The artist reviving the exquisite techniques of the Old Masters


There’s a difference between “modernism” meaning “creating an image that is not conventionally representational” (which I like) and “modernism” meaning “improvising the craft as you go along” (which I increasingly do not).

The result of the latter is artworks that are disintegrating within a few years of their creation:

Which I guess is OK if, as the artist, you meant the work to be evanescent. But not so good for the museum, eh??


Well, Stuckism has an almost humorous, almost ironic quality about it too that I like. It’s just as superficial as the rest of the yBAs, whom I adore.


At least the paintings look like something.


Stuckism is the worst. Warhol after focus-group. The kind of people who really like that dumb cafe painting.


This is how I feel about Glenn Gould.


There is an extremely simple answer to that. Renaissance painters (and later ones) certainly did employ assistants and get junior painters to fill in the easier details. But surely the point was that they could do the entire job themselves if they had to. Having learnt to grind their own paint to their own recipes, they could train other people to do it.
However, Hirst is almost certainly incapable of cutting up cows and sharks, and while I can’t swear to the quality of Emin’s embroidery I’m willing to take a punt that she did not teach the embroiderer who did the bed and the tent. I think your argument about glass making is a bit of a straw man, or at least a stretch.

Of course the arguments about performance versus conceptualisation go on all the time, the more so nowadays when so much happens through bit diddling and a glass wall. Fetishising craft is pointless (and was satirised by Picasso, who few would doubt having been the greatest artist of the first half of the 20th century.) But equally if you have ideas and concepts but are dependent on other people to make them happen, it becomes very unclear where in the process the real creativity lies. At one extreme it becomes as if Wagner had said “Hey, I have this idea for a huge operatic cycle about the Volsungs with a big finale in which everybody dies - get me librettists! get me composers!”. And there’s a lot of that nowadays, with famous names appearing as the authors of works that they may have had no real supervision over whatsoever.


I don’t necessarily agree with it, but I think many classically trained artists have a problem with modernism because it, more or less, declared war on their artistic methods. Modern art was argued by some to not just be evolutionary, but necessary. You had thinkers, like Adorno, coming out of the Frankfurt school, that basically said if you weren’t making “high-brow” art, your stuff was practically synonymous with the most derivative drivel you could find.

If you hear enough of that crap during art school - which, believe me, you will - it may start to build up some resentment, I guess.

Meanwhile, there is a very real feeling that modern artists use a lot of resources to say very little, as Banksy put it. Intuition tells you that it’s all a very well played game, where people that make it big are intentionally creating the strong illusion of meaning without ever actually saying anything, or having any intent, other than their own betterment. Now I ain’t saying this is true in all cases, but the “this is kind of opportunistic bullshit” factor is high in modern art, even stuff that’s “supposed” to be good.

For example, you won’t personally convince me that Damien Hirst somehow deserves to be a famous multi-millionaire, or taken seriously as an artist, for putting dots on a canvas. Yet here we art. Dot man is worth hundreds of times more than your average worker, for his contributions to…it’s hard to say, exactly.

So yeah, people get a little defensive about it. Probably too defensive.


Yes, but they weren’t as noticeable during that long stretch before Modernism was invented.


What long stretch? I bet there were ancient Greeks looking at polychrome statutes and muttering “I detest this modern art!”



Everything dies; virtually nothing lasts forever. How long is evanescent for an original? Oils will eventually decay and spall off the canvas, the canvas itself will disintegrate, and oxygen and microbes will eventually finish the process of decay started when the materials to make the canvas and paint were manufactured. There’s nothing special about oils from the perspective of the Long Now. Marble or granite will endure for a time, but probably not forever.

Some folk only put art on the web. How long will any of that last before it vanishes forever?


Or Yngwie Malmsteen.



Gould was… variable. His Hindemith and Křenek were uniformly excellent, his Schoenberg less so, his Prokofiev and Scriabin a bit too much toward the extremes in tempo, his Brahms sometimes excellent, sometimes with too many liberties in the phrasing, and his Bach seemed to depend on what he had for breakfast that morning…


No, but I think he deserves to be taken seriously as an artist for his sculptures, for example. His canvas covered in dots made the news, as did his glass cases filled with bisected animals, but he’s done a lot more in his career than some dots or animal corpses. Should they sell for millions? Well, no – the economics of art are obscene.


Oh gawd I haven’t listened to Schoenberg in years
Off to the YouTube’s.


One Britart artwork included two poached eggs and the artist had to go round once a week to poach new ones.


Highly recommended: the old Brendel- Kubelik recording of the piano concerto. The Gould-Craft recording sucked.


There’s a specific niche of modern art that utterly baffles me: art that is only Art because its museum setting presents it as such. I feel like every once in awhile a kid in art school discovers Duchamp and goes crazy for the idea of ready-mades for a few years.

I used to go to the Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati quite often; their exhibits were frequently amazing. But I will never forget some of the things they showed:

  • A hot tub in the middle of a room, with a sign saying “please use this hot tub”. People would change into bathing suits in the bathroom and use it.
  • A human-sized heap of dirt in the middle of the floor with a speaker buried in it, playing the sounds of the Altamont Music Festival. It was titled “The Death of the 60s.”
  • A small room with a slide projector showing slides discovered at flea markets of happy families playing in their suburban yards. A plaque on the wall said “From a certain point of view, one can see the latent pedophilia in American culture.” (OH SNAP!)
  • A huge room built out as a meticulous exact reconstruction of the artists’ father’s restaurant in his native Thailand. It was jaw dropping in its detail, but it was simply a Thai restaurant storefront. The artist showed up every day to make Thai food and serve it to visitors.


Virgil, of course, wrote “monumentum exigere aere perennius”. But he had no idea how long bronze would actually last. I seem to recall that book about how things would decay if human beings suddenly vanished, saying that a future civilisation visiting Earth might know that there was once a technical civilisation because they would find the remains of bronze ship propellors - the ones of the largest ships, if they get buried in river mud, might still retain their shape after a hundred million years.
Virgil, on the other hand…How many people nowadays could tell you what the Aeniad was, or who wrote it?