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  • 23

    Art and Articulation in the Battle for Ideas
    The Arts; Posted on: 2008-04-28 10:39:49 [ Printer friendly / Instant flyer ]
    It Ain’t Art if it Ain’t Ethnic

    A. Millar

    Sooner or later a certain type of pop singer turns his hand to art. Such an entertainer believes himself profound, intellectually advanced, risqué. No doubt he recognizes that there is something inherently silly about the rhyming of some vague, ephemeral, political message. Through art he is able to associate himself with a history of great ideas, and great intellectual and religious movements that have shaped our world.

    But he invariably fails in his mission to make any real mark, or to articulate any important message. Ten years ago I was disappointed by a showing of David Bowie’s paintings at a gallery in London’s Cork Street. There was one good work – a small portrait in a somewhat Impressionist style – and this was the only one not for sale. This week, Pete Doherty’s art went on display at the Chappe Gallery in Paris.

    Doherty is best known as the lead singer of Britain’s Babyshambles band, drug addict, and voice of Rock against Racism. His style of dress – which I can only describe as a cross between Boy George and Wurzel Gummidge – betrays an individual who should never have dabbled in visual art, but, alas, he has.

    His works published in The Daily Mail this week, show a picture of a topless Doherty, covered with the symbols of swastika and Star of David, some sketches of very poor quality, and a syringe stuck in a canvass, with Doherty’s signature trailing from it. The Daily Mail, was apparently shocked enough by all of this to ask readers, “is this the most disgusting art exhibition ever?” The answer for those of us who have been around the block a few times is surely, “no,” and this is the real indictment of such “art.”

    Love or hate Picasso or Dali among others, they were pushing the boundaries of artistic style. They were innovators, and genuinely peculiar men. Still today there are some interesting living, figurative artists, such as the Norwegian painter, Odd Nerdrum, or German, Gerhard Richter. Their work may be disturbing, but it is well executed, and draws on the tradition of art. Nor, in contrast to popular conception, is all abstract art rubbish. The “environmental art” of British artists Andy Goldsworthy and Richard Long are uncluttered and unpretentious reflections of man and nature, that owe their aesthetics to both the natural world and to Western and Eastern artistic traditions.

    Art was also one battleground in the war of political ideologies. Dali was firmly on Spain’s Right, and his work was infused with Catholicism and alchemy; Picasso lent his support, to some extent, to the Communists, who usually demanded figurative art that anyone could understand without interpretation. The Fascists of Italy were unsure whether to make figurative or Futurist art official. Today, it is considered a truism that Western artists are liberal and that art must also be liberal, but, for too many, a better description might be bourgeois. Despite the ugliness of Doherty’s “art” it is an expression of the banal, of the frustrated boy from the suburb who was the best at his school’s art class. Art that uses the swastika and the Star of David is meant to be dangerous, but Doherty’s is not, because it does not articulate anything except self absorption and, perhaps, self pity.

    News Source: brusselsjournal


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