Ok, here's the thing. I'm not a huge fan of ugly Art. I realise that is a very generalised, ambiguous statement and it comes from someone who intentionally creates 'ugly' little creatures often with 'ugly' little personalities to match. It's difficult to explain exactly what I mean by this. I'm certainly no Art critic and let's be very clear, I don't consider the work that I make to be 'capital A' Art. I'm not out to change the world, make political statements or comment on society. In my opinion there are more direct and effective ways to do all of those things if that's what you really care about. My 'small a' art is personal to me and my hope is that through shared human experience, it is personal to some other people....that they connect (another ambiguous word) with it on some level.
That said, the Saatchi exhibition 'British Art Now' is in Adelaide at the AGSA. I've been twice now. The first time I was very excited and filled with that delicious feeling of anticipation....this show is a big deal, a real coup for Adelaide and a chance to view cutting edge work by important contemporary artists. It's a massive exhibition taking up three quarters of the entire gallery space. The blurb on the AGSA website is as follows:
"Saatchi Gallery in Adelaide: British Art Now brings together the audacious best of contemporary art straight from London's internationally acclaimed Saatchi Gallery - arguably the biggest influence on contemporary British art over the past 25 years. It features groundbreaking works that challenge conventional artistic sensibilities, created by more than forty of the new generation of daring British contemporary artists."
It's not that I didn't know what to expect. This was not going to be like a visit to The Jam Factory Gallery....no art made for the love of the process here. What I didn't expect was that by the end of making my way through rooms filled with scrunched up plastic, white-washed cardboard, inflated garbage bags, and (deliberately, I assume) poorly constructed 'sculpture' with bits of fabric hanging off it, I was pretty much over it all and my over-whelming feeling was one of disappointment bordering on boredom. That, and the fact that I had never seen so much 'ugly' Art in one place at one time.
This isn't to suggest that there weren't points of interest along the way. I really enjoyed the room of work by Juliana Cerqueira Leite (pics above) but it was actually more the process she used to make the work rather than the finished objects that I found fascinating.
Tessa Farmer filled a large glass case with tiny (and I mean tiny) faeries made from thread-like plant matter and riding on desiccated insects.....that was right up my alley for obvious reasons, not the least of which is the almost 'OCD-like' dedication of the artist.
But it was still ugly.
So I went back a second time. I did enjoy myself more, having no expectations whatsoever but I just couldn't shake the feeling that this type of Art is a joke at everyone but the Artists' expense...'expense' being the operative word here. This is an exhibition about the business of 'capital A' Art and also the weird irony of Art that claims to be "subversive and avant-garde" while being sponsored by Saatchi. It does raise a lot of questions and it certainly makes for interesting and spirited conversation, but does the Art itself inspire me, excite me, engage me or provoke me in any way that isn't directly connected to it's financial 'worth'? The short answer is, no.
I love Art. I like to think I have an open mind and that my tastes are diverse, but I need a little more than someones unmade bed even if it is a "confessional revelation of the artists sexual exploits and self-destructive lifestyle". Yes, I found the piece disturbing but it would be just as disturbing if I saw a bedroom like this in someone's actual home....I'm not entirely sure what emotion the bed being displayed in a gallery is supposed to elicit. We all know, or know of, people who have these kinds of experiences in their lives. Does being confronted with it in a gallery make us care more? Are we even supposed to care and if not, then what's the point? Of course, there's the price ticket. Saatchi purchased the piece for 150,000 pounds.....can anyone say 'KA-CHING'!
Anyway, I could go on and on but really I don't want to. Like I said, I'm no Art critic, certainly no expert. I do like to be challenged, engaged and inspired....and I do like beauty. True, beauty is different things to different people and if bad papier mache floats your boat, then I say trot along to the Saatchi and buy a season ticket.
So now I'm on a quest...a quest to see more work containing beauty, talent, insight, love and joy.
I may not know Art, but I know what I like.
Oh, and before I go, one more thing I'm liking very much...The Stuckist Manifesto. Not convinced of point #4, but I can't argue with the rest of it.
Till next time.