ARTISTS: Sidney Nolan

Sidney-Nolan-Ned-Kelly-1946
Sidney Nolan “Ned Kelly”
“Many of my best subjects have resulted from looking back on past journeys.”
– Sidney Nolan
If you’ve ever visited the chain restaurant Outback Steakhouse, while you were waiting for your Bloomin’ Onion to be served, you may have noticed some unusual decor on the walls.
The location I went to featured prints of an unusual but notable Australian artist, Sir Sidney Nolan (April 22, 1917 – November 28, 1992). Although he spent much of his career in England, Nolan’s recurrent subject matter was the land and people of Down Under.
Starting in the 1940s, Nolan was a member of an Australian avant-garde art movement called Angry Penguins, dedicated to creating modern art with a uniquely Australian identity. It was around this time Nolan began creating his best known works, a stylized recounting of the true life adventures of the bushranging outlaw Ned Kelly (1854-1880).
deathofconstablescanlon
Sidney Nolan “The Death of Constable Scanlon”
 
 Ned Kelly was a horse thief and bandit who was involved in the murder of several policeman in the Outback frontier area where he wandered. A romanticized rebel/Robin Hood reputation has grown up around him, but what really launched him into legendary status was his final confrontation with the law in 1880. Kelly donned a homemade suit of armor for the gunfight, but ultimately was wounded in the arms and legs and captured. He was executed by hanging.
Ned_Kelly_Full_Suit_of_Armor
Ned Kelly’s actual suit of homemade armor
Sidney-Nolan-01
Painter Sidney Nolan invokes his alter ego
Nolan used an iconic figure of Kelly in a series of paintings, referencing Kelly’s armor by rendering his hero as a simplified cubistic figure in expressive, loosely painted Australian landscapes. The works become an existential mediation on the individual pursing his destiny, as well as showing narrative scenes from Kelly’s troubled existence.
nude_ned300_080124055151326_wideweb__300x377
Sidney Nolan “Kelly and His Armor”
sidnolangiftpc018
Sidney Nolan “Kelly”
Nolan created other series also dedicated to Australian history as well, including some wonderful works on the doomed expedition of the explorers Burke and Wills, who used imported camels to travel across the Outback. Only one member of their expedition survived.
sidney-nolan-burke-and-wills-expedition-1948-1382825167_org
Sidney Nolan “Burke and Wills Expedition”
Gray Sick
Sidney Nolan “Gray Sick”
(Gray was a member of the expedition who became so ill he was tied to his camel so he wouldn’t fall off)

Inland Australia 1950 Sir Sidney Nolan 1917-1992 Purchased 1951 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N05993

Sidney Nolan “Inland Australia”
There was a time history paintings were recognized as the highest form of genre painting, epic in scope, ambition and execution. Modern art largely turned away from such efforts, preferring design problems and self contained art-for-art’s-sake experiments.
Losing the excitement and connectivity of story telling in art was a huge miscalculation. As art undergoes Remodernist renewal, story telling will become an important element once more, another powerful means of engaging the audience.
It’s a great contrast to the muddleheaded flailings of Postmodernist practitioners, who can only jumble unconnected references into their distracted, self-absorbed theoretical models. They rigidly conform to predetermined narratives. This is an inferior experience to the surprising and rich unfolding of the actual, which is what story telling describes.
I often invoke an eerie nostalgia for the past in  my paintings, for I know in time I too will be joining that infinite regression. History-telling or showing the stories of what happened in the past-is a wise way to understand the present, and to prepare for the future.
We Are Both So Beautiful
Richard Bledsoe “We are Both So Beautiful” acrylic on canvas 24″ x 18″
Sidney Nolan understood how art can shape a national identity, with all the benefits such an identity can provide to the people. And he knew the way he could best make his contribution:
 Painting is an extension of man’s means of communication.  As such, it’s pure, difficult, and wonderful.”
-Sir Sidney Nolan

The Encounter 1978-9 Sir Sidney Nolan 1917-1992 Presented by Rose and Chris Prater 1979 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/P05487

Sidney Nolan “The Encounter”

Advertisements

EXPLOITS: The Unexpected Reappearence of an Early Painting

Dissolve with Veil

Richard Bledsoe “Dissolve with Veil” oil on canvas circa 1990(?)

In 1987, I left my home to go to art school at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. It was a natural transition for me, as I had spent my entire youth enjoying creative expression in various forms: drawing, writing, reading, and watching movies. I wanted to not only be a consumer of culture, but a producer of it as well.

While I was there I shifted majors several times, trying to find the best fit for my interests and talents. I went from art to theater to writing intensive English courses, working hard in each discipline, hoping to find the way to best to express my vision.

Finally I realized that of all the things I studied, it was painting that intrigued me the most. I finished up with a Bachelor of Fine Art degree in Painting and Printmaking, and I can honestly say I have never stopped painting in all the years since I graduated.

While I was studying at VCU I became friends with a girl from my same hometown who was also attending the college. Christy was a talented actress and writer, and just a fun, warm person in general. We had many classes together, and shared many adventures outside of school too.

I don’t remember the occasion or the time frame, but at one point I gave Christy one of my student paintings as a present, a small canvas in oils. “Dissolve with Veil” was painted in my room from a still life I set up with a clamp light and a crumpled white sheet. Even though the fabric was white, I rendered its shadings and highlights in moody blues. In front of this backdrop reproduced from observation, I added an element of my own invention: a series of suspended colored spheres, subtly decreasing in size.

This was an important piece for me. When I showed it in class my professor praised it, and even announced he was going to steal the idea of the items hanging in space. He did too-in the incredibly elaborate and detailed paintings he did of ruined buildings, he started include pieces of debris in mid air, as if the image caught them in the moment of falling.

Of course there is no theft in this at all, just the passing on of inspiration. I was inspired by other art when I made my painting. Probably there is some Magritte unpinning this work of mine, with his surreal floating fruit and businessmen.

Later I repainted a larger version of this same drapery and spheres image. It became the first piece I ever sold.

After graduation I lost touch with Christy, and I probably hadn’t heard from her in 20 years. But just recently, though the omnipresent outreach of Facebook, we friended each other and sent some nice updates on our current lives.

I was blown away when Christy sent me a picture of my painting, which she still has. I find it to be a beautiful and mysterious piece. And I can see elements in it already that continue to factor into my work now.

It is wonderful to see something from the early days of my attempts to reconcile ideas with execution, and vision with skill. That is what painting does so effectively: it creates a visible record of the human quest for cohesive expression.

I am grateful for this experience, getting to see a moment from the beginning of my journey. Thanks Christy!

COMMENTARY: Painting and the End of History

the_offering

Richard Bledsoe “The Offering” oil on canvas 36″ x 48″

“What’s past is prologue.”

-William Shakespeare


We have been unfortunate to live in a era when the educated classes have been indoctrinated into an uneasy and unsustainable relationship with the past. The elites don’t want to be held accountable for their ongoing deceptions and abuses, so there has been a systematic effort to deny and revise our understanding of history.

The past is full of examples of the consequences of the end results of power mad schemes, and the current anointed don’t want that perspective available. Here’s a hint: it always ends badly for the schemers, but usually after they have inflicted huge human costs and damages onto others.

So far in my brief existence, we’ve seen the enforcement of the postmodern mentality, with the core concept that all ideas and values are relative, and will serve whoever gets to grab the means of communications. We’ve been harangued about multiculturalism, which insists every civilization is of equal merit, ignoring the almost universal conditions of mass poverty, repression, strife and inequality that have always existed, and continue to be the typical standard of living most especially in places that do not follow the model of the West.

We’ve seen the utter collapse of Communist states, which talked egalitarianism while enslaving and massacring their own populations. But we are encouraged to overlook the catastrophic failures of this 19th century philosophy to ever work out in reality. Marxism is the big bait-and-switch by which aristocrats camouflage their graft and privileges, and our society is enduring yet another top-down campaign to get us all to buy into it.

Just few decades ago it was trendy to discuss “the end of history.” The thought was we had reached the perfection of human society and now we would tick along just like clockwork. The establishment wants desperately for this to be true, because this would lock the existing power structure into place forever. The current elites are secular, global, urban, technocratic, hypocritical, domineering, and arrogant. They think they’ve cracked the code to remain masters of the world in perpetuity.

History scoffs at this vision of Utopia, which to the establishment means they get to dictate to everyone else how to live and what to believe-even though their vision of existence is so empty and limiting. Life will crush them like it crushes all tyrants. We will make new history tracing their downfall.

My paintings are haunted by the past. The inspirational visions I have come dressed in the appearances of earlier eras. I am informed in this imagery by my readings in history and literature.

I understand my place is as part of a continuum, not just as an isolated fragment of the now. In my art I evoke an eerie nostalgia for the past. Not only do I understand that in time I will be joining that infinite regression, I also understand the past has much to teach us about the present. Really there is nothing new under the sun.

The art world in particular has been very misguided in its rejection of its own traditions. The obsessive insistence on so-called novelty and boundary crossing has rendered the visual arts into an irrelevant, rudderless shell of itself. The efforts to put the unskilled and soulless offerings of contemporary establishment art on the same footing as the masterpieces of earlier eras does nothing but highlight the failures of the current efforts.

Those who would erase or misrepresent history are not to be trusted. They are afraid of what the past proclaims about their current actions, and they know any informed judgements would be harsh.

In their 1999 Remodernism Manifesto, Billy Childish and Charles Thomson defended acknowledging the foundations civilization is built on:

5. We don’t need more dull, boring, brainless destruction of convention, what we need is not new, but perennial. We need an art that integrates body and soul and recognizes enduring and underlying principles which have sustained wisdom and insight throughout humanity’s history. This is the proper function of tradition.

These two English painters understood the power of historical perspective in the arts, and how it serves real progress in our culture. This understanding applies to more than just painting.

COMMENTARY: The Doublethink Strategy of the Cultural Elitists

downing-street-tracey-emin-ap-543

Hack Conceptual Artist Tracey Emin kisses up to UK Prime Minister David Cameron

“What you do speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you say.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you don’t understand the desired outcome, the actions make no sense.

One of the most controversial and least talented artists of the global art scene routinely receives the full force of establishment institutional support, including from a supposedly conservative government.

Tracey Emin is a notorious figure in England. She is an icon of the Conceptual Art movement that has done so much to destroy the credibility of elitist culture for anyone who has a life outside of the Postmodern cocoon.

Emin’s an artist who can’t draw; naturally the powers that be named her Professor of Drawing at London’s prestigious Royal Academy of the Arts.

Tracey-Emins-Ripped-Up-19-001

Tracey Emin seriously cannot draw

Emin’s an artist reputed to be radical; so of course of one her “artworks” ( a trite sentence fragment converted into a neon sign by some hired craftsmen) is featured prominently at No. 10 Downing Street, the headquarters of the Conservative British Prime Minister David Cameron.

More-Passion-from-Tracey--008

Any passion at all would be nice

Emin’s an artist who is known for being crude and transgressive; so it is obvious why the British Consulate General New York just chose her to judge a portrait contest of Queen Elizabeth II.

Queen+Elizabeth+II+Tracey+Emin+Queen+Elizabeth+vPaVnjlswAfl

God save the Queen-we mean it, man

Looking over these developments, you might be puzzled how a practitioner of such dysfunctional ideas ever gained so much recognition. There’s a couple of unpleasant alternatives, each of which are equally credible.

First of all, it’s a sign of the last days for the pretense that there is anything really daring or challenging about today’s big money art world. The omnipresent counter culture is left without a legitimate culture to counter. The cutting edge is dull. The redundant repetitions of an avant-garde that is no longer advancing are playing out in a tiny echo chamber with a very expensive price of admission.

Presumptuous and privileged high society adopting someone like Emin, who made her mark by supposedly being so biting, reveals how safely toothless she really is.

But still, what’s in it for them, the new aristocracy of the well-connected? Entrenched interests like this never support anything that doesn’t work to their favor. They are beyond any need to look cool to the masses, and no one in their right mind takes the junk Emin offers as having any actual artistic merit.  There is another agenda at work here.

Once you realize the arrogant ruling class believes tearing down the traditions and standards of Western civilization will cement their grasp on unaccountable power, the promotion of Emin as the pinnacle of artistic achievement becomes understandable. Hyping soulless, unskilled art has a toxic, weakening effect on society as a whole. Conceptual art is a tool of oppression.

To further expand on this idea, I’m reposting an article I wrote for the Western Free Press in March 2015. It explains the Orwellian efforts behind the elevation of mindless attention seeking as an attempted substitute for values, achievements and principles-as well as the growing global movement to overthrow the tyranny of elitist collusion and consensus.

TRACEY EMIN, 1984, AND THE CULT OF CELEBRITY

“If human equality is to be ever averted—if the High, as we have called them, are to keep their places permanently—then the prevailing mental condition must be controlled insanity.”

—George Orwell, 1984

 

The timing couldn’t have been better. Days after my last article on how the establishment art world is practicing the manipulations traditionally used by confidence game swindlers, British celebrity Tracey Emin’s piece My Bed made headlines for being auctioned off for millions. The fleecing of marks by the systematic Long Con of the corrupted culture industry rolls on unabated.

Tracey Emin is little known in America, outside of artsy circles. I get the impression it’s different in England, where she’s more of a tabloid figure, notoriously milking the old shock-the-bourgeoisie poses so dear to the moneyed culture elites. My Bed is simply a collection of Emin’s dirty linens and assorted refuse moved from her home into a museum, and proclaimed to be cutting edge art. This gesture was what first got her noticed as an art world player.

Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' To Be Auctioned At Christie's

The $4 Million Mattress

My Bed can be seen as emblematic of the non-art favored by pretentious metropolitans these days, an unskilled accumulation of dingy objects supposedly transmuted into art by the alchemy of dislocation. In a home the collection of soiled belongings would just be low grade squalor. Move them into a gallery or museum, and the theory is the new context should apparently spark some amazing mental gymnastics of Questioning and Challenging and Transgressing. It’s a pathetic substitute for artistic achievement, but it’s about all the current ersatz-intelligentsia can offer up.

How did an accumulator of debris earn the establishment accolades which lead to such windfalls? In all the breathless arts coverage she receives, it seems there’s more attention focused on Emin’s bad girl shtick instead of the actual results of her attempts at art. The emphasis is always on confabulating the “controversial” personal reputation and behavior with the true merits of her creativity, or the lack thereof.

Emin advanced her career with media-friendly drunken antics, and by cozying up to power players, rather than making worthwhile art. She made a name for herself by behaving as a kind of pandering clown for the glitterati, a predictable freak show for our would-be ruling class, feeding into the establishment’s most precious clichés. She demonstrates the artist as a decadent tool of personal and societal destruction. She flatters the elitists’ inflated sense of themselves as liberated forward thinkers, while at the same affirming for them that their sordid, debased natures is the final truth of the human condition.

The phenomena of a Tracey Emin is a codification of the worst traits in contemporary society: plutocratic influence hawking a type of nihilism, all tarted up with tawdry narcissism and brazen incompetence.

Watching interviews with Emin, I get the sense she must know on some level the falsity of her position. She displays a kind of rictus in her face, a deadness around her eyes. It’s an expression commonly seen on those with guilty consciences and lots to hide, like Mafia capos, or Lois Lerner. For an artist that likes to proclaim on the supposedly intimate and honest nature of her productions, it’s a jarring incongruity. For those who understand there’s more to honesty than a boastful list of confessions and mind numbing self-absorption, Emin’s rigidly guarded demeanor comes as no surprise.

Emin has now reached the pinnacle of what the elitist mindset offers to its supplicants. Famous for being famous, anything she does is infused with automatic significance based on sheer Name Brand Recognition, no real achievement required. The cult of celebrity cultivated by the establishment makes for a great distraction, especially when the selected elevated display no particular talent.

When quality and accomplishment are no longer factors in who receives institutional support, it becomes a scramble for notice. It’s a matter of who can most offend the disdained others, make the most noise, kiss the most rings and/or asses; a game for those most willing to do whatever it takes to win the lottery of who the self-proclaimed gate keepers wave through to join the privileged circle. Emin, with her toilet stall quality doodles and screeds, is now a Royal Academy Professor of Drawing and on her way to knighthood. This is a clear demonstration that those in charge have lost all perspective of what is meaningful in art and life.

The empty pursuit of attention has nothing to do with the power of creativity and its skillful expression. The highlighting of efforts by figures like Emin is indicative of the extreme poverty of thought and insight that characterizes our contemporary institutions.  The managerial technocrats that have seized control of our societies through administrative work in government, academia, media, and the arts have proven to be very, very bad at their jobs—but only if the assumption is their role is supposed to be providing quality service, support and facilities in the greater public interest. If a more base motivation is assumed, the actions of the so-called elites makes a lot more sense.

Author George Orwell was onto the techniques of these manipulative malefactors decades ago. After his experiences on the losing side of the Spanish Civil War, Orwell recognized the danger of the enemy within, greedy control freaks that yearn for domination. Their goals are not to enhance the greater good, but to accumulate unaccountable power for themselves.

Much of the energies of the establishment are focused on creating a double standard, holding others accountable for behavior they don’t practice themselves.  It’s manifested in ways like how anchor Brian Williams told repeated lies about his role in current events and expected he should still be accepted as a responsible journalist, or how serial sexual predators like Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy could be hailed as champions of women’s rights. Orwell wrote about these deliberate disconnects between actions and results in in his totalitarian how-to book 1984: “These contradictions are not accidental, nor do they result from ordinary hypocrisy: they are deliberate exercises in DOUBLETHINK. For it is only by reconciling contradictions that power can be retained indefinitely.”

The scourge of postmodern relativism as a cultural force is no accident. It’s a top-down driven campaign,  the result of a cabal of well-connected interests trying to remove any kind of objective standards that could lend perspective and inflict consequences for the lies, manipulations, and abuses practiced as they try to maintain control over the rest of us. Anyone allowed to move into this privileged New Class has to adhere to these deceitful practices. As Orwell wrote, “To arrest progress and freeze history at a chosen moment…this time, by conscious strategy, the High would be able to maintain their position permanently….The new aristocracy was made up for the most part of bureaucrats, scientists, technicians, trade-union organizers, publicity experts, sociologists, teachers, journalists and professional politicians…”

The expectations of these elitists is that they’ve won the war by selecting only useful idiots or fellow travelers to promote as representative of our culture. Orwell noted, “The essence of oligarchical rule is not father-to-son inheritance, but the persistence of a certain world view and a certain way of life, imposed by the dead upon the living. A ruling group is a ruling group so long as it can nominate its successors…all the beliefs, habits, tastes, emotions, mental attitudes that characterize our time are really designed to sustain the mystique of the Party and prevent the true nature of present day society from being perceived.”

And so, to demonstrate abeyance to the new overlords, there comes strange Doublethink spectacles like Emin’s non-artwork My Bed selling for millions through a once-reputable auction house. The art world has been co-opted and weaponized, turned against fundamental truths in order to serve the false narrative of the usurpers’ authority and superiority.

FREEDOM IS SLAVERY

IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

TRACEY EMIN IS AN ARTIST

These ideas are all of a piece. The promotion of postmodern and conceptual art by ruling class totalitarians is an effort to tell society, “2+2=5 because we said so, so sit down and shut up.” Well, we won’t be quiet anymore.

Ironically, the most significant historical legacy Emin leaves—besides being a prime representative of a minor and decadent era of art—may be a slur she used as she started her desperate scramble up the kleptocratic ladder.

In the 1990s Emin had been associating with an independent band of artists and writers called the Medway Poets, who she met through her boyfriend at the time, punk rock Renaissance man Billy Childish. She apparently lifted her whole autobiographical angle towards her art based on his influence, though without adapting aspects such as his plaintive humility and dogged, workmanlike manner.

Childish was working away at painting, wrestling with the medium, trying to make it show his own vision. As Emin sold out to the superficial stylings of conceptual art, she started to mock Billy’s more traditional approach. “Your paintings are stuck, you are stuck!” she sneered. “Stuck! Stuck! Stuck!”

When Billy shared this story with painter and writer Charles Thomson, Thomson recognized in it the pattern the modern cycle of art movements have followed. The forces of the establishment, seeing a new philosophy appearing, attempt to destroy the threat to their cultural monopoly with insults. Legendary art movements like Impressonism and Fauvism were named after the negative criticism they initially attracted.

Based on social climbing Emin’s preemptive abuse, these two principled and idealistic men identified Stuckism as a cultural force-a populist, open source art movement that undermines the pretentions and entitlements of the contemporary creative classes.

Of course, the institutions have made every attempt to stifle and suppress any progress of this radical rejection of their smug superiority, but nevertheless the movement quickly spread worldwide. With 236 Stuckist groups currently founded in 52 countries, the grassroots have gone global, reflecting the widespread hunger for an alternative to the empty trash served up by elitist cultural institutions.

Childish and Thomson quickly realized the often crude and provocative works of the Stuckists were just the opening salvo of a greater reformation of the culture they named Remodernism. The establishment squandered the opportunities the Modern age created by trying to twist the course of art to fit their ideology and agenda. Remodernism learns from the mistakes and victories of the past, building on traditions of individualistic integrity and vision.  It’s a game changer, completely challenging the priorities and processes of the contemporary art world. Remodernism acknowledges the soul. It seeks to make art about communion and connection again, instead of a signifier of snobbish social poses-the Bizzaro kind of phony erudition that crowned Tracey Emin, and those like her, the artists of their generation.

The story of the twenty-first century will be about the dismantling of centralized power. The longer the current elitists attempt to cling to their privileges by deceptions, manipulations and force, the harsher the ultimate corrections will end up being.

But an easy place to start undermining their pompous authority is by daring to state the obvious: moving dirty laundry into a museum doesn’t make it into art.

The reign of controlled insanity-officially condoned and practiced doublethink as the only game in town-is over.

8/12: Welcome Instapundit readers! Check out some of my other posts to see more about the renewal of the arts. -RB

EXPLOITS: The Fine Art of Childhood

Watsonandtheshark-original

John Singleton Copley “Watson and the Shark” 1778

When my wife Michele Bledsoe and I co-authored “The Secret Kingdom” together, I was pleased to know it was intended for children. What we did for the book was write poetry inspired by Michele’s existing body of paintings.

The art came first, and was not created specifically for kids. These are just the paintings Michele makes naturally, her visions made visible. The works just have such a mysterious fairy tale atmosphere about them which makes them accessible to all ages.

SalvationAndDesire2

Michele Bledsoe “Salvation and Desire” acrylic on canvas 18″ x 24″

I love the idea of presenting such wonderful works to kids. Art is for everyone, even children. We are doing a real disservice to youth today by assuming that doodles and cartoons are good enough illustrations for children’s books.

Why not give the kids something intense, beautiful and mysterious? Why not present them with real art?

I speak as someone who grew up with some pretty serious fine art reproductions decorating my room and our house. I’m sure having them around at an early age fed into the artist I’ve become as an adult.

I’ve already written about my dinosaur fascination and its connection to my art. I also gained inspiration from some more traditional masterpieces.

I grew up outside of Washington DC. I must have been in second or third grade when we made a school trip to the National Gallery of Art. I came away with some souvenirs-some beautiful art prints I picked out myself. My mother hung them up in my bedroom; for many years afterwards, as I grew up, I contemplated these images.

I had the taste of a little boy. The lurid “Watson and the Shark” was one of the pictures. There was also a Raphael painting of St. George and the Dragon, and a spooky dungeon scene by Giovanni Battista Piranesi.

I don’t know what ever happened to the actual prints I used to have, but thanks to the magic of the internet, it was easy to find the images.

Saint_george_raphael

Raphael “Saint George”

Piranesi_carceri XIV

Giovanni Battista Piranesi “Carceri XIV”

My parents also had a nice framed reproduction which hung over the fireplace in the family room: “The Haywain” by John Constable. As I spent countless hours in that room watching TV, I also would stare at the picture over the mantle.

the-hay-wain-1821

John Constable “The Haywain” 1821

Being exposed to truly great works from a young age enriched my life, and gave me the sense of the action and beauty art is capable of. I see echos of these images I grew up with in the art I make to this day.