Monday, January 29, 2007

Slow Embrace

Years ago, I saw an interview with David Hockney, conducted by Melvyn Bragg, in which Hockney, a compulsive snapper, argued why he thought painting was superior to photography.
It was a matter of time. A camera was the perfect means to capture a so-called decisive moment but the resulting print, no matter how well composed, no matter how engaging the subject matter, was only a 'surface' experience. A micro-second frozen, there were no layers of time for the viewer to explore in the same way as a painting. Created over days or weeks, with several, different-aged layers of paint adhering in varying densities on – and in – the canvas, there was a literal and metaphysical depth to a painting. Relatively new, more 'instant' media, such as photography (let alone digital imaging) just couldn't compare.
I was reminded of this as I watched Hockney being interviewed by the Australian critic, Robert Hughes, in Hughes' TV
documentary series, The New Shock Of The New. Hughes made an impassioned argument for a return to the artisan skills of painting and to what he called "slow art" as opposed to the media-friendly, industrially-manufactured, conceptual game-playing of artists like Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst – "Fast art, like fast food!". Hughes wasn't against all conceptual art but like the painter, Sean Scully, whom Hughes also interviewed, he expressed discomfort with the idea of art as an extension of entertainment. Scully railed against the increasing influence of TV advertising, graphic design, and mass-market movies on art's content and techniques. Art, to Scully's and Hughes' minds, should be higher-minded.


Dan said...

I'm running up the bullshit flag. Sounds like more elitest art critic crap to me. All great art is informed by it's culture, if only to rail against it. Who are these guys to define what is or isn't "higher minded"?

And to say photography is an inferior art? Check out the conceptual work of Misha Gordin at All of the work is done in a traditional darkroom, no digital manipulation. Yeah, a photograph may not have the texture, the "layers", of a painting, but it can more than make up for that in it's tonality and it's depth of feeling.

Now it's time for me to be the art critic and, in my humble opinion, the work of both Hockney and Scully becomes completely irrelevant when viewed in the same room as that of an artist like Gordin - which I doubt it ever will be. Actually, I find both of them somewhat pretentious, boring, and devoid of emotion, even when displayed in a room by themselves - probably especially so then.

Scully is uncomfortable with the idea of art as an extension of entertainment? Both he and Hockney have been posterized ad nauseum, and their work is little more than wall decor, available in every Big Print Poster Palace across America. He's criticizing the exact same mindset he's relying upon to become rich. They allow their work to be bastardized for the masses, but call photography a "surface" experience. Sorry, you can't have it both ways, at least not without insulting the minions who buy the cheap knockoffs.

So, Robert Hughes, I have one word for your criticism and the artists you chose to interview to support your thesis that art (and by logical extension artists) should be "higher minded" - IRRELEVANT.alr

crybaby said...

wow, Misha Gordon's work is amazing. disturbing but beautiful.

i've got to admit i find sean scully's art to be among the most boring I 've seen in a while. The was a reference to returning to the painterly but i think that scully's work is devoid of meaning and form. boxes and squares supported by over inflated "artspeak" - dull dull dull.

give me something i can sink into.