Sunday, April 25, 2010

Humdrum days and humdrum ways

How are the finalists selected?

A jury of experts have been observing exhibitions around the country since the last announcement. They met for the first time early this year to decide the four 2010 finalists.

Walters Prize finalists have been announced and they are as OTN predicted. All that travelling around the country was a waste of time: it is a K Road thing. Three out of four went to Elam. They do Elam work, noisy and cynical: all sound and fury and empty signifiers. The fourth is a painter from Christchurch, Saskia Leek, whose work is rather lovely. She won't win.

I wonder if the programme leaders and directors and critics and (last and least lovely) independent curators who staff all these prize juries will ever realise how dull they have made art become. Everything takes up too much space, says very little and says it to a handful of people. In the room critics come and go, talking of each other and scarcely looking at the art. These are works to be glanced at, before purchase by a major institution. Much theorising can then take place in various university departments. 

One cannot help but think that most major decisions about art are made by people who do not like art. They love the sounds of their own voices, they adore badly-written obfuscating texts and they are passionate about big things in small rooms. What they like most is things that are witty and clever. Anything that professes the slightest bit of feeling is abhorrent, far too serious and gloomy. They have made art become like advertising: sensational, self-important and trivial.

In this writer's not-very-humble opinion, the best exhibition of last year was the Séraphine Pick retrospective, Tell Me More, at the Christchurch Art Gallery. Pick really can paint (it is no coincidence that both she and Leek are Ilam graduates) and she can express profound thoughts and feelings. She is that old-fashioned entity, a serious artist. No wonder she was not selected for the Walters.


Anonymous said...

"...What they like most is things that are witty and clever..."

Or a provincialism that mistakes cynicism for sophistication, Welcome to New Zealand.

Philip Matthews said...

Excellent column, Paul.

Anonymous said...

nice thesis in the first para... except that sleek isn't really from chch

Paul said...

How so not? She was born there, she went to art school there. You are not trying to tell me that really she is an alien from another galaxy, where they practice oil painting, are you?