Unto This Last exhibition

A Needle For A Diamond.
Oil on panel

Consumption Absolute
Oil on panel

Exploring value and meaning through the context of iconography.

In Ad Valorem, (Unto This Last) Ruskin writes of how society attributes value, and how that subsequent currency subverts the order and balance of nature.
‘The real science of political economy…..is that which teaches nations to desire and labour for the things that lead to life…..for the ennobling of life.’
My practice falls into two distinct, but interwoven threads: an examination of the present and an imagination of the future.
I create icons devoid of meaning in an attempt to induce the viewer towards a personal narrative, rather than be the recipient of indoctrination.

Unto This Last

Beyond Red, White and Blue

BEYOND exhibition. Paderborn, Germany. June 2019
I have long been fascinated by iconography, be it religious, political or cultural. What is its purpose?
A lifetime of living in the UK did not prepare me for Brexit.
Beyond Belief, my current series of icons mark a turning point for my practice in that I am now creating icons to be kept rather than destroyed.
I think now that iconoclasm serves the destroyer more than the idea.
A basic human wish or need to believe in the concrete manifestation of an ideology or emotion now seems evident to me. Icons in their broadest sense carry a perceivable, almost tangible identity, and so assist comprehension by reducing the complex to the tribal or binary.

Theresa May arrogantly promised a ‘red, white and blue Brexit’. A deliberately vague, and therefore, politically speaking, disrespectful and possibly harmful use of rhetoric.
Beyond Red, White and Blue, is a collection of portable icons displayed in the manner of an Orthodox Christian prayer corner.
Using the limited palette of the Union Jack, and one (subsequently destroyed) image of the white cliffs at Dover as a source, these ‘objects for devotion’ form a lineage that represent the shades and distortions that symbolic ‘truths’ claim to avoid.

Andy Smith
15.4.19

Beyond Red, White and Blue

Lacuna (Caluna)
Lacuna is the current, temporary evolutionary state of a canvas that has been used to express and communicate thought for over three years.
Having worked in what can be broadly described as ‘community art’ for over two decades, (before austerity kicked in and practically terminated the genre) I was surprised to learn in my subsequent fine art degree how 80% of the nation’s art treasures are stored out of public view. Surrounded by so much social injustice and environmental desecration as we are, an ambition to have a work kept in the basement of an institution or private residence seemed vocationally bankrupt, and so a practice rooted in an ethos of transience seemed obligatory.
The first outing for this canvas was as part of the much larger painted/mixed media work Manifesto Without Words (Castlefield Gallery, Manchester 2015)
As the only physical and representational tenet of the JUST Party, (a party without policies)  the work allowed the artist ‘vehicular’ access to the traditionally, even exclusively, semantic exercise of standing as a parliamentary candidate in the general election of 2015 (Bolton West)
Whitewashing the entire work the day after the election proved (to me at least) that the artwork, even in an ancient format (paint on panel) only needed to be a transient intervention in the discourse to be valid and effective in the digital age.

Kill it before it dies.
From a personal perspective, obliteration, rather than longevity, brought extended life and greater meaning to the work.

The canvas has since travelled to galleries and festivals in England and Germany, and will be going straight from Bath to a residency/exhibition in Wigan for the next stage of its evolution.
This almost arbitrary odyssey without subject borders has allowed a practice to determine itself. It appears that the content generally slides into two categories, the first being a semi-abstract or representational response to a political or societal issue, usually via outlandish and/or accidental visual juxtapositions. The second approach being a trance-like form of automatic mark-making. Other-worldly prompts during the process manifest themselves into a singular, personal, sometimes asemic language.

Lacuna (the void, absence) Caluna (the real dream)
Parochially autonomous within a global eco-political system, the Lacuna commune exists in peaceful, ergonomic interdependence.

In Lacuna, idiosyncrasy is the norm, co-operation is a self-fulfilling religion and intellectual and artistic competition is viewed as methodology from a Dark Age. Treasured objects are for all.
Lacuna is a land without tangible myth. The space for living is managed  and co-created by the communal viscera.
Features of Lacuna include, food fields, sleep cones, gather bowl, gaze bank, repair barn, drawing wall, comedy bathtime, share hut, sun box, wind  zone and quiet space.

Andy Smith. May 2018.

Instagram @picturesmash1

 

Lacuna

‘ODD’ (organic digital demarchy) Theory diagram is the annotated transcription of the automatic painting Rebirth 8.

Process

Although visually, the painting was subconsciously executed in the style of Wassily Kandinsky, the painting process itself owed more to the spiritual, ‘conversational’ approach similar to that practiced by Hilma af Klint.

Rebirth 8 was the last in a series of paintings on the same two wooden panels (each 6ft x 4ft) that began in 2014. The ideas and representations offered by the panel’s visual content were exhibited in Castlefield Gallery, Manchester Cathedral Visitor Centre and Neo: Gallery 23 amongst others. Odd Theory diagram then, is the only remaining physical link of the conceptual chain.

In the Manifesto of Surrealism, Andre Breton defined surrealism as

‘Pure psychic automatism … the dictation of thought in the absence of all control exercised by reason and outside all moral or aesthetic concerns’.

Although clearly more abstract than figurative, Rebirth and by extension ODD are surreal in spirit. The annotation is necessary for meaning and context, -the painting was merely energy and instinct, -the words, -the interpretation, are essentially an afterthought.

Meaning

I tend to use shape, colour and form as my primary language. The trance state that can be entered through creative play can inadvertently drift into purpose.

The inspiration for Rebirth 8 is forgotten now, but the chances are that the painted obliteration of the previous work engendered the physical (painted) manifestation of a collection of thoughts and visions.

Gazing at the fire, so to speak, a visual metaphor for societal development emerged. The post-‘truth’ digital world is embraced as a tabula rasa opportunity.

Idealistic ? Yes, but the thought is out there now, and to paraphrase Duchamp, ideas last longer than artworks.

Andy Smith

April 2018

 

ODD Theory diagram. Intoline exhibition.

Is Culture Curating Itself to Death?

IMG_2266The two day pop-up exhibition LOCAL, combines a curious mix of visual documentation from voluntary activists and unworldly contemporary art from both Fine Art graduates and the untutored.

The concept is simple, to produce a show that is as uncurated as it is possible to achieve within the template laid down by current formal expectations of how to deliver an ‘art event’. A reasonable aim, -yet this honest endeavour was almost aborted in the final week of preparations as tensions surrounding current ‘art show’ protocol forced a newspaper to be asked by an event sponsor to remove an online article about the exhibition’s purpose.

Not exactly a new methodology, TATE summarises Nicholas Bourriaud’s approach to Relational Aesthetics’ modus operandii thus:

‘A set of artistic practices which take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context, rather than an independent and private space.

He saw artists as facilitators rather than makers and regarded art as information exchanged between the artist and the viewers. The artist, in this sense, gives audiences access to power and the means to change the world.’

Working for two decades as a Community/Outsider Artist before taking a degree in Fine Art, I was always bemused by how these seemingly related genres appeared poles apart practically, with wildly different approaches and sensibilities, and divided in many cases along class lines. Yes, the Fine Art world is a microculture, an evolved cult that survives with help from a network of funding bodies that ultimately doffs it’s cap to politicians and big business.

Community and Public Art gets what it’s given, – basically scraps since austerity measures were introduced.

Researching grass-roots, organic phenomena such as Liberate Tate, and encouraged by a Patrick Brill (Bob and Roberta Smith) lecture ‘Galleries Should Be More Like Newspapers’ at the Liverpool Biennial and an Art Fair discussion in Manchester featuring Kwong Lee and Pavel Buchler on new potentials for the local artist in a global art world, the integrity of a show like LOCAL became theoretically justified as an art experiment.

The disconnect between corporate and public needs, I feel, has seen the erosion of trust between the public and the powerful, leading to a growing sense of hopelessness and exclusion. The ‘metropolitan elite’ being blind-sided by Brexit and the tragedy of the wilfully ignored residents of Grenfell are the most obvious recent examples.

With the temporary use of a Bolton town centre shop, the LOCAL team enable direct engagement between pro-active volunteers and the non-gallery-going public in an informal atmosphere to discuss local country, urban and town, environmental and social development.

Controversially described by The Guardian last month as ‘a nothing of a town’ and with the 7th highest shop vacancy rate in the country, it could be argued that Bolton needs all the offers of free help it can get from its concerned residents

Although LOCAL almost becomes a Situationist prank in its naive and almost unfiltered content, the objective is platform accessibility, not critical acclaim.

LOCAL deliberately set out to create a kind of art laboratory in which these conflicts can be released and addressed, and for many reasons, artists and other ‘free radicals’ are suitably qualified for this role.

In the 2015 general election, Brill stood as a parliamentary candidate on a pro-arts platform, in a high profile campaign that regularly achieved mainstream media coverage. But the problem with engaging in contests manufactured by the establishment is that they support the charade of democracy by validating a corrupt system with an apparent ‘wild card’.

The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.

In that same election however, the artist Picturesmash, entering as an Independent candidate under his real name and whose manifesto was a wordless semi-abstract painting, gained a greater tally of votes with a zero advertising budget and using only social media to communicate with the electorate.

You will be excused for not knowing this because it was not reported anywhere. Mr Smash simply did not play by the media’s rules of engagement.

The evidence is clear.

Unless ‘news’ is processed by a feeder from a PR source, it can go unreported.

Unless we begin to acknowledge grass root voices in some kind of public arena that encourages the disengaged to participate, the corporate machine will only increase its size and power.

‘Nothing’ towns country-wide need a new vision to address this imbalance and the raw materials of empty shops, artists and activists needed to rebuild the broken model are lying all around us.

Should the master provide the tools ?