the Industrial Link

Fiddklers Ferry Project - painters TUBES magazineabove: The sleek designed Mersey Gateway Bridge stands in front of the Iconic Fiddlers Ferry Power Station. (photograph by ©Lee Harrison)

the Industrial Link   

written by Denis Taylor Artist and Editor for painters TUBES magazine

“…In the days where the art academies dictated what fine art painting was and what it wasn’t, it was only historical art that was regarded as the ‘defacto’ work to be taken ‘seriously’  all genres of art came in second, third and fourth in the order of importance.

The art game changed however with the onset and public popularity of the Barbizon painters, Corot, Alexander Cozens, Poussin, J.M.W. Turner and perhaps more powerfully for the UK, (albeit belatedly), John Constable. It was these painters that forced the institutions to reassess their bias as to what sort of work should be viewed as ‘serious art.’

In many way ways this highlights the art world of today, but in an absolute opposite standpoint . Today historical art is seen as dead and buried – no one is interested in recording an historical event as such – unless of course it’s a radical arts led concept to undermine the social political establishment. Of course that sort of Art is sometimes needed – if only to ensure our rulers are kept a close eye on, but this type of imagery in ‘visual art’ is ineffective as far as making an impact or an effect on society is concerned. Social media, Twitter in particular, has taken on that role gladly, ridiculing the powerful, as and when required. Which it does rather well with total freedom and a huge helping of negativity….”

So…a few years ago, I came across a fellow visual artist (Shaun Smyth) who was actually recording something of historical note as by way of a change, my interest was aroused. After a few conversations and more importantly, viewing the actual brilliant sketch works created in the artists studio…

Shaun Smyth -painters TUBES magazine…I encouraged the support of  painters TUBES magazine to back the artist and the exhibition whole heartedly. That exhibition was to be called “Constructing the Mersey Gateway Bridge.” The title given from an amazing governmental instigated [new] long needed infrastructure project, one which would create an actual gateway from the Mersey area to the rest of the North West of England.

It was a part of the ‘regeneration of the old industrial towns’ that have been ‘neglected’ for six or more decades – It was a significant structure in both intention and actual physical presence. The Mersey Gateway Bridge was completed and officially opened on the 4th June 2018 by Queen Elizabeth ll of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Three years prior to the bridge opening for traffic. Shaun Smyth had already been sketching and painting the beginnings of it from the onset of the bridge construction.  By 2018 Shaun had created dozens of examples of the bridge showing every stage of it’s construction. Luckily, the artist passed the structure every day on his way to his art teaching job at a local School.

Shaumn Smyth painting -with painters TUBES magazineShaun eventually produced a mass of work – Large, small and medium in his own style.  The actual paintings tended towards realism but with contemporary flashes of paint applied loosely with absolute skill and passion. As a local born and bred artist, Shaun added a non-apologetic large creative slice of regional pride.

Catalogue Brindley Exhibition - painters TUBES magazinepainters TUBES magazine created and funded the prodcution of the catalogue and the media push, ensuring this important serious art was exhibited in a way that both the work and the project deserved. In this aim the first sign of success came in the form of support from the Brindley Theatre, the Hatton Borough Council, [+painters TUBES magazine] and Bell Lamb and Joynson Solicitors, all of whom ensured that the show became a reality from the 18th February 2018 to 5th April 2019- (please click here to read the: Exhibition Catalogue on line).

During the course of preparation for Mersey Gateway Bridge exhibition it came to the attention of Shaun that an historical icon of the area was on the brink of being ‘de-commissioned’ – That iconic structure was an incredible landmark of the North West of England known as Fiddlers Ferry Power Station – One of five coal fired stations still operational in the UK. For me, it was obvious that these two subjects should be brought together. The new Mersey Gateway Bridge – And the past glory of Coal Fired Power stations. The Fiddlers Ferry still holds an enormous historical importance in the hearts and the minds of people of the North West of England. And unlike the bridge, it was an integral piece of fantastic technology that was born out of the industrial revolution, the revolution that physically put the word ‘Great’ as a prefix to ‘Britain.’

Despite the understandable decisions to change how power is generated for national consumption for the 21st century (to reduce carbon emissions), for the benefit of the environment, Fiddlers Ferry should be given the respect it so richly deserves. Especially for the generations of people it has served and to provide historical reference and a narrative for future generations. It was with this in mind that myself, Shaun Smyth and Lee Harrison came to the conclusion that it was an Art project very worthy of serious attention.

Lee Harrison Photographer- painters TUBES magazineabove: Fiddlers Ferry created a ‘wild life’ environment with the excess water the plant needed for it’s colling towers. ©Lee Harrison.

Lee, a well known, gifted photographer, had been photographing Fiddlers Ferry Power Station for a few years before our new project was born, even though it was from an interest in how the power station could be seen from afar in the North West of England from great distances. And Shaun had already made many sketches of Fiddlers as the station was so close to the Mersey Gateway Bridge that they were in an almost symbiotic visual relationship. My own interest was initiated way back in 1988/89, when I first documented the Agecroft Power Station [before it was decommissioned and then demolished in May 1994] with a painting known widely as ‘Acid Trip’ ©DenisTaylor1988/1989-  And of course I realises that this project was a terrific subject for articles for painters TUBES magazine, of which I act as an editor in chief.

So far, the new project has advanced quickly with Shaun, Lee and myself discussing the narrative and planning various concepts of presentation of the project in a public space. We discussed how various segments like video, photography, interviews of the staff could be shown along side oil paintings that are both realistic and some abstracted visions, all integrated into one visually powerful exhibition with a potentially huge public interest, especially in the North of England.

Shaun, Lee and Denis Taylor -painters TUBES Fiddlers Ferry Projectabove (from left): Shaun Smyth, Lee Harrison and Denis Taylor in front of the large painting in Fiddlers Ferry Power Station Sept 2019.

With the go ahead for access given for the project from Fiddler Ferry,  Shaun immediately launched into an ambitious painting of the ‘outside view’ of the station. This work will underpin future exhibitions and also give an immediate visual reference to the scale of the Fiddlers Ferry power plant. This oil on plywood painting, measuring 1200mm x 4800mm wide (4 ft x 16ft) is the first of a planned number of major works (to be created by Shaun)  that the project will exhibit – And hopefully in more than one location in the North West of England.

The project will continue until Fiddlers Ferry has totally vanished from the landscape (in 36 months) – inbetween time the project is looking to hold a number of smaller exhibitions in immediate the local areas where the public can follow the ambitious project during its journey – as it documents this architectural, technological and quite incredible icon of the 20th century.

Above: Shaun Smyth and Lee Harrison at the pre-opening of the Mersey Gateway Bridge Exhibition at the Brindley. Photograph by DenisTaylor

Both the Mersey Gateway Bridge and Fiddlers Ferry Power Generating Station are equally important for the whole of society – one showing the path for the future – and the other respecting the achievement of the past – Both linked intrinsically with the people of the North West of England and far beyond the shores of the United Kingdom.

written Denis Taylor for painters TUBES magazine ©2019

Interested parties, sponsors,  venues or for more information please contact info@painterstubes.com – marking Fiddlers Ferry Project as the subject matter.

illusionary world of artists freedom…

an illusionary world of Artistic freedom. article written by the Artist Denis Taylor.

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.

painting of a Saint by Italian master in TUBES magazine.

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.

Detail of a painting by Pontormo in painters Tubes magazine
detail of Pontormo’s ‘deposition’ (1525‒28) at the church of Santa Felicita, Florence

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?

The Rothko Chapel in Texas -article in painters Tubes magazine
Rothko Chapel Texas USA (rothkochapel.com)

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 ?

Sam Francis, painter in his studio in paintersTubesmagazine
Sam Francis painting in his studio

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.

Affirmative Art, an essay by Nigel Whiteley in painters TUBES magazine

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?

©2018/2019 written by Denis Taylor, Artist and Editor of painters Tubes magazine

the universe - on painters Tubes magazine
small part of the many Universes – photograph from NASA

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The Web Highway or the High Street way? Spike muses over selling Art

painters Tubes magazine-article

‘Spike’ where do artists sell their paintings?

A year or two ago I read an art exhibition review which was pretty damming, not only to the exhibition in question, but also to the artist who made it. This wasn’t an anti-post modernist twentieth century rant, nor was it an intellectual twenty first century tirade of what Art should be or indeed what it actually is. Not at all, this review was more like the angry comments one sometimes reads after an essay about Contemporary Art. You know, those rants at some arts columnist who infuriates everyone with his almost myopic intellectualism that uses sentences filled with nine letter and twelve letter words that were lifted from a thesaurus the night before. To be honest, at first I laughed and then I was taken aback at the ferocity of the attack and then I felt really pissed off….

…the newspaper reviewer started off with, “that he found the exhibition so boring, that he could hardly find anything [to write about]. So, what was this horrendous exhibition he was so incensed about? – Artists vomit ‘installed’ on the floor of a gallery perhaps? Or maybe a live performance of an artist asleep?  Maybe digital prints of someone else iPhone selfies? Or even a person standing and staring into space for an hour or two naked in the middle of a gallery whistling out of tune? Nope…  none of those, it was a visual art exhibition showing paintings hung on a wall. Paintings, the most ubiquitous of all art was what this supercilious art critic railed against. He announced that painting (as an art form) was dead if not buried. So what if the artist had mounted an on-line exhibition instead of a bricks and mortar gallery exhibition? Would he have had to encountered such negativity and venom against the artist and the work? I don’t think so. On-line etiquette is far too well enforced, as far as commenting (read criticising) art is concerned. If you do critic any art on line – well, you know what happens guys…you get a bad case of the International Troll Gang gunning for you, social media is vicious towards critics. It’s sort of reversed in real life.

Do you Sell on line?
Showing paintings on line, seems to be 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). Perhaps this particular critic didn’t realise that the “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 decade or so. 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 way back in 2008. High street galleries need to sell ‘stuff’ and earn a profit – And paintings sell much quicker than ‘cool’ installations 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 the institutions are happy to underscore the ‘Art’ as a thank you for the generous support (financial donation) made by the mega white cubed gallery brigade, whose artist is the latest exhibition in the museum. ”

William Shakespeare - There is something rotten in Denmark - article in painters TUBES magazine
“there’s something rotten in Denmark, me thinks.”

Yet, the installation art marketplace is tiny compared to what the two dimensional art market is and I think the galleries have woken up to that as a fact – so now painting is the ‘thing’ again. Today the sheer size of the visual art market (because of the internet and the web) 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.  Many of these artists and the one man art galleries start-ups fail quickly- some have a sort of:- ‘in the third year we will make money plan’.  Most, in reality, loose much more money than they bargained for and are wrapped up prematurely by the investors that backed the idea in the first place.  It’s not a case of chasing huge profits for many galleries though, on the contrary, it’s survival we are talking about here. Many on-line galleries are simply losing too much money, year in and year out. Consumers are going direct to source these days, via instagram.

“there is no money in Art…
…a very wise man once said to me (back in1990). He may have been right but for the wrong reason. Should Art really be treated as a commodity and be sold as such? – ‘Stack ’em high, sell ’em cheap is not an effective strategy for art, unless of course your selling from a production line of ‘copy’ paintings, you know, technically good, but utterly soulless. The high street galleries are having some degree of success especially the well positioned bricks and mortar establishments. They really do use the web effectively. Many sell-out their latest exhibition on-line, even before they hold the opening night. A night which also serves a vital purpose for the prospective client to actually see the Artwork for real – then the deal is invariably clinched on the spot. Sounds good, but nothing has changed for the artist who hasn’t the right connections or a million+ followers on Instagram, he or she still don’t even get a foot through the door let alone a painting to sell.

But – and it’s a big but…
….will authentic original art win out in the end? Or will the major on-line galleries self appointed art selectors continue to advance those artists that fit the preferred ‘style’ of the month and advise their visitors of the artists who are the ‘ones to watch’ (read invest in) – thus employing the ‘stack em high sell em cheap (at first), then up the ‘anti’ later strategy – all with an ‘additional discount to buy’ of course, which the Artist who created the work in the first place has to ‘agree’ to accepting the higher percent they take off the top line. Will High street galleries continue to be flooded by the hopeful newbie or the forsaken mature painters ? To be honest they really don’t stand a chance of being let over the gallery threshold as a exhibited artist.  High Street galleries have more than they can handle on the books already – so they tell me. And then of course we have the the on-line educators come experts (anyone can be an art expert if they say they are, all you need in a minor degree in sociology).  They tell us – “How-to Sell Your Art On-Line” does this unquantified  advise make any difference –  or is that bull shit too? Only Time will tell.  Real artists have to keep painting and have to wait and see with their eyes wide open to all the possibilities – or maybe  and better still – perhaps artists should create their own ‘marketplace and stick two fingers up to the lot of them.

SPIKE is an independent art critic painters TUBES magazine and does not neccessarily represent the opinions of painters TUBES magazine

  ©Spike 2018- 2019

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The Art Game

“painting is a dead art”

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…

TUBES magazine art critic - SPIKE

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).

Spike talks about the art game..painters Tubes mag

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 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.