Thursday, 16 February 2012

Mind the Gap - What makes a Regionalist in the 21st Century?




Boy with Buoy, oil on canvas, 44"x40", Steven Rhude





"Our way of working can not be called a movement because each of us has many and severe reservations about the others' works, and because we are not using regionalism as a gimmick but as a collective noun to cover what so many painters, writers, and photographers have used - their own environment..." [1]

Greg Curnoe


"The separate problems and opportunities of the individual regions of Canada have bred regional modes of thought, made all the more distinctive by the way in which artists and writers have picked out the unique features at the expense of features held in common."

J. Wrenford Watson [2]


"We are now at a crossroads, we have the impact of technological change that effects the way we produce and consume arts and culture. We have the world on our flat screens."

Alain Pineau [3]


Greg Curnoe was an unabashed regionalist at a time when formalism was the prevailing mode of established thought for art critics. For the critic, the artists life meant nothing in relation to his or her work. Subject matter was also erased from the orthodoxy of critical acceptance. A baseball was not a baseball, it was a sphere - therefore without a distinguishing identity. During the 1960's and 70's generally, the large American cities like New York held the rarely challenged mantle of creative origins. Artistically, it was American urban domination and Canada's aping of New York City by Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, that may have kindled a strong anti-American streak in Curnoe. It forced him to make the most of his own environment and the ethos of  his beloved London, Ontario. A retrospective held at the Art Gallery of Ontario in 2001 gave us a chance to witness first hand his love of "Stuff" and how he transformed it into art.

 One particular example that stands out for me was Curnoe's love of hockey, and how one day he noticed some discarded hockey stick blades on the West Lions' ice pad. http://www.artsask.ca/en/collections/themes/regionalidentity/greg_curnoe/hockey_stick_blades
The resulting print reflects Curnoe's immediate talent and adroitness at seeing the value in a regional discard, and what symbolic weight it held for Curnoe in his oeuvre of regional artifacts.

Curnoe shared a similar affection for cycling and left us many fine portraits of his beloved Mariposa bicycle. It was also his passion for cycling which lead to his untimely death in 1992 and subsequently has left me wondering about his vision of regionalism. Notwithstanding a rich and diverse body of work, what would have evolved with his art and his commitment to reality, had he lived further on into the information technology revolution?

These are some of the challenges facing the regionalist artist who still looks to their immediate environs for inspiration and subject matter, yet are conscious of the collective noun regionalism and its implications. Much has changed since Curnoe's time. Rural out migration is serious and reflected in the big box store chains and the overall diminishment of small business in that once vital icon we call Canada's small town. On line shopping and the information highway have altered our consumer habits and the accessibility to the market place. Ideas can reach people with the click of a mouse. The very fact that, as a visual artist, I can connect with numerous people all over the globe while circumventing our traditional and established art channels (ie; art magazines, news papers that would normally have to acknowledge, then if desired, review my objectives) , is to say the least liberating.

Curnoe was deeply skeptical in his time that art could transcend borders, yet people believed it - it kept coming up, but Curnoe thought that it was convenient for American believers because it was "their art and culture which was international eg. Vietnam."[4]

 I wonder if Curnoe, were he alive, would have found the Ipad an interesting tool for conveying ideas about regional art or any art for that matter. After all, in his day he did start up his own art magazine and artist run gallery, not to mention was one of the founding members of  Ontario's CARFAC. http://www.carfacontario.ca/~carfacon/about/carfac_turns_40

 He was always looking for alternatives, but a utopianist he was not.

The fact is there is not really any centre anymore. The art world isn't centred in New York and there is no place I can think of in Canada where one could say art is centred. Judging from the art reviews in the Globe and Mail one might think Toronto is the centre of Canada's art world, but a monopoly on newspaper coverage can't account for the vibrancy of art scenes covered through alternative media - especially social media, as evident from St John's to Vancouver. We certainly can claim we are experiencing now an international nation of art, but it all seems to me to be equally fragmented as the idea of cultural identity is constantly revised. It has taken the power of information technology to make art a global phenomenon, yet there exists a symmetry with the countervailing power of regionalism. An example of this would be the use of on line learning by remote regions to sustain their art programs and general education in an era of declining enrolment and protectionist centralisation. If you can't beat them, join them - or at least use them.

What is inspiring is that where we once may have questioned whether art can transcend borders, we now know it can. But that can also be challenging, frightening, and have ramifications in the overall scheme of things.

The advocacy of art whether regional or national is now open to the free market vicissitudes and the presence of the Gap. The writing is on the wall for the Canadian Conference for the Arts ( National Arts Advocacy Group whose mandate is now to create a united voice for the arts in Canada), they have been unofficially told the federal government will eliminate seventy five percent of their funding. The main support for the arts is the middle class, and in Canada that philosophy and demographic is changing. So it's back to grass roots and a 15 city tour of Canada for Alain Pineau to rebuild the group.
http://thechronicleherald.ca/artslife/62952-arts-body-has-embraced-challenge-funding-loss


So what does all this mean for a painter living in small town Nova Scotia. A region is not just something to be used (think of fish or oil), depleted or used up. Identity for any culture always relates to a continuum of other higher principles. So for a regionalist he/she must weigh the responsibilities of cultural identity against the changing forces influencing its growth, spiritually or economically. These things allow the painter for instance to feel the freedom to have their work be place related or orientated, and unencumbered by trends or the flavour of the day - yet watchful for the opportunities they may present. For the regionalist, to probe through their art, the history, people, geography and depth of  place, is about all they can do if there is a sense of meaning to be found in regionalism today - its distinctive feature or mode of thought being the objective.

Back during the 1967 Centennial celebrations Greg Curnoe won a cake competition. On the cake he wrote:  Canada, I Think I Love You - But I Wanna Know for Sure. Truer words were never spoken by a regionalist.


Steven Rhude, Wolfville, Nova Scotia




References

1- D. Reid and M. Teitlebaum (eds) 2001 Greg Curnoe, Life and Stuff, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, pg. 148

2- J. Wrenford Watson, Canadian Regionalism in Life and Letters, The Geographic Journal, Volume 131, No.1, March 1965

3- Alain Pineau, Executive Director, Canadian Conference for the Arts
http://thechronicleherald.ca/artslife/62952-arts-body-has-embraced-challenge-funding-loss

4 - Sarah Milroy, Canadian Art Magazine, Dream of a Common Language, Summer 2000, Volume 17, No. 2

  


















































Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Some New Exhibitions

Hear are two fine regional group shows to take away the winter blues! The first one is hosted by Gallery 78 in Fredericton New Brunswick.  It is titled Our Friends and Neighbours. It features artists from Nova Scotia and P.E.I.

 Along with myself, other exhibitors (and good friends) are Gordon Macdonald, Susan Patterson, and Tom Forrestall. The beauty of their work speaks for itself.

 Gallery 78 has a long and distinguished history in Canada while cultivating a dedicated and mature stable of artists such as Bruno and Molly Bobak and Joe Plaskett to name a few. The range of expression available at this gallery, and their superb building puts them on a must see list for the gallery goer.

This exhibit showcases the work of artists traditionally connected with the landscape for years, yet reflects a diversity of realism and visual attitudes. Hope you enjoy it. 




Three Barrels on a Beach, oil on board, Steven Rhude
                                             Check the show out online at:
                         http://www.gallery78.com/ourfriendsandneighbours.html



Another cool show on now in Toronto is at Robert's Gallery (the oldest commercial gallery in Canada - established in 1842)  and is simply called Artists Choice 2012. The work ranges from figurative to abstraction to representational landscape. Check it out online at:


Three Buoys and Apples, oil on canvas, Steven rhude
         http://www.robertsgallery.net/dynamic/exhibit.asp?Exhibit=Current 



Hope you enjoy them.

Steven Rhude, Wolfville













Thursday, 9 February 2012

Of Curses and Myth- Portrait of Lucy Publicover


A Portrait of Lucy Publicover, Graphite on Paper, 9"x14", Steven Rhude
 I curse this headland; this place
 - it's dreams cast about,
 Just as I watched my sons go down
So,
 shall you watch your
 family daughter out.


Lucy Publicover is a myth; a piece of folklore passed around the winter table when I lived in Fox Island many years ago. The telling of it to me is only a distant memory now, the details and accuracy are as vague as a ship disappearing into the fog. Perhaps I should have written it down, but at the time it just didn't seem that important to me. I had other things to do. So, I filed it away where most stories go, deep into the subconscious, until one day - provoked by a  gesture and a  winters dream, the memory of this myth returned to me long enough to recognise that a community's psychological characteristics can be bound up in a moments pose. The time, facts and the image of the event are now irrelevant, but the dream is not.

It was the women of fishing communities, of course who suffered the brunt of tragedies at sea. They lost lovers and children, siblings and fathers. As Ruskin said, "Human effort and sorrow going on perpetually from age to age, brave lives dashed away about the rattling beach, like weeds forever...".  Fishing; one of the most dangerous occupations we know of. So it goes when you are committed to the boat.

So out at sea, a ship along with several  local fishermen, gets caught up in an August gale. They attempt to make it back into port. The seas are way too rough, impeding their way back to safety, but from the headland townsfolk can see the spectacle of the ship in peril. I can't imagine what two brothers saw. Close but not close enough. A narrative better scripted for the British painter Turner than I.

 Lucy Publicover, in panic and with the image of her two sons on the ship, implores her immediate family to not wait, but, with their own boat, attempt a rescue before fate deals its ugly blow. A classic dammed if you do, dammed if you don't  situation. Ships are obliged to render assistance at sea as enshrined in both tradition and international conventions. When attempting a rescue of mariners in peril (as symbolized by an upside down distress flag), we see created the classic human equation.
http://books.google.ca/books?id=0V4u-NDQQVkC&pg=PA40&lpg=PA40&dq=ships+required+by+law+to+rescue+another+ship+with+its+distress+flag+up&source=bl&ots=ouS8V0GbgK&sig=xjXez_trP3UXrdLP9wiqOypmnuw&hl=en&sa=X&ei=6lg0T9WuNYGD0QH84eXcAg&ved=0CCcQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=ships%20required%20by%20law%20to%20rescue%20another%20ship%20with%20its%20distress%20flag%20up&f=false

The results are tragic. No attempt is made to rescue her sons and the other fishermen. Lucy Publicover watches for hours only to helplessly witness the final conclusion transforming herself and sons into myth. She curses her family, and eventually goes mad. It is said her curse manifested as the family eventually daughtered out. But what of the community?

Myths etch into the fibre of communities the way economic variables influence the tone of the next Canadian census and maritime out migration statistics. Lennie Gallant has mastered the art of the mariner protest and dirge. In Peter's Dream the ethos is about curse and transition.

Someone sang an old sea shanty
And Nealy told a mainland joke
Kelly cursed and swore until his voice gave out
And then he asked me for a smoke
And then he took his father's shotgun
Walked to the harbour, through the town
He fired fourteen times, woke everyone up
And we all watched that boat go down

Myth and symbols always underline tragedy, patiently waiting for the bare facts of dawn.
Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Drawing - the Perceptual/Conceptual legacy



"We no longer need an art that is perceptual. We need an art that is conceptual."

          Antony Gormley (Turner prize winner 1994)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fje0JEvzG50


Antony Gormley, Days of Fire, 2008



"The supreme misfortune is when theory outstrips performance." - Leonardo da Vinci



Manual Skills

Should one should consider skill as the essential component to great art? I hope not. However, the above statement by Antony Gormley reflects the view that many post artists of today have toward the legacy of academic skills. An old battle to say the least, and Gormley does not seem to add much to the debate. As a winner of the prestigious Turner prize in 1994, one could hardly expect him to rally the troops in defense of Classical drawing. But as I believe the legacy of skill may still have some merit - even in these post modern times, I am compelled to respond.

 In a digital age it seems to be an uncontested given that artistic needs are defined in part for us, by refuting the skills of the past in order to justify the needs of the present. This seems valid since much has changed in the visual arts since Giotto. However, in the case of the video: You don't need great skill to be a great artist, the measure is that of greatness and not the purpose and application of skills to the study of art. I wonder how the discourse would have evolved if the question - Do you need skill to be an artist? was the premise of the video. Would manual skill have been considered in more depth?

Many artists with different skills and technology at their disposal, no longer have the impulse to draw with the academic tradition in mind, or consider it as a form of vital preparation for artistic study and art education. However, Gormley does not take into account the large number of studios and academic programs still in existence and valued by representational artists who do. Many of these artists would ask quite rightfully, who decides what our needs are in terms of the perceptual/conceptual debate.


Giotto, Navicella, pen on paper


 In the video the debate is premised on a statement, not a question. This in itself can be misleading. All those interviewed in the video make it clear that there are a variety of skills required to be an artist, both yesterday and today, but it seems academic skills bring out the daggers, especially with Gormley. It becomes the elephant in the room for him - a question of training. Perceptual training (an academic approach to learning to see through the act of drawing and painting) is for him  anachronistic, a skill used to make life comfortable. Whereas, today art is supposed to make life difficult. Which is why we need a conceptual art. Leaving aside the notion that there is such a thing as a great artist today, or even if that should be a form of criteria when exploring the nature of art, one should wonder why Gormley sets up a binary position when it is quite obvious, arm chair comfort is hardly a sensible reference point to start from. Perceptual art is peppered with difficult works. The history of western perceptual painting is ostensibly difficult.


Rembrandt, Saskia in Bed


 So for Gormley, it is a question of whether art can be taught at all. Another valid supposition. Yet the premise of perceptual drawing was intended to provide students with a way of searching out facts for themselves. Common property for sure, but certainly not found via formula as the post artist may surmise. Every route is unique, just as a fingerprint is. The conceptual component in perceptual art (I believe there is one) is the application of ideas. Only when they are transferred to life through art do they take on validity.

 Ironically, an artist like Gormley, is directly or indirectly a product of perceptual art and the skills naturally associated with it. So why question its purpose today, when perceptual art has always been about the idea of experience. Perceptual art is intended to be seen. The satisfaction being that what we see is tested also throughout the other senses. Two people can see the same object and draw it, yet neither knows what the other knows. Hence, drawing has always been experiential, and for the devoted artist, this usually included results worthy of examination, which in turn can lead to not only a valuable experience for the artist, but also a better skills set for visual conveyance. This is a result of seeing through our eyes rather than just with them.


Georgia O'keeffe, The Shell, 1934



Unfortunately in the video, the reasons perceptual art is no longer relevant or needed are not expanded upon in any other way other than death by association and date. By that I mean tradition and the accumulation of skills through what Gormley calls the known. For arguments sake the conceptualist must move into the unknown - whatever that may be to Gormley is anyone's guess. Jerry Saltz might say it is about deskilling - a fascinating objective:

"I’m interested in people who rethink skill, who redefine or re-imagine it: an engineer, say, who builds rockets from rocks. If skill equalled greatness, 19th-century academics would be the apex of painting and Odd Nerdrum would be our greatest living painter. How much skill did it take to sign a urinal?" [1]

 But I suspect deskilling comes with a price, as with all art concepts. The history of perceptual art was always concerned more with life than art - or art for arts sake. With perceptual art came the laws of art that hinged on the laws of nature. With conceptual art we were introduced to strategic and tactical skills. Managerial skills in order to maintain detail and order over studio assistants. But it seems it doesn't matter for Gormley that the Classical base is still relevant - no matter where the artist may end up - even as a conceptualist. Ironic when one considers for instance, the skill required in making a hand made paper for a contemporary conceptual  printmaker.



John Baldassari, I will not make any more boring art, 1971



The answer to what we may or may not need lies in the progressives approach to conceptualism and the advancement of skills. Another tact taken seems to be the availability of skills. When so many people have supposedly  been trained to draw, why not outsource the skill to allow the artist management of the larger issues of creativity? Some call this conducting or as Sarah Thorton says - managerial skills. Just think of the Warhol factory or Jeff Koons Inc. and you get the picture.

The problem is there are not so many Masters around nowadays to maintain the apprenticeship system in all its varied aspects. Art education in the west is pluralistic and provides training in most areas of artistic expression, yet a Master comes with a premium and is rare. If traditional skills are marginalized in a society through deskilling, or considered nonsense, the less likely that society will produce a Master able to convey the importance of those skills today. Even so, many artists and art experts are hesitant to even use the term.


Antonio Lopez Garcia, Maria, pencil on paper, 1972


A more sensible approach to me comes from Hans-Urlich Obrist, Director of the Serpintine gallery in London, who asserts that: "process and learning expanded the notion of skills, just like our expanded notion of art."  Therefore drawing is as relevant and necessary a skill today, as management or marketing skills may be. The objective being to continue to expand our capacity for skills without neglecting the time honored ones.



Annigoni, Study for the Queen



Perhaps probing the psychological and imaginative aspects of drawing would provide the necessary sensitivity to drawing as aesthetically relevant and contemporary. In learning to draw one doesn't experience the sense that as a skill it is perceptually limited. It is something to be applied and expanded as one's art expands. As a result an artist like Pietro Annigoni, who derived much of his skill and artistic baggage from the renaissance Masters, also framed his vision within a twentieth century context. He was adaptive yet traditional. Likewise so was Giotto. Both artists are as contemporary today as John Baldissari is.




Annigoni, Hands, Study for the Queen


 
Rendering the Third Dimension

Generally, there are reasons for the decline in drawing and its contemporary recognition by the mainstream establishment. One of the great fallacies within the contemporary art establishment is that there is a belief that in art history, perceptual art depends only on manual skill - a rendition of a three dimensional world - something to deceive the eye. Therefore, drawing was part of a magic act and no longer to be trusted. Many conceptualists presuppose that this type of art was only about the illusion of the third dimension - a manual skill historically acknowledged, yet no longer serious or needed for most contemporary strategies. Ironic in light of the wide spread use of the computer monitor in present day installation. Another screen in our long relationship with illusion.


Alex Colville, Rat, Serigraph


Nothing could be further from historical truth in dismissing the legacy of perceptual art. The magic avoided  by the contemporary establishment, came with the help of symbols descriptive of the visible world. The magic - if you want to call it that, was tangible reality, not the description of it.

In academic training, the art of rendering without perceptive thought was frowned upon. Drawing also required the use of all the senses. It was one of several skill components used to probe the nature of time, space, visible reality and the landscape of the mind; all contemporary traits in artistic exploration. The same challenges facing artists like Antony Gormley.


Annigoni, Bernard Berenson on his Death Bed, China Ink





The Gulf

But Gormley's deductions takes place in a twenty first century society, with a different artistic order and hierarchy - and indeed objectives. So what may seem to be photographic when viewing a Caravaggio for us, was not to the general viewer in the painters own day. Realist representation for them was not a trick, it was a form of visual realisation. Their thinking was not just adaptive, as we like to think of ourselves today. Their respect for painting came with a general knowledge of art as an aesthetic mediator between life and expression. The art they produced with manual skills, was also an art that preferred reality of content over appearance.


Isabel Bishop, Noon Hour, Etching



Skills are important and help develop vision and expression. They assist the artist in making life more difficult, more interesting and more complicated. The abdication of skills from a certain century is one path to take. But the embracing of past skills and an understanding of their purpose, does not mean one's expression is antiquated. Skills don't have a shelf life like yogurt. Applied with respect they are timeless. The most interesting artists have never let appearance interfere with their reality of content. Just as the skills that have yet to be unearthed will be important to us in the future, the legacy of skills acquired are no less contemporary. They too need to be maintained.



Picasso, Bacchanalia, Etching



Note - [1]Frieze, Oct. 2005 - Jerry Saltz, Righting Wrongs



Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS 







Thursday, 2 February 2012

Reformation Row - The Conceptualist Priesthood and Aesthetic Distraction

                                                       Burning the Image


Historically, we usually associate the reformation with the religious split within Western Christianity initiated by Luther, Calvin and other early Protestants. In general  Northern Europe, with  the exception of Ireland and pockets of  Britain, turned Protestant. Bloodshed reigned as exemplified in France and the St. Bartholowmew's Day Massacre. Western civilization was never the same.

 But casualties were not just human during this schism; many works of art were also burned or destroyed by iconoclasts (in Germany the term used was Bildersturm or image storm). As was sometimes the case with church wall painting, art was literally white washed over and hidden from the iconoclastic fury of crowds - intentionally protected, yet also eerily forshadowing the stark white interiors of the contemporary public art museum which embodied the anti-art, minimalism and conceptualism to come some four hundred years later, and fathered by anti-aesthetic reformers like Marcel Duchamp and Sol leWitt.

 During the Reformation, works of art which did survive could be said to have been aided and abeted by individuals willing to go to great lengths and risks, in order to preserve their visual heritage under siege by the reformists. In England much of the destruction took place in an organized fashion ordered by the King and Parliment. It could be said that what occured back then was not only a split, but a visual purge with significant consequences for the future of the wests' artistic identity and the relevance of aesthetics today.

In the movie A Month in the Country (see link below), an interesting dialogue ensues between a Vicar and an atheistic and traumatized first world war veteran, commissioned to restore a pre-reformation wall mural. It does not take long to deduce that the Vicar is opposed to the restoration; but since it has to be restored, his hope would be that it is appropriate and tones in with the rest ...

Vicar - "It will distract from worship."

Veteran - "After a time they won't notice it."

Vicar - "It will distract"

So, what is it the Vicar is so concerned about here which will lead his congregation to distraction?
 Is it religious criticality? Judgement? Loss of ecclesiastical control? Transubstantiation? Humanism? Individualism? It is hardly that easy to determine.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXzl9_UY0_Q&feature=related

We know artists have been used as vehicles for religious propaganda for centuries and religious suppression continues to have a long and sordid history, but perhaps it's more than that. The loss of the Vicar's power and control over the congregation's "imagination" may be at stake here, and it is this I maintain, that is disturbing to the Vicar. The image was undergoing a huge transformation in the time the film A Month in the Country portrayed. Control of the image was changing. Representational painting was on a journey to obliteration which could not be stopped. So the seduction and illusion of the aesthetics of a third dimention, so durable and stubborn, becomes the Vicars' concern just as it was for Duchamp and his distain for retinal art. Perhaps the Vicar anticipates the end of art, and does not wish to see any remnent survive. Especially imaginative art. One can only speculate.

Conceptualism Today

 Priests can take many forms; at once religious and then at other times secular. In 1918, Duchamp's penchant for anti-art became so zelous he eventually abandoned making art in favour of chess. A supremely anti-artistic act. Still, the western artistic establishments carried out his vision with curatorial determination to this day - now in the form of postart. Postart can generally be considered a period we are now experiencing where the boundaries between art and life are blurred. Art no longer exists to mediate aesthetic experience.

With reform came new rules. And with conceptualism , painting suddenly became "strategic". Painting was now subject to the calculations of serial production and formal unity. This sometimes reflected the appropriation of objects know as "ready mades" (ie. urinals, rope or plywood).

A corollary to the conceptualist strategy is the love/hate relationship with painting and the imposed logic of reduction. Art was now considered dispensible as proven by the Bildersturm. So inspirational art took a back seat to the conceptualist research tool - a democratic fundamental used to investigate the netherlands of visual relevance. Compare it to the interference you may hear when searching for your favorite radio station.

Yet problems continued to arise. It was kind of like fraternising with the enemy. For some conceptualists there was still a need for reconcilliation with the crafted image - that enfant terrible to reformers called painting.  But for the pure conceptualist reformer, a firm dichotomy existed between aesthetics and conceptualization. However, as conceptualism evolved it became a tool rather than the end it was originally intended to be. The race to create the last painting had become farcical and purists were retreating from the precipice. Painting could be used by conceptualists; the question was how.

As time went by the church transformed into a museum. For the priests of conceptualism, the museum context established a whole new type of professional. Since art was serious stuff and an artist now needed a strategy to create art, how art was produced became the topic of curatorialism. Curators raised questions regarding the relevance of the image when in fact it was believed it could be outsourced. Reforms execution was complete. Art was now a project  and no longer a product of the imagination.

The Art Conceptualist became the new "renaissance man" by subsuming the role of curator as well. Control over art was reformed by making art, curating art, and writting catalogue essays for their own art. Conceptualists enjoyed using institutions to remind us through their own painting, that painting was out of vogue. The late Gerald Ferguson, a Nova Scotia College of Art and Design art educator and conceptualist, literally used the canvas as a shroud to cover common objects like rope (see link below), then like a child rubbing a penny underneath some paper, obtained a blackish relief (called frotage) on the canvas with paint intended to factualize the employed object. Black, normally associated with cavities or receding qualities, actually captured the surface of the rope while the negative space between the rope became the white of the canvas; the type of reversal one might encounter with an old photographic negative. The overall result is reminiscent of a casual abstract expressionist gesture - an ironic reference to painting. The only realistic trait to the work is the title which identifies the object and the length of rope defined.
http://blogs.thedailybeast.com/daily-pic/2012/1/10/gerald-ferguson-at-canada-gallery

 Using Ferguson's work further as an example, the next step in a conceptualists baggage would be to eliminate the painting altogether. With an extreme reductive strategy, text would then be applied to the museum wall. The term 50ft, Rope not only becomes the fulfilment of Bildersturm, but conjurs up those free associations one may make with a utilitarian object such as rope - the last vestiges of the viewers role.

The marketing of conceptualism through the museum became a conduit for hyping up the banality of everyday objects as aesthetic objects. We then overlooked the banility of everyday objects and believed them to be charasmatic as we identified with this new aesthetic experience. But to overlook their banility is to banalize, or lower our aesthetic experience - thus diminishing our imaginative relationship with art.

Contemporary art has developed many characteristics concurrent with contemporary society. It is chaotic and aligns itself with the void left by the end of modernism. It is also narcisistic in its mirroring of the artists' barren postart soul and deeply felt anxiety; dreaming turbulently as each postart hoax unfolds through the standard channels of the art establishment and it's sister marketing machine, the media. However, there are still artists who do not admonish the public but aim to engage with them. This quality is purposeful and part of a great history bequeathed to the artists of today by the masters of yesteryear. There have been times when we needed to white wash over visible reality in order to preserve it and protect it. But as we place value on the self affirmation of visible reality, this is not one of those times.

What is an Artist?

In an excellent article in Canadian Art, Sarah Thornton, writer for the Economist on contemporary art, asks the question "what is an artist?" One curator implies the question is dim and so we are lead on a symantic and circuitious route without end.
http://www.canadianart.ca/online/features/2012/02/02/sarah_thornton_report_from_london/     

 In the article, the curator's lack of response neglects that the artist is the unifying factor. It is reminiscent of techniques used by the conceptualists when maintaining the supremacy of the idea over the art. Or in this case the created over the creator. It continues to resonate like the postart priests echo heard by a lost patron in an empty gallery wondering where the art is and seeking the exit door to the street.

Steven Rhude, Wolfville, Nova Scotia