Sunday, September 03, 2017

Friday morning at the 2017 Archies

Mitch Cairns, Agatha Gothe-Snape, oil on linen. Winner 2017 Archibald Prize.
Friday I went to see the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman prize finalists at the Art Galley of NSW. The finalists for this and previous years including photos of some of the works can be found here:
While the photographic record is not complete, a browse will provide some picture of changes in the Australian art scene over time, including changing themes.

Overall, I thought the 2017 standard across the prizes was better than the last few years, although in each of the previous years there have been some interesting and sometimes quirky works. Three noticeable features this years were the number of self-portraits, the number of Aboriginal entries and the almost complete absence of the environmental themes that had been such a feature.

Noel Thurgate, Homage to Peter Powditch, oil and mixed media on board

As nearly always happens, I disagreed with the Archibald Prize choice. Going in, this portrait by Noel Thurgate of artist Peter Powditch was my favourite and remained so, although there were a number of other works that I really liked. It's just such an interesting work that captures the eye and the imagination.

Mind you, and this will not be clear from the reproduction, the mixed media would probably make it an absolute bastard from a conservation viewpoint!

This year's Young Archie Competition (this is open to young artists between 5 and 18) had some very impressive entries indeed. There is clearly a strong crop coming through.

This work by 14 yeas old Torren Whisson, Portrait of a War Veteran, is an example.


My Observations said...

I thought, I stir a bit by expressing a very controversial view. I expect that some abuses may come my way, but it could be fun.

Sandor Marai, Hungarian writer, who is becoming famous again, writes in his Memoires 1949-1956: “One cannot not understand the great, true art. It shouts at you, calls you, opens itself and explains itself to you. When I see “modern art” I feel kind of anger at falseness of what was created in XX century, the symbolism, and exaggerated lines try to substitute for humbleness, carefulness and exactness without which the real art does not exists. Maybe Picasso and Braque were great artists, but I am sure that what they have created is not a great art.”

This is not an exact translation of Marai’s but his iconoclastic message is there.
I have been trying to “understand” modern art for years and to see its beauty and value. I think my appreciation may have not been fully authentic. The Archibald Price exhibition has been sort of cultural duty to me, but have I really stood in awe in front of any of the Archibald paintings like when I stand in front of, say, Annunciation by Leonardo da Vinci?

By the way, I like the painting by Noel Thurgate, maybe because of its exactness?

Jim Belshaw said...

Evening, AC, although its really probably morning your time. As you might expect I don't agree with Marai. It's quite late Australian time, something else I was writing turned from a mouse to mammoth, but I did want to respond if only to reveal my own confusions.

Art is a visual language or perhaps languages given the many forms. Languages have their own rules and contexts, forms that encapsulate ideas, expressions, emotions in different ways. The artist or indeed schools of artists have their own ideas, the things they want to achieve which are set in the canons of their own times, including the wishes of their patrons with commissioned work or sometimes the desire to break conventions.

The observer comes at the art with their own perspectives. If they know the code attached to the painting or indeed school that may add to their enjoyment. If they have a knowledge of the context, that may add to their enjoyment. Sometimes you have to have both, as in some examples of Asian art. In all this, there is also a saturation issue that comes from over-exposure to a particular piece of art or type of art.

When I saw the Mona Lisa I was disappointed, after a week in Florence I felt that if I saw one more religious painting that would be one too much, I am saturated with dot paintings. I would find the Annunciation interesting, but probably would not stand in awe. Philistine aren't I?

To the degree that one's perception of great art is contextual as I think Marai's was, as mine is, then it leaves open the question of whether or not there is such a thing as a great painting at all at least in an absolute sense. When I look at exhibitions or at the art market I am left with the impression that collectors perceive greatness in terms of the quality and fame of example of type.

All that said, I think one could argue that great paintings do lead to that emotional response referred to Marai, but the truly great ones create that response independent of changing context and indeed saturation. Time is required to confirm greatness.

I think I agree with you on abstract (I find most of them too flat, too one dimensional, and certainly on the Archibald There are very few paintings I have seen that make me want to stand in awe, although there are more that are interesting and enjoyable.

Oops. Just looked at the time. I need to think about this some more.