Category Archives: blogging

Time to close down The Arts Council? AXIS RANT…

From the AXIS RANT page
Feel free to bark back…

hoops
Our new Ranter-in-Residence for February, Shaun Belcher, starts off on a topical, if controversial note, asking ‘has Arts Council England (ACE) failed? Do we really need it anyway?’.

Shaun asks if the lottery years have set ACE up for a fall as we move into tighter financial times and political pressures are heightening.

Respond here:
http://www.axisweb.org/dlForum.aspx?ESSAYID=18075

Saatchi online …really???..you having a laugh?

I still in a state of shock but thought I’d cut and paste here as well just in case it all an administrative error and when I wake up all gone….still in an ironic world this as ironic as it gets!

From: http://www.saatchi-gallery.co.uk/blogon/art_news/schaun_belcher_saatchi_online_critics_choice_by_victoria_chaine_mendrzyk/6192

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Shaun Belcher is a prolific artist whose practice encompasses photography, painting, drawing, poetry and song writing. We will focus here on his cartoons that are visible both on Saatchi Online and more extensively on his website.

Belcher frequently posts his doodles on his blog, which thus functions like a diary. They retrace his mood, his frustrations with the arts scene or his views on the art world with a deadpan humour. His drawings are a mixture between comics, scribbles and caricatures and are made with an unhesitating black pen. The message is straightforward and clear. In some of his cartoons such as “Give me the Turner Prize, I am as shit as anyone”, his slang vocabulary as well his definitive statements can have something moving and aggressive at the same time – as if distant remnants of teenage hood. They reveal an unsettled state of mind and tell disarmingly touching and droll stories.

His ironic and shameless comments on the art scene are indeed serious and make him at times sound desperately ambitious and direct. For instance “I am a pretentious 25 year old with no fucking skills but by networking, crawling, by doing voluntary works in a gallery I now have a small foothold on the art world…” By talking about his experience, he brings up questions that any artist might ask himself: How can I be visible as an artist in a saturated art scene? Can I make a living from my work? How can I network even more than I currently do? Even though his works refer a lot to very English contemporary art events such as the Turner Prize or the Nottingham art scene, they can apply to every artist striving to succeed and to be recognized.

Shaun Belcher was born in Oxford in 1959. He is currently living in Nottingham and is now a multimedia lecturer at Nottingham Trent University, freelance web designer and practicing digital artist.

To see more of his work registered on Saatchi Online click here, and visit the artist’s own website, http://www.shaunbelcher.com.

Victoria Chaine Mendrzyk

Victoria Chaine Mendrzyk graduated with an MA Curating Contemporary Art from the Royal College of Art, a BA in Fine Art and History of Art from Goldsmiths College, University of London and a BA in Philosophy from University of Paris X, Nanterre. She has worked for Beaux-Arts Magazine, the Grand-Palais and at the Maison Rouge in Paris, at Sundaram Tagore Gallery in New York, at Documenta 12 in Kassel and at Deichtorhallen in Hamburg. She is also an international correspondent for Art India Magazine.

Published on 08-02-2010

Academic Artist? Oxymoron?

1RowlandsonExhibition+Room+Somerset+House

There was a time when the phrase ‘academic artist’ was synomonous with a certain conservatism and use of traditional strophes that reflected the academic virtues of fine handling of paint, drawing of a certain standard and a certain ‘resemblance’ to the world of the viewer who would recognise the metaphors and the world that produced the works. A ‘hang’ may be as crowded as the Rowlandson of Somerset House but like the Royal Academy Summer Show one knew what one was getting.

Now the phrase has more chance of pertaining to an altogether more insubstantial, less skilful and frankly bizarre world…..for now we have a new breed of ‘institutional academic artists’. These strange hybrid creatures (neither fish nor fowl) have realised that their ‘practice’ ( a cosy word for what they ‘do’ that has jettisoned the need to actually ‘do’ anything) is a fair hothouse flower that could not survive in the cruel harsh winds of UK PLC in a recession. having realised that their slender talents are unbankable in any BRITART fab cash in bank way they are flocking to peddle their wares at the feet of Symposiums and Academic meetings. spitting out acronyms like the funnel of one of Turner’s Steamships and generally trying to survive by writing as much about themselves and doing as little actual ‘work’ as in artwork’ as possible.

The Botanic Gardens at Kew do not have as rare and flimsy a bunch of Credit Crunch Orchids to maintain as the New Universities (desperate for AHRC money to keep the wolf from the door having spent all the cash the poor students have provided). One cannot turn around these days for collaborative projects, new commissions, artists in residence ( a wide term as will be seen) and lectures by people less able to academicise than actually ‘do’ anything. In the past there were often spurious connections to float the poor artist into the academic flow…

Some artists benefitted from a fragile correspondence between their practice and the particular specialism of a department…Lace or plastic, car engines, botany..tie-in art flourished and some artists swiftly moved from garrett to academic offices and never left such was the increase in prosperity not to mention the warmth involved.

Now we are at a fascinating juncture in this process as the wind of time and change starts to blow back on these poor fragile blooms. As the realisation that UK PLC is not only bereft of jobs but the talents to actually do something instead of just talk about doing it University departments are clutching at new straws…economic development and regeneration are the key.

From talking about their practice these hybrid ‘Academists’ are now spouting a whole new range of acronym driven homilies….again to keep their place in the warm flowerbed….it is too cold out in Real Land..too many redundancies too few opportunities.

So as the recession bites maybe one would expect the chill wind to produce some hardier perennials..maybe a return to some of those traditional practices and skills as mentioned in the old concept of ‘The Academy’. No not a jot of it…

No it appears we will wait in vain for hardy snowdrops to bloom in their stead.

I have recently trawled through some academic notions of practice and whilst many reduce the brain to a sponge and yet others begger belief both in description and action none so far has matched my latest prize…..

An artist who shall remain nameless is speaking at a destination which alack shall also remain anonymous
on his revalatory practice of…….

‘Pouring special brew on a station platform and shouting’

I wish dear reader that I could be making this up…but alas it is true. Said artist manages to not only stupify with the nonsensical act but then to explicate it in almost Johnson like hyperbole….Dear friends what looks like the drunken action of a immature less than gifted imposter is in fact art..and not only art but art of a high order..art that bears a direct descendance form the Greek Gods and Hermes himself and yes from a tradition of lay preaching….

This is where we are good kind people mouthing platitudes and accomodating gibberish in the name of art….

I may not know much about art but I do know many kinds of shit when it travails the ear and this is 100% genuine bullshit and some of our academic institutions live and breath this kind of nonsense…..so far…

Methinks a little pruning in the gardens of the comfortably well off not amiss…and soon.

Maybe then some of those real blooms and real skills can blossom without choking in the avant-garde weedbeds of edification, explication and plain verbose drivel……and we can leave that to rot like any good remnant of verdure on the roots of the finer arts.

And a handy gardening tip if it smells like shit it probably is…treat with caution and dig it under whenever possible.

Nottingham Contemporary: The good, the bad and the ugly..

donkey

I have recently had to pull a discussion post from the Nottingham Contemporary Free discussion group on facebook. Here I explain why and deliver a more considered version of basically the same material which less likely to offend the great and the good of this noble art city.

The post was a hasty response to seeing the effect the opening of ‘The Golden Egg’ is already having on culture in this city.

Geoffrey Diego Litherland’s show at the Castle was his reward for winning last year’s Nottingham Open competition. A well deserving winner and a good set of paintings in a show spoilt only by the ludicrous arrangement of hanging on a staircase. Meanwhile pride of place as usual went to a travelling Arts Council show. No better nor worse than many but surprising that second show on this theme in as many months…..are our curators trying to tap into an underlying theme about Nottingham..i.e. are we all trapped..or criminals?

My real disappointment was with the Castle Permanent Collection. It has always been a lacklustre space full of frankly third rate paintings and some gems. But previous visits never saw it looking quite so tawdry. When I pointed out that some of the signage appeared to be little more than blu-tacked to wall I got response..well all the money gone to the Egg. True or not it did make me wonder if Jack hadn’t given the cow away for a hill of beans…

Bad signage aside if one scans the ‘hidden’ collection (including a fine William Nicholson of downland I seen but once) one realises that very little of it gets aired. Something more than occasional Brit Art shows should be done with this space. Which leads me on to my main point. The Nottingham Contemporary..for good or ill and whatever it costs is here now….it has raised a certain part of the profile of the local art scene i.e. the pretentious outward looking side a notch from the days of Angel Row but what does that actually mean? We have lost at least three contemporary gallery spaces..Angel Row, Yard Gallery Wollaton and Bonington Gallery and gained two..New Art Exchange and The Egg. The Castle under Deborah Dean continues the kind of work Angel Row did…tied to ACE and very rarely escaping the confines of a certain tired politically correct viewpoint…..noble causes…dull art. Angel Row occasionally surprised but more often was as dull too and only at the end did it burst into some kind of life with the Parade shows..too little too late.

Love it or hate it Angel Row did occasionally show a mix of local and ‘international’ (i.e. what somebody saw in a magazine made it international…generally this meant American as most Art Press is USA dominated). There were never contemporary Spanish or French shows….I may be wrong as frankly I hardly bothered going in the place and when I did just got annoyed…

But it did (particularly in earlier days) show local ‘semi-professional’ artists. What worries me about The Egg is that it is a Tate Lite for the region and nothing more……in this sense it very similar to the Museum of Modern Art Oxford which apart from a ‘local artist’ space in their cafe (still operating after 20 plus years) never showed local artists unless they had made it to the glossies….

This may be one of the reasons that Oxford has virtually no thriving local arts scene..like Nottingham had up to now….it virtually ended ambitions before they flowered….I knew however hard I tried I would never ‘make it’ there….

So if The Egg shows international ( USA and Bradford born Hockney so far but he famous so that OK) and New Art Exchange is so heavily ring-fenced by its own mission statement (although I hear the curator there is trying to reflect the changing nature of the environment..) then with the loss of so many spaces for exhibition where are local artists to show? If you then say but look at the plethora of cutting edge spaces that sprung up recently I’d retort with yes and how long without funding will they last? A few have been primed with money by the Arts Council to create the impression of a vibrant local art scene to spin around The Egg but truth is ACE finding will not keep them alive forever…..just long enough to get through next year’s Brit Art spectacular is my guess then what…?

Meanwhile the mid-career (i.e. older not dead yet but been going 25 plus year artists) who actually created the ‘Nottingham Art Scene’ have been turfed out of their studios or faced rent rises and most scrabbling in the gutter or the studio equivalent. Apart from the bitterness this provokes this also bodes ill for the future as younger artists see the good and bad side of dedicating a life to their noble career…

Discounting local anarcho-capitalist venture The Art Organisation and volunteer driven/ace space The Surface there is little in the way of a middle ground left..in fact nothing left…for a serious artist who not on the Faberge Egg list (i.e. international by the magazines definition or on the Tate’s radar etc etc ) to aim at.

My ill thought out and pulled rant did raise one serious proposal that would help but which will not get funding. A serious space for local serious artists on a more permanent basis like replacing the tired dusty Castle collection with a proper survey of local artistic output (not the Open…that’s too much like a jumble sale) would help…..then we would have less bitterness and less frustration.

At present to be a mid-career artist in this city is to feel like a unwanted guest at a shiny teenager’s party we not invited to…and when we do arrive we constantly reminded that ‘making it’ is more important that actually making it…the art work…..it the disease of contemporary art institutions and education…..until that addressed we will continue to clutch at Golden Eggs that when cracked leak sand not gold…

also available at

http://www.shaunbelcher.com/blog/

Interview with The Pakspectator

I was asked to pen some thoughts on this blog for the Pakspectator

Would you please tell us something about you and your site?

I am an artist and my blog is an art criticism blog with my own cartoons illustrating my criticism. It is basically about the English art scene but sometimes touches on International themes.

Do you feel that you continue to grow in your writing the longer you write? Why is that important to you?

In some ways but also as I do not have much time I do think my writing style sometimes suffers because of the speed of ‘blogging’. I need to think before I type more often!

I’m wondering what some of your memorable experiences are with blogging?

Well being contacted by the Pakspectator is pretty unusual. I mostly get visited by, and comments from, people interested in the art scene rather than politics although I do cross over when it comes to government funding of the arts which we lucky enough in this country to have received ..well until recently that is. When the economy does badly so do artists. People have other priorities and we lucky to have such a thing in first place compared to other countries. Art is not about just money though it about spirit too.


What do you do in order to keep up your communication with other bloggers?

I simply try and keep the blog updated as much as possible which not easy.

What do you think is the most exciting or most innovative use of technology in politics right now?

Probably the use of ‘interactive’ technology via the internet. We have a lot of U.K. politicians using youtube which is amusing…they try to look ‘up to date’ for the voters.

Do you think that these new technologies are effective in making people more responsive?

I do. I know a lot of English people are sceptical but I work with young people and they have long since abandoned their pens for the computer screen.

Politicians should speak in a language people understand even if on internet.

What do you think sets Your site apart from others?

My cartoons and my art dog character ‘Moogee’


If you could choose one characteristic you have that brought you success in life, what would it be?

Being inventive and seeking new solutions to problems.


What was the happiest and gloomiest moment of your life?

Meeting my partner and losing my father in the same year.


Do you think [the use of Twitter and other social networking tools by politicians] is bandwagon jumping or what?

As I said before politicians need to communicate in whatever way is suitable.

If you could pick a travel destination, anywhere in the world, with no worries about how it’s paid for – what would your top 3 choices be?

Iceland
Nashville U.S.A.
New Zealand

What is your favorite book and why?

Raymond Carver – Fires – short stories and poems
because it made me a poet.

What’s the first thing you notice about a person (whether you know them or not)?

Attitude.

Is there anyone from your past that once told you you couldn’t write?

A lot of arts adminstrators, politicians and lecturers are uncomfortable when one says the truth.

How bloggers can benefit from blogs financially?

I wish I knew..I do not..and never set out to make money from my blog..

 

Is it true that who has a successful blog has an awful lot of time on their hands?

They need to be sat down in front of a screen and type a lot that is for sure. They also need to avoid R.S.I. and related diseases from too much typing…

What are your thoughts on corporate blogs and what do you think the biggest advantages and disadvantages are?

I not that familiar with ‘bigger’ blogs although something like Huffington Post does seem to have changed the rules about how news is provided.
I think the world has changed and blogging is helping to change it even more…for the better.


What role can bloggers of the world play to make this world more friendlier and less hostile?

Just help with communication..we all need to communicate and avoid misunderstanding each other.

Who are your top five favourite bloggers?

I do not have a top five..I like the Guardian Newspaper Uk Bloggers – five of those do?

Is there one observation or column or post that has gotten the most powerful reaction from people?

Yes but not written by me ironically! A noted New York artist chose to comment on my blog and he gets lots of ‘hits’. He also going to write some ‘artist in New York’ travelogues for my blog so looking forward to those.


What is your perception about Pakistan and its people?

I have a very nice Pakistani family living next door who offered us some party food last weekend because welcoming someone from Pakistan.

So my impression was very good as was the food!


Have you ever become stunned by the uniqueness of any blogger?

My cartoon dog is pretty unique I haven’t seen another.

What is the most striking difference between a developed country and a developing country?

 

I have never visited Pakistan but I would guess people the same the world over and health and happiness not related to wealth at all. We are wealthy in some ways but poor in others.

What is the future of blogging?

 

I think it will become more like television because of technology but I hope there will still be a place for good writing.

You have also got a blogging life, how has it directly affected both your personal and professional life?

It has affected my profile as an artist. I believe more people may have heard of me because of the cartoons.

What are your future plans?

Keep blogging and asking questions even when I get no answers!

Any Message you want to give to the readers of The Pakistani Spectator?

Many thanks for spending some time reading my little thoughts from a damp and raining England. May you enjoy health and happiness and good weather!

regards,
Shaun Belcher

Artist and Poet and Songwriter

Nottingham, England