Umělec magazine 2010/2 >> Aesthetic Qualities of Decline List of all editions.
Aesthetic Qualities of Decline
Umělec magazine
Year 2010, 2
6,50 EUR
8 USD
Send the printed edition:
Order subscription

Aesthetic Qualities of Decline

Umělec magazine 2010/2

01.02.2010

Donna Howard | The End of the Western Concept | en cs de ru

The Bohemian National Hall of New York’s Upper East Side was recently the forum for an Umělec event based on the premise that the ‘Western Concept’ was at its end. The event brought about an array of intriguing ideas as to what it actually meant to partake of this so-called ‘Western Concept’ to begin with, and underlined the relevance of those contemporary artists who seem to be re-evaluating their place with regard to it. This ‘Western Concept’ is considered by Will Lunn and Vishal Sumarria, co-directors of London-based gallery Sumarria Lunn, as an exercise in pure conceptualism, overwhelming and undermining the artist’s skill and integrity. As such, the gallery pride themselves on representing artists who demonstrate a certain “validity” in their work; a move away from this conceptual approach and toward one much more traditional in tone and method.

Eugene Wood, Ross Jones, and Yun-Kyung Jeong are three artists from the gallery who appear to tap into this ambiguous artistic position, where the future of their work seems enticingly undefined, yet inextricably married to the history of their medium.
Eugene Wood’s mastery of oil painting is deceptive. The artist is a graduate of the prestigious Institut Supérieur de peinture Van der Kelen-Logelain in Brussels which specialises in this traditional style of painting but, ironically, his works often look like they are not painted at all–appearing more like glycerin prints, or laminated canvas. However, this is precisely why it works; the fusion of contemporary and abstracted subject matter with traditional technique results in a jarring reception on the part of the viewer. We expect to see the strokes, the paint, the work, but instead the marks are hidden, invested so much within his pieces that the paint almost seems to deny itself. In the wake of Greenbergian Modernism we are accustomed to the idea that paint on canvas should look like paint on canvas, its illusory qualities stripped back, yet here we see something quite different. In adopting what is almost a flattening of the paint, Wood denies us one of the fundamentals of the media, its texture. In so doing, we are challenged to look at his work in order to decipher both its process, and its ideas. Whilst proudly admitting his subjects are often mundane (his Isolated Resignation (2008) is essentially a close-up of a degraded yellow road-marking, the visceral ‘cut’ at its end indicating Woods’ frustration at the number of parking tickets he was getting for pausing to look at them) the act of contemplation elevates the commonplace to the intriguing, and in so doing playfully unites the subject with the traditional prestige of its medium. Here Woods plays with art history, and its layered and conflicting ideologies of value.
Another artist whose medium may not appear immediately obvious is Ross Jones, whose pencil works are so painstakingly crafted one could easily confuse them with digitised architectural plans. Distilling contemporary socio-political concerns into individual monochromatic images, Jones works to remove the chaos with which we are faced on a daily basis by the media. The clusters of abandoned tents, iron shelters, or —in the case of Affordable Housing (2008)—regimented tower blocks, have a sense of the iconic, situated in space and arranged with a hint of patterning they convey an underlying idea of meditative order. And yet despite the unsettling feeling that there is a complete lack of human presence, Jones’ pieces are never wholly futile; the sense that there is always something, or someone, in the corner of our eye which always manages to escape our gaze is the very thing that prevents Jones from plunging into a damning critique of contemporary politics, instead allowing for a calm and reserved reflection of our contemporary climate. In demonstrating such overall restraint, all the while working in layers of subtle irony, pencil becomes the only medium suitable for such work. By its very nature the pencil allows for erasure and revision, connoting studies, quick sketches, a trying-out of ideas and an opportunity to disregard them in favour of something more refined. In so doing, Jones would seem to almost re-appropriate a Modernist struggle to establish new rules, distinctly different from the past but not as yet certain enough to be captured in a medium of any permanence. However, in the complete lack of visible erasures, Jones paradoxically asserts confidence in constructing perfect pencil structures, and yet by situating them in the vanishing point and refusing the use of a more permanent medium, he leaves us with a sense of uncertainty. This can be interpreted as modesty, an admission that the artist cannot know all.
The work of Yun-Kyung Jeong appears, therefore, a welcome antidote to the ennui of the real world interpreted by Jones and Wood. A graduate of the Slade, Jeong offers a utopian retreat from the mundane and the commonplace by way of the Eastern concept of Gyeong (景). As we might expect, difficulties ensue when attempting to translate this into its Western equivalent, but Jeong’s emphasis on a symbiotic co-existence of conflicting opposites appears to undo the control structures that seem so intrinsic to Western art. These conflicts are united through the use of a painted leaf-shaped motif whose recurring deployment forges across the negative space of the canvas to invest it with a life and energy that continues to grow increasingly significant to the artist personally, and reflect her own “burning desire to create something new.” Rather than making manifest these abstract ideas in a similarly abstract fashion, Jeong imposes order by building alluring Utopian landscapes whose construction through her motif’s repetition recalls Jones’ isolated tower blocks. Her careful painting of the leaf’s exact replica time and time again to build up a composition, in another example of an inversion of the values of Greenbergian Modernism, intentionally defies the traditional potential of paint whose fluidity naturally embraces blending, movement and transience. And so whilst these landscapes represent the idealisation of nature, in denying the very nature of the medium that has created them, in reducing the potential of the paint to a restrained ‘stamping’ of the same motif, they also embody its threat: An Hourglass (2009) (IX) is evocative of waterfalls, forests and surging mountains and yet the ambiguous shapes that loom to their left are disturbingly tornado-like—the undoing of nature as it destroys itself. And so whilst Jeong unveils the possibility of an enticing future, the fear of the unknown is also made strikingly clear. 
So is the work of Wood, Jones, and Jeong demonstrative of our current situation in contemporary art? The so-called ‘end of the Western Concept’ can indeed be read taking place in the work of all three of these artists, each of whom relinquish a sense of pure conceptualism in favour of a return to physical substance and achievement, in a stark contrast to the Western trends for banal shock tactics and superficial concepts, what Julian Stallabrass famously declared as “high art lite.” So where does that leave us? It appears that what we could be witnessing is less an explicit end to the ‘Western Concept’, but a distillation and hybridisation thereof; a combining of the skilful artistic processes that preceded the emergence of conceptual art, and the movement’s more thoughtful elements. Ross Jones offers that irrespective of the history of an artist’s chosen technique, “as long as the ideas and subject matter within the work are fresh and interesting then work can remain contemporary,” suggesting that the teasing out of Western tradition remains a worthwhile endeavour. Jones’ observation therefore seems to challenge the West to disclose to the keen of gaze its next trick, its next endowment to the modern canon. If this is right, we could be on the brink of the next big movement, one perhaps less concerned with forging new ideals, and instead, refreshingly reflective of our history to inform our future.




01.02.2010

Comments

There are currently no comments.

Add new comment

Recommended articles

African Vampires in the Age of Globalisation African Vampires in the Age of Globalisation
"In Cameroon, rumours abound of zombie-labourers toiling on invisible plantations in an obscure night-time economy."
MIKROB MIKROB
There’s 130 kilos of fat, muscles, brain & raw power on the Serbian contemporary art scene, all molded together into a 175-cm tall, 44-year-old body. It’s owner is known by a countless number of different names, including Bamboo, Mexican, Groom, Big Pain in the Ass, but most of all he’s known as MICROBE!… Hero of the losers, fighter for the rights of the dispossessed, folk artist, entertainer…
Magda Tóthová Magda Tóthová
Borrowing heavily from fairy tales, fables and science fiction, the art of Magda Tóthová revolves around modern utopias and social models and their failures. Her works address personal and social issues, both the private and the political. The stylistic device of personification is central to the social criticism emblematic of her work and to the negotiation of concepts used to construct norms.…
Terminator vs. Avatar: Notes on Accelerationism Terminator vs. Avatar: Notes on Accelerationism
Why political intellectuals, do you incline towards the proletariat? In commiseration for what? I realize that a proletarian would hate you, you have no hatred because you are bourgeois, privileged, smooth-skinned types, but also because you dare not say that the only important thing there is to say, that one can enjoy swallowing the shit of capital, its materials, its metal bars, its polystyrene…
04.02.2020 10:17
Where to go next?
out - archeology
S.d.Ch, Solitaires and Periphery Culture (a generation born around 1970)
S.d.Ch, Solitaires and Periphery Culture (a generation born around 1970)
Josef Jindrák
Who is S.d.Ch? A person of many interests, active in various fields—literature, theater—known for his comics and collages in the art field. A poet and playwright foremost. A loner by nature and determination, his work doesn’t meet the current trends. He always puts forth personal enunciation, although its inner structure can get very complicated. It’s pleasant that he is a normal person and a…
Read more...
out - poetry
THC Review and the Condemned Past
THC Review and the Condemned Past
Ivan Mečl
We are the fifth global party! Pítr Dragota and Viki Shock, Fragmenty geniality / Fragments of Charisma, May and June 1997. When Viki came to visit, it was only to show me some drawings and collages. It was only as an afterthought that he showed me the Czech samizdat publication from the late 1990s, THC Review. When he saw how it fascinated me, he panicked and insisted that THAT creation is…
Read more...
prize
To hen kai pán (Jindřich Chalupecký Prize Laureate 1998 Jiří Černický)
To hen kai pán (Jindřich Chalupecký Prize Laureate 1998 Jiří Černický)
Read more...
birthing pains
Who’s Afraid of Motherhood?
Who’s Afraid of Motherhood?
Zuzana Štefková
Expanding the definition of “mother” is also a space for reducing pressure and for potential liberation.1 Carol Stabile The year was 2003, and in the deep forests of Lapák in the Kladno area, a woman in the later phase of pregnancy stopped along the path. As part of the “Artists in the Woods” exhibit, passers-by could catch a glimpse of her round belly, which she exposed especially for them in…
Read more...
Books, video, editions and artworks that might interest you Go to e-shop
Fountain, 1995, silkscreen print, 44 x 27,5 cm
More info...
65 EUR
76 USD
More info...
6,50 EUR
8 USD
print on durable film, 250 x 139 cm, 2011 / signed by artist and numbered from edition of ten
More info...
799,20 EUR
937 USD
Limited edition of 10. Size 100 x 70 cm. Black print on durable white foil.
More info...
75 EUR
88 USD

Studio

Divus and its services

Studio Divus designs and develops your ideas for projects, presentations or entire PR packages using all sorts of visual means and media. We offer our clients complete solutions as well as all the individual steps along the way. In our work we bring together the most up-to-date and classic technologies, enabling us to produce a wide range of products. But we do more than just prints and digital projects, ad materials, posters, catalogues, books, the production of screen and space presentations in interiors or exteriors, digital work and image publication on the internet; we also produce digital films—including the editing, sound and 3-D effects—and we use this technology for web pages and for company presentations. We specialize in ...
 

Citation of the day. Publisher is not liable for any mental and physical states which may arise after reading the quote.

Enlightenment is always late.
CONTACTS AND VISITOR INFORMATION The entire editorial staff contacts

DIVUS LONDON

 

STORE
Arch 8, Resolution Way, Deptford

London SE8 4NT, United Kingdom
Open on appointment

 

OFFICE
7 West Street, Hastings
East Sussex, TN34 3AN
, United Kingdom
Open on appointment
 

Ivan Mečl
ivan@divus.org.uk, +44 (0) 7526 902 082

DIVUS
NOVA PERLA
Kyjov 37, 407 47 Krásná Lípa
Czech Republic
divus@divus.cz
+420 222 264 830, +420 602 269 888

Open daily 10am to 6pm
and on appointment.

 

DIVUS BERLIN
Potsdamer Str. 161, 10783 Berlin
Germany

berlin@divus.cz, +49 (0) 1512 9088 150
Open on appointment.

 

DIVUS WIEN
wien@divus.cz
DIVUS MEXICO CITY
mexico@divus.cz
DIVUS BARCELONA
barcelona@divus.cz
DIVUS MOSCOW & MINSK

alena@divus.cz

DIVUS NEWSLETTER SUBSCRIPTION
Divus New book by I.M.Jirous in English at our online bookshop.