Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bad art, "Daily Painters", discussion.

What precisely is wrong with these artists' works? They call themselves “daily painters”, and they produce, like me, a work of art most days. http: //

There are the usual suspects- some porn-kitsch, a clown (not weeping!), sunny fruit, pets, sunsets.

The world of daily painting has some connection both with the "traditional" gallery art of 19th century genres (still life, nudes, moody portraits) and links to the family photo album, with paintings (copied mainly from snaps, I suspect) of people on holiday.

The notion of artistic purpose shown is very conservative and in both groups of pictures (traditional / holiday snap) a stern editing of reality is taking place serving to exclude any possible offence or unpleasantness (ironical that the net affect of this censorship is actually the opposite intended- revulsion!). They also sometimes have a delightful quality of edging very close to being reasonably good art, then turning away into the abyss of Readers Digest coyness. This is comical but ultimately dispiriting: looking at Daily Painters is a bad thing to do for your mental health because it's an imaginatively reductive experience.

As regards drawing and technical qualities Daily Painters are often awkward- but then so is the work of many wonderful painters. Lack of technincal ability does hamper the the Daily Painters, however: they are camera-dependent in ways that good figuarive artists are not: there are few imaginative flights and little inventiveness when it comes to using the medium of paint itself. Their world is pedestrian.

Their more serious failing usually is "spiritual". That is, there is a lack of examination as to the nature of reality- they present too sunny a vision of life, they are sentimental. An imposition is taking place, they feel "dishonest". But these are not self-consciously subjective pieces either: they reek of propaganda, a banal propaganda for the beauty of places, people or dogs(!). Yet some might argue that they are not sentimental enough, they lack the verve of a Landseer stag.

They do not succeed as classicizing, idealising art in the tradition of say, David, or Piero della Francesca. Quite why this is is hard to say, but I'd suggest that the reason lies beneath the painting, in the individual artist's lack of awareness of the falseness, or banality of their own world view. The artists lack either the skill to propagandise successfully, or the self-consciousness that might lead to greater ambition.

Is it mistaken to discuss art in terms of "honesty"? All art is artifice, surely? That makes sense, but there has to be a correspondence between the art work and something inside us or the world for it to have meaning. A painting of a smiling Stalin kissing a small girl is unpleasant because it offends our sense of the truth, not necessarily because it need be badly made.

I don’t have anything expressly against Obama (indeed, given the nature of his work, he seems about as nice as these people can be) but such images as these make me cringe

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