Minimalism was merely a moment.
Lucy Lippard drawn during her talk at Whitechapel Gallery London
There once was a movement in art named by some as ‘Minimalism’. Lucy Lippard says, “My 1966 exhibition ‘Eccentric Abstractions’ was an attempt to blur boundaries…between minimalism and something more sensuous” (Tate Papers 12 2009). Learning about Lucy confirmed my suspicion that the Minimalists moved onto better things, usually, (although I am not sure about Carl Andre, I feel he got stuck). Others like Eva Hesse, Robert Smithson and Lawrence Weiner went on to develop their own takes on ‘art’, mostly moving on to ‘Conceptual’ art. It is my belief that in the wider sense all art is conceptual, but there was a ‘movement’ which moved towards the concept, maybe even just a piece of writing outlining/proposing a work, became the work of art. Lucy’s words confirmed for me that my own writings/journals from 1969 to date were (as I always knew), ‘art’. Lucy told us, “Conceptual art opened up new ways for artists to identify actively with what he/she was making, including performances, street works, video and other ephemeral rebellions against …the ‘precious object syndrome’” (ibid) “Preparation of natural phenomena; reframing of factual material in personal patterns; biography and transformation, primarily of self… are core delineators of Conceptual work…” (see p68 Lucy Lippard’s Numbers Shows, ed Cornelia Butler). My work in the past 40 years falls very much into the above quotes and I Love Lucy for helping me find the contextual phraseology with which I can now see myself, after 44 years of being ignored by the art establishment. Despite repeated requests (in my early days, maybe the first 10 years) for consideration in the form of grants and exhibitions I never received any support (tho’ I did weaken recently and applied for a grant from a local landmark gallery with the same result as of old, no thanks). Thankfully I, like Lucy did, gave up applying for ‘help’ and worked first as a postman, with similar results to Bukowski then as a teacher, to gain money to survive and create my contributions. I was always ‘driven’ to make ‘art’, it was my disease, my madness, I never gave up because I always believed I had something to bring to the party even though I was so often seen as only a barred gate-crasher whilst the likes of Ermin made their ‘copy-of-Louise-Bourgeoise-beds’. Now, she is welcome to lie in it because you make your bed and …I hear there is an art magnate looking for a new bed. I can’t believe I said that.
Lucy also re-awakened my interest in the sorry state of world affairs and prompted me to get up off my backside and be involved, again. So when Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela died last week it got me thinking.
I sent an email to the Breakfast Show because I felt quite strongly about the work of an artist called Harold Riley who they had on whilst considering the death of that great peace-full negotiator and emblem Nelson Mandela who was instrumental in dismantling Apartheid and transforming South Africa into a multi-racial democracy:
Dear Charlie and Louise,
Just a little note about the work of artist, Harold Riley, who told such a lovely tale of Mandela. His two paintings were lovely too BUT as an artist I would like him to know my feeling that his, what he called, ‘earlier’ one was infinitely better than his so called final piece. The earlier one was stunning!
Being an artist I am aware that sometimes we try too hard. Even the great Constable did that, you will notice his pencil sketches, sometimes as big as his final paintings were often much better.
As a boy of about 13 in 1963 I used to get up in my home town, Burnley, to go do my paper round about 6am. I actually saw a Knocker-Upper man doing his rounds at c.5-30 am, it would have been a vital service in days of old and it did last into the early 1960’s.Best, Pete Kennedy.
This elicited the following polite reply.
‘Thank you for contacting BBC Breakfast. We try to read as many emails as we can. We get a huge number of them and can’t guarantee that we’ll feature your email on the programme.’
I thought maybe he’ll not see my comment so I then sent it to the Salford Gallery which has a show of his work on. I await their reply.
Interestingly, whilst listening to Riley I mis-heard something he said which is an interesting take on the way we (only) hear what we want to hear. I thought Riley said that Mandela asked him if it was true that folk really went round knocking people up (they actually used a long pole with a bit of ‘wire’ shaped like a snake tongue which they would use to tap carefully on the upstairs window of shift workers in the local cotton mills and coal mines) on Riley’s affirmative reply he said, I thought, “I think I do that kind of thing”, which meant to me that he was waking mankind up to certain things, which indeed he did. However on listening to the interview again I now think Riley said that Mandela said, “I think you can’t do that kind of thing”. Interestingly, a man who had spent time in Robben jail should believe that knocking men (and women!) out of bed was not acceptable when in Lancashire they would have known that there would be penalties if they did not turn up to work their shift on time.
Peace For Tibet?
Every large land mass has a man who can help it move from one era to another moving from a primitive combative psychological state to advanced harmonious thinking with stately actions replacing belligerence. It can be compared with each of us growing up, we had to learn to ‘stick up for ourselves’ and ‘fight our own corner’. (When I look back on my life it’s my evasion of conflict and my more benevolent actions I am proud of although sometimes like Mandela I had to be ready to fight fire with fire. However usually everybody suffers then.)
India had Ghandi who spent time in South African jails. “On 10 January 1908 Mahatma Gandhi was arrested for the first time in South Africa for refusing to carry an obligatory identity document card commonly known as the ‘pass’. In 1906, the Transvaal government promulgated a new Act forcing registration of the colony’s Indian population. At a mass protest meeting held in Johannesburg on 11 September 1906, Gandhi adopted his approach to non-violent protest commonly known as satyagraha (loyalty to the truth) for the first time. thousands of Indians were jailed including Gandhi; some were even shot for striking.”(SAHO)
South Africa had Mandela who spent time in Robben Island.
China had the Dalai Lama who spends time in India, exiled from his homeland.
Dalai Lama during a TV interview what I drawn him from.
They said on TV last week that few men have endured oppression with such little rancour as Mandela, apart from maybe Ghandi and Tenzin Gyatso, the present Dalai Lama. Whilst the two former are dead the latter is very much alive. Similar to Mandela it is banned to have images of Gyatso and to quote him is an offence in Tibet. I believe that China needs a courageous leader like F.W. De Clerk, someone who will take up Gyatso’s suggestion that China embraces Tibet’s people not as a subjugated minority but as equal partners in a China which has a multi-racial democracy too. China needs to adopt Mandela’s words, “Never again will this beautiful land (Tibet, China, Africa) experience the oppression of one people by another. Let bygones be bygones.”
The Chinese will of course point to Britain’s legacy all over the world of vandalism, robbery, subversion, theft and all, but, let’s let bygones be bygones. The English have heinous crimes in their past; Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Africa, India, China, Tibet, Afghanistan, the list goes on but on behalf of the English Aristocracy, for it was they who enslaved the populace in the beginning and forced the peoples of its subjugated parts to fight in creating its ‘empire’, I beg the countries of the world to forgive (not so) Great Britain and move towards peace in our time, all over.
Some other countries too have been closed and held back by dictatorships; Chile, Argentina, Greece, China, Syria, Iraq, Sri Lanka to name a few. There is a need to open up and allow negotiations. After all wars there has to be negotiation and reconciliation. Why not forget the in between stage of having a war and just negotiate and reconcile first. Of course humankind has this penchant for fighting, wherever two people are together there is the possibility for argument and conflict but remember what some great spiritual leaders in the past have said too, that wherever people gather together there is the potential for peace and harmony and connection with the greater spirit of the universe. Whether we call these people inspired, blessed, bodhisattva, chosen, no matter what they are called they are special and they point their fingers toward harmony between all peoples. Peace Be With Us. And all that jazz.
Hey. I nearly forgot! I want you to check out this most beautiful link to a Tibetan blog drugmo.wordpress.com Just go down thru it til you find the poem she translated to English about Tibet by Tsering D. Gonkatsang. You could read it as you watch the video, preferably the one with beautiful Tibetan words. OR just listen to the Tibetan voice and watch the INCREDIBLY beautiful land which is Tibet unfold before your eyes. Then read the poem.
Dalai Lama opening the Peace Garden, London, Imperial War Museum grounds.
All of the above images are of course my own drawings and remain (c) pete kennedy 2013.