Posts Tagged ‘Art(?)’

Fucking Hell

June 18, 2008

Fucking Hell

I don’t usually leave the confines of my hovel, unless it’s to buy milk or biscuits. Despite my better judgement, I made the effort to visit the White Cube gallery in London’s glamorous Piccadilly last Saturday in order to see Jake and Dinos Chapmans’ ‘Fucking Hell’. The next room housed their ‘If Hitler Had Been A Hippy How Happy Would He Be?’ It’s the former I’ll attempt to review, as the latter was shit.

So – ‘Fucking Hell’. Firstly – the gallery was crammed – which is always bloody irritating. Trying to poke your head through a couple of haircuts to catch a glimpse isn’t at one with the essential nature of art, surely? You’re meant to be free to contemplate, getting all pensive about the work in front of you and coming to glorious conclusions about the nature of everything.

That’s not possible when you’re getting irritated by the prick with the bad breath and the clear-framed media spectacles whose babbling on like a twit about contextual continuity to his exotically ugly bird. But that’s not really the Chapman’s fault. They need to make The White Cube a bit more oblong to house the ponces who inhabit it.

The nine cases display a vision of hell on an epic, yet miniature scale. The detail is inescapable immediately upon setting your eyes on it. A lot of work has gone into the placement of the figures and the fine tuning involved in painting them. With every slight eye movement there’s a new scenario, set up solely to shock. Skeletal Nazi stormtroopers float on a raft with smiley face paint daubed on them. Stephen Hawking sits in a military wheelchair for no apparent reason. Severed heads on sticks protrude from the ground a countless number of times. Pigs seem to shit out the dead whilst eating severed limbs. Figures wander the terrain with skin half flogged off. Crucifixes hang deformed weird humanoid creatures with multiple heads. Peek through a broken window and bizarre Nazi experiments are being carried out, just a little too far away to be distinct. A factory appears to be fashioning numerous Hitlers from a collection of torn off arms and legs.

It’s all quite horrifying.

But once you’ve seen the first box, all of which are arranged in a swastika formation, you’ve kind of seen them all. The extent of the destruction and plasticated violence becomes irrelevant, serving only to highlight how banal it all becomes. The violence is replicated to some extent – with cloned figures seeming to go through the motions by box nine. There are slight variations on location – a ruined building for one, a factory for another, a church – but the violence pretty much remains the same with minute changes from area to area. There are little touches – Hitler the painter with his easel and palette, the baptised baby with the moustached dictators head etc… that all force a smile, but beyond that it’s carnage for the sake of carnage.

Visiting only out of curiosity rather than to bore people in bars about how amazing I thought it all was, when it came to thinking through what this all actually meant, I could only come up with the following. Jake and Dinos Chapman make art to shock, first and foremost. The fact that they are masters of their craft makes their work entertaining, but in terms of its significance, very little is said here. They play with the shocking imagery of Nazi regalia haphazardly, with no real accuracy or thought. They scatter violence without prejudging the intelligence and sensitivity of the viewer and they make little visual gags among morbid scenes for their own amusement. It’s childish.

Having said that – it is an epic, brilliantly realised and painstakingly constructed immaturity. You can’t help but be impressed by the scale and craftmanship involved in making this nightmare unfold – not least when you consider the first version burnt to a melty pulp in a warehouse. I’m not sure if celebrating glee in the horrific is necessarily a good or a bad thing, but it passed a Saturday afternoon pleasingly enough.


March 6, 2008


I notice another Bansky has materialised in London.

Whilst I find his images a tad pithy and partially wry, the status of his work has been blown out of all possible proportion.

I’m now going to explain why with my words.

Firstly, the graphics themselves, again, they’re okay, they sort of remind me of a mixture of 50’s comic books and Goya’s etchings -well, at least in terms of the treatment of the figures and their subsequent lighting- which doesn’t exactly do much for Banksy’s ‘contemporary’ vibe. Painting on walls has been around since the Neanderthals shat on their fingers.

The compositions themselves are quite strong, the lack of background adds a certain starkness to his renderings but I can’t help feeling that this is born of a compromise. He’s desperate to protect his anonymity and subsequently the works need to be executed hastily. It feels to me his pieces have an ‘it’ll do’ aspect as opposed to a ‘I want to achieve this’ atmosphere.

And lets not beat about the bush here, the main reason he’s a success is precisely because of his status as some sort of anonymous guerrilla artist working on the fringes of the law. He’s such a renegade that Banksy.

The other reason he’s become successful, of course, is his subject matter. In my opinion this is his main strength but his message usually dithers too much to instil any sense of satire. Take his latest work as an example; he’s ironically done a great piece of PR for fucking Tesco…

So, why has this person’s work gone from being worthless graffiti to highly collectable art? It’s not good enough to say that he’s captured the zeitgeist of the modern age by offering to the public a bit of controversy via the juicy stamp of his exceptional talent. It’s because he’s the perfect media darling.

We can’t see this fellow, we know nothing about him, for all we know he’s stumbling out the Funky Buddha every night hanging out the back of Amy Winehouse coked to the Parietal Lobe before scrawling ‘cunt’ in his own vomit. All we know about Banksy are these timely acts of self PR. The person with all their flaws and idiosyncrasies to all intents and purposes doesn’t actually exist.

From the Daily Telegraph to the Daily Mail, this enigma has gone from common or garden vandal to being nonchalantly feted and quietly adored AND he can enjoy his celebrity status unhindered. In my opinion that’s his greatest achievement. In this respect, he’s unique. To have the press at your beck and call, yet you barely exist.

There are other brownie points too, his works (these days) can do wonders for a local economy, especially in deprived areas and, I suppose, a part of me sees him bringing art to the masses, turning the street into a gallery so on and so forth…

In fact, Banksy doesn’t really seem to have any critics at all. Everyone seems quite pleased when one appears. This is problematic – it emasculates his work, the satire that existed in the first place is gentrified. It becomes harmless and that’s not what art is about.

And this, dear reader, is why Banksy doesn’t really work.