Monday, 15 June 2009

the royal academy summer exhibition 2009

Every year I am afflicted by a short-lived delusion that I should enter something into the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy, usually triggered by a visit to said exhibition. It's not that I think I've got anything to enter, I just have a kind of sad yearning to be a proper 'artist' rather than some kind of commercial sell-out drudge, churning out terrible illustrations for money. But my question after visiting the exhibition last week was what on earth IS art these days? and it's a question I've struggled with for a while.

I used to love printmaking, and the Small and Large Weston Rooms at the Summer Exhibition are full of lovely prints. I'm not fussed about all the other modern stuff, some of which is lovely, but most of which is shocking. Call me traditional, but I like to see some kind of ability or skill - drawing, painting - in the piece if you're going to call it 'art'.

Image of the Small Weston Room by John Bodkin for The Royal Academy.

I am very cynical about a lot of modern art - the old notion of there being a requirement for skill in creating a work of art has been somewhat pushed aside in favour of the need for new art to 'say' something interesting or to impart upon its viewer some kind of emotion derived from the experience of staring at it. But can't a piece of art be both skilled in its execution and emotionally exciting? I could rant forever about this - I just get this niggling feeling every time I'm faced with a squiggle on a blank canvas that someone, somewhere, is pulling my leg very hard.

Tracy Emin is exhibiting a print of her Space Monkey and selling an edition of 300 for £225 per print. I don't know if that would be a good investment on my part or just a money-making gimmick on her part. I mean, the tiny amount of effort that's gone into that for a possible £67,500 in her pocket is mind-boggling. I tend towards the cynical view - pah! I'm not being taken in by that two-minute piece of junk! - but am I kidding myself? Do effort and skill really matter these days?

Hey, maybe I'll do a Space Hyena print for next year...

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