EXPLOITS: The Anonymous Show, 1994

Screed

Over twenty years ago, and all is proceeding as I had foreseen

.

The once clear packing tape used to hold it together is yellowed and peeling now. The white paper is crumpled and curled from being rolled up so long in my closet. But I’m looking at a piece of “art” I made in 1994, the year after I graduated college.

I was living in Richmond, Virginia, the same place I’d gone to school. I’d been invited to show in a guerilla art space known as Citizens Gallery, which ran as a sort of an open secret in an abandoned store front near the Virginia Commonwealth University campus. The theme of the show was “Anonymous.” Not only would the pieces be displayed without name labels, we were encouraged to create works outside of our normal mediums. I love a challenge, so even though I wouldn’t get to show one of my paintings, I accepted the invitation enthusiastically.

As far as making a piece went, I imagined a kind of the-end-of-world-is-nigh screed that some kook might feel compelled to disseminate. In this case the kook happened to be me, and the rant was my true feelings.

It would have been a cool thing to make a sandwich board I could have worn around at the opening, but that would have undermined the whole anonymity thing. So instead I imagined my message in the form of a broadside one might encounter plastered to the wall in some little used and disreputable alleyway.

I now refer to this as “art” because a sociological statement is not really art at all. The establishment art world would not agree; they are heavily invested in proselytizing, propaganda, and indoctrination. It’s a big part of the crisis of relevance in the arts, and why most people are content to ignore and/or despise contemporary art.

I typed it up on a regular sized sheet of paper (still on my old typewriter; no PC yet!) and blew it up section by section at the local copy store, taping all the pieces together to form a 36” x 30” poster. Looking at it now, over 20 years later, the words still ring true. It states:

ARTISTS, be brave. The end of our world is near.

Contemporary art has lost the culture war. Thank God.

What is the art of our time? A freak show, a temper tantrum; Perversion and envy rendered with sewage, carrion and debris. Desperate acts by frightened people. Our era ends with neither a bang nor a whimper-it chokes on its own bile.

Many artists are guilty of presenting their personal foibles and fetishes as the nature of reality (for what is art, but the recreation of a moment of profound insight?). These artists are not inspired-they have an agenda. They are self-conscious without being aware. Art schools are cranking them out by the dozen. They are the Salon Painters of Post-Modernism.

And like the Salon Painters, they will become an historical footnote: the reactionaries left behind by the new order. Future generations will judge us. Perhaps pity will dilute their scorn.

The new way coming is not a revolution, but a return. It will be like moving out of darkness and feeling the warmth of the sun. Artists will not use strife and disruption to communicate, for those are methods of obscurity. Their work will need no explanation or argument. It will be love made visible.

So said my twenty-five year old self, expressing ideas I have continued to defend, ponder and expand on ever since.

During the opening I stood discreetly near the piece and tried to eavesdrop on reactions. Most just read it quietly and moved on; some murmured appreciation. My favorite was one of the guys who got offended.

“It’s well written, but it doesn’t say anything,” he huffed to his incredulous friends. He was probably one of those desperate acting frightened artists, so he felt called out.

This anonymous message was written for an audience I knew would be full of art students, so it was aimed directly at them, criticizing their assumptions. It was intended as a warning not to follow artistic trends into oblivion.

I didn’t know what would happen next, or what form it would take. However, I already was feeling the change in the collective unconscious I’ve watched unfold slowly over the last two decades.

Even as I was writing that statement, over in England two men were thinking similar thoughts, and preparing to take significant action. I wouldn’t find out about them until many years later though.

In the meantime, in Richmond Virginia, being in this show only increased my determination. I applied myself with new intensity to locating venues to show my paintings.

Advertisements

ARTICLE: Photographing Van Gogh

 

van-gogh-photo-1024x768

Will the Real Post-Impressionist Please Stand Up

“Ah! Portraiture, portraiture with the thought, the soul of the model in it, that is what I think must come.”

-Vincent Van Gogh

March 30, 2016  will be Vincent Van Gogh’s 163rd birthday.

In the Artnet article linked here, they discuss how another potential photograph of Van Gogh has been discovered. The contender is circled. If true, it’s a very rare thing.

We know the paintings. The face looks back at us with frank regard, and we think we see enacted in his eyes the story as we know it in retrospect. The suffering, struggle and madness, the lonely death, before the steep and steady rise to posthumous glory.

In the self portraits of Vincent Van Gogh, we have been conditioned to see the whole romantic artist myth personified in one highly misunderstood Dutchman.

This face we know so well, we know almost exclusively from paintings. And another thing we have been conditioned to believe is that it is photography that is the true depiction of reality. It’s almost as if we want a photo to reinforce the honesty the canvases already show us.

As a painter I would suggest that the artwork shows things that a mere mechanical reproduction could never capture. Van Gogh definitely remains relevant to artists today, and is an exemplary honorary Stuckist.  But I do understand the appeal of history as captured in photographs. There’s an immediacy to them.

I did not discover that there were actual photographs of Vincent Van Gogh until I was well into my thirties. It’s fascinating to see that visage that I know so well from lingering over every expressive brushstroke of Vincent’s portrayals of himself. Trying to see how he did it. Trying to recognize the magic inherent in the simple manipulation of paint.

I can’t imitate my way to the same pinnacles he reached. It would be pointless to try. What I hope to understand is how he let himself go, to better understand how I too can become more of myself in my own art.

Even though photography was widespread during his lifetime, Vincent seems to have been a bit camera shy. There are two photos we can be certain of, both from his youth:

Boy Vincent_van_Gogh_1866

Vincent Van Gogh as a boy

.

van_gogh_age_19

Vincent Van Gogh Age 19

.

After that, nothing is certain, not even necessarily the paintings. For example, this one portrait was long considered to be a Vincent self portrait, all dressed up as a Parisian dandy:

Vincent_van_Gogh,_Portrait_of_Theo_van_Gogh_(1887)_-_02

But now it’s been decided this is probably a picture of his art dealer brother Theo. The determination was made in part due to the shape of the ear lobes, ironically.

But along the way there have been several controversial photos that claim to depict Vincent in the flesh. A Greek woman is holding onto one she claims her partisan father stole off of a Nazi train full of plunder during World War II.

The one below recently surfaced. It is said to show Van Gogh’s artist buddies Paul Gauguin and Emil Bernard. It is suggested Vincent is there with them, smoking his pipe. vincent-is-it-you

Gathering

highlight vincent-2-799x1024

Maybe, maybe not

The artist group photo failed to sell when it came up for auction. The art world remains unconvinced.

The photo below is even more doubtful, based on little more that a hunch. It was picked out of a batch of photos of nineteenth-century clergyman. Van Gogh’s father was in the ministry, so perhaps this is at least some long lost relative.

23-vg-inside

Doubtful: An uncanny likeness, but no proof

.

But since Vincent Van Gogh has become such an archetype of the artist, there is no shortage of portrayals of him in the mass media of today. Below are just a few of the times Vincent Van Gogh has been portrayed in the movies and television, as the cautionary/inspirational figure at the heart of the tragic tale of the undiscovered genius.

February 24, 1980 Film, television and stage actor Leonard Nimoy returns to The Guthrie Theater in his one-man show VINCENT: THE STORY OF A HERO on Thursday, February 28 and Friday, February 29 at 8:00 p.m. and on Saturday, March 1 at 5:00 and 9:00 p.m. Tickets for VINCENT are $8.95 and $7.95 and may be purchased by contacting the Guthrie Box Office, Vineland Place, Minneapolis, MN 55403, (612) 377-2224, or any Dayton's ticket office. Minneapolis Star Tribune

Boldly Van Gogh: Leonard Nimoy wrote and starred in a play called “Vincent”

.

Kirk-Douglas-in-Lust-for--001

No Stooge: Kirk Douglas  displays his “Lust for Life”

.

Roth

Brotherly love: Tim Roth in “Vincent and Theo”

.

WARNING This image may only be used for publicity purposes in connection with the broadcast of the programme as licensed by BBC Worldwide Ltd & must carry the shown copyright legend. It may not be used for any commercial purpose without a licence from the BBC. © BBC 2009

It’s elementary: Benedict Cumberbatch in “Van Gogh: Painted With Words”

.

Scorsese

In “Dreams”: Martin Scorsese

.

Serkis

My precious: Andy Serkis in “Simon Schama’s Power of Art”

.

doctor-who-vincent-van-gogh-e1305009078131

Vindication: On “Doctor Who,” Tony Curran as Vincent gets a glimpse into the future

PAINTINGS: “The Act” and the Art of Story Telling

The Act

Show time:

Richard Bledsoe “The Act” acrylic on canvas 24″ x 30″

I describe myself as a painter of parables and fables. I paint from visions that are revealed to me, which often seem like stills from movies playing in my soul.

Narrative art has been disfavored by the arts establishment for a long time now. Art babbling cultural industry types  substitute theorizing for story telling. The engaged audience for such an obscure set of concerns is small, which they fancy makes it elite and exclusive. It’s had the effect of robbing the larger culture of art appreciation.

The cultural elitists are so steeped in reflexive deconstruction, reactionary relativism, exhausted irony, and  lizard brained virtue-signalling that the idea that great art communicates to a vast audience doesn’t enter their consciousness. In fact, they would oppose such an accessible experience, as it undermines their inflated sense of self-regard.

I find that hack academic approach to be incredibly limiting, a huge part of what has caused a crisis of relevance in the visual arts.

We understand this life by means of the stories we are exposed to and participate in. To deprive art from partaking in this means of communication has been disastrous. Fortunately, many of us are taking action to return this universal form of connection to visual expression.

ART QUOTES: Billy Childish

BC_LM16580_Man_on_Chairs_Peeling_Orange_small_hr0

Laid back:

Billy Childish “Man on Chairs (Peeling Orange)”

.

“Great art is essentially timeless. The fact that people want to put it into a time frame is fine, but the actual resonance of it has nothing to do with the time it is made in.” 

-Billy Childish

I reference him all the time on this blog, the co-founder of Stuckism and Remodernism. Working with Charles Thomson, Billy Childish defined the first significant art movements of the 21st century. Their comprehensive critiques of art world excesses recognized the culture had at last reached a dead end. Corrupt Post Modern stylings of sophistry and status signalling have led to a crisis of relevance in the arts. The only way forward is the resurgence of first principles: art as a form of spiritual communication, where personal expression transcends into universal communion.

.

Great Banks

Billy Childish “The Great Banks”

.

But with the general lack on knowledge about contemporary art that exists these days outside the elitist art bubble and the maneuverings of the entitled culture industries, I see the need to share more about this cantankerous creative. Who is Billy Childish?

childishhats

A man of many hats

Childish does more than paint. He’s the masculine face that unwittingly inspired countless hipster handlebar mustaches.  He’s a dyslexic writer of painfully frank confessional books. He has been making raw garage rock since the punk 1970s, as front man of Thee Headcoats and many other variations. He’s failed to cash in with admirers like Kylie Minogue and Jack  White of the White Stripes, by giving them his honest opinion of their own musical efforts. He even left the Stuckist group shortly after he helped to codify their mission.

tumblr_ntws0f0pn41s0u653o3_1280

Billy Childish “Amongst Cactus”

.

You won’t find much by Billy Childish on many art quote sites, but as an intriguing multimedia figure with lots to say, interviews with him are plentiful. I find wisdom in his words and excitement in his ideas. His example shows a way to create with integrity in today’s confused and troubled times.

“We are all creative but some of us have it in our nature, or necessity, to maintain this and give whatever art form we choose preeminence in our lives. I believe that all these attributes are non-personal and from God: any minor investigation into reality will reveal that we create nothing within the universe; we merely manifest within it. What we are is not very clear to us.”

“I’ve dubbed myself as an amateur, not because I work in different field, but because I do what I do for love.”

“Art hasn’t got any better than the art that was made in the caves, but that doesn’t stop anyone doing it—it remains relevant, this very strange joining with the creator, picking up a burnt stick and joining in with creation.”

“People often talk about how contemporary art’s a success if it reflects who we are in a material, low way. Some people need that. Whereas I try to reflect who we really are—transcendent, spiritual beings which are not fixed in time at all.”

“Tradition is the platform to freedom.”

“In the past, I painted from a dark place and although no one liked that work at the time, it’s what people like now, because today people think that dark is cool. But I’m not interested in ‘cool’ in music, art or life, or even ‘cool’ as a term. I’m more interested in beauty and truth… it sounds so simple but it’s hard. I mean, that feels right, but how you get out of the way and commune with that? Because that is God. That is communing with God and finding a way to get out of the way and drop the bullshit. The struggle is to stop struggling and just drown in it, but that is difficult – we all want to be glamorous and get fucked-up because it seems much more compelling.”

“Writing manifestos and forming groups is a way of playing a game, and playing is very important because it gives us a lightness of touch in all this difficulty…To engage in the world in playful way is to really honor the fleeting nature of being and existence.”

“Before my ‘overnight success’ five years ago, I was surprised I rarely sold paintings, now I’m just as surprised that I do. But either way I just paint—doing as the painting requires—I’m its obedient servant.”

“It is an artist’s duty to be on the wrong end of the see-saw.”

“It’s like a love affair between myself and the world. That’s what my life is: a love affair with my family and the world and the paintings and the world. I’m in love with my wife and with my children, and they are the things that surround me, so they are the things that I celebrate. That’s how God made me.”

“Recognizing the world is what growing is, and recognizing truth is what growing is. There is no teaching as such. When you find out any great truth, you think, “I already knew that!’ It’s the same if you read a great book, you sometimes think, ‘I should have written this… I think I will!’ That’s what great art and music does – you encounter it and you think, ‘I should have done this… and I will!’”

-Billy Childish

mchugh_25mar14_fe_billy_288_image001_3_copy

Billy Childish in his studio

.

erupting-volcano-2011.jpg!xlMedium

Billy Childish “Erupting Volcano”

.

son-of-art3

Billy Childish “Son of Art”

.

BC_LM19176_edge_of_the_forest_hr2

Billy Childish “Edge of the Forest”

EXPLOITS: The 48-Hour Create-A-Thon

DSCF0240

The clock is ticking: making a painting in one weekend

.

I recently took a weekend off from my own home studio and moved my easel, paints and brushes to another location for a very special event. I had signed up for the 48-Hour Create-A-Thon, hosted by Camelback Bible Church. I had taken part last year; it was such a positive experience I was excited when it was announced again.

I would have two days to create an original artwork right there at the church, based on a theme that would not be revealed to us until the event began.

As a Remodernist artist, I love this concept. All too often these days art lives in a kind of imposed exile from everyday life. Art is separated from normal existence in the isolation of the studio, the gallery, and the museum, constrained to meet the expectations of culture industry technocrats. To break out of those expected venues and to create in a house of worship was uplifting. I trusted that in such a supportive environment that inspiration would come quickly, even though it normally takes me weeks to make a painting. And I was correct.

On 6pm on Friday night, the participants gathered and listened to a reading of our guiding theme: the story of Lazarus, as told in John … After that, is was time to start making some art.

I painted until 9 pm that evening, and was back again by 9:30 am on Saturday, and painted with only minor breaks for the next 6 hours, and for about another 6 hours on Sunday. So altogether I worked around 15 hours out of the 48.

DSCF0222

Saturday morning: underway

DSCF0246

Saturday afternoon

The first year the event had around a dozen artists take part. This time practically all of us were back, with a whole new group as well, almost doubling the turnout. During the weekend, 22 artists worked together in a communal space, creating in a whole range of mediums: painting, drawing, metal sculpture, assemblage, digital art; even music was represented, as one participant was composing with a keyboard and headphones.

The public was also invited in throughout the day to watch us work. They got to see how our pieces were progressing, and to speak to us about our art and the creative process. The spiritual sharing, communication and connection evoked by such interactions is a key principle of the Remodernist understanding of art’s purpose:

Why do we need a new spirituality in art? Because connecting in a meaningful way is what makes people happy. Being understood and understanding each other makes life enjoyable and worth living.”  – Billy Childish and Charles Thomson

DSCF0281

Sunday afternoon: finishing touches

By Sunday I was mostly adding details and small elements of color, as the major elements of the composition were resolved. Because of the time constraints and the need to depict a specific subject, I could not follow my normal model of painting visions I’ve had. Instead, I let myself have an image suggested to me by the brush strokes I was putting down on Friday night.

When I saw the hint of a hunched figure clutching his legs in the field of light blue I had scumbled onto the canvas, the rest of the picture suddenly clicked into place for me, like another time Inspiration struck.

Lazarus waited four days for his resurrection. He already knew Jesus, so he would have known he was going to rise, but he had no way of knowing whether it would take 4 days… or over 2,000 years. Time isn’t a concern for God eternal. Lazarus patiently waits for the walls and the laws to dissolve into the light of love, in the cosmic cathedral of God’s presence.

An even better thought is asking when will our walls fall, so we can join the light? Larazus was raised from the dead, but when will we ourselves begin to live?

I can write words about this all day, but ultimately in art, words fall short. I can’t tell you, I have to show you.

The beauty of art is a reminder of the source of all beauty and truth. I was honored to take part in this event, which cultivated art as a form of communion.

Been Four Days

“Been Four Days” acrylic on canvas 24″ x 30″

The completed painting