I belong to an art club and one of the reasons for this is the discussions that arise during coffee breaks etc.
In this instance we were talking about the programme for the club for next year and how to make it more varied. A lot of members paint traditional work, landscapes and portraits. There are a few abstract painters and sculptors but we felt we don't always cater for these. We looked at ways of adding modern art practices into our meetings either as workshops or demonstrations.
This made me think: What is Modern art? The first definition I found didn't help:
Modern art includes artistic work produced during the period extending roughly from the 1860's to the 1970's, and denotes the styles and philosophy of the art produced during that era. The term is usually associated with art in which the traditions of the past have been thrown aside in a spirit of experimentation Modern artists experimented with new ways of seeing and with fresh ideas about the nature of materials and functions of art.
A second definition did not help much either:
Challenging the notion that art must realistically depict the world, some artists experimented with the expressive use of colour, non-traditional materials, and new techniques and mediums. One of these was photography, whose invention in the 1830's introduced a new method for depicting and reinterpreting the world. The Museum of Modern Art collects work made after 1880, when the atmosphere was ripe for avant-garde artists to take their work in new, unexpected, and “modern” directions.
Again a lot of this is dated, I visit a lot of exhibitions and artists seem to be desperately looking for something new. The public are no longer shocked by a pile of bricks or an unmade bed. Photography has been seen as a new medium but dates back to the 1930's. I have seen a number of photographic exhibitions and find that few impress me and it vexes me how one photographer is often considered better than another. With the modern camera numerous pictures can be taken and I have seen some superb results but are these art!
I have seen many installations like these above. The first one reminds me of when I let my year 11 stack the chairs unsupervised at the end of a lesson. Entering a room where everything has been painted creates quite a spectacle, but again, it is not a new idea.
The first image where sweets have been made as large sculptures has been around for a while and whilst amusing is not a novel idea.The second one links in nicely with several beaches I have visited where people have made sculptures from the pebbles and I quite like that idea of leaving something behind. Here people are enjoying a sense of the place without possibly any thought for the art they are leaving for people to see.
These are images I researched on the internet. The idea of a blank canvas has been a student joke for many years. Using work by Mondrian to create a sculpture is effective but in my opinion this is not an original idea. The idea of splash painting is another example where someone else's idea has been used. Both of these can create interesting art work but I would not consider them'a modern art'.
A modern concept takes modern art in an interesting direction. Here a skip on a London street is used as an exhibition space. Artists are invited to show their work in this and previews and viewings are held.
Skip Gallery was created by co-founders and creative partners, Catherine Borowski and Lee Baker, two London-based artists who take the mundane and everyday and try to re imagine them in new situation.
Artist Gavin Turk has delivered his own tongue-in-cheek piece for Skip Gallery, in London's Hoxton Square.
His work at the pop-up gallery "questions the very nature of a skip as a place to dispose of rubbish, and our relationship to what we choose to throw away".
He put an empty packet of Skips Crisps in as his contribution.
Who says modern art is rubbish? Turner-nominated artist David Shrigley's new work is housed inside a skip parked in London's Hoxton Square. Discover more about Look at This in a short film by Canvas Arts.
Are these just a gimmick to create attention? Do they portray any special artistic spirituality? Will they stand the test of time? What will future generations think about them? Or will they just fade into obscurity as have many other similar 'new' ideas have?
I suppose the answers to these questions depend on your own personal perspective and thoughts about what modern art in general is.
After all this I am no nearer to finding an answer. Throughout art history, artists have reflected on other people's work and have been influenced by it in different ways. The main difference is that the art they produced had a new vision. I think many artists are finding it harder to come up with a fresh movement or theme.
I recently went to the Lowry Art Gallery at Salford Quays, to view their present exhibition and this has given me an interesting concept to think about; 'Art in the digital age'.
I will look at this in my next blog.
After our trip to Alaska, one of the highlights was the trip to Glacier Bay. Here we saw a few icebergs but the best was the Marjorie Iceberg where we stayed for thirty minutes to take in the splendour of this site.
I managed a quick sketch of this and added watercolour. The bright blue was impressive as well as the colours of the distant snow covered mountains.
Having done the watercolour sketch, I have wondered since, if it would work as an oil painting. Not feeling confident, because the subject matter was outside my usual comfort zone, it has taken a while to get around to it.
Using the study, as well as several pictures taken at the time, I decided to approach the painting in my usual way; by using a palette knife. As with all subject matter, the painting was dictated partly by the medium. Some aspects were transferable but others developed along with the painting.
White was added first, as this was one of the major colours. Then the cerulean blue was added; this being one of the colours that stood out on the day. Next, the background mountains were painted using a mixture of French Ultramarine before I worked on the dark mountain on the right; picking out the purples by adding cobalt violet.
The contrast with the greens on the mountain on the left was next, before adding the sky. Finally, the water at the front was painted; this was an interesting greenish colour. Last of all small details were added before I stepped back and looked to see if I needed to make any small adjustments.
I will now wait a while before deciding if the painting has worked. If I'm not happy I can always paint over it!
After attending another preview at the Cheshire art Gallery for Hugh Winterbottom, I was interested to see how tastes have changed over the years. I really enjoyed the exhibition and have followed his work for a couple of years.
It was interesting to see his Manchester scenes in blues and oranges and contrast them with those of David Coulter's whom I viewed last week. His work was very dark and captured evening scenes as a whole.
Both are very good artists and they, along with Liam Spencer, (who I exhibited alongside at Bury Art Gallery several years ago,) are causing a great interest in these urban scenes. I'm not sure if part of this is nostalgia or just how trends have changed but it is certainly an intriguing time in the area.
Over thirty years ago I was featured in the 'Art and Artists' magazine because few artists were painting city scenes. I started by capturing images from Salford Market and Precinct before moving on to featuring the rise of modern shopping centres, such as Manchester Arndale. These were viewed with interest and led to some commissions and an invite to record the devastation caused by the bombing of Manchester.
Some of these images are shown below.
After a short break (to my my leg!) I had a period where unable to get around I returned to this topic and painted another series of Manchester pictures. This time capturing the reflections of the night and rainy scenes,
Although, I now spend most of my time doing landscapes; rather than concentrating on the broader cityscape, I now focus in on individuals, I do still do odd scenes and am pleased to add to this growing trend. Shopping centres and town centres have become an important part of everyday life and it's good to see them being recorded for prosperity.
Some of my recent studies
An interesting day visiting three venues to see the present exhibitions and a preview at Salford Art Gallery.
After a pleasant walk down into Eccles, through the Maker's Market, and admiring the foods on offer;
I aimed for the Town Hall, where a local photographer, Dag Pagan, had an exhibition for the day.
However, having set off early, I decided to look in on the Eccles Community Gallery and to my surprise Dag also had work on show here. I also met some fellow members of my art club who were making their way to the Town Hall as well.
At the the Hall, it was impressive to see all of his photographs together, rather than odd ones on Facebook. It was nice to have a chat with him about his work before settling down for something to eat, with my wife, Sue, who had joined me by then. Having purchased one of his calendars of local scenes, we set off for our next stop at Salford Art Gallery.
Here a local artist David Coulter, had a preview of his local scenes. I had been impressed with these on Facebook and was looking forward to seeing them in a gallery.
On our way to this exhibition, we stopped and viewed the Tony Warren retrospective which had details of his life and lots of Coronation Street memorabilia. It was interesting to find out about his background story and the programme will always bring back memories, as it was based in my city and the original street was a street in Ordsall; near where I started teaching.
David had a few of his paintings alongside the Tony Warren exhibition as well as a full display on the Stairway Gallery. As we were looking around, his young grandson, being very proud of his grandfather, told us about a couple of the paintings; explaining that one of the children in the cafe painting was him!
The paintings did not disappoint, although this was an unusual preview. As his work was displayed on the stairs, everyone who attended the preview, had retired to the cafe for food and drink, leaving the Stairway Gallery empty! Later, I had a chance to chat with David, who recognized me but we couldn't work out where from!
An interesting time and a chance to catch up with friends and view the work of local artists.