Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Bravo BBC4 !

Credit where credit is due - last night BBC4 aired the first of a series of three programmes called 'British Masters' about British painters from 1910 to 1975, presented by art historian James Fox. 

I expected the usual pseudo-intellectual clap-trap served up ad-nauseam by our flagship broadcaster, but what a refreshing change; James Fox showed work that involved composition and design, superb brushwork, with attention to tone and colour, painted by superb technicians of the profession, including Walter Sickert, Wyndham Lewis, David Bomberg, Christopher Nevinson, Paul Nash and Stanley Spencer. The programme showed the emotional power that the work of these artists projected to the viewer.

Having read some of my rants on modern 'art', you might be surprised at my comments about these 'modern' artists, especially Bomberg and Lewis, but whilst not being what I would necessarily want on my walls, I can SEE the extraordinary thought and skill involved in creating these works.  My objection is the self-congratulatory thoughtless garbage masquerading as art, rammed down our throats by the media (especially the BBC) and further validated by deluded art critics who know sod all about creating works of art, spouting their unintelligible verbal diarrhoea about such pieces (a word I detest, like 'installation' and 'contemporary', almost invariably meaning crap).

I found this quote in one of my favourite art books, Harley Brown's Eternal Truths for Every Artist:

Just maybe God will come to visit me; along with him will come one of his favorite angels, Jackson Pollock. God will then give me a swap on the back of my bald head: '"What's the matter with you?" he demands. "Here I am, sending subtle, deep messages to earth by way of my artist laureate, St.Jackson.  And you, you keep muddying the water with your superficial nonsense about, 'who does Rothko think he's kidding' and, 'my kid brother can do that blindfolded.'  You got a few centuries of pergatory waiting for you, mister.  You're holding back progress with your not very clever nonsense.  Now, get with the times; I'll be keeping a keen eye on you!" 
St.Jackson blindsides me with a left hook, "Smarten up, Brown; I've been the butt of your snideness for too long: Mark, Pablo and I have a special interest in you.  We're going to email you a list of New York art critics just to get you up to speed.  We're counting on you to get the message right this time."
If this does happen, I will take out a full page in the New York Times, detailing the error of my ways; that all of humanity had better smarten up and see the light.  But until then, you can count on me to keep delivering sharp kicks to the rear end of much in Modern Art. 

Bravo!  Harley Brown is a fabulously gifted American artist, infinitely more qualified to speak on the subject than I am, so how about the rest of you professional artists out there?  Stop hiding behind your canvases and speak out about the drivel in modern art that gives us all a bad name!  

I'm embarrassed to tell people what I do for a living and always feel obliged to quickly qualify 'artist' by saying what and how I paint.  Sadly, both I, Emin, Rothko, Pollock, Hirst, et al, are all classed under the same category.  Let's come up with a term for the nerks who try to pull the wool over our eyes, and in many quarters succeed, sadly.  Any suggestions ?  Start the ball rolling and leave a comment below.


  1. Peter,
    After reading your blog I have decided to reread The Painted Word by
    Tom Wolfe. What a great book.

  2. Harley B rocks big time! Malcolm Coward says something along the lines of "I call myself a painter not an artist. 'Artists' are people who pile up elephant dung and don't make their beds"...

  3. I used to walk around the "new" Perth Art Gallery (Western Australia) in less than ten minutes. There were usually just two paintings, at most, that would stop me.

    Then I'd wander down to the older gallery where they've hidden away the historical Australian masterpieces (there was a tiny sign "behind" a staircase alerting people to the gallery's existence). I'd spend hours in there.

    Upon leaving, I would always drop a note in the comment box "thanking" the curators for hiding the good stuff away from the prying eyes of the unwashed masses - and tourists!

    Unfortunately it seems they don't get sarcasm, because the situation never changed.

    1. Thanks for your comment Andy. So sad that it seems to be the norm now, to display all the modern crap masquerading as art for all to see, whilst dismissing most of the REAL art as so yesterday, so passé darling. Your 'new' Perth Art Gallery sounds like most of our big city Galleries, ie., run by the arty twats in the City Council who know bugger all about art!


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