Wednesday, November 4, 2009

OUCH or painting is ever the challenge; the goal

Damien Hirst's new paintings are being panned left and right. Without proper access to them (or to a good magazine reproduction, it's hard for me to say what I think. Though I think I like some of the ideas and direction...the paint handling itself seems tight and fussy, and not in a good way (but that judgement s made through online slide-shows...not the best representations).

Either way, reading the press surrounding the new stuff (especially the vitrolic British press) is satisfying in a biting sort of way.

Here are the fun-filled links:

The Guardian

The Observer (via The Guardian)



Jonathan said...

I bet that if these paintings had been done by someone else, someone whom critics didn't have a huge axe to grind, they would be seen more objectively. (which is not to say, they would be praised).

I would recommend a good alias for future departures from conceptual art.

madeleine said...


I think you are very right. Also, I had a friend point out that though public perception of Hirst is that he's a young-ish artist, when really, he's 44, which though by no means old, is a time when men and women seem to grapple with the loss of youth, and the need, perhaps, to return to the "classics." Which for Hirst, as an artist doesn't just mean making new work, but it must mean making paintings.

For myself, I might draw a tenuous parallel between Hirst-as-painter, and the painter Duncan Grant. Like Grant, Hirst's work seems to pale in comparison to the swashbuckling painterliness of Britain's 20th Century giants. However, and especially in the three images in the picture I posted, I may detect an ongoing struggle in the paint itself that is somewhat endearing and certainly humanizing.

After gleefully reading the comments in the British press, and after a friend voiced support for these new works, I went back and looked again...I think part of the objection is that they might not be up to the glamour of the (forgive the pun) shiny, out-sized pieces he's known for; I think they have less inherent hubris attached to them (as objects), yet his clear desire for association with the "venerable elders," might be still a bit early in his career.

I would be interested to see what he paints next.

Jonathan said...

No one should begrudge anyone the opportunity to declare they are in crisis. It's an enviable position to struggle against your own past, seeking new and better priorities.

I think that if anything, the thing that bothers me is that A) these things are supposed to take time (like years and years. It's a journey, right?) and B) not be so public. Take your time, work things out and show us something at the end, when you know what you've got.

"yet his clear desire for association with the "venerable elders," might be still a bit early in his career."

No kidding. Crisis's of faith are supposed to develop and be nurtured over time. That's why they tend to manifest themselves during one's twilight years. That's how The story is supposed to go.

I like Phillip Guston's journey. Sloughing along, doing a thing your whole life with lingering doubts never far away.
When you look at the totality of his life's work, his output, those shocking cartoony klan pictures from late 60's onward, fell right, and seem quite inevitable.

Anonymous said...

To quote one article:
"By contrast, Hirst has said: I want to be compared directly with the old masters, on their own turf, in their own visual language."
In their own visual language? The
Old Masters were exactly that,
Masters. Hirst is a prime example of, and a product of "the Scene", he would not be allowed to clean their brushes.
In this age, it seems hype and a good press agent have taken the place of talent, technique and
I would mention the other great pretender of the age, am reminded of his farce every time I buy a can of soup....