Sunday, 15 April 2012
A hang over is a funny thing. I am in the dining room having eeked the last part of the maths homework out of my son and the world seems fuzzy. Not fuzzy as it did yesterday when I realised my left eye was struggling to focus (age and stress) but fuzzy in a way more suited to Sundays spent in an undergraduate bedroom. I never really let go at art college. By which I mean I was always aware that I might have to function the next day. Life was not an Alex Garlanded beach for me. There is probably a certain amount of obsessive compulsive control freakerery to blame for me never really disengaging from an approach of nervous trepidation. The old spectacles testicles wallet and watch is a joke that chimes with me on a number of levels - not least the repeated rituals that Catholicism seemed to instigate. Set off. I never forget the time my parents found me, aged 10, kissing the feet of the deconstructed crucifix that hung over our staircase. You don't need to do that they said gently. Oh but I do I remember thinking as any obsessive believer would. What I'm trying to do in this game of blind man's buff, is find a route back to my childhood. I've just read how Alain-Fournier remembers having a longing for the past even before his adolescence had finished. He became fearfully aware of the impending loss of youth. In writing when this approach doesn't work its called sentimental. So I risk being awarded the mawkish medal when I suggest that mornings on the carpet with the sun streaming in through the crack in the curtains watching the opening titles of Robinson Crusoe somehow capture the dull ache of this particular longing. Earlier I remember feeling an increduluity that my childhood had ended so abruptly. I remember asking my father if it was normal to long for your childhood. I was probably only six and in my mind childhood was the time I spent up until the age of 4 playing in the back garden of a bungalow in Bexhill by the sea. There always seemed to be a stream of people through our front door and the large garden complete with apple trees was often host to children inventing games. I myself was reknowned for being able to fearlessly pick up any living creature found withing its folds. when we left Bexhill life became perimetered. we never actually painted half a gate post but this is the way we seemed to define our world. My father often quoted Rousseau's words about the phrase "this is mine" being the sowing of the seeds of (the downfall) of civilised society. Me thinks the lady doth protest too much? Another odd fact that strikes me now is that I have no recollection of going to church prior to leaving Bexhill. Bexhill is my lost paradise. A state of mind not the subject of jokes about wheeling the dead along the front. It is a pre-intellectual place. Where a snake could be picked up without fear because I couldn't name it. Bless.
Tuesday, 3 April 2012
Damien Hirst is a renaissance artist. By which I mean he is part of a defunct tradition not that he is a polymath seeker outer of the green fuse of wonderment. Leonardo was the latter. It's a cliche but his work was driven by enquiry and a desire to explore the outer limits of materials and their ability to depict. The renaissance used the order and systematic application of classical antiquity as its framework. From a classical view point the underlying form then became more and more important. This broke with a byzantine idea that the picture surface was a conduit for something beyond the surface of life. The ego discarded the unconscious. The renaissance became all about the surface. With the sense of ineffable vaporised the only escape from the surface was to go below. Anatomy abounds. Depicting death becomes the best way of making things realistic. Mantegna's Dead Christ ought to have been the last word on this matter. Instead centuries later the ecorche (a cast of a flayed body) was the thing to draw if you wanted to learn to make realistic art. So art became a flayed skin and poetry was left on the mortuary floor.
This is why Hirst goes on about being unable to imagine death. Because in his particular art cage we are fixated with the immediate material world. Hirst's art is species specific just like that of Florentine renaissance. Contrast this with Hockney at the RA which picks up the byzantine thread of the perceptual world as manifestation of the ineffable beyond the picture plane.
Okay Hirst is part of the artist as lone individual genius picture. A shark savagely devouring weaker rivals. My hunch is that at Goldsmiths they train em up like pitbulls hanging from branches by their teeth. Two things created ybas. One is tutors saying explore your identity. Your obsession. You are unique. The other is the tired idea that anything can be art if the artist says so. This is duchamp as Buddha. The YBAs were not radical free thinkers like say those of arte provera. They were good students fed on steaks and steroids. Good students mimic the ideas presented by their tutors and disguise this enough to make it communicate an idea of originality without unsettling the tutor because it goes beyond the limits of their personal art cage. Damien Hirst talks about the power of juxtaposition to create something new but this is simply the talk of nineteen eighties ad men. Hirst's is a hermetically sealed world - all of it a teenage boy's over blown Vanitas.