Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Show me the Monet

I felt I had to put my two-penny's worth on this BBC2 programme, presented by the cheery Chris Hollins, with three art critics (groan) selecting paintings to go into an exhibition at the RCA (Royal College of Art)

The selection process is bizarre and sadly, predictable for the BBC.  The oft-repeated mantra is that the work must be 'original', show good technique and evoke an emotional response. How sad it is that a well-painted picture is summarily dismissed as 'un-original' and painted so many times before.  So, if no-one had ever heard of Rembrandt and he offered one of his paintings, his would be dismissed for the same reason - "we've seen Van Dyck's work and this is very derivative"

Take Karl Terry on last Wednesday's show - Karl offered a fine painting done entirely on site in Rye Harbour : 
This was dismissed as being un-original, never mind the technical skill of Karl's brushwork and years of grafting in all weathers to catch those fleeting light effects. 

Then the three critics went mad over Caroline Thatcher's painting of herself as a child standing on a chair with a vulnerable look on her face. The painting was crude, technically awful, but this was swept aside because of the emotional response it evoked.  No light or shade in the painting, awful bright green monotone background (view at 

Then today's (Tuesday) show we had them fawning over Katy Sullivan's portrait of her daughter, (view at obviously painted (very well) from a flash photograph - no light and shade on the face at all, single colour and toned background, then David Lee of all of them rejecting Andrew Kinsman's brilliant portrait of a man blowing a bubble (view at, saying he doesn't like paintings done from photographs !  Absolutely bizarre - obviously hadn't occurred to him that Katy's portrait had been done from a photo, a flash one at that as was evident if he knew anything about flash photography - it flattens and bleaches the features and leaves a white highlight in the centre of the eye. And how did he think the daub of the little girl standing on the chair was done ?

Whilst art is always going to be subjective, especially when chosen by critics who don't know enough about painting, it's such a shame that 'contemporary' always wins out in the media, like the annual Turner Prize joke.  Talent is not a prerequisite, in fact a positive drawback - just be different.  Put some excrement on a canvas - though I dare say Tracey Emin's already done that.

Such a pity the BBC didn't think it would have been a good idea to have at least one, preferably two artists on the hanging committee - proper artists who know how to paint and can see that a painting has been thought about, has good composition, good technique, an understanding of tone and colour, has meaning and not just paint daubed on randomly or crudely and the artists then waxing on about it with utterly meaningless drivel. 

The sad fact is, talentless 'artists' are coming out of college and are being told that they do have talent, further enforcing the myths in their deluded minds, thus assuring the longevity of the garbage offered up.  We in Britain are SO far behind the art produced in the U.S. and destined to stay that way unless and until the media give a voice to 'old-fashioned art'.  There are only two sorts of art - good and bad, and bad prevails in the media.  Wake up you idiots !!!


  1. An interesting, well-written viewpoint, Peter.

  2. The art world is crazy! Imagine if "Top Gear" was hosted by non-drivers.

  3. Interesting stuff Peter.
    Hope you are keeping well.
    Best Regards

  4. I'm very sorry to disappoint you but I never use flash photography. I do use photos to help with composition but I only paint things I can see (while painting)with my own eyes because photos distort colour. If you want me rant on as to why most artists make terrible judges of open exhibitions I will do.

    Katy Sullivan

    Katy Sullivan

  5. Katy, I'm going to have to eat humble pie! It fooled me - the flat light and white highlight in the eye certainly gave me the impression you'd used flash, so I apologise profusely. However, the general tenet of my rant holds true about Dadid Lee saying he doesn't like paintings done from photographs - you say on your website that you work from your own photos as do I and most artists. I was making the point that he was inconsistent in his comments.

  6. wow. Rant indeed. Took my time and clicked the links to the paintings which you so denigrated or praised. Interesting. Of course you are entitled to your opinion,as are we all, but shouldn't assume things (like the 'flash' photography as a source assumption, using it as a denigrating comment as if it were a crime)unless you are personally privy to that information. You can say all you like about how you value certain artists, we all can...but those of us who are enlightened ( in MY opinion) have no need of throwing ROCKS at other oh my; I think it rather says more about you than it does the art. Is it not the omnipresent elephant in the room again? as in: "is THIS art?" or is it fabulous technique disguised as art? or highly executed naturalist illustrations? (Robert Bateman dealt with that one for-everrrr) or is it primitive? Again, in MY opinion, evoking a visceral response to your work is a HUGE accomplishment, mysterious in it's nature! It is the heart and soul of art...IN MY OPINION...and why else do you think that many artists begin by carefully learning technique and photo-realism, only to later discover that this isn't what it is all about after all, and then move on to less realist work? hmmmm.. I would not bother to be affronted by your abrasive comments, but rather let you stew in your own self-prepared juice. I chose in my life to not be offended by another person's opinion..they are entitled to it, and yes, I may learn from it, but to be offended by these words is a waste of my time. I must paint to MY music..progress through whatever stages I must... end of story..thanks for sharing the rant..IN MY OPINION the barbs were not necessary to express a point of view.

  7. My painting, however, was taken with flash photography and the original photo was black and white. I was stood on a chair for the photo with a large Father Christmas handing me a present. The point was the fear of a small child being put on a pedestal in front of a room full of strangers. The lower half was unseen in the photo, so I painted it from memory and my imagination, concepts which seem to elude you. Whereas I don't feel the need to justify the style in which it was painted, I feel that it is rather narrow minded of you to criticise merely because it doesn't emulate your ideal of realism and your own style of painting. Caroline

  8. Hi Lynn, thanks for your very considered comment. You missed my point about my (incorrect) assumption of flash photography as a crime. I was having a go at the critic for saying it was a crime to use photography in his apparant dismissal of Andrew Kinsmann's stunningly, brilliantly painted portrait, yet waxing lyrical over Katy's painting, also done from photographs.
    Why else do many artists begin by carefully learning technique and photo-realism, only to later discover that this isn't what it is all about after all, and then move on to less realist work? Well, for many, it is because they find they can get a lot of money for 'pulling the wool over people's eyes', that's why! Some may genuinely believe the pseudo-intellectual twaddle written by, and about them, but it doesn't fool me and the VAST majority of working artists. Rothko, Pollock and their followers could probably draw really well, but found that they could evoke a far bigger response by 'work' that required virtually zero talent, aside from being able to paint one colour over another, or alongside it, or drip paint from a height. Classic cases of the Emperor's new clothes. I'm with one of the very greatest of Canadian painters, Harley Brown, on this one.
    I will agree with you that my seemingly personal barbs were unnecessary and I shall hold my tongue more in future. As Katy informed me, it was the editing of the programme that was more at fault.


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