Browsing slowly

My Kunst!Film! programming is like very slow browsing. From one interesting theme sprout new ones to explore. Two weeks ago I put  The Great Contemporary Art Bubble Update on my wall and last week we got to the question Where Is Modern Art Now?

Prominent in both BBC documentaries were the YBA’s, the Young British Artists, who were at the centre of the Art Bubble that made them rock stars and the prices of their work skyrocket. According to Where Is Modern Art Now? presenter Guy Casely-Hayford’s  they still hold the art world in their grip. On his expedition to discover new developments in the art world Casely-Hayford mainly discovered a lot of work in the style of artists from the past decennia and he noticed a tendency toward more old-fashioned art, where craft and realism played a major part in the work, like in Tom Price’s sculptures.

We saw artists move from the fringe, to being part of the the establishment (like sir Anthony Caro), to not being able to keep up (Caro again). We got to see artists that didn’t seem too affected by the Art Bubble’s wealth and fame and over the years steadily worked on an impressive body of work like Cornelia Parker and Whitney McVeigh.

Conceptual artist-masquerading-as-a-craftsman Grayson Perry said being conservative is probably one of the most shocking things to be in the art world. I wasn’t shocked by anything I saw, but really liked getting to know Perry’s and Parker’s work.

The YBA’s offer young artists a role model, but also dangle a carrot of wealth and fame, as can be seen in School of Saatchi, where young artists try to make it to the Saatchi stables, judged by a panel with amongst others the usual suspects Matthew Collings and Tracey Emin.

It’s all about sharing – Kunst!Film!

Once upon a time, because I love sharing my experiences with others, I decided to buy a beamer, clear some wall space and started showing my collection of art documentaries to friends on my now famous Kunst!Film! (Art!Movie!) nights. This has been going on now for over a year. Often we discuss what we’ve seen for a bit, we let it inspire us, but mostly we have a great time sharing our creative and art-loving lives and the odd bottle of wine.

Personal favorites so far:

  • Art:21 – PBS series, now in it’s fifth season. Every episode has four portraits of  contemporary artists loosely connected by a shared theme, lovingly made and no boring talking heads. Don’t know what to ask for Christmas? Look no further.

  • The 1998 Channel 4 series This Is Modern Art by Matthew Collings. I just love the way he talks about art – no pseudo-intellectual bullshit, but straight-forward and often personal insights for anyone who’s interested in modern art. Beware: he might actually make you think.

Nothing matters

I felt only night within me and it was then that I conceived the new art, which I called Suprematism.

I felt only night within me and it was then that I conceived the new art, which I called Suprematism (Kazimir Malevich)

Kazimir Malevich strongly believed in the supremacy of pure feelings in art. Had he been a writer, his book would probably have been gathering dust for decades by now. But he was a painter and he expressed his ideas in oils on canvas, causing a revolution in art by painting the first monochrome, aptly called Black Square, in 1915. From that moment on it was no longer necessary to paint a recognizable image.

Monochromes being the subject of last week’s LAB class at Dogtime I delved into the subject and discovered an amazing amount of artists had followed in Malevich’ footsteps. I knew many of them, but I was not aware they had also lingered in the void for a while, like for instance Robert Rauschenberg, who said “A canvas is never empty”. Likewise, we Dogtime students have to pass this stage, because we will be making our own monochromes. Let’s see how we emerge from the experience. As Matthew Collings put it, in modern art ‘nothing’ matters.

Rauschenberg - White Painting

Rauschenberg - White Painting

I’m glad Rauschenberg resurfaced from the void and gave the world his Combines.

Monogram, 1955-59. Freestanding combine

Rauschenberg famously erased a De Kooning, bringing drawing into the all-whites.

Out of the blue – not quite

In 2006 my art teacher Mariëtte Renssen was very enthusiastic when I told her I was going to Paris. I had to go see the Yves Klein exhibition in the Centre Pompidou. I had never heard of the guy, but who was I to doubt her? Did the google thing and found out the man was pretty big in monochrome painting, mostly blue. He even developed his own special brand of blue: YKB.

Definitely blue

Definitely blue

So… I went. Wasn’t blown away immediately, stunned may be a better word. Being surrounded by all YKB canvasses was a mind blowing experience that for some reason keeps coming back to me. Maybe the time to find out why has come. Yesterday our teacher Manel Esparbé i Gasca asked us take the plunge into monochrome painting. His class is called LAB and we’re supposed to do research, in books, on the internet and by trying our own hand at painting, taking photographs or making video’s. All this has to be logged to serve as a personal record, source of information and to share with others.

I’m used to sharing. For the past year I’ve been showing documentaries about art in my private salon for a small band of art-loving women. Of particular interest for the subject of monochromes is the fourth episode in the series “This Is Modern Art” by artist and art critic Matthew Collings, named “Nothing Matters”. It used to be on Youtube, some of the other episodes in the series still are and well worth taking a peek. Fellow students: you will be able to see the movie this week, just watch your inbox.