goodbye to artwank?

Let’s start with a definition for those that don’t know. From the urban dictionary Artwank is; 

“Any visual or audio media which is made impenetrable on purpose, simply to gain critical acclaim from those who think that such impenetrability automatically implies hidden genius.
Such work is almost always incredibly shallow and without thought, as can be gauged from a quick analysis by an intelligent human being.”

Artwank is the verbal diarrhoea that is taught to art students and the language of second rate art critics, it gets in the way of normal people appreciating art, it makes us feel like the art world is a closed shop of stuff that we are not supposed to access because we are not clever enough.

Well things are changing, two years ago I wrote how I felt we were approaching the end of an era for the modern art world and wondered what would be the next big thing. I believe there will be an increased interest in the act of skilful making, who knows maybe we will even see people learning to paint portraits and landscapes? I feel that folk see the artworld a bit like the pop music world, full of manufactured hype with not enough authenticity and meaning. Maybe this is the reason for the current interest in “outsider art”, that is art made by people who are for one reason or another outside  the artistic community. They normally just make their art for years with no recognition, they are on some personal mission and the work often has a naivety but it definitely has authenticity and that is what is so rare and sought after today. Today sees the opening of a major exhibition on outsider art at the Hayward Gallery in London I look forward to visiting but it also reminded me of a really excellent series produced years ago but which I saw only recently on youtube. Jarvis Cocker is a fan of outsider art and went exploring the people behind it. I’ll embed episode 2 here where he travels around the USA if you enjoy it, it should be easy enough to follow the links to the other episodes in the series.



and whilst we are on art with meaning and authenticity have a listen to Hollie McNish, poetry is often so up it’s own backside and irrelevant but this is great. If you like it, check out “cupcakes and scones” or “a British national breakfast”

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8 Responses to goodbye to artwank?

  1. jacob June 11, 2013 at 8:25 pm #

    What's this chip about art Robin? You need to get out more methinks. Take a trip to the Venice Biennale – but with an open mind!!!

  2. Robin Wood June 11, 2013 at 10:56 pm #

    Hi Jacob, I can see this reads as rather prejudiced against the arts and maybe it is though I am a very keen and regular visitor to London art galleries with an open mind, not been to Venice Biennale yet. I guess everyone in the traditional crafts has a bit of a chip on the shoulder because however good we get we never get the recognition that our friends working in the contemporary innovative end of the art/craft spectrum get. This is because there is currently no publicly funded support network to promote this area as there is for the arts.Here is an extract of a remarkably frank letter to me from Kim Evans in 2001 then exec director Arts and later Chief Exec, Arts Council England"You are correct in your analysis of support for innovative craft practice; this is where nationally funded organisations have focused their attention over the past twenty five years or so. Indeed this hasbeen the case with the visual arts as a whole where the innovative has been prioritised over the traditional, one reason being to make themost of limited funds" "It is unlikely that the Arts Council would see itself taking a more inclusive role in this area."I am actually highly interested in and informed about the art world although I do have prejudice based on the experience of being out in the cold for a long time. Incidentally Sir Mark Jones when director of the V&A said to me that the whole split between innovative and traditional work is daft, "innovative" he said is actually meaningless and what we should be supporting and recognising is excellence whether in new or traditional work.

  3. Survival in the Wasteland June 12, 2013 at 2:59 am #

    great videos robin, and i like th' quote, " what we should be supporting and recognising is excellence whether in new or traditional work." Right on. ~rico

  4. cockingsawmill June 12, 2013 at 7:26 am #

    That quote hit home to me too.. "we should be supporting and recognising is excellence whether in new or traditional work"but still.. surely innovation doesn't occur in a vacuum.. it happens context? and isn't tradition really just about ritual? I think it's a common mistake to always associate tradition with 'the historical'. personally I think people should/could be innovative with a tradition!

  5. Robin Wood June 12, 2013 at 7:54 am #

    Indeed tradition does not meen preserving something in aspic and repeating it without thought. The Japanese understand this, UNESCO understand this, only those with very little understanding or knowledge of what goes on in a workshop would ever make the distinction between traditional and innovative. It is a sad fact that in most of the western world the "innovation = quality" mindset has predominated for 40 years. I feel the crafts have not benefited from being placed within this arts context.

  6. jacob June 12, 2013 at 8:29 am #

    "Tradition sets you free" – from "The Pitman Painters" an excellent play now going the rounds.Not sure what it means but I like it!

  7. Alex June 14, 2013 at 9:26 pm #

    Many people don't appreciate something that is handcrafted, and I feel part of the problem is that there is so little out there. most arts and crafts fairs mainly have stalls selling necklaces made with bought plastic beads and other things that are quick to make. I am beginning to think that only people who make things themselves appreciate the skill that goes into hand-crafted items. They also ask sensible questions about them, and I don't feel the need to make up some rubbish to explain what I have made. I hope you're right about art changing soon, it will be nice to go to galleries and not wonder why they have some incomprehensible installation, rather than something that everyone can understand

  8. Graeme December 2, 2013 at 3:25 am #

    Nice bit of social commentary there by Hollie.
    Good luck with getting rid of impenetrable, pretentious art. Too many gain a sense of power by being able to assume superior knowledge over others for that to go away.

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