artists above are ,to some extent both.

However, this is an argument that is definitely an 'in-house Art World club' revelation that's failed to enlighten or surprise the court of public opinion Let me explain what CA is generally understood to make manifest : Subject one involves a brown stain on a piece of paper juxtaposed to a 1950's telephone with the a middle-class accent from the 50's telling the time, followed by the pips that introduce the time clock, ' the first stroke it will be 8 fifty-five and twenty five seconds...'. Now what the hell does that piece of rubbish mean? Where is the Art in that?'

Let me explain the way I think CA's think : The brown stain is a battery stain which leads to a old battery, that leads to a television remote, that leads to a flat screen, that leads to it being unplugged, which leads to a broken lead, which leads to an unreconstructed analogue form of either sound or words that one hears the words but don't comprehend how to interpret, where one 'cannot hear metaphorically', which leads to industrial pre-digital assembly lines, which leads to pollution, which leads to Dickensian values and pre-NHS Victorian health conditions, which leads to 'Great Expectations' character Pip, which chimes with the Pips of the 'talking clock', which leads to the final version of the Art assemblages of this piece of Art, which wants the viewer to feel a sense of mortality as time passes because we are 'told the time' by what we are told, and not by how we feel? ......What a'shaggy-dog story!!!' I mean, OK we have our 'mortal coil'.......And?

That's the public perception of CA Art, and nowhere do such Artists try to explain in layman's terms as to whether it is the process or the final meaning of an object juxtaposed to another that CA actually wants to explore and communicate!? The wolf(life) seems to be blowing down the door(the artist) but that door can be reused to make a boat to escape from the wolf. What comes first? The chicken (the house) or the egg( the door)? What a bloody carry-on for very little at the end of it! Aren't 16 year old's saying far more in playing truant to demonstrate against Climate change? Or is it the skiving-off school more important to us than the issue of 'climate change'? Or 'You don't have to join a social class or trade union when you can join-up with your own generation ! No doubt University students are too old to grasp this? So how would a CA's relate to the youth of the world? Ask their bank balance! would a Painter?

Well, like in Physics, Einstein's theories were introduced in the early 20th century, and a century later no one has surpassed them. Yet like Painter's today, Einstein found the boundaries but after him came those who proved his theories right, as well as those who diversified but within his 'principles' and within the terrain that he opened-up. The same can be said of not being prisoners of formalist boundaries that were conceived of by modernist's like Kandinsky and Picasso etc, when our world has changed and changed ourselves that can't be restricted to a change in technology and the digital revolution or by a misreading of the 160 years of modernism to be confined to the 2nd decade of the 20th century!! Ironically, it seems that the Art world does not share my view on 'Contemporary Painting'. I am not mainstream but have had my medium of Art excluded from the Top table of the Art World'. that prefers to exclude an enthusiastic 'good pupil' from school rather than admit to encouraging the spoilt pupil and letting the bad pupil become a rotten apple. Perhaps the 'climate change of Art' has become more compelling to register today than ever,and makes a decisive case for less carbon footprint and less expensive materials. However, the mistaken opinion that the medium of Painting has been quarried for long enough does actually reveal the pollution of the anti-painting' lobby especially in Art colleges. I'd like to know exactly how many Art Colleges promote both drawing and ultimately Painting as a major part of their curriculum? I suspect even before you start College and certainly after you leave it the advice given is to positively embrace 'cosmopolitan contemporary media' rather than having to face the 'stern' admonishment of the Art World by choosing to be a Painter!! So, I suspect that exclusion and expulsion has been institutionalized in the UK, not out of politics or social class,gender or ethnic demographic nature, but against those who seek to discover for themselves all of colour and light by Paint - I mean, you can see the Northern lights on your lap-top,so, 'why do you have to see them with your own eyes?'

That was rhetorical! Right?!! Fresh fish or not fresh fish? Again, get the message.But the Art World dines-out on its progressive and inclusive record but..harbour's prejudice that discriminates against the medium of Painting and its practitioners, mainly by indirect 'dumbing-down' or by direct policy, in spite of Painting being a growth industry where anyone can open-up new ideas and unmasking older ones too. I am aware that tech costs more than Paint that you can get in the Art shop next door, and that every one interested can get stuck-in without any need for qualifications!! Furthermore,in the wider economic context, contrast how much Xbox costs, and the TV electricity it will chew into, with some brushes, and a medium size box of Paints and a tenner for a canvas???

You don't need (plain)heirs and graces, you need to get stuck-in!!! I'm convinced that easy access to Paint contrasts with the limited access to view all the Painting masters right up to today's 'A Listers', in terms of requiring to join huge and often disappointed queues at esteemed institutions or book light years before the exhibition was even planned for. Why has a chance to see prestigious and influential Art, (often Paintings) become more trouble than it's worth? Some CA is going to simulate an obstacle course to reveal the obstacles in the way of enjoying all Painting- I suddenly feel an Angry John McEnroe moment coming-on.

Painting in the UK is enjoying a renaissance except by the High Table of Art academics and other 'experts'. Is it simply High church versus low church? Let's just say that no serious Painter will be wholly swept away before the Gods of TV and Reality TV despite the longevity of the public intrigue and interest in it. The public appeal in 'Landscape Painter of the year' goes beyond natural curiosity of the British public but more into the escape to the country. Art on line isn't a reliable educator! But self-taught Art is always a self-education ! Yet whilst it is cheap to produce TV at prime time for the demographic most interested, it still has yet to reach to the contemporary Painting world! But that isn't its job, that's the Art World's failure to address an artificial fault-line that has interfered with Art tectonic plates. Painting has never been about vendettas or overheads, yet it still is the collateral damage to re-launch CA when originally in the 1920s Marcel Duchamps both started CA and ended it. The space for CA had been emptied by Duchamps. Now ain't that a thing! I smell a rat, don't you? Subsequent CA were derivative and yet they are the are the very critics of Painting who have legitimized their work upon the 'derivative' allegation of contemporary Painting????

Now don't tell me that that was on purpose! Hasn't that 'look at me and my irony', 'nihilist does the flimsiest' crap!!! At worst Painting and CA are brothers! But which is the Cain and which is the Abel? Let me guess....... With lies you can always move forward but you can never go back. Indeed because CA demands total commitment which involves 'MacCarthy-like'public denunciation of Painting as dead to the formalist world: Tracey Emin herself called Painting and Painting 'stuck' and people like me became overnight 'Stuckists'! But I won't lose too many hairs over that one!! But perhaps we're seeing this from the wrong direction? maybe Ca is dependent on side-lining the medium of Painting in order to make the Art market flourish in the sale of (I know the irony is killing me too) Paintings from before the 'crack-down on the medium' hit us hard in the 1980s, whilst CA's did their thing in galleries of Collectors etc? Or, is it that if you take one piece(painting) of the Art Tower away it will fall ! But doesn't Painting share responsibilities for keeping the Art Tower upright too? Actually yeah! The modernist inspiration in Art itself has been doing that for 160 years, and shows no sign of losing its influence way into the future !! But take away Ca and the 'Painted block tower will fall too! Who' a thunked it? Interdependence???? So may modernism in the 21 and 22nd centuries continue not to shatter the Art world or conspire to bring it down !! But here remains one true principle of Painting today, we have been excluded by a power surge that has flattened all electricity; but no one realizes that we Painter's have , by the light of moon shone just as brightly as under the heat of the sun. Painter's aren't tearing things apart, they're putting the jig-saw back together again!!. No other medium of Art hails from 100,000 years ago in South Africa to Pollock and way into the future beyond even the eye of contemporary Art (Painting). Four seasons ,life, death, re-birth is the first and the last to ex plein aire - the oxygen of all Painting is the DNA of the origin of Art species!! That would explain the impulsive zeal to denounce the medium of Painting to bury it and re-write Art History- better to get clarity than admit and submit to Painting being too hard rather than unnecessary or anachronistic. But to me the only 'Art King Canutes' are those who believe that Painting is mere jetsom and flotsom today lost to the depths of the ocean and forgotten, but as every school kid will tell you, Art King Canute will himself be swept away by his own mortality and by the same human limitations whereas the tide will wash the 'debris' that was once dumped in the sea clean, and more importantly be the basis for someone's interest and enlightenment.

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