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"Landscape near Murnau with Locomotive", 1909, by Vasily Kandinsky (credit: ARS/ADAGP)

One of the best art exhibitions of the year was Kenneth Clark: Looking for Civilisation at Tate Britain. But barely noticed was that there was just one abstract picture in the hundreds of drawings and paintings which filled six large rooms. Here was a major exhibition at Tate Britain, including two rooms full of modern masterpieces, and there was almost no abstract art at all.

Something has shifted in the art world recently, something so strange that it has almost gone unnoticed. Figurative art is back. Abstract art, in all its weird and wonderful forms, is on the way out.

This is the lesson of some of the most interesting and thought-provoking shows of the year. Some have been high-profile: the Clark show and Frank Auerbach at Tate Britain (with a major retrospective in 2015), Edward Hopper and Photography at the Whitney Museum in New York, and Constable: The Making of a Master at the V&A. But perhaps the most intriguing are shows like Malevich at the Tate Modern and Kandinsky at the Guggenheim in New York. Others are less high-profile but also interesting: Re-figuring the Fifties at the Ben Uri Gallery, London, this autumn and Scottish Figuration at the Flowers Gallery in Cork Street in August. Together, these exhibitions show how the balance between abstraction and figurative art is shifting; how important figurative art always was in Britain, whatever was happening in Paris or New York; and how we are starting to reconsider the place of figurative art in the past, not only in Britain but also in the work of great abstract masters like Malevich and Kandinsky.

This would seem perverse to anyone formed in the heyday of abstract art. That moment was perfectly summed up in Kathryn Hughes's review in the Guardian of Alexandra Harris's acclaimed book, Romantic Moderns (2010):

The modernism we know about, or think we do, was fierce and sharp-edged, all the better to scythe down the past and start all over again. During the interwar period, making things new became the mantra. History was a jumbled lumber-room of habits and beliefs that we would all do much better without: it had led, after all, to the carnage of the trenches. All those bits and pieces from previous centuries — the clutter, the junk, the sheer bulk of countless pointless objects — needed to be swept away. Homes, in the words of Le Corbusier, were to become "machines for living", complete with kitchenettes and pull-down beds. And instead of watercolour landscapes and ancestral portraits on the walls, there would be an art composed of white circles etched upon white squares floating upon white paper. If there were to be any colour in this weightless world, it was to be found checked within Mondrian's strict grids.

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amcdonald
January 15th, 2015
10:01 PM
An international forum organised by the Institute du Monde Arabe in Paris was opened by the French President,Francois Hollande,earlier today. The building now bears the slogan Nous Sommes Tous Charlie in French and Arabic. `The Renewal of the Arab World` and discussions on the revolutionary power of creativity are on the agenda. One of the moderators is the chief executive of The Art Newspaper Ana Somers Cocks. Full report in the feb edition. Rod Liddle has it that hardly anyone in the brit media/academia/comedy/cultural industry is Charlie. They`re not Clovis Trouille either (easily Googled). The mayor of Rotterdam puts it even more concisely for the so-called hurt muslims. It starts with `F`. Not only are we unbelievers,kafirs,infidel,colonialists,blasphemers,satanists,pigs ,dogs and islamophobes ! Now our sins and crimes include being "free-speech fundamentalists" ! And that`s before we`ve even got out of bed in the morning.

amcdonald
January 13th, 2015
2:01 AM
I`ll be entering 2 paintings for this years Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. One of the works, `Akiane`, is previewed on Gothic Moon Records website. It`s a portrait of the artist Akiane Kramarik. Prints are available.

amcdonald
January 9th, 2015
6:01 AM
The next edition of Charlie Hebdo will be one million copies not the usual 60,000. Thanks to solidarity from Liberation magazine etc. In the Spectator is Douglas Murray`s article `Charlie Hebdo stood alone.What does this say about our `free` press?` The start of a comprehensive answer is from Jeanette Bougrab,the partner of one of the murdered artists, "The Republic is guilty..." (BBC news online)

amcdonald
January 6th, 2015
11:01 PM
At artnet online (dec 30) the assist ed of Art Review JJ Charlesworth has published `The Ego-centric Artworld Is Killing Art`. The usual suspects are named (Koons,Hirst Abramovic,bovine rich /Islamic collectors...)but there`s no positive naming of artists whose prints,paintings,books and music the rich/curationists/arts council should be buying,studying and enjoying. Or art that enriches public experience and knowledge. The internet has resurrected the artist Clovis Trouille. We already know what will be missing from Hirst`s street-long new gallery opening in London. As the `Jack Vettriano` of postmodernism he`s doing really well. Saatchi`s `Titanic` not so. For a free mp3 download of my artists record `The Lady Vanishes` email Gothic Moon Records. The physical cd with artwork available in February.

amcdonald
December 19th, 2014
9:12 PM
In the physical edition of Standpoint as well as a nice pic of Julie Burchill and a review of her new book there`s an advert for the discussion `High Culture and the Western Canon:Has the Fightback began?` Will Self is one of the listed speakers. The BBC remaking of Ken Clark`s " magisterial" TV series `Civilisation` is also referenced in the advert. Giving the Turner Prize a good kicking is fair enough but when Art Review and Standpoint fail to feature young English muslim feminist artist Sarah Maple it means the Left are as slow learning as the Right . She paints as good as `pop artist` Peter Blake and makes intelligent and witty conceptual art. Her work is great in both the traditional and modern sense. As is christian Akiane Kramarik`s . None of the artists I`ve mentioned positively in these comments figure much in cultural consciousness. At Glasstire (Texas Arts) Christina Rees wonders "if this isn`t the worst time to be an artist in decades,or maybe ever." And she`s at the rich Miami Basel Art Fair. "It was the best of times,it was the worst of times..." starts `A Tale of Two Cities` by Dickens. All well before Mecca became a luxury sharia-shopping mall and hotel complex and an Islamic State jihad-porn snuff movie global investor. As a Caliphate customer you can earn points on your loyalty card. Complaints are dealt with swiftly. They cut your head off and stick it on the railings outside. "No boots on the ground" is starting to sound like "Leave it to the 8000 women soldiers in the Kurdish Army to defend civilisation and defeat Islamic State barbarism. "

amcdonald
December 5th, 2014
11:12 PM
The ZCZ Films short interview and tour round Kosuth`s London exhibition is now on Youtube. The lovely Griselda Murray Brown presenting and describing the art and ideas. In presenting the works not chronologically but by what looked good next to each other the conceptual artist has created a beautiful example of art materialism. His negation of the male abstract expressionist stereotype complete. But with Griselda Murray Brown walking and talking about the exhibition there`s a clear contrast between her figurative self and the abstract ideas in neon on display. As though that is the complete picture (in the Duchampian sense the artist creates 50% and the spectator brings the other 50%) Anselm Kiefer`s paintings are so loaded with meaning and profundity no one can get a word in edgeways. Kosuth is where Saatchi and would-be Saatchis fear to tread,buy and trade?

amcdonald
November 30th, 2014
7:11 PM
Pioneer conceptual artist Joseph Kosuth has a beautiful exhibition of neon conceptual art at SpruthMagers gallery,London. It`s obvious even from the pics on the gallery twitter. As art festive as the xmas lights of the city. David Cameron has a small, twee,derivative Tracey Emin neon with the words `more passion` installed inside 10 Downing St. Austerity aesthetics ? Waldemar J is so interested and delighted in Kosuth`s exhibition that he`s sorted a tv interview with him in the gallery. What figurative painter David Hockney and abstract painter Matthew Collings have to say about this exhibition would be interesting to know. Kosuth also has a teaching job at St Martins.

amcdonald
November 22nd, 2014
4:11 PM
On Radio 3 a few weeks ago the artists Fiona Rae, Matthew Collings, and a poet and a neuro-scientist are discussing Malevich`s `Black Square` . No connection is made to Russia today with Putin and Pussy Riot art. Collings says he has" no interest in the soul". No one assumes he has one either. From her own direct experience Akiane Kramarik`s paintings absolutely contradict not only the pc atheism of Collings etc but also the visual and conceptual poverty of all the (abstract or figurative) atheist artists. The geometrical paintings Collings makes are perfect for mosques and the new hyper-rich anti-bohemia. The disappearance of bohemia being David Hockney`s main complaint against the "mean-spirited" in art and art education. He`s now happily back in LA with his marijuana pass,painting,reading and enjoying civilised conversation. Will Self describes the new Tate extension as a symbol of the savage inequality in London. Grayson Perry says the price for studio space is frightening. On the bright side someone`s bought the small masterpiece by Stella Vine from her website. For only £280 ! Sarah Maple has an ace new print titled `Tax Deductible` for £80. Being a star struck stick over the big money end is the least interesting aspect of art today.

Charlie3
October 29th, 2014
5:10 PM
If one wants a recent artist who has some Constable's skill in understanding landscape I suggest James Fletcher Watson.

amcdonald
October 17th, 2014
10:10 PM
I only found out about the art of the young and exceptional American artist Leah Schrager (leahschrager.com) a few months ago. She also has the persona Blush at www.artsexystudio.com Sexual selection,evolution and extinction in culture and the 21st century civilisation wars can gain a sophisticated understanding through art`s pleasure principle. For the spiritual in art there is nothing more astonishing and explicit than the life and (quantum leap!)paintings of Akiane Kramarik.

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