Saturday, December 25, 2010

H A P P Y
C H R I S T M A S
E V E R Y O N E !

Friday, December 10, 2010

My Own Private Art History

In the 70s I discovered Surrealism, The Renaissance, Turner, God and PVA paint.

My paintings at that time were a hotch-potch of influences and styles.

I’ve often wondered what became of them.

I have this romantic notion that art is forever.

I like to think that my art has an intrinsic value. That it will be passed on to my children, my children’s children and my … well, you know the rest.

A recent discovery suggests this may not be the case.

It could all be destined to go in a skip or on a bonfire.

Or something more mundane.

A few weeks ago my Dad had his loft insulated.

The other day I went up there to retrieve some things I’d stored.

Some of my paintings were stacked against a wall.

Because they were painted on half-inch chipboard they had been used as walkboards between the joists in the loft.

I’m glad they came in handy.

So if you need any loft insulation or if you’re planning to build decking in your garden, give me a shout.

I have a stack of paintings you could use.

It seems art is useful after all.


Friday, December 03, 2010

Art History … for instance

Over the last couple of years I’ve taken an interest in the Italian Renaissance. I think it was triggered by reading a historical novel by Sarah Dunant, “The Birth of Venus”. At the Hay Book Festival in the summer, she spoke about writing novels as a way of making history come alive. You can get an idea of her thinking by watching this 4 minute video here in which talks at the annual workshop she holds in Florence.

I’ve also been reading straightforward history books and biographies and looking at lots of pictures and reproductions.

There are 3 things that have occurred to me that seem relevant to what I’m doing.

The first is that the Renaissance wasn’t a “golden age”. It wasn’t all sweetness and light. In fact it emerged at a very dark and dangerous time in European history.

Since the 14th century the black plague had been decimating the continent - killing a third of the population; the Hundred Years War was rattling along; there was the Inquisition, torture and burnings (many Renaissance works were burned at the time); murder, rape and pillage were often daily realities and bandits and mercenaries roamed the countryside. Apocalyptic expectations abounded in this environment. Meanwhile, the church itself, the most important cultural institution, seemed to be the centre of decadent corruption.

But in the middle of all that, there was a “rebirth” – which is what Renaissance means.

I find that interesting though I’m not quite sure yet what I make if it.

(A lot of this is taken from “The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas That Have Shaped Our World View” by Richard Tarnas.)


Secondly, the Renaissance wasn’t just about painting, sculpture and architecture. It was also about a sense of beauty, design and craftsmanship in everything that was produced. The desire for luxurious cloths, furnishings, decorations, household and religious objects led to the development of a new industry of artists and artisans who researched, designed and produced many new ideas, methods and works of art and craft.

There was a close collaboration between artists working in different genres, such as textile designers, painters, embroiderers, weavers, tailors and cloth manufacturers working together to produce ecclesiastical and secular garments.

I’m excited by the idea of art being expressed in every area of life and being made possible by the collaboration of like-minded people.

Thirdly, there was patronage. Predictably, many works were produced for the rich and the powerful, but it was an important part of the life of anyone with spare cash to commission or purchase art and crafts to adorn their homes. This kind of spending led to a very modern phenomenon - the demand for new kinds of objects, frequent replacements and changes in fashion … an early form of “conspicuous consumption”. But the fact is that it was an accepted - and commendable - practice for anyone who could to commission art.

This collaboration between artists and patrons that made it possible for the Renaissance to take shape and bring beauty hope, and cultural ideals to as many people as possible in the middle of a very dark time in history.

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