Opening Exhibition “the duty of an artist”
2 August 2012 until 8 August 2012, Opening 1 August 2012
What is the duty of an artist?
The first exhibition at Ort Gallery opens on the 1st August 2012 and runs until the 8th August. The exhibition is put together by gallery director Josephine Reichert who also curated the show. The artists exhibiting work are emerging artists working in the UK, mostly in Birmingham.
The central theme of the exhibition lies in its title-question: What is the duty of an artist? Is the duty of an artist to create something beautiful? Can this beauty be understood by an audience in its simplest form or does it always question the current cultural aesthetics? Is the duty of an artist to protest and campaign, for example against political or financial issues? Or is it to create artwork that educates the viewer? Should art shock its audience to have an impact or should the audience be prepared to unravel a piece of art?
Throughout art history artists have always had a role to play through their artwork, be it to paint the portrait of the current leader or to tell stories that were otherwise not accessible to an illiterate audience. In contemporary art however such roles are gone, such actions made futile. Contemporary art exists for art’s sake, it has no other role than to exist within a world where culture is accepted as a form of entertainment, as a part of a post-modern society.
But, what then is the duty of an artist? Can an artist blindly go and create artwork that turns it’s back on what is happening outside the studio walls? Or does an artist always have to be reacting to current affairs, because only the artist has true freedom of speech? Does an artist really have freedom of speech? Is the artist not as tied to certain financial or societal norms as any other public figure? Should an artist create what he or she is told to create by the audience, the buyer, the gallery, the art world? Or can an artist really decide not to care? Is true outsider art possible inside the art world, or even just in this world full stop?
The seven artists exhibited in this first show at Ort Gallery tackle the question of artistic duty in their work, a question that has become paramount in current affairs, change of power, financial crises and the surge in popularity of activist moments. Layla Tutt, exhibiting a batik painting in this show, had never received any art training in her career. She sees herself as a craftsperson and an artist as well as a musician. On the opening night she busked sitting next to her piece trying to make a bit of money. Layla’s performance plays on the nostalgic view of the artist being a forever poor and independent being, living her life according to her own rules. Joel Chernin takes a very different approach. His work is created using a complicated technique of photo-sensitive emulsion on canvas to construct a visual language that is automatically reminiscent of cheaply produced political leaflets that are printed for the masses and stuck to walls. His work is political through it’s mode of creation.
Joana Roberto’s video quotes ‘Pale Fire’ by Nabakov, a hugely informed novel that speaks to a scene where everyone has read this book, such as other artists. Josephine Reichert’s video and collages use a mixture of microscopic cell imagery and modernist architecture, again making it visually appealing to other artists or those familiar with this kind of visual language hugely informed by art theory.
Beth Fisher’s embroidered piece seems to be using a visual language that, similar to Layla Tutt’s piece, appears removed from any such debate by centring on itself. Yet Fisher’s piece has a clear ecological message in it’s title ‘Shimano in Bloom’ as well as using parts of a bike to create an embroidered floral piece. There is a clear link to Sophie Bullock’s video installation shown next to Fisher’s piece. The projection onto lenses shows an advertisement for washing powder with a model running through a meadow. However, the slow motion and spooky sound effects of Bullock’s work make the piece more about dystopian sci-fi than about ecological politics.
The title-question is probably answered as expected: each artist makes their own decision over whether or not to worry about their professional duty, however, whatever their decision, the artwork stand for itself and the audience will always be able to read matters into the work that were not intended by the artist. Finally, it might come as no surprise that even an untrained artist who might consider herself a true outsider artist creates work that comments on the title-question of the exhibition.