March 26, 2005

Yes, but is it Art?

If you haven't been to see the latest exhibition at the Baltic, go see it. I don't care if you live in London, and think Gateshead* is rather a long way to come, it's a damn good exhibition.
I've often found that Modern Art really doesn't apeal to me all that much. I don't want to sound like some phillistine, saying that "All modern Art is rubbish", because I don't think that. I just don't get quite a lot of it. It annoys me that the visual impact element seems to have been lost, and people have to go away and read things about what the artist is trying to say, rather than being able to look at the work, and figure it out for themselves. In effect, we have to be told what to think before we can appreciate the work. No-one has to tell us what to think about a Van Gogh, do they? Monet's Waterlillies doesn't need a long explaination, no-one has to justify it's existance. It's beautiful, it's innovative (for the time it was painted) and knowing things about the conditions it was painted in only adds to what was already an experience.
On the other hand, we have Damien Hurst and Tracy Emmins. Now, call me a Ludite, but I do not see how Unmade Bed or the one with the bits of dead animals is really "Art". You can look at them, and they don't speak to you. I have no clue what the 'artist' was trying to do or say. The point of their work seems to be to shock, and turn people into pretentious twits. I say this because anyone who finds that kind of work appealing tends to turn into a pretentious twit when trying to describe it and why they like it - "Well, you see, the symbolism of the bent can, signifying the destruction of capitalism and the blood being the blood of the downtrodden masses…" – oh give me a break.
On the other hand, there is some stuff out there, that I would genuinely call Art, and would stand up whole-heartedly in support of. Anthony Gormley, for example, most famous as the creator of the Angel of the North. Now, I'm not going to talk about the Angel itself, because I'm still not entirely sure what to make of it, despite its being around now for aproximately seven years, though my oppinions have changed in that time. Originally I wasn't too keen, but now I've come to quite like Kevin (One of our local radio presenters named him that – I think after Kevin Keegan, after someone managed to dress him up in a Newcastle strip. It was legendary.).
What I do want to talk about is an exhibition that Gormley did at the Baltic in 2003 – one of the first exhibits on show after its opening – called Domain Field. That was bloody brilliant. And that was Art! The visual impact of walking round that room was incredible. You didn't need it explaining to you - it's a load of people; sculptures perhaps, but made in a different way than classically. i didn't need to know what other people thought about it in order to enjoy and appreciate it. Knowing that all the figures were real people, constructed from the plaster casts made of volunteers was nice to know, but it enhanced the experience – it wasn't pivotal to my appreciation of the piece.
Unfortunately, Domain Field is no longer at the Baltic. I'm not entirely sure where it is, but it's not here. What is here at the moment is rather good though. Phyllida Barlow's Peninsula is a bit... well... verging on the pretentious shite, actually, but only verging. The Carol Rama exhibition, I wasn't quite sure what to make of, but the star of the show in my oppinion, was The Ruins of Democracy by Bob and Roberta Smith. That was just cool. But I'm not going to be pretentious, and tell anyone what to think about it. Why don't you go see for yourself?

*Gateshead: The city on the other side of the river Tyne to Newcastle.


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