Abstraction,  Painting

The Magnificent Corpulent Modernist Era

Ashley Bickerton – Fat Body on Vespa – 2015
“There are a lot of people now globally that are happy just to make art and not keep up with arguments about what kind of art. And the form most favoured is expressionism.” Matthew Collings twitter.


There are days when I’ll check instagram or twitter see once again all the same Modernist tropes working, doing nothing more than what they’re supposed to do. And I suppose there is some satisfaction in that. It’s nice to know that this kind of work is as accepted and expected as any other – like rock n roll, comic book movies and Milan Fashion Week. Abstraction is no longer a “foreign” art form or an unacceptable theoretical experience. In fact abstraction in all its forms has become the preferred decorative art of our day.  It’s the kind of art you’ll find displayed in corporate board rooms, in Starchitects’ lobbies, in the background of furniture store displays, and all over instagram. There are many names for it – provisional painting, zombie formalism, Neo this or Post that. It amounts to a lot of art being made that looks a lot like art that’s familiar, comforting and market approved.

It’s the Modern era’s economic imperative that has brought Art to this point. To see how NeoLiberal Capitalism works within Art we have only to follow the narratives spun for Damien Hirst’s new shows of dot/spot/splot paintings.

I’ve always loved Bonnard and his colour, i went to see a show at the Pompidou in Paris of de Kooning and Bonnard when I was a student and both artists blew me away. These paintings I’ve made, which i’m calling the Veil paintings, will be shown at Gagosian LA in March.
They’re like big abstract Bonnard paintings, I’ve been playing with the scale and the big ones feel perfect. how can you not love colour? Sunlight on flowers, fuck everything else. Damien Hirst Instagram


The paintings themselves are pure Ab Ex process which has been “mechanized” much as he did with the spin paintings or the spot paintings. And in this sense he follows Gerhard Richter’s process driven Post-historical mechanics; process leads to production. Damien’s understanding and use of art history, the documentary displays of his production and the marketing of a narrative spectacle define how we are to understand, appreciate and collect this kind of economic art. What Damien does is to provide comfort, familiarity, a map of understanding, and a context aimed at creating and upholding the works’ market value. Damien isn’t going against history, theoretics or technique, rather he’s updating and upgrading what’s always already available, what we’ve learned and what we’ve inherited. This has become a formula for success used over and over again by artists in the new Modernist Art World.

Right now on Netflix is another fascinating documentary on the Art World. Entitled “Blurred Lines,” the documentary critiques and lauds the market imperative in our Modernist Art World. What’s interesting is watching the artists and critics being interviewed. It’s apparent that artists are more than willing participants in this system – using it, benefitting from it and creating a specific kind of work to be sold through it. As Matthew says in his twitter post above –  there is no way to argue with this kind of art. That’s because it’s not made for “artists” in the historic sense. It is made for long tail markets and niche brand consumers.

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