Thursday, 26 February 2015

50 Years Behind Art - The Big Painting Challenge

Brion Gysin said "Writing is fifty years behind painting", as quoted by William Burroughs referring to the cut-up technique. Now that the BBC's Big Painting Challenge has begun, it's obvious that in this world, painting is 50 years behind Art.

But if you paint, you're an Artist, right? Or should we differentiate and just call them 'painters'? But aren't painters Artists? Yes. I was going to say 'in the old world' but Artists still paint, I believe, despite everyone else making videos, installations, performance and whatever else Artists do instead of getting their paws mucky with paint.

In The Big Painting Challenge painters are told to paint things and each week the worst one gets kicked off. Everyone must be judged these days. On TV anyhow. It's a winning formula....cake-makers...businesspeople...sewers (that's people who sew, not the methods by which waste is disposed of, although judging those might be next, or rather, sewage maintenance see who does the best job...and the worst get kicked off and told they're "full of shit!" - ha-ha. Sorry.)

TBPC is like watching paint dry, which is what you're doing, literally. People like watching amateurs perform. They even like watching people watching TV as in Gogglebox (Brit series in which we watch various people reacting to TV, I'm not making this up). I think the participants should be shown watching themselves on Gogglebox...then the following week be shown that footage ad infinitum...a TV eternal reflection concept. What do you think?

Meanwhile, painting. It's cosy Sunday night TV, just like the other Sunday perennial, Antiques Roadshow. "These artistic ideas are bloody antiquated!" a sniffy hipster shouts at the telly. Not me. That's not me doing that. OK, it is, as I forget that at 6 0'clock on a Sunday evening no-one wants their ideas of painting, never mind Art, challenged. Future episodes are unknown to me, apart from this week's portraiture theme, but I doubt they'll be asked to 'do an abstract' in the future. That would be too modern. In this world of Sunday painters, collage would come across as the shock of the new.

I'm not knocking the amateur painters, honest. It's the idea of the show that's annoying. The idea that Art on TV must be this old-fashioned. The Great Art Challenge would be far more interesting...and challenging, for the viewers, at least. Imagine the complaints regarding what's 'not Art!'. It would be like the old days when a pile of bricks made tabloid news. Assuming, that is, people can still be shocked and baffled by Art after the success of Damien's shark. I suspect there's only room for one novelty superstArtist per generation, though, which means any other Not Art-ist upstarts would still upset Mr & Mrs People.

I do find the show entertaining. I would have bet that the guy in the hat was on his way out but instead it was the ex-graphic designer (I think that's what he did). The poor bugger was almost as bad as me at painting. Well, not that bad. Representational painting, I mean, although in my defence, when I paint it does represent something, I'm just not always sure what, exactly. And besides, the drawing skills that lead to 'proper' painting are passé, aren't they? I'm guessing students today are free from those shackles. Which is not to say they will make anything more worthwhile than a badly rendered castle.

Seeing what this week's 'reject' could do, I wonder what the general entry standard was like. Now that I'd love to see, like the X Factor auditions, only would-be painters instead. How did judges know that the worst efforts were not actually knowing post-modern statements regarding the worthlessness of Old Art techniques in the modern world?

It's not about Art, but I sense I'll be trying to watch every episode of The Big Painting Challenge. It's a win-win situation for viewers. They can marvel at even the worst efforts if they can't paint themselves and if they're contemporary-minded, they can feel smugly superior because they know that representational painting is old hat.

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