Virginia Woolf said in The Common Reader: If such criticism is the reverse of final, if it is initiatory and inspiring rather than conclusive and complete, there is something to be said for the critic who starts the reader on a journey and fires him with a phrase to shoot off on adventures of his own.
Dissections. Matthew Collings, Matthew Collings. Some of my best friends are Matthew Collings, so I thought I would reach my hand into the past and issue a botched dissection of the man himself. The art critic from the nineties, and of course, the goofier half of Flight of the Conchords. I do not hate the man who taught me and inspired me so much about art and how to think about art, who showed me lovely lovely art on my television set (before we had the internet at our whimsical disposal) and explained to me what they mean and what I should think about them. These were the days before I realised that TV, like books, also wanted to explain art to me at secret times of the night. Without TV, I would never have known that Van Gogh probably had his ear lopped off by Gaugain, neither would I have witnessed his depiction in Akira Kurosawa’s wondrous marriage of Chopin’s Raindrops with Wheat Field With Crows, one of the few films in which Chopin is carefully deployed, and to great effect (rather than providing a convenient symbolic representation of the world of sophisticated classical music. Thank you Hollywood for making Chopin synonymous with cheese, by the way), with the extra-unlikely marriage of Van Gogh being played by Martin Scorsese.
Digressions. Nay, I cannot hate any man at all. Neither can you. This is not simply because I oscillate (wildly) between sex-crazed obsession with physicality and bleak isolated spiritualism. It is almost entirely because, in a certain light, everything is a consequence of what preceded it. In practice, it would be ridiculous to live in this fashion. However, it does help in the process of reconstituting one’s considerations about, for example, incarceration and the criminal justice system as a whole. In my mind, we will almost certainly (I say that with hope) look back on the present era as one of blood-lusting savages for not bothering to come up with better ways of rehabilitating those who have acted against the law as it stands. But I digress.
Other things I find ridiculous about the law:
(a) The fact that it is illegal to be naked in public.
(b) The perception that laws are rigidly bound, although this seems to be conveniently dispelled if you are actually in government.
But I think I am meant to be talking about Matthew Collings. He is a highly articulate, intelligent artist, which is why he is an art critic television presenter. I am saying that because it is easy to forget. He speaks to the viewer to describe to us what is Good and what is Not Good.
But how must it feel for someone to be living a metaphysical world, communicating in Derridaean metaphor when the quotidien would more than suffice?
Ejaculations. Matthew Collings is one of the good guys in the The Man versus Real Art debate, which continues to blaze, perhaps fanned by the dismal destructiveness that the recession has had upon the emerging art world, although Mr Collings continually licking his tasty-looking beard is probably going a little way to putting out that fire. He hits upon a question that I thought too stupid to mention at the time of watching the titillatingly-titled ICA debate, The End of the Art World..? The question is, would quite justifiably complaining artists, quite justifiably complaining about the corporate takeover of art squeezing out the small gallery market, be complaining if their art was selling within that corporate market?
Let’s not forget how marginalised art is today. I suppose there is an argument somewhere that it has always been marginalised in the face of commerce, that art is of limited value, that it provides nothing really but a pretty, or sometimes not pretty, interpretation of the world. But I am equally baffled by the entire spectrum of the creations that mankind has forged and continues to forge – technology, economics, art, sport, etc. Aren’t they all, when reduced, simply something to pass the time, something to keep man’s hands busy and to give him a sense of achievement and posterity, as is his basic evolutionary drive, before he dies? In any case, art makes more sense to me than mindless commercialism. Perhaps, then, corporate art, the marriage of two opposing worlds, makes for an exhibition in itself, a rather pleasingly odd couple, whatever the consequences may be for its sickly cousin, little art.