Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Words And Pictures - a postscript

Since 2SER is a radio and not a great medium for transmitting visual information - we tend to resort to a bit of a textual obsession in predicting, postmorteming and blithering about things we've heard about or seen.

This is one of the reasons why we spend some time baggin wanky or dodgy press reviews, or wafty and pretentious artists bios or exhibtion titles. When it comes to radio - the WORDS MATTER.

This probably ain't the place to explore my Derrida trips - and nayone who was mystified by my Deleuzian references to womyn being a "not very evocative of molecular becomings" PLEASE post a comment and I will please explain. Like much art, philosophy can be explained and understood, and enjoyed.
But we had an interesting quandry this week.
Karen mentioned a great press release that she received.
I've cut and pasted it below.

Chinese Whispers


This exhibition, or perhaps, this work, had its origin in something my mother said ten years ago – “You should paint flowers, people always like flowers.”

My mother paints flowers although often she is a sort of appropriation artist, painting not flowers but other artist’s paintings of flowers.

I never paint flowers but I decided I would follow her example. I copied one of her paintings, a simple painting of three calla lilies in a vase. My painting was much larger, slightly sinister in its sharpness and harsh colour. It was only later when looking through one of her books that I realised that she had herself consciously or unconsciously copied parts of a 1930s painting by Adrian Feint, a mixed bouquet of flowers in a vase. Among the flowers were three calla lilies which resembled those in her painting.

Sometime later my friend Guo Jian told me that his art teacher had said exactly the same thing to him, a piece of advice which Guo had ignored. He then painted a painting based on mine without having seen my mother's painting or the original Adrian Feint painting. His painting is the monochrome grey of dreams, hallucinatory and foreboding.

We live in a culture of Chinese whispers, a phantasmagoric world of lying murderous leaders, self deluded followers and manipulative propaganda from all sides. Try as we might, it is impossible to discern the original truth simply by studying the latest insanity, only knowledge of history gives you a thread through the maze.

Looking at our paintings I felt that unintentionally we had created a type of visual Chinese whisper, a cross-generational collaborative work of interpretation and misinterpretation symbolizing that dilemma.

But of course the problem with Chinese whispers is that by the end almost any interpretation is possible, we see whatever we wish to see, we believe whatever we wish to believe.

Ian Milliss
July 2005


* The slogans of the Party on the walls of the Ministry of Truth, from Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. Orwell’s hero Winston works in the Ministry of Truth doctoring historical records in order to comply with the Party's version of the past. Since the perception of the past is constantly shaped by the events of the present, the task is a never-ending one.

Cool eh?
punchy, pertinent, political.
think you wanna see it?
It arrived in my inbox from the type of email address that made me think it was some sort of SPAM.

But the text had me hooked. I wanted to find out more.
This was all there was.

Chinese Whispers

an exhibition at Slot Gallery by Adrian Feint, Norma Cherry, Ian Milliss, Guo Jian

A bunch of flowers transformed as it passes from artist to artist, an exhibition of interpretation, misinterpretation, appropriation, misappropriation, subtraction, addition, understanding, misunderstanding, truths, untruths, and more. As my mother said “You should paint flowers, people always like flowers”.

No gallery address. No temporal details.
obejaysus (sorry benn reading a bit of ulysses lately)

Fortunately - there were a couple of image files attached.

And the images were......bloody dreadful.
they belong in cyberspace


david said...

Duh!Slot is a shopfront in Botany Road just before the right hand turn off to Alexandria. I saw this show from the car and stopped to have a look and if the images in the email were the same as in the shopfront then you really missed the point, A&M. The whole thing is a very witty piss-take on bullshitty artist and curator statements, and art historical lies - the one labelled Adrian Feint is really Justin O'Brien, another is a naive amateur painting and the other two are very competent but weird and probably fakes of some sort, I think they are meant to be dreadful or at least strange. It's like those stupid curatorial statements you see in the Biennale where they attempt to present some piece of crap as brilliant and profound. You should put the images in your blog so we can see. I assume thats why its called chinese whispers, and the give-away is the bit about winston altering the past to suit the present.

Anonymous said...

ONya Dave!
this sounds excellent and I'm always delighted to be tromped.
Irony is such a funny pose really. I don't want to cast it into the sublime pool coz its the national religion but i get irritated when its substituted for "paradox" or more deployed as a bit of a cover for epeoples insecruities about their art making/manula skills/imagination/dodgy fantasy. I believe viewers have the right to get it 'wrong' (and to be corrected. As I couldnt view any address on the message snet to me - and can't fnd any internet trace - I'll leave it people like your good self to provide any e-links or pikkies

David said...

I didn't think it was irony and there was nothing insecure about it, it was very professional looking. If anything it seemed a send up of that post modern ironic crap. I thought it was more a sort of visual detective story, ie what is true here and what is a lie and can you be sure even when you think you've worked it out. Unfortunately I don't have the email or the images.

Anonymous said...

Dear Arty Mayhm
are you sure you're not in on this, the latest whisper which misinterprets the whole thing even more.
First whisper is the Adrian Feint that doesn't exist, second is the book illustration of Justin o'Brien that is being passed off as the Adrian Feint, third is the painting by Norma Cherry which supposedly copied it but doesn't look anything like it, fourth is the Ian Milliss painting which obviously is a copy of the Norma Cherry, but is she really his mother, she has a different name, fifth is the Guo Jain which again doesn't look anything like the Ian Milliss, and sixth is that text which says the previous five things are a politics lesson not a bunch of flower paintings and the seventh is the blogger who says forget the paintings they are crap but oh oh oh what a lovely artist statement.
I saw it tonight and thought it was great, saying the paintings are dreadful is like saying Ian Burn couldn't paint landscapes, irrelevant even if it was true. They look as if they were carefully selected to be unfashionable maybe but they are not dreadful.
The whole thing should be permanently hanging in the entrance of Sydney Uni Fine Arts as a warning that art history is bunk.

Sandy said...

I thought they were the worst paintings of daffodils Ive ever seen

Anonymous said...

try http://www.slot.net.au/

LouisZ said...

Just looked at website link above and that's not irony, that's heavy duty satire. You should get out of the ghetto more Art and Mayhem, then you would know that Guo Jian shows with Ray Hughes, satirical pseudo porn of girls in Red Army uniforms. I haven’t seen anything by Milliss since the early 70s, I assume this is the same artist, but his work then had a wicked sense of humour, quite vicious sometimes, treated the art world as a joke It was the most extreme conceptual art but it always played tricks on the audience, he would send up “performance art” by conning the audience into carrying out stupid actions for instance, or he would rearrange the gallery furniture and call it a sculpture but you couldn’t tell what chair was part of the sculpture and what wasn’t. If this is by him then I think he’s still doing the same sort of thing in a different way, he and Guo Jian are having a lend of you by tricking you into making very silly interpretations, (“great statement, shame about the paintings”, what a howler, you should be embarrassed, they pushed all the right buttons, had you salivating and then handed you a bunch of flower paintings, just like they said they would but you had conned yourself into expecting something else).

And the commentators haven’t done much better trying to work out a history of what’s true in the statement and what isn’t.

If I were you I’d think about this:
1 The four paintings have one thing only in common, they each have three of the same flowers.
2 What part of the human body do the flowers resemble?
3 I think the artists might be implying that art writers are a bunch of those.