Tag Archives: british

Contemporary Art (5) – Peter Doig

A friend has challenged me to pick out one artist, whose work will still ‘matter’ in 40 years time. Well, imagine we’ve got 2050; the number alone looks pretty surreal; doesn’t it? The same can surely be said about the quantity of the imagery out there – buzzing, flashing, tempting, repulsive, genius and rubbish… But – what will be there considered as the great ‘classic’ – something that had been created at the turn of the centuries? Will be there any need for the ‘classics’ at all; who knows, maybe the ‘classic’ will actually mean the ‘clutter’ of no other than an abstract, historical value?

Well, we are we?

An artist important for my children’ children, for generations with a different sense of time, space, culture (presumably); with a changed view on the 20th/21st century… That all makes the guessing game a pure shot in the dark really…

I put Peter Doig in the title as a sort of a ‘tease’ and a challenge. I do consider him influential and important now; I would risk stating that his particular vision of painting (notably – changing/being modified all the time) will survive through his own generation of artists – let’s say – 10 more years; as well as I can predict than many of the painters from my ‘class’ will carry Doig’s ‘germs’ with them for some time. Yet – to tell – that P. D.’s impossibly romantic and surprisingly (in comparison  with the majority) well painted magical landscapes will break the price records in 2050? Simply impossible – and – a bit pointless perhaps… Because, why to bother with that in the first place in the era of the flux? Let’s enjoy our present time – future is nothing more than the act of accepting, respecting and giving the foundations to the ‘here and now’…


Peter Doig (b. 1959) – Scottish-born painter, brought up in Canada and art-educated in London. From 2002, living and working in Trinidad (studio at the Caribbean Contemporary Arts centre) .  Professor at the fine arts academy in Duesseldorf, Germany. Considered as one of the most important and influential painters working today.

Doig is both acclaimed and criticized for his paint-handling – carefully layered, with the impressive sensitivity to the colour scale (his landscapes look like there is ‘every colour’ in it; a reason for clapping or doubting?) – his paintings are a triumph of the contemporary painterly technique. Even if his concepts seem for some to be too ‘eerie’ to be true; in moments strangely sweet-ish and naive; he’s managed to capture hearts and imagination of hundreds, both from the ‘professional’ and the ‘spectators” side…

What I find especially compelling about his older (late 1990s – early 2000s) works is their ongoing chase for the uncanny – there is, in some of the landscapes that extremely difficult to create moment, where a beautiful on its own, sophisticated yet ‘just’ – mark-making transforms into magic – the very essence of all art; the moment when you feel you hair raising at the back of your head – because you’ve just spotted and experienced  the unsaid, the inexplicable, the horrific enchanted into a ‘lovely’ scene.
Other thing is – if this all was really meant there to be or ‘came by’ as a ‘happy accident’?

Anyway, and despite of all – Doig is one of those artists who made me to believe in painting again…

To review P. Doig’s recent retrospective at Tate – click the Exhibition.


Charles Saatchi on Art World

It’s a story that has been cherished in British artistic circles. Charles Saatchi in one of his rare interviews (The Art Newspaper) has been asked how he sees the contemporary Art World. He answered, in his usual way, with a teasing, sharp-edged tale about a game, he would play with his friend, an art critic…

The game goes like this: Considering, that you are stuck on a deserted island with a representative of one of these: the critics, dealers, collectors, curators and artists – who would be the least welcomed companion of yours? And the answer goes, respectively – from the least welcomed:

The Dealers: Pompous, power-hungry and patronising, these doyens of good taste would seem to be better suited to manning the door of a night-club, approving who will be allowed through the velvet ropes.

The Critics : The art critics on some of Britain’s newspapers could as easily have been assigned gardening or travel, and been cheerfully employed for life. (these) critics swooning with delight about an artist’s work when its respectability has been confirmed by consensus and a top-drawer show – the same artist’s work that 10 years earlier they ignored or ridiculed. They must live in dread of some mean sod bringing out their old cuttings. However – when a critic knows what she or he is looking at and writes revealingly about it, it’s sublime.

The Curators: With very few exceptions, the big-name globetrotting international mega-event curators are too prone to curate clutching their PC guidebook in one hand and their Bluffers Notes on art theory in the other. (…) These dead-eyed, soulless, rent-a-curator exhibitions dominate the art landscape with their socio-political pretensions. The familiar grind of 70’s conceptualist retreads, the dry as dust photo and text panels, the production line of banal and impenetrable installations, the hushed and darkened rooms with their interchangeable flickering videos are the hallmarks of a decade of numbing right-on curatordom.

The Collectors: However suspect their motivation, however social-climbing their agenda, however vacuous their interest in decorating their walls, I am beguiled by the fact that rich folk everywhere now choose to collect contemporary art rather than racehorses, vintage cars, jewellery or yachts. Without them, the art world would be run by the State, in a utopian world of apparatchik-approved, Culture-Ministry-sanctioned art. So if I had to choose between Mr and Mrs Goldfarb’s choice of art or some bureaucrat who would otherwise be producing VAT forms, I’ll take the Goldfarbs.

The Artists: If you study a great work of art, you’ll probably find the artist was a kind of genius. And geniuses are different to you and me. So let’s have no talk of temperamental, self-absorbed and petulant babies. Being a good artist is the toughest job you could pick, and you have to be a little nuts to take it on. I love them all


Guess, that affection is reciprocal. It’s more than extremely difficult to find an authentic art passionate these days, who – with an intelligence, insight, devotion and talent takes care of the art as it is ‘now’, supporting the ‘new’ and ’emerging’; some of Saatchi’s choices and moves made him ‘persona non grata’ in all the circles of the artistic world – from dealers to artists; yet – what is undeniable and impressive is the strength of his belief and love for good art, for which he will be known beyond his lifespan.

Visit Saatchi’s Gallery web-page – one of the most welcoming, professionaly kept pages of this kind.

Modern Sculpture – what is this?

British Museum in London hosts an interesting sculpture project – Statuephilia – open just until 25 January 2009 (see here for details), so – hurry up, anyone interested… It features recent work of six distinguished, contemporary artists: Antony Gormley, Damien Hirst, Ron Mueck, Noble and Webster (they present one collaborative piece) and Marc Quinn. The sculptures are ‘hidden’ among the artifacts of the permanent collection, which introduces an element of a play, a surprise and a fascinating dialogue with the history and different cultures. I remember, being in a hurry, I couldn’t find Hirst’s proposition – after glancing impatiently the glass cabinets filled in with countless antiquities, bones, masks etc. I asked a member of the staff: ‘Hirst – please’ – and she pointed towards a cabinet, just few yards away, full of brightly coloured, plastic sculls02 – which, obviously, I failed to notice on my own… Not being a particular fan of this artistic ‘celebrity’ of today, I just had to admit it – it was so simple and brilliant – Hirst’s exposition, difficult to digest in any other context, worked very well there, teasing the solemn contents of the room and the ‘elevated’ expectations of the visitors (at the same time, making evident existential comments on the human condition in general).

Ron Mueck’s hyper-real self-portrait: Face II – 2002 (look my photo – above) makes you think about the “Big Brother”‘s eye scrutinizing every imperfection of your daring image, and about Leonardo’s anatomical drawings where faces of would-be angels has been transformed into the knots of muscles, and about your post-mortem mask – defenseless facing stares and comments, and… about many other things. Quite to the contrary – Antony Gormley’s huge, winged statue: Case for an Angel I – 1989 (look my photo – below) takes a bird-view on the human condition.  It greets visitors with a wings-giving message – there is an angel hidden in us, the wings are there to stretch them out and to learn how to fly – again, very simple language,  yet bearing quite an intense compilation of meanings.03

Generally, the show proves the strength of the contemporary sculpture as an artistic discipline and the means of an artist’s self-expression. Answering question from the title and in a described context: What is the modern/contemporary sculputre? It’s a meaningful, distinct voice making eager, expressive figurative/human figure-based comments; it’s a playful and provocative proposition able to engage the modern viewer into a thoughtful interaction; and it’s a grandgrandhild of all great artworks of the ancient past – still willing to keep a dialogue with the tradition. I really enjoyed that exhibition, looking forward for similar collaborative projects around Europe…

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