May 12, 2004
A bankrupt currency?

As regulars here will know, doing my own photo photos excites me far more than the photos hand done by others. But lots of the kind of people who read this, will also be very glad to read this:

They are all noted, prize-winning artists at the peak of their early maturity. Yet in their more wretched moments they feel like a forgotten, exiled species, "afflicted" by their skills and fated by their sense of vocation to work in "a bankrupt currency".

JohnHurt.jpgTheir currency is an artistic medium running from Lucian Freud, David Hockney and Francis Bacon back to Michelangelo, and further still to the earliest human to discover pigment in a cave. And generally the public still chooses wall prints and quality greetings cards depicting works in this medium.

But, in the dominant and highest priced areas of contemporary art, the medium has been treated almost as a dirty five-letter word - paint. For the artists are painters whose vocation is to represent the human figure and human landscapes or cityscapes.

Later this month eight of the painters are putting on an unusually ambitious show at a fashionable London gallery. One of the aims is to test a conviction, which some others share, that the pendulum of critical, art market and media interest has begun to swing away from conceptual art, including installations and videos, and back to painting.

In a foreword to the exhibition catalogue, one of their admirers, the director of the National Gallery, Charles Saumarez Smith, writes that they are typical of "a whole generation of artists who are working outside the mainstream of contemporary art, as represented by the more fashionable avant garde".

And what's more, Charles Saumarez Smith is my cousin's wife's brother.

The rather striking portrait of the noted actor John Hurt (whom I wrote about recently here) is by Stuart Pearson Wright, another of whose works is used to illustrate the Guardian piece quoted from above.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 02:14 PM
Category: Painting