introduction to the exhibition – taken from the on line catalogue
It will come as no surprise to visitors of this exhibition that the Mersey Gateway Bridge is one of the most important infrastructure investments in the UK for many decades. The ambition to connect the Mersey area with a 21st century road transport network to the Northern England is indeed worthy of praise. The bridge itself is equally a remarkable feat of engineering. Shaun Smyth who had the great insight and pressing desire to record how this marvel of engineering would be put together and record it with his singularly unique artistic eye.
I came across Shaun’s paintings over two years ago when I first caught glimpse of a number of examples of artwork of the ‘Bridge’ paintings and drawings on social media. For me it was the drive behind the artistic project that caught my imagination even more so than the bridge itself. I soon came to understand and respect the sheer artistic dedication that Shaun was applying to the task of recording for posterity this astonishing construction from the very start of the building to the fully operational opening of the Mersey Gateway Bridge.
When I first visited Shaun’s studio the extent of his dedicated attention to the creation of truly unique art for the bridge project came quickly into focus. However, I also viewed his work created previous to this huge undertaking of the Mersey Gateway Bridge. Shaun talent and attitude to art in general creation was and is, truly impressive. His Art extends to education, and as a teacher, his authentic and enthusiastic approach to painting and drawing is transferred to his students on a daily basis. Shaun’s justifiable pride of the students achievements and their advancement as young artists is part and parcel of his life, which is typical of Shaun’s belief in the importance of Art in our modern 21st century society….you can read the full introduction here.
Written by Denis Taylor Artist and Editor painters Tubes magazine
watch a short information video created by Dan O’Toole . the full video is available within the on line catalogue: link: https://goo.gl/Z8RcxY
“everything in painting has been done already, so why bother to paint at all.”
It is probably the ‘realist’ paintings of today that is easy to critic. After all they’d say, what is the point of copying something in front of you, when we now have the digital camera? – To a large extent I can and do agree with that statement. What I think they missed is the point of the process of painting, one that changes the reality and why that entails a complex relationship that a painter has to develop along with the work. And not only from spending a great deal of time working on it per sé- but creating something that didn’t exist before. To understand that process fully one has to actually paint, not talk about, not write about, and certainly not curate, to gain a total understanding of why painters still paint, by hand and not by computer or instruct other people to do it for them. These new artists of the late 20th century were impatient and young, they had no time to hone a skill or tap into a natural talent, let alone develop one or need a natural talent whatsoever, what was the point when the new Art Marketing machine would triumph over Art, they said, and they were right.
“talent is not enough..” …was another banner held high by the supporting tribe of over valued culture writers at the time. The new young artists all succeeded, they all became rich beyond their dreams. They had titles and honours poured over them. They have since then, been elected into positions that were once held by Artists who, perhaps unlike them, actually deserved the accolades bestowed upon them. This was the art world environment that appalled me as a 47-year-old painter of over 20 years [in 1998] when I was given the task of seeking out other real-artists to participate in a special exhibition called Heart 2 Art – It was a project commission from the International Support Group in Sweden and the Swedish Government Estonian Trust Fund. The show was in benefit for the survivors and the families of them that perished in the Estonia Ferry disaster of 1994. It was the most important and difficult exhibition that I had ever agreed to be the lead Artist, designer and curator of. I was given the lead by the Anglo-Swedish Art Group W.O.R.K (Waxholm Organisation [for the] Reformerandet av Konst). It was a massive task and fortunately I was joined, by way of my invitation, by the late professor of Art and the Author of several renown modern art books, Nigel Whiteley (1953-2010). A person who I had long admired and read avidly in the UK Art Review magazine for several years. Together, through many meetings and discussions, we managed to formulate a philosophical criteria to help find the artists who had the right ‘artistic ethics and morals’ for the job in hand. The philosophy was realised in over 5000 words by Nigel and published exclusively for the exhibition catalogue with the title: “Affirmative Art in a Disaffirmative Climate”
It was at this time and in this frame of mind that I discovered a painter in far away [from Sweden] Argentina called Gabriel Grun. He became one of 27 Artists selected from nine countries that was finally exhibited in the Heart 2 Art exhibition in 2002 in Stockholm. The show was an eclectic mix of mediums of visual art that was to demonstrate the altered realities of humankind. And Gabriel’s work was a part of the show that visualised the link with the past and a new-vision how that link can be interpreted for the future. As the years have passed since 2002, Gabriel has been recognised in Argentina as one of their finest ‘fine artists.’ His dedication to filling the gaps that he feels have been left by the renaissance artists has, to my mind, been an impressive voyage. Yet, beyond that he has also ‘tuned’ himself from the stubborn art student who walked away from a modern art establishments curriculum in Buenos Aires, to a husband and father and a more mature artist who has perfected his craft.
“the idea behind my work is to pick the thread of the long line of visual narrative I love and cherish and give body to certain paintings I perceive somehow to be missing, to constitute gaps that are to be filled, that Rafael or Van Der Weyden just did not have time to do.”
He is not alone in his pursuit of a classical perfection in a contemporary idiom. Many artists have gone before him. Dali is perhaps a reasonable example, as is Odd Nedrum (Norway) and there are more. Grun is however unique in the way he not only portrays realism, but also in the manner in which he does it. He has described this way of working as an alphabet, one that he has had to learn and continues to learn, but he then transcribes his own visions by reforming and inventing [visual] words using that alphabet and creating new narratives. He attempts (and succeeds in my opinion) of making an image that ‘sticks’ to your eye and your mind. There is always the danger of making subjective judgements, especially where realistic paintings are concerned. As Gabriel says himself, some sort of anachronistic story telling is not his target to dynamic art creation. His art has a more direct desire, one of landing a punch packed with power. Some of his earlier works have a definite erotic tone, which could be the exuberance of youth and which, as he said recently to me, that in his current life he is not in sympathy with, nor feels that he needs to call upon, to give his work the emotional power or punch that he sought, when he was still a very young artist painting in Buenos Aires. I still keep in touch with Gabriel, and recently he told me that after a year or two or working on illustrating a book he is about to embark on a new series of paintings…I have to say I am excited to see what they will be…
I strayed across an interesting old video on You Tube. It was was on those that you find popping up on a feed after you have watched something similar, which is annoying. But, it got me thinking about the relationship between Artistic freedom and Modern Religious Art. This particular You Tube discussion, come lecture, come educational piece, was presented by a line up of tenured academics and young post graduate teachers.
The panel argued how Contemporary Art institutions reacted negatively to work that was based in some sort of religious subject.The discussion started after an initial lecture by one of the Academics, David Thyrell. So began two hours of surprising statements, amusing quotes, some fairly logical reasoning, heart felt speeches and many contradictions from an art academic viewpoint.
Thyrell reckoned that… “Only Art that is critical of (western) religion of faith is acceptable as Contemporary Art. And all other art that could be read as religious, is translated to one of a post minimalistic view.” (And)…”that all references to faith and religion is edited out at source”. (And)…”the contemporary Art world does not seek any debate on this form of art because they see it as non-progressive, as propagandistic and not supportive of an advancing culture or indeed, enlightening mankind for the new centuries ahead of us.”Thyrell spoke with passion and summed up his lecture by stating…”it seems, that religious work that is non-specific, for example, non-stated religious, ambiguous or totally abstracted with very loose associations, are acceptable as Contemporary Art. Providing the images are not from a Judeo Christian slant. However, the tribal, the Asiatic or the cultism subjects are OK.“
Judaeo-Christian made up the bulk of the audience (note: it was held at a Roman Catholic University) I guessed they must have been appalled by the status-quo of the implied bigotry against religious art levelled against the- ‘Artists of Faith’ – as they call themselves. For me personally, there is no need to be religious specific to appreciate (or create) Art that is good, even if that Art owns its very existence to institutions of any religion persuasion who sponsored it, or indeed created by an artist that holds a particular belief system or faith.
Good Art is what floats my boat, I don’t care who or why or for whom it was created for.
As for the rest of the Art that floods the web and the mass media art reviews, much of that Art that personally I find sort of shallow, egoistically based, trendy or with intellectual invested admiration intentions, I simply pass quickly by, metaphorically speaking, without so much as a cursory thought. For me to be anguished by an Art as the above, only goes to validate it as important to human cultural advancement, which I think it is not.
Most artists, (those I do know personally), when looking at a work of art that could be deemed as ‘Religious’, tend to ignore the possible original intended propaganda or dogma of it, but rather they concentrate on the pure magic of the Art work in front of them. For example some the work of by Pontormo and El Grego, to mention only two (religious) painters of the far distant past, whose work I greatly admire and gain much from. After a while I began to feel that the lecture, come debate, was myopic, but Thyrell’s argument did instigate an examination of my own thoughts on the subject of Modern Art & Freedom of Creation and Modern Religious beliefs in our, so called, multi-sectarian developed Western societies.
If a contemporary artist can go beyond an intellectual subject matter and demonstrate a visual power conducted via an innermost and deeply held belief, then surely that is still a vital and sustainable contemporary Art, is it not? No matter what religion the creator of that art subscribes too, or not as the case maybe. After all, isn’t atheism a brand of religion by another name?
If we look closer to our own time, rather than the centuries when the Church and Monarchies of Rome and Spain dominated major art commissions, say from the early and middle centuries, we can find a new sort of religious art. Malevich, Kandinsky, Mondrian and the like studied theosophy and talked of a ‘spiritual’ art. Pollock, used the practises of the the Indian Sand Painters, which involved connection with ancestors souls or spirits. Rothko and the gang of colour field painters also spoke of mediative involvement and introspection. Are all those artworks a form of religion? If you have ever visited the Rothko ‘Chapel’ in Texas, you’ll know what I am talking about. And what of Chagall. Are his paintings nothing more than illustrated nostalgia based on childhood memories of stories taken from the Old Testament? Or let’s take Vincent Van Gough, was not his paintings a projection of the love of nature reinterpreted through his own deep seated belief in a universal God? How about Agnes Martin or Sam Francis, each with a Buddhist inclination for transcendentalism or meditation. Is that not religious Art ?
In the early 20th century the word nihilistic art was being brandished about to describe the work of the Futurist (Italy), whose dogma was Machines and War to cleanse society and shock it out of it’s perceived malaise [of the time]. The Dada movement used the same framework with banal poetry, non-sensical drama and outlandish visual presentations [to hide away from and in reaction to the horrors of World War One]. Again, the essence here is that the Dada movement believed in something – however abstract that was – rather than nothing. And this obtuse oddity of their belief carried on manifesting itself decades later as the impatience of post-modernist [young] artists and the ambitious driven post-post modernists, and the current belief that ‘selling art, means that it must be good ‘Art’ – And made by a succesful artist (rounds of applause by living painters, can be heard here on instagram and facebook) which where I guess we find ourselves in today’s visual art world.
Though, just maybe the web is changing the ground rules. I don’t know about you, but when I view art on the web, I find more and more of it has a growing and obvious ‘belief-structure’ of some kind behind it. And much of it is good Art, mostly created by ‘unknowns’. Sure, there is still that twee stuff and the obvious bash it out to sell it for financial gain ‘ hamburger art’, not forgetting the overly academic art whitterings of art professors and so called art intellectuals who try to convince the audiences in the cities of the world, that this piece of stuff or that offerings of purely conceptual ideas, is great progressive Art (and not just simply a novel or good idea). After all it does put a high monetary value sticker on it, provided it is accompanied by the obligatory academic recommendations, especially if the Art has the blessings of Art Directors of state run institutions.
So, do Artists have total freedom to create what Art they want? Maybe not entirely, if you agree with David Thyrell in the You Tube video I mentioned earlier. Is Religious Art (in all it’s manifestations) making a comeback? The Zeitgeist signs suggests it may well be, but not in the ‘normal’ sense of the word. In this world of the politics of infusing the inhabitants with psychological terror, global climate change fear, mega disaster predictions, the accelerating greed for money and power, irresponsible political leaders and not forgetting the inhumanity to humanity we witness daily, a world that we live in today (and perhaps always have). Maybe it’s not such a bad ambition for visual artists to ascend to a higher level and start to transmit messages of hope. And if you’ll pardon the religious, (come 1960’s hippy reference and of course the Artist known as John Lennon) visual art messages of Love and Peace, for all who reside on this tiny insignificant planet tucked away in the corner the limitless time and space of the universe.
As David Byrne once wrote,
“Heaven is a place, where Nothing ever happens.”
So, now I have to gather my courage and meander slowly to my studio, where another blank space awaits. I wonder what will appear? I guess I just have to have faith that something of real artistic value will show itself, maybe even holding the restorative creative power of the universe itself ?
One never knows, that’s one reason to be an Artist, isn’t it?
painters TUBES favourite art critic and muse, known to all unsundry as Spike, returns to the latest issue with a pragmatic look at the back side of Art – business and selling. What follows is a extract from the full article that you can read free on the latest issue of painters Tubes magazine…
…Showing paintings on line, is now the main stream for the dissemination of an artists work. Even though real life exhibitions are still relevant for many artists, an on line presence is essential (if only for street cred). That “painting is a dead art” conversation has faded away as fast as padded shoulders did in the middle 1980’s. There has been a major change in attitude to painting in the last few years. In part, this may be entirely due to the need for the high street galleries to survive the financial crisis, the one that started in earnest in 2009 and is still having an effect now, not to mention adding to the problem with (thinking here about) Donald Trump and the European Union on the brink of collapse helped along by French Riots, and No Deal Brexit.
Today, more than ever, high street galleries need to sell ‘more-stuff’ and earn extra profit to pay those stupidly high ‘business rates’ in the major Cities – And lets be honest, paintings sell much quicker than sculpture or worse those ‘cool’ avant-garde installations of nonsense that rely on high brow art academics to authenticate the cultural importance of something that most people wouldn’t actually install in their homes (even if they don’t say so publicly). And usually there is a heavy price tag for that sort of contemporary bull-shit art. Consequently the contemporary ‘arty farty’ marketplace is tiny compared to the ‘popular paintings’ art market. Even though there are only so many landscapes that anyone can put in their homes. That market will also run dry soon unless some risk taking by galleries start, pretty damn quick.
The sheer size of the (art) market (because of the www) has outgrown all that ‘arty farty stuff’ by leaps and bounds – certainly as far as turnover is concerned. So the www has become the place to set up your stall. Major funded on-line art galleries and some not so well funded independent artists all have a go at selling direct to art collectors and art lovers. Even Tubes magazine are having a go (although they already know there is no money to be made so why bother trying – the space it is giving to artists is in keeping with the magazine policy – Art before Money at all cost).
The one man art galleries start-ups fail quickly- some have a sort of ‘in the third year we will make money fiscal plan’ and obtain a bank loans. Most, in reality, loose much more money than they bargained for and are wrapped up prematurely by their investors (or more commonly the Bank) the ones that backed the idea (with solid security that could be recouped) in the first place.
Today it’s not a case of chasing huge profits for many galleries, on the contrary, it’s survival we are talking about here. Many on-line outfits are simply losing too much money, year in and year out.
“..there is no money in Art..” a very wise man once said to me (back in 1989).
He may have been right but for the wrong reason, as far as I am concerned. Should Art really be treated as a commodity? And be sold as such? – Stack ’em high, sell ’em cheap is not an effective strategy, not for original art, so when times get tough, (in Art) the tough bottle it….. to read the full article please click here
painters Tubes magazine will be announcing a great opportunity for young artists in the near future. The Tubes Turner project will begin with a ‘shout out’ for Artists to submit three paintings for the TUBES TURNER PRIZE – The prize for the selected winner(s) who must be under 25 years old will include a five page face to face ‘interview’ and feature with painters Tubes magazine – The feature will consist of a comprehensive editorial on the artists and the art and a prime exhibition in the Tubes Artists (on line) Gallery. Plus a complete set of the superb Turner Oil Paint (worth over £200).
Full details will be published by April 23rd 2019 with the winner(s) announced in September 2019. Book mark this website or go over to FaceBook – like our page @painterstubes – And join our network of artists, galleries and art lovers.