Monday, 14 May 2007

The New Tradition

“The century of art”- that’s how some people call the 20th century. During last hundred of years art had changed a lot. Postmodernism had dramatically reversed the meaning, understanding and function of art - its idea, social and political meanings become as much as important as its visual representation. Art assumed lots of different forms, it become informal and sometimes even invisible. Now any creative personality can be called artist and any expression of its idea can be called art. Each artist chooses, combines or creates a way to express him self. More and more new medias in art appears fraught the way of experiment. The question is – what makes artists to renounce the traditional media and start to search for the new ways of expression? Is experimenting in art only the way to be original and create something new, or a trying to find the best way to express ideas? And finally - is traditional media still playing its part in contemporary art?“

Christian Marclay
As a representative of contemporary art I have chosen an artist Christian Marclay. He’s known as a visual artist as well as a musician. All his oeuvre is based on combining sound and visual art together. Breaking down the barriers between them has been a large part of his project. All his works are rich of semiotic meanings which makes viewer to fill the gap between what we hear and that we see. “For Marclay both poles are equally appealing. All music all sound comprise the vocabulary with which he works. From sugary orchestration to screeching noise, it is sound – and our culturally determined reactions to it – that forms the basis of his art.” (Russell Ferguson).
Most of his work is based on dialogs between visual art and music, between classics and contemporary, between his personal point of view and the ideas of other artists and concepts of different cultures. Marcel Dushamp, Joseph Kosuch and other conceptual artists influenced Marclay’s work. He’s an artist of postmodern era who rejects the traditional usages of visual arts and adopts the media appropriate to the epoch of its creation. Considering the Adorno’s idea that the main difference between art and popular culture is that art is individual and popular culture is standardized and homogenized production. Marclay’s media is highly connected to the era he works; he contemplates new styles and technologies, finds a relation between them and traditional culture and reflects it in his works.
An example of Marclay shows us the case then artist adjusts to the circumstances of time and possibilities he has. He improvises and through the way of experiment creates the media of expression of his ideas. “I didn't have an instrument so I sang and made these background tapes for the performances. We didn't have a drummer so that's why I started using skipping records and things like that, to produce these rhythm tracks that we'd perform along with.” - says Marclay. His biggest contribution into music was starting to use of turntables separately of hip-hop music and making it into a legitimate instrument itself. His passion to experiment created a new pathway to music making, which is a foundation of today’s DJ culture.

National Portrait Gallery and BP Portrait Awards

Considering to Adorno's opinion that making classical art and using traditional media and ideas in contemporary is nothing else but academism. But does it mean that traditional art techniques and genres are not suitable to reflect ideas relevant to present culture? For a long time museums used to be a place there classical art is preserved to be shown in a public, mostly in educational purposes. Now more and more museums are being transformed into the public institutions, which show the contemporary art as well as classical art collections in this way pointing new directions for contemporary artists, what is meant to be function of galleries. The National Portrait Gallery is one of those institutions there historical and contemporary art meets each other, cooperates and creates new point of view to traditional media.
The initial function of National Portrait Gallery was to indoctrinate public with the history of portrait genre and to show a large collection of important historical portraits. The biggest part of the gallery still is a permanently displayed collection of historical portraits, but a number of lectures, competitions and exhibitions by contemporary portrait artists are taking place in there as well. BP Portrait Awards is one of the most important events of the year in National Portrait Gallery. Each year this competition attracts a lot of audience, press and artist attention and became a challenge for many of portrait painters. The rules of competition says that the work entered should be a realistic painting based on a sitting or study from life and the human figure must predominate and must be painted in oil, tempera or acrylic and must be on a stretcher or board. These rules are based on traditional concept of portrait genre and classical media of painting and for a long time seemed to be stimulus for artists not to disavow the traditional media. On the over hand the rules haven’t any style or theme restrictions so that makes the competition a great scene there artists are able to apply the contemporary art ideas in to such a traditional genre as a portrait.
In last few years photorealism become kind off mainstream among the portrait artists and it’s easy to mention that during the exhibitions of BP Portrait Awards. Last year the winner of prize was Andrew Tift for his photorealistic triptych “Kitty”. All four painting short listed for this year’s competition are photorealistic as well. Andrew Tift says: 'I work in a highly detailed, intensely realistic manner and aim for an absolutely pure and objective likeness. I seek to convey people in the most understanding, intimate and sympathetic way that I can.' It seems that the winner of BP Portrait Awards 2006 influenced artist and judges of this year competition. Objective likeness and hyper realistic image become the main aim of portrait painting while the reflection of psychological and emotional human being seems have lost its relish: ‘In the past it has seemed almost colonised by Lucian Freud clones or haunted by students of Coldstream. This year the magazine photograph seems to have won through.’ – says art critic Rachel Campbell-Johnson about the BP Portrait Awards 2007.
A lot off painters appears to be eliminating the brushstroke, even a colour from their work, what is meant to be the main point of traditional painting. R. Campbell-Johnson says: ‘…is that kind of photorealism the new fad in painting? Look at the work of these artists and you may well assume so, but dos this mean that traditional painting is dead’. Can this kind of ‘fad’ be so strong to change one of the most traditional media, or it will just stay as a separate style? In one way or another all this just proves that the function and import of art museums has really changed a lot. Of course the traditional art shown in the museums was influencing artist ever since but now museums as an institutions are able and powerful enough to point a directions for contemporary art.

The Serpentine Gallery

The Serpentine belongs to a middle-scale group of galleries and is located in the centre of Hide Park. Good location and many of high profile artist exhibitions makes the Serpentine gallery a well-known institution in today’s London contemporary art scene. Even thought the gallery isn’t big, it’s location allows to use a space around the building that gives an opportunity to exhibit an art works independently of their size. Due to that a number of outside performances, large-scale sculptures, installations and even architectural projects were shown in this gallery. The most interesting and attractive point of the gallery is that each exhibition in The Serpentine is transforming the gallery space and the space around the gallery into the part of display and makes the entire exhibition into a one single piece of contemporary art. From surrealistic and brutal display of Damien Hirst’s collection to socio-political Uncertain States Of America exhibition or delicate, nostalgic and a bit ironic Karen Kilimnik retrospective - each exhibition at The Serpentine gallery makes viewer to experience different atmosphere, different relations with displayed art works. ‘Karen Kilimnik’s retrospective at the Serpentine Gallery is a theatrical marvel. Her paintings, from the last ten years, are interspersed with drawings and installed in spaces which take the guise of different rooms from stately homes. Walls are painted Sapphire Spring, Willow Creek or Rose Trellis (all authentic un-Kilimnikised names) and some of the gallery spaces echo the actual interiors of the paintings - gold title plaques hang next to each work and velvet curtains hang at the entrance of each room - positioning you almost within the images themselves.’
Culture of display becomes a very important part of contemporary art. Now seems like the main purpose of a piece of art is to be shown in a public, to appear in a context of a place, time and over artworks. ‘Art and exhibitions have evolved together, so that contemporary art cannot be fully understood independently of its presentation’ (Sandy Naire).

The Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2006

A place where the art is displayed becomes as much as important as an artwork itself. Each summer one famous architect takes a challenge to design a temporary pavilion for The Serpentine gallery; the project is a rare opportunity for architects to create an experimental structure like none of those invited has ever built before. Talks, forums, film screenings, performances, exhibitions are taking place in those pavilions usually going hand by hand with the exhibition in the gallery building. Showing art to a public in commercial or educational purposes used to be the main aim of the galleries, now some of them are becoming some kind of churchlike institutions where art is represented almost in a spiritual level. Gallery have become a place for communication, education, discussion or even a meditation.

Frieze Magazine

Frieze is one of the most important art magazines in the international art scene what makes it a great object to be discussed about, but unfortunately this blog is still under process and the short essay on Frieze is still not ready to be posted.

Sunday, 18 March 2007


City is the art and art is the city. A lot of artists are using city as a place to create and as a source of inspiration. There are a lot of artists who are using city as a medium to create their art as well. In art as well as in literature urban themes started to spread very quickly since the beginning of twentieth century. Art started to move closer and closer to the city until the city become the part of the art. There are even conceptions of the city as a form of art itself. Why art and the city are so close to each over? What causes this strong relationship between them?The cities had changed completely, after industrial revolution in the end of ninetieth century. They become the force which dragged mass of people to move in after the Second World War. Post industrialization had created something what now we call the metropolis. Cities were growing up so quickly that the human mind could not understand the real size and possibilities of this structure. It started to form a new lifestyle. City had become the way of living and thinking. Due to the famous writer Jonathan Raban city is the mix of illusions, realities and myths which creates art: ‘…the city goes soft; it awaits the imprint of an identity. For better or worse, it invites you to remake it, to consolidate it into a shape you can live in. You, too. Decide who you are, and the city will again assume a fixed form round you. City had become not a space we suppose to see, but the space we want to see and to live in. Metropolis of our days had become the space where lots of different realities could exist together and never meet each over. And then living in the city becomes an art. This world allows you to play with your surrounding as well as with your personality. You can change your environment and even your identity whenever you want to do it. Unreality and irregularity becomes the game and the art. On the over hand, city could become the monster as well as a game. It could become the demon; it could drag you into loneliness, social uncertainty. Single personality can melt in the crowd and never come back in to existence again. Urban anonymity and the lack of cosiness as well as personal futility is one of the most important art themes in twentieth century. You are surrounded of mass of unfamiliar faces then you are living in the city. Usually it makes you tired and confused in relationships with others. After all you can find yourself being detached from the lives of other people and then you are constrained to stay in inaccessibly private community of your own head.There are a lot of artists which tried to express this tension between a person and his surroundings, a tension between a man and the city. From my point of view one of the best examples is American painter Edward Hopper. Usual streets become something mystic and somehow uncanny in his works. People in those streets seem lost and ill, they are painted statically sitting or standing, but the light and the shadows around them and on their face makes them look like an anonymous reflection of everyone’s of us inner frustration. Hoppers’ paintings reflect the dark side of urban living; he shows what is hidden beneath the surface of ‘American dream’ and consumer society lifestyle. The other artist, which used the theme of urban desperation, was T. S. Eliot. He called his poem about the city ‘The Waste Land’, it is a paradoxical metaphor, because city is physically and emotionally overcrowded place, but if one can not comb out what he need the city becomes a waste land. ‘Unreal City,/ Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,/ A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,/ I had not thought death had undone so many.The city is unbelievably wide creative object and subject in the same time, because it contains all the most essential art themes for humanity, such us the death, the beauty and the mythological stories of all kind. All these motives look fresh, interesting and actual in the context of metropolis, because the city is the most modern place in that sense that it is from the beginning till the end all created by the human beings. In the Western world after the philosophy of Nietzsche there was no god: ‘Where has God gone?’ he cried. ‘I shall tell you.We have killed him - you and I. We are his murderers. But how have we done this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What did we do when we unchained the earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving now? ... Do we not smell anything yet of God's decomposition? Gods too decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. The humans were forced to become gods themselves. Metropolis is the offspring of this human creation. This creative play reflects very well in the works of ‘Archigram’. This team of famous British architects created a new way of interpreting the city, new point of view to design and architecture. They played with the philosophy of the city and created it as an inadaptable concept of existence, as a way of subsistence, of utopia.Metropolis is thing which has no fixed meaning; you can understand it in a lot of different ways. His streets could become anything you would like to; it could become the space to exhibit an idea or an art or it could become the arena of the war. When new non-commercial trends in art began to take shape, the artworks moved from galleries to the streets and became interactive with the city itself. Guerrilla artists use the city as a war zone, where they are fighting with the stiff and fake ideology of the consumer society: ‘I don’t want people to just sit and look at my work/I want them to interact with it. I want to have an impact.’ - WT Interact. They are using well known signs and placing them in well seen public spaces in purpose to reach and refresh the minds of the passers by. Street art is usually political and conceptual, because they are using art as a form of critics of the society. Street art differs from other art forms in the fact that it has no external boundary between the image and the environment: while a traditional painting can be moved from one gallery to another without the artistic credibility of the painting being affected, guerrilla art is environmental, the surface it is applied to being as fundamental to the piece's meaning as that which is applied. This idea has evolved to such a degree that contemporary artists now often see all the work they do as a single piece being added to over time while older, less developed elements of the piece are being erased by graffiti removal efforts and other artists in competition for space.The city is soft, it has no fixed identity, it is constructed and unreal, and this is why we all can have a city of our own. Living in metropolis means living in theunreality, somewhere between nightmares and illusions. Living the life which is set between the underground and the towers. The city itself has no face; it is the land of the possibilities and choices. It is the extension of our identity and it is you who decide what to take and how to use this chaos. So the city could become a hell, a paradise, the land of silence or the land of the mercy. The art is like the city – it is the idea which awaits the imprint of our identity. The artist in metropolis is an impersonal observer, who is looking and recreating what he sees and spreading his vision of city to the others in that way creating the new mythology. He is the one who decides the laws of the eternity.