2008 archibald prize, matchsticks and Capital-A-Art

We went to see the Archibald exhibition today, which includes the finalists for the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes. Only the Archibald finalists are scanned online though.

This was my favourite, I think:

I just like the twinkle in the eyes and the personality that leaps off the painting. You can't see it in the scan but the background is silver (metallic) and the painting is as tall as me - it has presence.

I also liked these:

Long Hair


Black and white and Red all over

"Long Hair" is just a fantastic detail painting. The one of Red Symons captures the trademark sneer perfectly. And OK, so maybe I just like personalities of the Cook & The Chef; (the portrait is perfectly named "Simpatico").

L particularly liked this one, although the texture of the posters pasted on is lost a bit in this little image:

I thought the winner was crap:

I don't really see the attraction of a painting that makes the artist's kids look like aliens. Nor do I think her kids are "some man or woman distinguished in Art, Letters, Science or Politics", which is supposedly the point of the Archibald. No doubt this painting is brilliant on some level I don't know about, but I know what I like and this isn't it :)

I think the packers got it right though, a good match of style and subject:

The packing room also produced the quote which went onto tshirts and coffee mugs for the exhibition... All I'll say is a lot of art teachers have a lot to answer for.

People's Choice went to the one of Heath Ledger, for pretty obvious reasons.

There were quite a few berets and dodgy hats in the room. Perhaps dodgy headwear has replaced the skivvie as the uniform of the art snob, if the supercilious facial expressions and overheard art wankery is anything to go by.

After we escaped the gallery's shop (three books, one exhibition coffee mug later), at my request we stopped off at Almost Once (aka. The Matchsticks) by Brett Whiteley. I'd never seen it up close before:

almost once (1)

This sculpture was once of the first things that made me ponder "what is art? / is it art? / what does it mean?". I saw them on TV when I was younger and only evaluated them in terms of pure aesthetics. I then I heard of it being evaluated on entirely different terms - Capital-A Art terms. I kind of realised then there were - broadly - two ways to approach art.

Well ok I think I already knew that.

But it is the work which I remember as being the first to make a really strong impression in terms of Art vs. Aesthetics. Whiteley himself is quoted as saying Art is an argument between what a thing looks like and what it means.

...and does it matter? Or more correctly, does one position have to win? I think it's fair to say that art means whatever the viewer thinks it means AND it means whatever the artist meant... and in the end, no work's meaning can make up for poor execution; and few works can truly claim 100% aesthetic purpose without meaning. And all of that is ok.

almost once (2)

...having now seen them in the flesh, I can still happily evaluate them more or less on the aesthetic level ;)

I don't know what Whiteley saw when he created it or when he looked at it. As with all art, it means what it means to the viewer at the time they view it.

Yes, I can see themes and ideas. I can see the pristine versus the used, purpose, the potential versus the realised, states in time, destruction, art in the detail of daily life. If you like you can draw parallels to Whiteley himself, who ultimately burnt out in front of the art world. It's all there if you want to think of it that way. On some days I do.

But the fact remains it's also two great big bits of wood made up to look like matches. One is unspoilt, varnished and the biggest red-headed match you'll ever see. The other is burnt and has a wonderful charred patina.

They look pretty cool. Pure and simple. And on some days that's entirely enough.



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