Molly Crabapple

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molly crabappleI really love what Molly Crabapple does – her latest effort draws attention to Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Before that she went to Gitmo.

She is doing something important, and using her art to cut through the bullshit and engage with her audience. I think her art has the power to attract people to the conversation who might otherwise avoid it.

Whenever I have read her writing it always communicates in an intelligent way, and she always manages to bring something to the table that might otherwise have been left off the menu – her art is the same. I wish there were more like her out there, which is why I celebrate her, and hope that more people find her and take inspiration from what she does, and echo its spirit in some way.

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HR Giger

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li-hr-giger1 People have a very visceral reaction to Giger, he taps into something very primal with his art, and that is where people react from and to it. I think the word Freudian is a term that I have seen connected to him in more than one place.

I saw Alien and I found his art as two separate experiences that dovetailed when I was looking through one of the books I purchased.

To only know him for that one facet of his work would be criminal – there is so much more to him. As a writer looking at a book of Giger is like getting fat on the best cooked dreams … real gourmet stuff. He is one of those guys who takes what should be impossible to translate from that somewhere place of darkness, illicit sexiness, and transgressed boundaries, where the unspoken finds flesh to move about with, and he renders it in lifelike detail.

I had his posterbook in University and made a whole wall dedicated to Giger – some people did not like the aesthetic in the least, and unbelievably to me, deigned to call some of the work ugly, which, while some of it dealt with uneasy subjects was, in no way that I could see, ugly.

Darkness is something some people just cannot handle – they want to shy away from it and pretend that light falls on everything. If only this were true, I am sure life would be much easier. But in the darkness there can be something seductive and appealing which speaks at once on an analytical aesthetic level, but which also plugs into that current where the blood pumps and the hackles rise, and this  can be very pleasurable.

Would I want to live in one of Giger’s worlds? Probably not. But to visit as a tourist where these strange creatures are trapped behind glass is more than a passing pleasure that I have engaged in over the years. You should chase him down – it is so much easier now than it used to be, and prepare to embrace the open heart surgery he does on you as you sit there, barely anaesthetised by the shiny gloss of the images.

 

Egon Schiele

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Forgive me, but I do not recall if I have said this elsewhere, and given how much I babble that is entirely possible, but Schiele and Klimt are inextricably bound together in my mind as sharing a similar aesthetic. Klimt was always a little easier to like though, hence his prevalence on student bedroom walls, and Schiele was a little more problematic; he had some proclivities that made him a little less cuddly. Klimt was always the Beatles to Schiele’s Stones.

I heard the angularity of Schiele’s art dancing through Joy Division’s music, read it in Bellow’s Dangling Man, and maybe even in the harrowing performance of Bale’s Machinist. Egon Schiele for me at least lacks the opulence on display in Klimt – you feel the weight of the thinker moving around in this skin he inhabits like the twist of discomfort of someone trying to hide themselves from the regard of the audience who is invited inside what always feels like a naked moment.

The most edgy artists, and the ones who maintain that edginess are usually the ones whose art while being deeply embedded within the self awareness of the artifice of what they are doing, also is pressed up tight and close against the humanity which it is exploring. Think about those touchstones, which I freely admit are only loosely connected by the web of my associations, are all resplendent in the artiness and equally embracing of their balls-achingly naked raw humanity.

Is Egon easy? Are some of the things about him shading into a darkness that would make most people understandably uncomfortable? No he’s not easy, sure he’s slightly dodgy, but is his art fucking amazing and does it make you feel? And does it reward the time you invest in it? Yes, it sure does.

Banksy – Art Causing Debate

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How many artists of recent memory have triggered as much interest as Banksy with their art? Sure, people do still talk about the supposed identity of Banksy – a dialogue grounded in the celebrity obsession that gets us digging into the info-trails of every other media personality, but people are actually talking about the art.
They talk about the merits of the art and they talk about the meaning of the art, and the great thing, the reason why I think Banksy should remain anonymous forever, is that the artist doesn’t get in the way of the consideration of the work.
Not, that is, that even Banksy doesn’t play with that notion – the $60 Banksy artworks that slipped by most people question the whole value system we employ to judge art and its worth, and ask questions about how people feel about something when they know it’s by Banksy and when they don’t.
It’s a welcome antidote to some of the YBA celebrity-fest, but the main thing is – it has people looking at and considering art and talking about it.  Why? Because it is relevant and it comments about things which need commenting on. I’m sure it wouldn’t be an impossible thing to do if we all knew who Banksy was, but it might be considerably more difficult to disentangle meaning from personality … something that becomes increasingly hard as artists tweet and facebook and blog as much as the next guy.
To some degree it would be a preferable model to the one in existence – to strip out the fame and leave the work to stand by itself. If the work sold the artists would still make money, and people might judge the art on its merit rather than by which artist has the most interesting dirty laundry (I realise I am exaggerating here, and most people would have trouble naming a contemporary artist, but you get the point).

Lucien Freud

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I was saddened the other day to read that Lucien Freud had died. He was one of my favourite artists and one of those people who you knew you had on your side when you were trying to make an argument for the continuing validity of figurative art.

I didn’t discover him in the way I originally discovered artists, which was being told by someone learned in art that this person was a great person to look at. No, around the nineties I was engaged in the regular practice of searching through the Sunday magazines and cutting out articles and images that I liked and collecting them in folders as both reference materials and inspiration. This was how I found Lucien Freud.

Without knowing much about him, and not knowing for definite but definitely suspecting the relationship to Sigmund, I fell in love with his artwork. There are some artists who paint in such a way that you feel like the subjects are germs in a petris dish under a microscope – there is a certain elevation of the artist over those lowly human beings that he paints; with Freud you feel the affinity that he has for his subjects … he is putting their humanity on display, but not in such a way that suggests a dissected cadaver on a mortician’s slab, but a living breathing human being.

I recall all the controversy when he painted the queen and a load of stupid crap that was put across by the tabloids about how he couldn’t paint and it made me want to punch someone in the face – Freud is an honest painter and I think that honesty rankled the people who wanted some PR version of the queen on display.

I bought a huge coffee table book of Freud and it was something that kickstarted a lot of thoughts in my imagination – you should be able to look at any painting and read some kind of story into it. Is a painting ever a straight read of a person? No, course not – they are filtered through the eye and mind of the painter who posed them and composed the piece and chose the medium and every single brushstroke that puts the picture together … so you get a commentary as well as a representation, and it is always interesting to see the balancing act the artist performs to give you the truth of the subject and their own truth as well without one overriding the other. Freud is a master at this – you know one of his paintings when you see it, but you can also see the character of the person painted coming out of the canvas too.

Hunt him down, plug his name into google and sit back and enjoy the works, and if you can, hunt down the documentary on him, which was, I think put out by the BBC.