Artwatch UK

Jonathan Jones over-heats, again

Jonathan Jones, the Guardian’s visual art blogger, has taken a second swipe at ArtWatch UK (- he was livid some years ago when leading scholars and conservators in Poland appealed to this organisation for support – An Appeal from Poland.) His viciousness then seemed bizarre – see Response to Attack.

Now, we are just collateral damage, caught in his (very, very) cross wires for having been cited by one of Fleet Street’s funniest (and most trenchant) critics, Quentin Letts, who had observed in his review (“Tracey Emin’s vulgar show proves the art luvvies are dragging civilisation backwards”) of Tracey Emin’s current exhibition, that: “The art critic of The Guardian almost self-immolated, he was so hot for this show. He called it ‘eerie, poetic and beautiful’, and ‘a masterclass in how to use traditional artistic skills in the 21st century’.” That, in our view, was a fair and moderate account of Jones’s own, over-heating review: “Tracey Emin: The Last Great Adventure is You review – a lesson in how to be a real artist”. Jones may be in thrall to the talents of the Royal Academy’s former, short-lived [not current, Ed., 26 Oct.] Professor of Drawing – to the point, even, of likening her to Michelangelo. I (as an alumnus of the Royal Academy Schools, as it happens), am not and would not. Words are Jones’ currency. Drawings are mine. He talks about drawing. I do it. Each to his own? – Michael Daley

Mike Dempsey, in his blog Graphic Journey [http://mikedempsey.typepad.com/graphic_journey_blog/art/] writes:

“In the glowing, five-star review, art critic Jonathan Jones linked Emin’s understanding of drawing with that of Michelangelo. I had to read that line twice. Why?

Well, this is a drawing by Michelangelo…

And this is a drawing by Emin…

“Either Jones should have gone to Specsavers or he needs to be certified – or perhaps both. Emin’s drawing ability is frankly laughable. However, Jones went on and on to say that Emin’s drawing skills are ‘a master class in how to use traditional artistic skills in the 21st century’. He added that her nudes ‘have a real sense of observation’.

“And three more descriptions I couldn’t resist sharing: ‘Framed blue meditations on the human body’, ‘Flowing and pooling lines of gouache define form with real authority’ and ‘The rough, unfinished suggestiveness of her style evokes pain, suffering, and solitude’. I agree with the pain and suffering.

“I have loved the skill of artists who draw beautifully ever since I was a small boy. In my professional life, I have had the pleasure of commissioning very many great people. So, it was baffling for me when Emin was appointed ‘Professor’ of Drawing at the Royal Academy a few years back. Emin has said she’d never learnt to draw. But the RA still went ahead with the appointment. In a recent Guardian web chat, she said: ‘They sacked me.’ I wonder why?”


COMMENTS:

October 26th 2014 ~ The sculptor and draughtsman Michael Sandle responds:

I read Monsieur Jones’s review of Tracey’s show – I thought I’d better go to the Bermondsey White Cube and see if there was something I wasn’t getting.
There is indeed a “bat-squeak” of emotion to be felt in her work – which I suppose is positive compared to the sterility of much Contemporary “art”. But the sketches – not really drawings as I understand it – are very definitely formulaic. They are not based on “looking” and she could do them in her sleep. To compare her with Michelangelo is worse than stupid it because it shows a profound ignorance. The poor man doesn’t understand that there is something known as “High Art”. Her little bronzes are like doodles in clay – they have, I suppose, an “innocence” which, considering the effort (including anatomical dissection) that Michelangelo undertook to master his craft, means it is extraordinarily difficult to see any connection whatsoever. Her problem is, that like that of a lot of people who can’t really draw, she can’t see “shape” – if you can’t see “shape” you can’t draw, it’s as simple as that. If Jones’ comments had any truth it would mean that we are “dumbed-down” beyond hope i.e. “f*****” – which I actually think we are.

Michael Sandle, R.A.

October 27th 2014 ~ The painter and critic William Packer (and art critic of the FT from 1974 to 2004) writes:

I remember a particular moment in the life room when I was a student: the tutor looked over my shoulder and remarked that I had not drawn the feet. “No”, I said, “I wasn’t really interested in the feet.” “Hmmm”, he replied, “difficult, aren’t they”, and strolled off. I could have hit him, but of course he was right, and I’ve never forgotten, either him or the feet, since.

William Packer

October 27th 2014 ~ The painter Thomas Torak writes:

I find Tracey Emin, herself, her artistic endeavours and her sex life, profoundly uninteresting. If there were anything in her work that was worthy of criticism I would happily do so. To quote Abraham Lincoln “People who like this sort of thing will find this is the sort of thing they like.” As for Mr. Jones’s review, well, let me just say if I were to have dinner with someone who made a favourable comparison of the work of Ms. Emin to that of Michelangelo I would not let him pick the restaurant.

Thomas Torak

October 28th 2014 ~ Who wrote:

“Art criticism has become too fawning – time for a best hatchet job award?

“Jenny Saville? A heroic mediocrity. Tracey Emin? Outshone by your average newspaper cartoonist. And art critics, like their literary counterparts, should be encouraged to say so”

…and the answer is:

JONATHAN JONES, on 9 January 2013, in the Guardian.

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