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The Art Renewal Center

Lost in the gutter of Cubism, Modernism, Post-modernism, Expressionism, Dadaism and other rubbishisms? Find real art at the ARC.

False Gods

They can't draw or paint or create a half-decent artwork but are worshiped by the art establishment as Gods. We prefer to remain infidels and refuse to kowtow to the False Gods of Art.

How the culture-vultures impoverished my soul

One expects art to ennoble our souls, much like a novel by Victor Hugo or a film by Bimal Roy. Instead, stepping into a gallery is like stepping on shit -bullshit.

Critiquing the critics

We smack down these smug bastards and their idiotic art-jargonese con mucho gusto!

Featured Art Videos

'Inflammatory' artist Jon McNaughton on his anti-Obama work
Roger Scruton - Why Beauty Matters (2009) - BBC documentary

Mar 21, 2007

The cow dung is washed off, but the stink remains

Imagine a time that is not now, not the second half of the twentieth century either. Imagine a person who gives a curious performance - he covers himself with thick layers of cow dung and then he washes it off. He expects us to appreciate him for it. He is trying to make a statement, to say something. Now imagine how he would be viewed. Perhaps as a fool , to be laughed off, perhaps somebody who is off the rockers, somebody escaped from somewhere...one can imagine the sound of the doors opening up to receive him, the doors of some sort of asylum.

Fast forward to now. Same performance - but that sound you hear is not the opening doors of an asylum, but of such elite institutions as the Tate gallery, the Metropolitan museum , the doors of fame, riches, fawning articles. How the times change.

From The Guardian, speaking of Subodh Gupta -

"Perhaps most striking to western eyes is his use of cow dung. The 42-year-old has made installations out of manure patties, kitchen fuel for millions of Indian country homes, and painted with dung à la Chris Ofili. In a nine-minute video, Pure, the artist stands covered in thick layer of bovine excreta that is slowly hosed off in a shower. Gupta says he wanted to play with meanings of "purity". "In Indian villages, cow shit is used for spiritual cleaning like an antiseptic. But this is not true of today's [Indian] cities. I wanted to show that." "

Do you get the feeling that contemporary art world is replete with smooth operators , who have a keen sense of the right things to say , the right gestures and the right postures that would convince and beguile the 'powers' of this strange world ?

The fields of Installation 'art' and Video 'art' are particularly crawling with these charmers and would-be charmers, since by their very nature these fields require not any kind of talent, skill or creativity (which without the first two is impossible ) but some sort of pseudo-intellectual-obscure justification for - well, for anything! Just do, make, present anything and call it art. Make-up (and I do mean make-up ) any pseudo-intellectual explanation , suitably obscure, don't forget to sprinkle it with the 'right' words - like 'parallel narratives' , 'oeuvre' , 'experimentation' , 'threads of connectivity' etc.- that will impress without meaning anything . In fact you don't even have to take that trouble - there are professionals who get paid to do just this - we call them art-critics , and there is great competition among them to 'discover' new 'artists', to pour forth ever more mumbo-jumbo in their relentless pursuit to enlighten, to explain, to justify - well, you know, anything. Like I said , just do anything and call it art. The witch-doctors, er, sorry , the art-critics, will assure the world of your greatness.

Have an uncontrollable urge to bathe in dung? Fine, just don't do it privately- do it in a gallery, or make a video out of it put it in an 'installation. Want to take out the garbage? Great! Go put it in a gallery. Feel like answering the call of nature? Great! Just do it in an empty can, take the can to a suitable art-gallery ( which encourages 'experimentation' and 'new forms' of creativity ), and you might sell it at a price higher than that of gold. Your shit is worth more than you know!

It is art. No, it is ART !

And it stinks.

Mar 12, 2007

Ms. Narayan, please, please, please do tell us - what makes this a masterpiece?

If by some chance an artist comes to be called a (modern) 'master' , you can bet
that our culturati will close their eyes, turn off their brains- which is actually
their default mode - and will be falling over each other to fawn over him. Renuka Narayan acts similarly in the Sunday edition of the Delhi Hindustan Times (Reg. req'd) , as she behaves like a court biographer in her article about the Delhi based senior painter Krishen Khanna. From her we learn that-

"Since 1956, Khanna has held over 40 one-man shows at galleries in India and abroad.
Art opportunities have included residencies and fellowships and official invitations
to the USA, Germany and Pakistan. India honoured him with a Padmashree in 1990. Next
week on March 19, the Royal Academy of Painting will feature an exhibition of
Khanna's work. A book on him with articles by international critics will be released
by Vikram Seth. There will certainly be comments on his decades-long obsession with
painting Delhi's ragtag companies of bandwalas: surreal figures, whose starved

bodies acquire tragicomic dignity with their gaudy uniforms and military bassoons
and drums. Nor can Khanna help constantly exploring New Testament figures: Christ,
the Pieta, a Last Supper from 1981 in sombre browns that radiates light even now
. He
still paints five hours a day at a stretch. His work is hard to pigeonhole for it
inhabits a realm between the figurative and the abstract and he plays purposefully
with the spatula and the knife, rather than the brush, to build thousands of tiny
light-refracting surfaces on the paint."

Sounds good? But the proof of pudding, you know, is ...... Here is the pudding-

The descent from the cross, oil on canvas

It is labeled as Khanna's masterpiece.
I suggest you have a long look at it, then perhaps you will know better about
the "closing their eyes, shutting their brains" thing. Can anybody tell why this is a masterpiece?

Can it be the drawing - which is so bad that one is tempted to conclude that Krishen Khanna can't (or won't) draw.
The perspective - of which any rational sense is missing?
The manner of putting paint on the paper - which is so amateurish that it should be (but isn't, sadly) unacceptable beyond the 1st year of BFA ?
Any sense of light or atmosphere- of which not much trace?
Could it be- wait!
What am I saying?! Drawing, perspective, handling of paint, sense of light... aren't they old-fashioned now? Aren't the modern 'masters' above these limiting concepts, free, free as a formless spirit to be 'creative' as they please?

So that leaves us with what? The choice of subject? The theme? Can a moving theme be sufficient if so badly painted? Or is it something else? Please enlighten us, Ms. Narayan. We are eager to drink from your cup of knowledge. Please do share your cup, even if it is a little jhootha, we will partake of it. You are our only hope. Please, please, please do tell us - what makes this a masterpiece?
While we wait( forever?) for the enlightenment, here is our compare and contrast section- a couple of similarly themed works from some real masters.

The descent from the cross, by Jean-Baptiste Jouvenet. View it here in it's full glory.

Copy after Deposition, by Hans Memling. View it here.

The Indian Colorful Language Translator-
Jhootha = tasted, partaken by someone else before( referring to foodstuffs)

Mar 4, 2007


Over at the ARC Paul Soderberg has an interesting article.
Some excerpts-

"....nobody thought it particularly unusual, much less bizarre, when a dead (stuffed) horse dangled from the ceiling fetched more than $2 million at a Sotheby's auction in New York in 2004, or when an anonymous buyer paid $5.2 million for a porcelain statue of Michael Jackson cuddling a chimpanzee named Bubbles, or when Steven Cohen, founder of a Connecticut-based hedge fund called SAC Capital Advisors, LLC, spent $8 million for an adult tiger shark pickled in formaldehyde. "

"..when you have the mindset that anything an artist does is art, credentials replace talent".

He imagines a conversation between a MODERN ART ADVOCATE and an IMPARTIAL HONEST INQUIRER -

MODERN ART ADVOCATE: "Artist Joe Schmo is a great artist!"
MAA: "He attended the Haystack Mountain School of Art on Deer Isle, Maine, from 1980
to 1981."
IHI: "Oh. Can he paint?"
MAA: "He received a BA in Art from Yale University in 1986!"
IHI: "Can he paint?"
MAA: "He completed his post-graduate studies at the Stowhegan School of Painting and
IHI: "Can he paint?"
MAA: "He studied with Mauirizo Cattalan!"
IHI: "Can he paint?"
MAA: "He's had dozens of solo and group shows in New York City and his works are in
corporate and private collections all over the world."
IHI: "Can he paint?"
MAA: "What kind of a question is that? Boy, you sure don't understand the Art
IHI: "Guess not."

Go read the whole thing.

Mar 3, 2007

You are grrrrreat, Boseji !

Tussi te great ho, Boseji ! You have taken all the books and dvd's you had and put them in an art gallery and called it art! Now why didn't I think of it myself? Why didn't anyone think of it before ?
Forgive us Boseji , we are all know-nothing ullu ka pattha's ( especially myself ).
Humbly I learnt today from the Hindustan Times, Delhi edition (Reg. req'd) that -

"....LaVA (Laboratory of Visual Arts) is a conceptual project by Bose Krishnamachari, where he has tried to create a contemporary makeshift laboratory for people. It's like a library that contains books, DVDs and CDs covering all visual art practices like cinema, architecture, design, fashion, cultural studies and philosophy And the artist displays it in a huge glass installation that outlines the perimeter of the library housing his personal collection of 5,000 books and 1,000 DVDs in it. The colourful wooden standalone shelves here are also part of his creativity Says Krishnamachari: "My idea is straight celebration and sharing the knowledge available from across the globe." So it's not a bad idea to just go and browse through some of those glossy pages or watch a few DVDs on the plasma screens. Nothing on sale or rent, though." "

But now that I am enlightened , I am willing to make amends. I too have a collection and it is in my wardrobe , and as you can see it is a suitably arty-sharty looking mess. I hope that this will impress the bien-pensants of the art world sufficiently so as to offer me a space where I can park this , this......this work of art. Mr. Vadhera , you know my number.

But, Boseji , I am not a complete copycat - while people can browse your books and dvd's , I am not going to let them ruffle through my mess ....I mean, work of art. Don't anybody touch the undies !

The Indian Colorful Language Translator-
Tussi te great ho = You are really awesome.
ullu ka pattha = (roughly) Jackass.

The Indian Big Shot Identifier-
Mr.Vadhera = a gallery owner, a King-Kong of the Indian art world.

Great injustice to Varanasi

There is Venice- thousands of artists flock to it as eager as lemmings dying to jump off a cliff - and I don't blame them. For a painter like myself it is heaven on earth- all that water, the shimmering reflections, the wonderfully painted but quaint houses, that sunlight.....mmm, delicious. I can think of several painters who have reveled in that ambiance and produced wonderful art-From Canaletto to David Curtis and Jonathan Pike.
And then there is Varanasi. I am not a far-ranging , all-knowing expert of Indian art - far, far from it - But having visited hundreds of exhibitions I cannot recall any work on Varanasi that left an impression with the exceptions of some works by Kashi Das ( who I can't find on the net ). I must have seen them but I just cannot recall. So while I am inclined to blame myself , I believe that Indian artists have also done a grave injustice to such a 'painterly' place like Varanasi. Here is a contemporary example - The Varanasi paintings of Manu Parekh. I am tempted to say that taking Mr. Parekh to Varanasi is like giving a typewriter to a monkey - and then expecting it to produce a masterpiece.

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