Friday, June 08, 2007

Art Space News: Blair Depicted Naked Over the Shame of Iraq- Here is the Naked Truth As I See It.


Another example of art mocking political figures and the influence of the cult of celebrity can be observed at the Royal Academy of Art's annual Summer Exhibition in London. Michael Sandle's "Iraq Triptych" was unveiled last Wednesday to the media. The triptych depicts British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife, Cherie, as Adam and Eve.

The figures appear as if they are struggling to cover their nude forms outside their Downing Street home. However, there is a deeper meaning to this piece as it seems that Blair is struggling to 'hide' from the controversy over British involvement in the Iraq conflict.

The two figures stand before their door with a scene from hell surrounding them. A soldier beats a hooded and naked prisoner in one corner while a pile of corpses- one with tape covering its mouth- give a deathly gaze at onlookers. Does this piece suggest that Blair can't escape the horrors of Iraq even in the comforts of his own home? Or does it suggest that the war could very well come 'home'- to the streets of London? Does the image of Blair and his wife as Adam and Eve hint at this conflict being more about religion than oil, safety, or anything else? Are the central figures supposed to reflect a sense of clam from the surrounding storm? I'm not certain- but lately I tend to feel that any piece that involves individuals of 'supposed' status is nothing more than kitsch- a cheap way to strike at the hearts of viewers. I'm sick of it.

While using images of the powerful, wealthy, and popular is nothing new in the art world, I see a trend lately that seems to focus on said use in order to gain media attention for the artists- nothing more. After all, the media was invited to view the piece before anyone else (It will be open to the public on Monday).

This is a common practice, but this piece is supposed to reflect a public view- those who are upset with Blair's policy. I would think it would have been better to allow the public to view it first. In my eyes this piece has lost a great deal of integrity before it has even hit the eye of the public.

True, it might be good business practice for an artists to work in this manner- due to the exposure- but I'm to the point that I can't respect artists who exploit the cult of personality, celebrity, or whatever you wish to call it. Can't the Daniel Edwards and Michael Sandles of the art world think of a better way to express the struggles of our time? Or do they have to rely on such images in order for their art to have an impact with the public?

It seems that the trend of artists using popular images to 'enhance' the meaning behind a work of art is growing. It goes beyond anything Warhol set out to do. This practice is leaking into the academic community as well and it is a practice that I'm starting to loathe. This is the 'naked truth' as I see it.

Perhaps I'm being harsh, but I appreciate viewing art that conveys a strong message without having to resort to such imagery. What do you think? Do I need to open my eyes? Or am I viewing this work for what it really is?

Keep in mind that Sandle's piece is among 1,200 works in the Royal Academy exhibition. Why is it that out of all of that art this piece gains media attention? True, the media loves controversy, but I'm sure there is ample supply of controversial art at the exhibit that does not involve the image of a politician or celebrity.

That is what leads me to think that certain artists are creating work like this in order to gain media exposure- they know it will be covered in the media. I think they are gaining it for themselves rather than for the message they are spinning. Again, that is the 'naked truth' that I've observed as of late. Open my eyes- if you can.

Take care, Stay true

Brian Sherwin

5 comments:

michael hyam said...

I quite agree.

The image itself is sterile and lacks any kind of emotionl depth. Mr. Sandle's line conveys no real feeling or conviction. It appears to have been conceived and produced by a student at 'O' level standard. In my opinion here is another 'artist' who has to rely on sensationalism to compensate for his lack of artistic ability.

I'm not surprised that it was accepted by the RA though. Not surprised at all.........

Anonymous said...

Although im not opposed to art meaning something deeper than what is presented at face value, the trend is dissapointing. Art is becomming about the BS instead of the art itself. But it has been encouraged and fed by a public that grips at the popular psycological mumbo jumbo because they themselves cannot understand or perhaps relate to today's artwork. A vicious cycle that i dont see a end to... not at least for awhile. I find the piece amusing, but its not genius.

wendy bryant said...

I find it intereting that art that tears down religion or is against the war seems to get a lot of coverage. If this was a positive image of the war would it have recieved the same coverage? I don't think it would have. from my experiences at art school I found that time after time the work that got the most attention was the stuff I always felt was ment to be nothing more then sensational. No soul or true meaning...it's sad!

Anonymous said...

I saw a similar political piece at the Tate Britian a few weeks ago. I found it refreshing actually that the museums are relecting different points of view instead of just acceptable topics approved by Big Brother. I tend to disagree with the viewpoints above in a way. Who are we to determine the validity of another's art? Only they know if they're "selling out" and if an artist can sleep at night doing so, then that's their call. I personally try to keep myself in check to remind myself to make art for me, not outside reasons, but even that has a grey line. For example, I know a guy who makes good money blowing up images on an overhead and essentially tracing them into a finished work. This has been on my mind a lot. Has he sold out? Is that cheating? What if he can't render but wants to create art? Is it still art? Here I go, in circles with my opinions and questions...but isn't that what it is all about?

Balhatain said...

Good points. Perhaps it is more of an issue of society and the media in general. For example, if an artists paints an image that depicts a woman being shot it may not be covered, but if the face of the woman looks like Clinton it is bound to hit the news. However, I just wonder if some artists throw in certain images knowing that they will make the press. Is that wrong? I think so... and I'm starting to see a trend.

It is great to create works that challenge society. I have nothing wrong with that. I just think that using certain images cheapens the work. Perhaps this piece would have been stronger had the images been anonymous figures. It would have said, "Look what is outside your door", instead of "Blair is a moron".

We all know how what people feel about certain political figures... why not tell us something different? Something that is not covered so much in the media. To do otherwise appears to exploit passions that are already present.