What is a Conceptual Artist?
The concept is merely the beginning of a work of art - not an end in itself. Concepts illustrated or demonstrated without skill, craftsmanship, an understanding of aesthetics, emotional flow and the ability to communicate directly with the person looking at it are not, however, art. I am bewildered by the gullibility of collectors, critics and curators who, suffering from the Emperor's New Clothes syndrome, have colluded to denigrate millennia of true artists/craftsmen by terming mere concepts 'art'.
It is time for true connoisseurs and art lovers to stand up and be counted. A work of art must speak for itself; it must communicate something of itself to the person looking at it without the need of verbal explanation. Most importantly it must be created by someone who has spent time honing the skills of their trade, has something genuinely meaningful to themselves that they need to communicate and has the individual vision with which to do it.The exhibition of works by Damian Hirst has re-inforced my views on this subject. Little skill was in evidence and a repungnant lack of respect for animals seemed to be the major theme of his work.
The Hayward Gallery's Invisible, Art About the Unseen 1957-2012 sums everything up perfectly: the ultimate acting-out of the Emperor's New Clothes in the name of art and the consequent exposure of a large part of the art establishment and their followers as a pack fo mindless sheep! (Sorry, sheep!)
I think the Campaign for Real Art should begin!
The picture I have chosen to illustrate my thesis is by miner-turned-artist, Tom McGuinness, one of a series which he called The Lost Generation. Working underground and attending art school in his spare time, Tom eventually became a professional artist. He combined his experiences as a miner and his skill as an artist to communicate many aspects of his life and of the mining community as a whole. One of the concepts he wanted to share was the plight of the generation for whom the colliery and the pit village had been the focal part of their lives - until the aftermath of the miners' strike. Then their focus was lost; they were lost. Tom has communicated the plight of this Lost Generation in such a way that future generations will be able to empathise with them, perhaps across centuries. Even if the context of their grief and loss becomes forgotten in time, those emotions will continue to be conveyed by this watercolour and those who see it will empathise.
Is this true of an unmade bed, of a piece of string tied in a straight line across a gallery wall or of someone's skull covered in diamonds (who I presume did not agree to this abuse) and then displayed, gaudy and tawdry, to be sold at an obscene price? I think not. Please let us be honest about people who seem to possess neither the talent nor the skill to become artists, but hide behind facile concepts which they try to demonstrate visually. Usually failing to communicate directly, their concept has then to be explained verbally. They are not artists (or choose not to work as artists!); their concepts are neither original nor interesting enough for them to be philosphers. I don't know WHAT they are! Do they know themselves?
©Rosamund Jordan 2008
View larger image of the Lost Generation