The Secret on the Reverse

Recent news in the art world involves the coming to auction of Picasso’s La Gommeuse created during the artist’s blue period.

Of course there is huge interest in this work and not simply because it is associated with a well-known period in the artist’s life, but because the reverse of the canvas features a secret painting which has never been publicly seen before.

I laughed at this. Not because I can never afford to buy the work, nor because of the articles in global media outlets about the secret work on the other side, but because it was another confirmation of the problem in trying to create an original work of art.

A Discussion about Money

A Discussion about Money

Found object

2012

Permanent collection – Norwich University of the Arts.

Whilst an undergraduate at Norwich University of the Arts, I became so frustrated at the seemingly never-ending futility of the task that my desperation resulted in the willful vandalism of works I purchased by other artists living or dead, known or unknown. These paintings are hung so the original work faces the wall like a naughty child. The reverse sometimes provides insights into the artist’s dedication and thoughts as well as the framer’s notes. The secret to my work, until purchased, involves no-one knows who painted the original (the signature often being on the front, which is now the reverse) and no-one can now ascertain the original works’ value.

The only thing visible to the audience is the sale price; clear, transparent and surgically removed via scalpel on the reverse of the original painting.

Gathering the Harvest

Gathering the Harvest

Found object

2012

Unknown.

A handful of people know what is on the other side of these works (that also include figurative styles), and maybe I have accidentally struck gold through irreversibly destroying a well-known piece of art. Of course some things appear, and are easily mistaken as, gold but only fools bother to seek their fortune through actively searching for it in the face of overwhelming odds.

To Love

To Love

Found object, oil on canvas

2014

Private collection.

I am one of those fools, but my search for gold continues and does so through the shameless self-promotion of attaching my work to important articles and artworks reported in the world’s press. It’s no good to me or my wife being successful when I’m dead. Cheers!

Self-portrait 1977 - 2012

Self-portrait 1977 – 2012

Found object

2012

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The Price for Depravity

The Price for Depravity may be a headline more commonly found blasting across one of the more morally indignant newspapers of this country, but it is of particular interest. Do not forgive the usage of the word depravity.

Francis Bacon, so beloved of many painters, often depicted twisted forms set against, some would say, relatively simple backgrounds. Depending on the viewers’ sensibility a figure would appear as a freakish exhibit; displaying all at once the things oft’ acknowledged as quite depraved. Of course it depends on whom one has asked. It also, rather beautifully, depends on what one has consumed; physically, and mentally, as well as socially.

My love for Bacon’s work began whilst at City College, Norwich, and continues to this day. Why do I consider his paintings above those by many others? They appear to have been composed from a mind sharpened by the comic tragedy of knowing the futility of one’s existence. One may hear the brushstrokes. Stand one, two, three, or four, feet away from a Bacon work and one stands where he stood. Grandiose pseudo-commentary tumbles like tears indeed.

But why the high prices paid for Bacon’s work? What is it about his “difficult” art that many, clearly, find valuable? Paintings of ordinary things have never inspired me. I cannot bring myself to wonder at a fruit bowl no matter how well it is depicted. Why? My attention span is constantly searching for something to stimulate my senses, I suppose. Maybe this is what many other people also find in Bacon’s paintings. Maybe it is the wonder at how something that looks depraved can also appear beautiful…a familiar notion akin to not judging by appearance. Perhaps there is a truth in there. A truth we all know. We are all frauds, but we are all quite beautiful. We are entirely lucky to exist. We have beaten odds that are incomprehensible. Every day we struggle, some more than others, but we continue to admire and be admired.

To my mind one of the most important aspects in making art is taking the horrendous and making it a delight. This works equally as well in opposition. The transition from depraved to remarkable, from remarkable to depraved. Of course it is entirely at one’s behest.

People continue to admire Bacon’s work and are prepared to pay enormous sums of money in order to own one (or three). The 1969 triptych Three Studies of Lucian Freud fetched £89 million pounds recently in New York.

Good. It seems to me it is worth it to be a little odd and quite difficult.

 

http://www.andy-reeve.com