Visual Art Arts Excursion July 25 2012
Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery
This exhibition which was curated by Dr Vivien Gaston is described on the MPRG web site as: “Controversy: The power of art explores the social and cultural impact of art through examples that have provoked intense response and controversy.”
I sometimes wonder about art and it’s power to excite emotional and very loud reactions by viewers and critics. Is it always in the head of the artist at the time of creating an artwork “hey I want to really cause a stir with this piece, let’s see how many feathers I can ruffle with this one” or is it more likely that they have an idea in their head and it seems interesting, or even to the point of “I really have to try this” being the main reasoning behind an artwork or display?
OK some works I have seen in the past or heard about because I had no desire to see them, are there for shock value alone but I really wonder about their description as art rather than display pieces or even advertising material to get the artist noticed.
Maybe it’s just that I am in a point in my career and life for that matter where I really have had enough of controversy, upheaval and political statements etc. So when I go to an exhibition with the title starting with the word controversy I wonder “why am I going?” Well, it’s probably with an optimistic hope that there will be a smattering of artworks on show that I really can “get into” and enjoy not only looking at but also pulling apart to see how some of the effects and brushwork were done.
In this case I was able to find some amazing work by artists that I have admired as well as a couple I was newly introduced to. There were other works that I either was not interested in, though was a bit gross or in the case of some of the political works on display, thought were more than a little one sided and under researched.
The exhibition was divided into about five subjects in there own area:
Is It Art?
Some of the pieces dated from the 19th Century, but most were from the 20th and 21st. Some issues were created more by the establishment’s idea of regulating exhibitions, such as no painting from a photograph for the Archibald and how closely someone had copied the style and composition of a Dutch painter from over 200 years ago. Some others were because the subject matter (nudes) were a bit too erotic or saucy for the time and the general public’s taste. I don’t know that the artists went out of their way to annoy everyone in society when they painted these pieces. The furore came along later and out of control of the artist in many cases.
Some other pieces I just couldn’t see as art at all, so yes, for me in answering the question asked at the start of the tour, Is it art? Well in some cases, no not to me. In the beginning of the tour we were directed to a smallish sculpture made, if I remember correctly out of found materials. I hadn’t even noticed it until it was pointed out and as the guide waxed lyrical about how it is art because we were all standing around in a gallery looking at it, I thought well, no, the only reason I am standing here looking at it is because you pointed it out and I am here with my art class so I should stay here and listen. If I had been there alone I wouldn’t have given it a second glance, as to me it looked like a circular hatrack at best.
In the religiously undertoned works, lack of knowledge of history was an annoying thing for me. When talking about one piece in particular, we were told, “where did Jesus come from anyway, what are his true origins, etc etc, we just don’t know”. Well, history if you look up a book on the subject will tell us that he was the son of two descendants of King David, the nephew of Joseph of Aramathia. He was an historic figure accepted by most faiths and some archeologists and historians who have researched, as having existed, whether a mere mortal like the rest of us I will leave to others to believe or not.
Showing pigs hearts on a video and created pigs heads was another thing I didn’t stay in front of for long. I have read that because of the genes that pigs have in common with humans they are more preferred for certain research. I understand that research goes on, and I am told that the animals are treated as humanely as possible – so do we just experiment on humans instead? And really, I don’t go to abattoirs for a reason and that is why I am not interested in seeing the next best thing to one in a gallery.
Did I Like Anything?
I did like several things. The Norman Lindsey painting. The Freda Robertsaw painting and the Jules Lefebure painting. Oddly enough, all nude ladies and men (or maybe better described as male figures as Lindsey liked to make his figures look like nymphs and recreations from myth and legend). Not that nudes are an interest of mine, I really have no interest in painting humans at all. I did like the style, the colours, the medium and in one case the mischievousness plus some things no matter whether you personally paint or draw the subject, can be just beautiful to look at. Then, having my fill and getting a bit tired on my feet, I went out and briefly enjoyed looking at the display of Russell Drysdale drawings in the foyer.