The Mona Lisa Curse, Channel 4, 21st Sept.

The Main Man - Robert Hughes

The Main Man - Robert Hughes

Art as commerce is taken for granted these days, it is the product of a self-fulfilling prophecy encouraged even by artists, the very people who are meant to uphold its integrity. What is great about Robert Hughes perspective on it all is that he took into account the history of over 30 years of the relationship between money and art.
The 70’s budget filming which caught the frisson between Robert Scull and Rauschenberg was a magic moment. Delirious with rage at the mark up of his work auctioned off by the unscrupulous collector, R said something like “You should at least send me some flowers,”. This Sotheby’s auction in 1973 was marked as an unequivocal turning point shaping our art world today.

The thing is with Hughes, is like all 70 year old men, he has come to an age were things are ’not like it they used to be’ generally. Yet, his final words of warning, that art constantly has to justify its’ own purpose, and if the soul purpose is to respond to the commercial market, it will die, are telling words from a wise man. One day Hirst, Warhol, Koons could be out of fashion. You never know. It might happen. And then what will the collectors be left with? Sand in their hand. If you buy for pleasure at least you will always have something.
Compare this to the collapse of investment banking companies who have debased the financial market, and a clear analogy can be made.

But it is not all gloom and doom. Who knows about the New York art scene, but the London one is still banging with up and coming artists that create subtle work with multi-layered meanings, skilful and inspirational. Take Hackney Wicked, and Hackney in general as an exciting area of budding culture. The fact that the council are compulsory buying, rent has increased, and office blocks are making their way there in the event of 2012 is another matter.

Words of comfort are this. If you assume that art is good because it is put in a swanky gallery with a large price tag. You are wrong. And you are also an ar**hole anyway, with the personality of cardboard. Yes it is unfortunate that money can distort or dictate what is put on display and revered. But the one thing you have is your own judgement; your own response to art and that is what you can be true to. If you set out to look for worthwhile art (in your own opinion) you will find it. There is enough of it out there in London to be satisfied.


Barnaby Furnas at The Stuart Shave Gallery

The Stuart Shave Gallery has moved from its trendy East End roots to Central London.
Never mind all this economic down turn, that I can’t afford to buy bacon anymore attitude. And I mean bacon rashers not Francis Bacon, by the way.

For a fair few galleries over the last couple of years the lure of Mayfair and Fitzrovia, its classy surroundings and convenient location, has broken some of the hardcore Bethnal Greeners.
These two districts are on the up when it comes to Contemporary Art.

Does this mean you’ve made it as a gallery? In the old-fashioned sense of it, you have. You are upgrading, upsizing or whatever. But is it at a cost? Does it make the art you are exhibiting seem less edgy and exciting because you’re not looking at it in some dive Saatchi mite have found something 10 years ago? Have you moved too far from where the artists you are exhibiting are producing their art?
A question I leave open.

Stuart Shave architecturally, is a smart gallery. Using the continuing white cube effect, similar to Parasol Unit actually (although smaller and not so dominating, more of a cosy space) it is a chic and well planned.

Last night I went there for the opening of the Barnaby Furnas exhibition. The American with a graffiti background now turned good boy.

Three different series of paintings made up the show.
There are some deeply black paintings, Rothko style, dripping with thick and moody colour.
Then there are his Flood Paintings, which are textural works, beyond straight painting. They are produced from methods including burning holes in the canvas, scraping into the surfaces and saturating the canvas with paint as it is suspended at various angles producing dripping effects. Either abstract or with figures in them, sometimes involving religious icons.

Famed for his passionate ‘action’ paintings, the third series takes a different turn into somewhat uncharted territory for Furnas.
The Rock Concert series focuses on reducing the images of famous rock bands on stage into geometric, stylised compositions.
Reminiscent of 1910-20’s painting like The Futurists or David Bomberg, such is the reduction of form into shape and pattern that the end result is a filter effect like what you would see if you took magic mushrooms at a Joy Division concert. Or perhaps, just before you where about to faint at a Joy Division concert. Whatever. I am seeing patterns!

Nu –rave luminous oranges, pinks or greens fill each of the huge canvases in this series and disco balls come centre stage in the electrifying light show. Some of the singer’s heads are painted several times producing a basic motion effect. Lighters, hands, advertising banners, all in minute detail bounce your eye around the painting.

So different from his angry emotion ‘full’ paintings these are cool, tidy paintings of special effects rather than feeling.
This exhibition sees Furnas move from his violent and moody works to (dare I say it) a lighter ‘fun’ type of art. And personally I think you shouldn’t knock a bit of fun.

Barnaby Furnas
Stuart Shave/Modern Art
23-25 Eastcastle Street, London W1
27 June – 27 July 2008

Barnaby Furnas
Untitled (Flood), 2007
Urethane, dye and dispersed pigment on linen
244 x 183 cm / 96 x 72 ins

Barnaby Furnas
Rock Concert (Joy Division), 2007
Urethane, dye, pigment dispersion, coloured pencil on linen
264 x 427 cm / 104 x 168 ins

Barnaby Furnas
Before the Cross III, 2006
Urethane and dye on linen
First panel 76.2 x 62.9 x 3 cm, second Panel 79.4 x 62.9 x 3 cm
2 parts

Courtesy the artist and Stuart Shave/Modern Art, London
Copyright Barnaby Furnas, 2008

also check

for Rock Concert image