I had the pleasure of a meeting at the local art school yesterday. It’s a while since I’ve visited the place and the whiff of oil paints and dark room chemicals put me in a rather nostalgic state of mind reminiscing about my own time as an art student.
The school’s main gallery appears to have been decommissioned but there was a small show of work by Masters students on the ground floor where I stumbled upon some of the most nonsensical art speak I’ve encountered for a while. Brace yourself, this is a treat…
The artist, Katherine Fiona Jones, states that she is “Juxtaposing the objectivity of anatomy with the human form and bodily process, to present the debate on how beauty is perceived in western contemporary culture, inviting the discussion on the cultural view surrounding beauty and natural bodily function.”
Now I’ve come across plenty of art-speak nonsense in my time but I had to to take this one to task as it’s ‘apparently’ postgraduate level. It sounds like something that has been written by a keen foundation student.
If I understand this correctly, based upon what Katherine has written, she is placing the objective view of anatomy alongside the human form and bodily process for a contrasting effect. That’s despite the fact that anatomy is the study of the human form and it’s internal workings.
So by placing the science of anatomy next to the subject of anatomy she is going to present a debate about the perception of beauty?
That almost, sort of, starts to make sense when you think about it logically, but in order to have a debate you need to have at least two different, if not opposing stances from which to argue. What Katherine Fiona Jones is doing here is presenting us with a scientifically objective stance and the subject around which the debate is to take place but offering us no opposition to facilitate a debate.
You won’t be surprised to hear that the lack of clarity is mirrored in the visual work that was displayed next to this woeful statement of intent. The works featured what appears to be a female midriff and thighs clad in big knickers from which red ribbon hangs. This is all very badly photo-shopped over some black and white photocopies of God-only-knows-what.
Like Katherine’s statement says, the work presents the human form; or part of it at least. The red ribbons she states are representative of menstruation as the images “explore the honesty of menstruation as a bodily process, allowing the ribbons to act with gravity to represent the natural flow.”
Now I have no idea how menstruation is ‘honest’ but I’ll put that down to my own ignorance.
Again these lines from Katherine are utterly confused and actually contradictory to what she has hung on the wall – one of the two images shows the ribbons flowing upwards as if blown by a gust of wind and defying gravity rather than going with flow – so to speak.
As an artist it is not enough to tell us what your intentions are you have to back this up in practice. In this instance the artist’s statement is so nonsensical that it suggests that the artist doesn’t have the capacity to articulate a simple debate.
– If you are “juxtasposing” two things then they should be contrasting.
– If you are presenting a debate then both sides of the argument need to be presented.
– Your artist statement should facilitate a deeper understanding of the work not try to explain or justify it.
I can’t decide whether Katherine Fiona Jones here is simply making the visual work that she wants to make and conjuring up some art speak drivel to wrap it up with because that’s what she thinks is the ‘done thing’, or whether she really believes that she is presenting and exploring a coherent and interesting debate about western perceptions of beauty.
You can find more work and equally rambling and incoherent commentary on Katherine’s website if you’d like to make your mind up for yourself.
Fine Art often has a hard time engaging the general public through the presentation of high concept and abstract philosophical lines of enquiry that are often presented in quite personal visual languages. But if this work is what the future holds then we might as well all give up now.