Ever feel like you didn’t fit it?
To paraphrase David Byrne from Talking heads, “How did we get here?” and by here, I mean as an artist excluded from art. You see I’m still licking my wounds from being unceremoniously rejected by my local public gallery for the annual open exhibition. My work ‘Elegy’ wasn’t chosen… bum!
So you could take this post as a bad case of sour grapes, but I hope not. I understand that I’ve not really developed yet as an artist and I’ve very much to learn in terms of concept and execution, but if last years exhibits are to go by, I know when I turn up to look around, there will almost certainly be some work that I’ll look at in bewilderment and say, “really, that got in!” The first piece to greet me last year as I entered the gallery were three pieces of graph paper torn from an exercise book with small drawings of a chair and door in biro on them… I still don’t get it. But a rejection of your work, isn’t a rejection of you and selected or not selected is often just dependent on who the selectors are at the time.
It reminds me of an interview I saw with one of the entrants to the Royal Academy open exhibition. This artist’s work was accidentally divided into two parts, a square wooden block for the plinth and a beautifully sculpted mask. The mask was rejected and the plinth it was to stand on, was accepted!
Anyway, I gave a short talk over the weekend, a kind of whirlwind timeline of art, and it occurred to me that as an artist, I feel in a similar situation to the Impressionists in 1863, when the academy excluded them from the “in crowd”.
Here’s a bit of background “borrowed” from Wikipedia:
“In that year (1863), artists protested the Salon jury’s (the art establishment of its day) rejection of more than 3,000 works, far more than usual. “Wishing to let the public judge the legitimacy of these complaints,” said an official notice, Emperor Napoleon III decreed that the rejected artists could exhibit their works in an annex to the regular Salon. Many critics and the public ridiculed the “refusés” (a nickname adopted by those who were rejected by the Salon), which included such now-famous paintings as Édouard Manet‘s Luncheon on the Grass (Le déjeuner sur l’herbe) and James McNeill Whistler‘s Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl. But the critical attention also legitimized the emerging avant-garde in painting. The Impressionists successfully exhibited their works outside the Salon beginning in 1874. Subsequent Salons des Refusés were mounted in Paris in 1874, 1875, and 1886, by which time the popularity of the Paris Salon had declined for those who were more interested in Impressionism.”
So essentially the art establishment of the day got to say what was art, and if they didn’t like your work, you were rejected, refused (refusé) entry into the gang. So what’s new?
Well I believe that circumstances in the art world are similar now to how they were in 19th century Paris, except now traditional 2D art is looked down on and refused and the hyper-avant-garde (no, this probably isn’t even a word, but it includes the neo-conceptionalists) are the establishment. The current high priests of art tell the public what is art and public funds pay for it to be installed at our municipal galleries. The problem with this I find, is that often the public “just don’t get it” and even as an artist, I sometimes struggle to get it too!
The thing is, if it’s public art and the public don’t get it, is the gallery and the artists it chooses, failing the public with it’s choice of art? If 19th century Paris could trust the public, couldn’t we too? At least a bit!
Now it may just be that I am a stuffy, out of touch, talentless, conservative, but I hope not. Recently my favourite piece at my local public gallery was by John Hoyland. A piece not dissimilar to this:
But today, even this is considered passé by those who run our galleries.
Now I would probably be shot at dawn (with paint guns of course) by most gallery curators for suggesting this, but I believe the sort of neo-conceptial art that is fashionable in many galleries, is itself passé and redundant and I hope, is now rapidly becoming unfashionable.
“In 2002, Ivan Massow, the Chairman of the Institute of Contemporary Arts branded conceptual art “pretentious, self-indulgent, craftless tat” and in “danger of disappearing up its own **** … At the end of the year, the Culture Minister, Kim Howells (an art school graduate) denounced the Turner Prize as “cold, mechanical, conceptual bull****.”
But.. “In October 2004 the Saatchi Gallery told the media that “painting continues to be the most relevant and vital way that artists choose to communicate.” Following this Charles Saatchi began to sell prominent works from his YBA (Young British Artists) collection.” – Good for you Charlie boy!
(I’m not sure if this is fan art or a genuine Banksy comment on YBA Damian Hirst’s spot pictures, but I like what it’s saying all the same.)
I believe, with the advent of the internet age, art is going through a paradigm shift and it may now be the time of The Refusés again. Traditional 2D art does still have something to say and the public like what it’s saying!
VIVE LA RÉVOLUTION!
If you’ve had a piece rejected from a show, drop me a line and if I get enough exhibits, I’ll post them on the blog and we’ll have a show of our own Refusés.
*All quotes, sourced from: http://en.wikipedia.org/