I attended a presentation by artist Simon Fenoulhet a couple of months ago. For those of you who don’t know “Simon Fenoulhet is an artist who plays with our preconceptions of the material world by skilfully manipulating everyday objects with unexpected outcomes”.* Those are his words not mine.
Simon was talking about the installation entitled Curtain (2010) he created for Newport Museum and Gallery. He spent some time talking us through the series of events that led to his mind expanding discovery that plastic drinking straws look pretty when light shines through them. He spent even more time talking us through the technical aspects of the project and explaining how much equipment and technical know how was needed to light enough plastic drinking straws to create his installation.
It wasn’t the most enthralling artist’s presentation I have ever sat through but it was vaguely interesting nonetheless. My opinion of this artist and his work came crashing down however when someone asked him what the point of it all was. Well that’s not exactly how they phrased it. It was more along the lines of “that’s fascinating Simon but could you expand a little upon the concepts that drive the production of your work?”
Having given us a lengthy insight into the technical aspects of the installation Simon gave us brief response to this enquiry explaining that he was driven to make work that presented everyday objects in a different light (pardon the pun there).
After outlining the months of work that this piece took to create and the considerable cost of it’s production (funded in no small part by a chunk of public money) that was all he had to give us about the rationale for producing the work.
Really? That’s it?
Now I could give him the benefit of the doubt and suggest that after having given his presentation he was being selfless in giving such a little response to such a big question and making way for the next speaker. Even so, as an artist one should do their best to contextualise their work in the clearest possible manner. After all, in these austere times surely we can’t be seen to be peddling art for art’s sake?
Such a brief response like this is, in my mind, not all that far far removed from Big Brother contestant Helen Adams’ infamous I like Blinking comment.
“I like illuminating plastic drinking straws I do”
Even Simon’s website does nothing to support the work in any intellectually rigorous manner. Although of another work archived on the same page he does offer that “the idea is to make passers by curious about what’s going on in there.”
How did this man secure funding from the Arts Council for this work which appears to be all fur coat and no knickers? Surely they should be funding projects that have something more to them than aesthetic appeal or am I mistaken?
Is that where we’re at now?
Have we succumbed to the dull blade of popular culture.
Are projects which titillate rather than challenge gallery goers all we are brave enough to support now?
*via http://www.simonfenoulhet.co.uk/about.html (10 July 2012)