Sir Antony has a new exhibition at the White Cube, normally I would give it no heed at all, but I made the mistake of reading an interview, heaven help us, I should know better, stick to the rules and never get off the elevator at level three, it's invariably neuro surgery.
So according to Sir Ant 'we are all sleep walking through life and it is urgent we wake up'.
Well, we must assume he's lost the plot, perhaps the tax haven is sinking under the strain of it all. More than anyone else resident on the little island Sir Ant has spent decades trying to put us all to sleep. No one has produced more profoundly boring, bland, joyless, uninspired and sexless art than he has. There are corners of the British Isles, nay the world, where his gormless genitally challenged iron men stand around in groups unclear of their purpose. ' Groups' is of course a key word for appreciating Sir Ant, he loves to multiply, he knows it's hard to get too much of a good thing. I could under normal circumstances, and have for years, ignored him and the soulless rubbish he has littered the planet with, but for him to have the gall to sound a clarion call cannot go unremarked.
Someone has left the fan turned on because there is a lot of it about this week. I woke this morning to the sound of a much lauded actor giving us his tuppence worth on ethics in art. This wool puller has achieved fame and fortune by mastering the middle distance stare. Now when O'Toole did this you saw the pictures, felt the emotion, the truth of it, with this little worthy you are just left with an image of a fellow experiencing a gentle but probing rectal examination! Brilliant.
Two of the installed sculptures resonated for me. They were both in Cambridge, they were both vandalised beyond repair and amazingly they both emanated from St. Martins, how astonishing is that? Well not really as they were both selected by one of our finest, Phillip King. The first of my dynamic duo was Barry Flanagan. Flanagan had blown me away with his exhibition in '66 at the Rowan Gallery. Sacks, sand, ropes, it was all a revelation, I recall an early Tremlett show, probably his first after the Royal College, which did the same thing for me, riveted steel and ropes, that's before he lost the plot of course, and decided the world would be a better place if every where looked like an East German transit centre, murals for the comrades. The good people of Cambridge in '72 were always going to have a problem with Flanagan, they stomped all over the work and destroyed it, always helpful to get meaningful feedback.
The second condemned man on Laundress Green was Brower Hatcher, an American sculptor who had been a graduate at St Martins and then joined the teaching staff. Brower was responsible for one of my most singular art experiences, indelible. I knew Brower because during his St. Martin's days he moved to live and work in my parish, Frampton Mansell in Gloucestershire. I recall a first supper party, celebrations for a new arrival, a fine homemade crib, delicious Mexican dips and discussions on cooking placenta. Brower was working with coloured wire, or perhaps colouring wire/metal constructions would be closer to the mark, a very different world to the one I inhabited. Brower's workshops were above the valley where I lived and where every morning I would walk through fields and woods to ascend the far valley side, up to Ralph Brown's studios in Oakridge. Stand by for the poetry, 'when I walked out one fine and misty morning', well something like that, anyway I crested the sloping meadow and got zapped by a Hatcher.
This early morning exchange took place before I knew we had an American in the vicinity. How had it got there, who did it belong to, where had it come from, blah blah, all became clear as the day progressed, I had seen nothing like this before, I suspect I was seeing it in the perfect situation and it was extraordinary. This was colour in sculpture as I had never envisaged it, modulated colour, transient colour, as akin to a natural phenomena as you could get, brilliant, no bloody bright red girders here. Brower will be in Leeds in November with other artists who contributed to the original 1972 project.
Well I spent last evening in the company of Julian Barnes, and much to my surprise I had a really good time. 'Keeping an Eye Open', it's a seriously good read, he writes about art with real insight. In fact if I could forget the Corsham stuff he might persuade me to look again at Howard Hodgkin, not completely sure about that.
So Tony Cragg has a new show at the Lisson Gallery. They are truly real things, these things, proper things, things of substance, space occupiers, gravity rooted, high tech., seriously clever things of wonder. There should always be a little wonder, there is wonder in Rodin's 'Age of Bronze', there is wonder in Hearst's 'Mother and Child Divided', and here there is a lot of wonder, and as I won't be making a trip to visit them then I will have to wonder on. I shall wonder how they are made, what they are made of, who made them, where were they made and why? You see I should love them, sitting there in their sculptural glory, I crave the substantial, the concrete, the floor huggers, some days I could die for a plinth! But there is an awful lot of them here, I suppose this is really Tony Cragg's Autumn Collection, can we shop on line?
Lets return to Julian, Keeping an Eye Open, chapter 15, So Does It Become Art......... 'The tests are simple, does it interest the eye, excite the brain, spur the mind to reflection and move the heart, and is an apparent level of skill involved? Much currently fashionable art bothers only the eye and briefly the brain, but it fails to engage the mind and the heart. It may, to use the old dichotomy, be beautiful, but it is rarely true to any significant depth.' We know where Julian is coming from, I always thought pastel mohair sweaters so that shows you what I know, brilliant, and there's a lot more but you will have to go and read it, I'm done quoting. So that's one the for eye, two for the brain, three for the mind, four for the heart and five for the skill, so how do we score the Cragg show, is it a solid three or a shaky four, lets look at the scoreboard! But that won't do, it's too easy to make a crack, and we really need all the help we can get, pick up the Guardian and you will have Mr Jones crushing Gormley one week and beatifying Tracy the next, you could wonder if you were on your arras or your buttress. I am going to thank Julian and tick all the boxes with this brilliant five.
AGED AND AWKWARD