Category Archives: General

Vacuous Visual Arts Blogs

It’s great that there are so many blogs out there dedicated to visual art. Some of them have thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of followers. It goes to show that there is an appetite for art out there which is hugely encouraging.

However, I can’t help but feel that these blogs and the constant sharing and reposting of images and videos of work is damaging the integrity of our visual arts. The content is often just so vacuous.

Artwork identified as being worthy of sharing is not selected because of its value as an intellectually stimulating piece of work that comments on our existence, the development of society, politics, war, or other such poignant matters. Work is selected because it is pretty, aesthetically pleasing, well executed, and most importantly non-offensive.

Many blogs even state outright that they do not accept challenging content, as exemplified by this snippet taken from Colossal’s submission guidelines:

If your project involves sex, violence or particularly sensitive topics it regrettably may not be appropriate at this time. Sorry!

Whilst I agree that there is room for technical ability to be applauded we should encourage these skills to be used in more thought provoking ways and not simply celebrate a work because it took 100 hours to draw.

Yes your very detailed portrait of a person drawn over an ordnance survey map looks lovely and is exquisitely executed but does it actually communicate anything at all?

It’s great that you can paint a detailed landscape in the style of old masters on the back of a postage stamp but does this tell us anything other than you have a keen eye and very fine paint brush?

Much of the work I see churned out across these blogs is nothing more than curiosity or decoration. Once one blog shares an artist’s work you can rest assured that you’ll see exactly the same work pop up on every other visual art blog online within a week. God forbid those bloggers miss a trick and let their peers post all the most popular content and get all of the page views.

These blogs are the visual equivalent to Radio 1’s daytime radio shows repetitively pumping out manufactured mind-numbing pop music. These pop singers (most of them at least) have the technical ability to deliver a song just like these artists have the technical ability to produce an accurate drawing, painting or sculpture. But similarly they’re all pretty vacuous and lacking in any real depth.

Viewers online are lured in with superlative headlines that would sound more at home in Heat magazine than Art Review:

This Painting Will Blow Your Mind When You Find Out What It Actually Is

The Tiny Landscapes This Artist Paints On Snacks Are Just Too Good To Eat

9 Unbelievable Works of Art Created With Just Some Ballpoint Pens

I get that it’s subjective, but as audiences why have we come to accept so little from the visual art we’re presented with. Surely a painting or drawing is not by default “a work of art”? Doesn’t it have to communicate something beyond its execution or function?

I see these images featured on various blogs making their way into galleries in real life. Not surprisingly really as galleries main priorities are visitor/customer numbers. If a blog post featuring some drawings has been shared 50,000 times then it must be popular and therefor a draw for gallery-goers. But this waters down the experience for those of us looking for something more than a well-executed technical exercise in drawing, painting or whatever other medium the artist has selected to use.

Art should challenge us, question us, make us think!

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The Silent Treatment

So until just over a month ago I was on the hunt for a new job. Not an enjoyable task by any means. Thankfully the hunt is over for now though and now I’ve had a little time for reflection.

The process of finding a new job is not easy and requires a large amount of time and effort filling out application after application, writing cover letters and constantly tweaking your CV. If you’re serious about finding a job then approaching each application afresh is important. Sending a generic CV and covering letter, or writing stock responses to the person specification in your application just doesn’t cut it.

Having submitted numerous applications over the last six months I’ve estimated that completing a job application can take as long as eight hours if you’re serious about landing the job that you’re applying for.

That’s why it angers me when organisations don’t even have the common decency to respond to your application. Job listings are frequently appended with a line such as:

“If you have not heard from us within three weeks of the application deadline please assume that your application has not been successful.”

These statements are often qualified with a reference to the large volume of applications that are expected in response to the job listing.

If an organisation is receiving 10 applications for a vacancy and every one of those individuals has put all their effort into the application then they could be receiving as much as the equivalent of 10 days’ work towards their recruitment process… for free.

Of course some people may rattle through their application in just a couple of hours. But then having been on the other side of the recruitment process in the past I have been in situations whereby I have received in excess of 50 applications for one post. That free labour towards an organisation’s recruitment process soon adds up.

I don’t know whether it’s arrogance, laziness or a fear of having to deliver bad news that causes so many organisations to treat applicants with such disregard. We live in an age in which Microsoft Office programmes are the administrative tools of the trade and so the excuse that replying to “X” many applicants takes too long just doesn’t wash. It’s a task that shouldn’t take much more than 10 minutes, if that!

If the argument that it takes up too much time is genuinely the reason for which an organisation has opted to give unsuccessful applicants the silent treatment then they should consider replacing their administrators!

In our world of art, design and crafts a huge number of the organisations that offer employment opportunities are publicly funded. As such they should treat the public that fund them with respect in all situations whether as visitors and customers, or as prospective employees.

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Contemporary Art Cardiff

I popped into the new contemporary art galleries at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff this week.It’s the first time I’ve been back since they opened last year. Nothing has improved since then to be honest. If anything things in these galleries have gotten worse what with the current The Exhibitionists displays.

My main gripe with the ‘Contemporary Art Galleries’ at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff is the lack of contemporary art in these spaces. One of the exhibitions is entitled “New Perspectives: “Landscape Art in Wales since the 1970s” and another is “Expressive Bodies: Art and the Body since 1950“.

Works from 1950-something or 1960-something are not contemporary. They are works from a period of recent history.

How can you justify displaying a painting from 1963 by Francis Bacon in a contemporary art space?

Admittedly there is a fine line to be drawn as I will accept the display of David Hockney’s 1964 painting ‘The Actor‘ in the same space. My argument for this would be based upon the fact the David Hockney is a contemporary artist; that is, he exists in our time.

The contemporary art galleries at the National Museum actually include works by Francis Bacon as mentioned above (died 1992), Ivon Hitchens (died 1979), Martin Bloch (died 1954) Evan Walters (died 1951) and even Gwen John (died 1939) – amongst others.

Things get older still when you walk through into the Derek Williams Gallery. Why is this included within the museum’s contemporary art space? I’m not sure that it includes by any living artists at all. In fact last year when I popped in to have a look at these galleries the Derek Williams Gallery included a work by Lowri as did the museum’s historic art galleries.

That’s a sure fire way to confuse the general public.

Of course there is some contemporary art in these galleries. There are some wonderful paintings by the likes of Brendan Burns and Terry Setch and fantastic sculptural work by Laura Ford.

These ‘Contemporary Art Galleries’ were opened last year as a part of a £6.5 million overhaul of the museum’s art galleries. What really irks me about these galleries is the use of the space relative to the fact that Cardiff has no real contemporary art spaces of national standing.

Of course there are one or two spaces like G39 who do an admiral job in supporting artists and their development. But Cardiff doesn’t have a contemporary art gallery that can compete with the likes of The Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh, Baltic in Durham or Ikon in Birmingham for example.

If used properly the museum’s galleries could be used to put Cardiff on the Art map with a bang.

When it was announced that the new contemporary galleries would be opening in the museum I had a hoped for so much more. Clearly the attitude to curating these galleries is that of a museum curator and not of a contemporary art gallery curator. Only a handful of the works on display have changed since I visited last year and this doesn’t encourage me to make a return visit to these galleries in the near future.

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Creative Cardiff

Actually it’s not just “Creative Cardiff” it’s “@CreativeCardiff“. Yes they are so bang on trend that they have adopted the ‘@’ from their Twitter handle as a part of their branding (I say branding but you must understand that I mean this in the loosest sense of the word). Unfortunately those folk behind @CreativeCardiff seem to have neglected to consider that there is more to contemporary society and the creative insutries than Twitter. Their narrow-mindedness is reinforced on their Get Involved page where they link to their Twitter account but none of their other online platforms.

For those of you who might not have come across this ugly monster @CreativeCardiff is “a showcase of the creative economy in Cardiff“. It’s “a myriad of different festivals, events and performances“. Yes that’s right, it’s not a myriad of the same festivals and performances but “different” ones.

ooooh!

Are you enraptured yet by this creative showcase yet?

Anyhow, back to the branding. @CreativeCardiff say of this “Creativity knows no bounds. That’s why the @CreativeCardiff brandmark has several incarnations, colours and fonts!”.

What a pile of shit!

What this actually says to me is that rather than waste money paying one of the local design companies that they’re looking to promote through this initiative why not use some of the shitty free fonts that were pre-installed on my computer to design a logo? After all designing stuff is easy right? Anyone with access to Microsoft Word and Paint can do it.

You’ll also notice that the @CreativeCardiff website is built upon the free WordPress Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha. The bosses clearly didn’t want to waste a penny in launching this project and yet again rather than approaching the city’s design community they thought they’d cobble together something on the hoof.

Creativity may know no bounds but @CreativeCardiff clearly knows no creativity.

Seriously! How can they expect anyone to take them seriously as a showcase for the creative industries in Cardiff if they themselves don’t employ any creativity in their appearance?

The fact of the matter is that the “myriad of different festivals, events and performances” which they purport to be bringing together would go ahead regardless of @CreativeCardiff’s existence. Cardiff City Council however cannot let such wonderful activities as SWN and the Cardiff Design Festival be so successful without trying to cream off a sliver of the accolades for themselves can they?

It really is rather disgusting.

If the Council really are interested in supporting the creative industries in Cardiff then they’re going to need to put their money where their mouth is.

The final line on their Get Involved pages reads “let’s not keep it a secret, let’s join together to get the message out about our creative city.”

Yes! Lets do that. But lets not do it through the ugly monster that is @CreativeCardiff. It really is a monster. The “several incarnations, colours and fonts” that @CreativeCardiff have put to use bring to mind the Hydra. The Hydra was a reptilian beast from Greek mythology that had many heads and breath so virulently poisonous that if breathed in by a man he would die in the greatest torment.

Where is Cardiff’s Heracles to slay this beast?

Step forth.


UPDATE (11 September 2012):Since writing this piece a few weeks ago Creative Cardiff have had themselves a re-brand. They’ve dropped some of the horrors that offended me as noted above but it still truly dull and uninspiring. Go have a look for yourselves.

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