Thursday, 17 December 2009

School of Infantilism

I’m sure there will be lots of art bloggers tapping away furiously in response to ‘The School of Saatchi’ TV show which finished its four week run the other night. I thought I ought to make a little contribution of my own as I found myself turning off the TV as soon as the credits rolled up at my wife’s disgusted insistence. ‘Turn that rubbish off- that must have been the biggest pile of living and breathing rubbish I’ve ever seen ‘. It wasn’t the word rubbish really, but I think you can guess the adjective.

She’s right of course. I’ve found myself equally amazed at quite how bad the show was and depressed at how it’s confirmed so many of my own prejudices (I did want to enjoy it- honest!). I’ve also found it really funny too, particularly this week’s episode which seemed all too often to remind me of Galton and Simpson’s brilliant Tony Hancock film ‘The Rebel’. All it needed was a guest appearance from Irene Handl as Mrs Cravat, Tony’s landlady and we would have been there. The hilarious Van Der Graaf Generator sculpture was the modern day equivalent of the ‘magnificent beauty’ that was Hancock’s famous ‘Aphrodite at the Waterhole’.

I think I wasn’t so fed up with the artists themselves, it was more the critics and curators that wound me up, in particular Tracey Emin and Matthew Collings. Collings seems to increasingly lay his hat wherever seem s convenient if you ask me, or with whoever is paying. I’ve read alot of his writing over the years, and enjoyed much of it, but I find myself increasingly irritated by what he has to say. It seems to centre around a formal obsession that I find increasingly condescending to anyone who is remotely visually literate. His recent ‘Ten Things About Beauty’ on BBC Four was awful. He does argue though, and I tend to agree, most contemporary fine art is really lacking in any visual literacy...but give me Waldemar Janusczack, Andrew Graham-Dixon or Simon Schama any day. They write with insight, passion and a real commitment to their subject.

And Tracey Emin? Well, it’s taken me ages to appreciate Emin’s work, but her rampant ego and the vague self-important rubbish she spouted every time she appeared was really off-putting. I listened mildly disturbed to her ‘Desert Island Discs’ a couple of years ago where she described her tent and un-made bed as seminal pieces comparable to Picasso and Braque’s breakthrough with cubism. It’s not that I’m knocking these pieces, but they are essentially a Duchampian thing, not seminal like Picasso’s achievements in Paris. Let’s get some perspective, Tracey. I don’t think the art world has ever recovered from that urinal of Duchamp’s. I suppose my attitude to Emin is rather like that of Hancock's landlady at the start of the film. Informed that the hideous statue taking up most of his bedroom is "impressionist", she replies:
"Well, it doesn't impress me. I want it out of here."

And finally, what of the artists selected for the show? I can’t believe from the THOUSANDS that applied they couldn’t find a more interesting bunch. I think what I struggled with, and what was one of the core problems for me, was their age. They were just so young with very little to say or no meaningful practise established, which was really reflected in the work they made.

I’m just going to put a couple of pictures from ‘The Rebel’ on this blog. Tony’s School of Infantilism was head and shoulders above the School of Saatchi.

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