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Thinking outside the academy
Miklos Legrady ArtBlog 2019

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39-Something about beauty

Miklos legrady creative unconscious

I could have done this by painting a hallway white and flooding it with coloured lights, but instead painted a canvas with those same colors. My reasons for choosing one over another is the dreamy hallway will live on only as a photograph, maybe a video. But few people’s daily routine includes looking at videos of hallways, while the painting is always there, in your face.

Plus the visual quality of canvas is richer than a photographic surface. Of course most art we see is online, but there is something special about the physical reality of a painting in your hand or on your wall. It can’t be any old thing, it has to be special for us to feel that way, and so we come to this question about beauty.

Beauty. One curator was both terrified and contemptuous when I spoke that word, she even felt embarrassed for me that I wasn't aware that beauty was so not today’s language (as if). But art history shows postmodernism riddled with contradictions and misconceptions, and we hear talk of a deplorable state of contemporary art. What postmodernism rejects now seems worth a second look.

Since the status quo did not excite, I assumed that which postmodernism denied was worth a second look, and so we come to beauty. Beauty is the genesis of art therapy. Contrary to common expectations, beauty is not a pleasure principle but an algorithm, a compressed judgmental code. As an algorithm it channels the mind to constructive attitudes and enhances productivity, can also straighten twisted minds, allowing greater flexibility and adaptability.

So visual art? Painting is a non-verbal language where composition, shading and dynamic create a feeling in the viewer. These feelings lend meaning and complexity to ideas, to information we process in the minute and on a daily basis. Feelings are not foolish things we can do without, they’re influential shapers of our thoughts, decisions, and the life we live as a result. Imagine a house with no pictures, gray walls, the furniture is all gray as are ceiling and floor. That picture speaks a thousand words.

On the other hand something beautiful draws us to look and look and lose ourselves in an image, drawn by these feelings that captivate us. Meanwhile unconscious codes compressed in the visual language of that painting enter our mind and proceed to the unconscious depths where they are decoded and add to our own intelligence, our knowledge about our culture. Without beauty we turn sour.

May 05, 2019

40-Anthem for Doomed Youth

I’m part of a group of writers who challenge ourselves once a month by writing a 250 review, and this is one of them. Pendery Weekes wrote that many painters are influenced by words - poetry, stories, passages from the Bible, but poetry in particular has inspired some great works. Ken Turner has chosen the poem, ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ written in 1917 by Wilfred Owen as the starting point for his painting. The painting itself is created like a banner, with the picture on one side and the words of the poem on the other.

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
— Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,—
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

Anthem for Doomed Yout Wilfred Owen 2017l

This poem makes more sense if we look back at our own youth, because there have been losses and disappointments which wounded us dearly, but we healed through the veils of forgetting. As we remember we’ll identify with these words. Our personal tragedies were actually necessary in order to awaken the best of our character, which otherwise would remain sleeping in the depths of our mind. We need challenges to become ourselves and the darkness of our shadow reveals the brightness of the light we walk in. Unless you die.

We cannot imagine that war, how many died, brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles and aunts erased, no longer there. In the first world war, tactics were chaotic; thousands of young conscripts were sent walking into machinegun fire, their commanders not knowing how effective such fire was, so the kids died like flies. Their lover will miss them.

The painting shows the smile of someone ravaged by the unbearable. The mood is insane. The teeth show horror. In fact, that painting’s too much, because it looks stupid, our mind rejects the insane message and will think the artist is nuts. For those who experienced their friend’s death in the trenches, seeing the bones, such a painting is cathartic, know that we too feel what you feel, you are no longer alone with your memories, we share the same pain.

For those of us whose protected lives shielded us from insane horrors, the painting and poem won’t mean much, they push us away.

May 8, 2019

41-An Image like this.

Laurent Parcelier, 1962

I was raised to scorn paintings like this;  exciting art was supposed to be anti-aesthetic, unattractive, difficult, but my writing these days questions why. Seen in context, postmodernism may have nurtured the post-truth era: if art is prognostic, the future looks problematic. Can art change the course of history? Psychology speaks of art therapy, which suggests that the opposite, the counter-aesthetic, unattractive, and difficult, will likely cause mental illness and social disturbance.

Anyone who can paint like this one knows about long hours, time, and effort, they’ve also experienced how one’s mind is expanded by the making. The level of analyses, the complex thinking generated changes the mind. The brain itself changes physically the more knowledge we acquire, folds develop and neural patterns expand.

If you played Pokémon video games as a kid, part of your brain gets fired up when you see the characters. In a 2019 study, researchers from Stanford University showed test subjects hundreds of Pokémon characters. Pokémon fans reacted while those unfamiliar with the game, meh. But what's more surprising is that a specific brain fold reacted, an area just behind the ears, called the occipitotemporal sulcus. We know that Einstein played violin, and like others who learn music as children, had an omega-shaped fold in the lower right at the back of the brain. In 1990 Neuroscientist Karl Friston developed an imaging technique that was used in a famous study to show that the rear side of the hippocampus of London taxi drivers grew in volume as they memorized maps when applying for a taxi license.

It would be fascinating to compare the visual cortex of an experienced artist with the population at large. It’s not that phrenology is making a comeback, but rather that data confirms knowledge resides in neural networks. The brain like the rest of the body is improved by practice, by repetition, by acquiring experience that turns into skill, knowledge, and mastery.

Today we understand painting and drawing as non-verbal visual languages, encoding complex ideas just as writing does. And since reading informs and transforms, so does non-verbal content embedded in an image. On a more spiritual level art sparks a greater subtlety and sophistication. When we see it we can't look away.  So if we are told that we need to pay attention to the art on exhibition, instead of casually walking by, then we can reply that we will, when the art deserves our attention.

May 11, 2019

42-Visual Language

Visual Language
Miklos Legrady, 18" x 24" - 45.72cm x 60.96cm - acrylic on canvas, May 11, 2019

I'm curious about visual language, it can make a painting fascinating compared to one that's a yawn. It's not a matter of understanding graphic principles, because at the speed I work there's no time to think. Which means the direction flows from the visual cortex, it is non-verbal and produces a picture that says something, if not a thousand words.

Visual Language
Miklos Legrady, 18" x 24" - 45.72cm x 60.96cm - acrylic on canvas, May 12, 2019

In a painting the same amount of work by a highly experienced professional can produce an amazing image or one nondescript. Even attempts to make similar work will create both successes and failures.

One explanation looks at the creative unconscious, specifically subliminal processes in the visual cortex that pair images with meaning. That images have an objective meaning becomes obvious with photographic evidence in a court of law. There has to be some mechanism or process in the visual cortex that interprets the visual elements and pairs them with meaning. Visual information coming from the eye goes through the lateral geniculate nucleus in the thalamus and then reaches the visual cortex.
visual cortex Both hemispheres of the brain contain a visual cortex; the visual cortex in the left hemisphere receives signals from the right visual field, and the visual cortex in the right hemisphere receives signals from the left visual field. All happening in brain cells that are 60% water. A powerful consideration is that we’re not conscious of any of this; we see, we interpret, all the while unaware of the complex changes at work inside our brain. We can’t see behind our blind spot but we can know of the unconscious by traces it leaves behind, like a footprint in the mud by someone no longer there.
We can discern visual language in the two images above by comparing their differences, which trigger feelings of various levels of intensity. The type of feeling and their intensity are the grammar and syntax of visual language by which we judge what we’re looking at. Feelings and thinking seem to the same process in different languages. Some people feel their way through until they come to an intellectual conclusion, a thought on which they act. Others think their way through until they come to a feeling about it, which feeling then directs their behavior.

In the paintings above the primary colours provide a first degree of satisfaction, triggering a liking of the work rather than otherwise, which is important. Our interest determines our response therefore elements that attract us to the work deserve their own nomenclature within the system of visual language. In this case the use of colours in locations and amounts that create different tensions within the image, this color usage is a signifier, to signify what holds our visual attention. These attractors are an important aspect of visual language because without them the average time looking at a painting is about 17 seconds. The art work does not attract us because it has nothing to say.

Aesthetics is that which draws us to look at an image. It's linked to content not accessible to consciousness but read and decoded by the unconscious mind; the longer we look at art the more we can learn from it, but only if the information is there. The Tate Gallery’s recent article, “A guide to slow looking”(1), is sincere to the point of naivety but it may also be an unconscious confession of failings in their curatorial selection/direction.

1- A guide to slow looking, TATE gallery, 2019.

May 13, 2019

43-Reality is a shared agreement

Howard Bloom
Global Brain
John Wiley & Sons, Inc., N.Y.
Miklos legrady

It was 1956 when Solomon Asch published a classic series of experiments in which he and his colleagues showed cards with lines of different lengths to clusters of their students. Two lines were exactly the same size and two were clearly not; the dissimilar lines stuck out like a pair of basketball players at a Munchkins brunch. During a typical experimental run, the researchers asked nine volunteers to claim that two badly mismatched lines were actually the same and that the real twin was a misftit.

Now came the nefarious part. The researchers ushered a naive student into a room filled with the collaborators and gave him the impression that the crowd already there knew just as little as he did about what was going on. Then a white-coated psychologist passed the cards around. One by one he asked the predrilled students to announce out loud which lines were alike. Each dutifully declared that two terribly unlike lines were duplicates. By the time the scientist prodded the unsuspecting newcomer to pronounce judgment, he usually went along with the bogus consensus of the crowd. In fact, a full 75 percent of the clueless experimental subjects bleated in chorus with the herd. Asch ran the experiment over and over again. When he quizzed his victims of peer pressure after their ordeal was over, it turned out that many had done far more than simply give in to get along. They had actually seen the mismatched lines as equal. Their senses had been swayed more by the views of the multitude than by the actuality.

To make matters worse, many of those whose vision hadn't been deceived had still become inadvertent collaborators in the praise of the emperor's new clothes. Some did it out of self-doubt. They were convinced that the facts their eyes reported were wrong, the herd was right, and that an optical illusion had tricked them into seeing things. Still others realized with total clarity which lines were identical, but lacked the nerve to utter an unpopular opinion. Conformity enforcers had tyrannized everything from visual processing to honest speech, revealing some of the mechanisms which wrap and seal a crowd into a false belief.

Another series of experiments indicate just how deeply social suggestion can penetrate the neural mesh through which we think we see a hard-and-iast reality. Students with normal color vision were shown blue slides. But one or two stooges in the room declared the slides were green. In a typical use of this procedure, only 32 percent of the students ended up going along with the vocal but totally phony proponents of green vision. Later, however, the subjects were taken aside, shown bluegreen slides, and asked to rate them for blueness or greenness. Even the students who had refused to see green where there was none a few minutes earlier showed that the insistent greenies in the room had colored their perceptions. They rated the new slides more green than pretests indicated they would have otherwise.

More to the point, when asked to describe the color of the afterimage they saw, the subjects often reported it was red-purple - the hue of an afterimage left by the color green. Afterimages arc not voluntary. They are manufactured by the visual system. The words of just one determined speaker had penetrated the most intimate sanctums of the eye and brain. When it comes to herd perception, this is just the iceberg's tip. Social experience literally shapes critical details of brain physiology, sculpting an infant's brain to fit the culture into which the child is born.

How can it be that our thoughts can alter our vision? We remember that visual information coming from the eye goes through the thalamus (see red colored section above) before reaching the visual cortex. The thalamus (from Greek θάλαμος, "chamber") is a large mass of gray matter in the dorsal part of the diencephalon of the brain with several functions such as relaying of sensory signals, including motor signals to the cerebral cortex, and the regulation of consciousness, sleep, and alertness.

The thalamus is believed to both process sensory information as well as relay it - each of the primary sensory relay areas receives strong feedback connections from the cerebral cortex. A major role of the thalamus is support of motor and language systems, and much of the circuitry implicated for these systems is shared. This is where the transformation happens, where the thalamus changes what the eye sees into language systems beliefs, which fools the mind.

May 13, 2019

44-Slow Looking

Photo: © Rikard Österlund
Photo: © Rikard Österlund

The Tate Gallery published an article saying take your time looking at art, complaining that people rush by the work without really looking.  It seems that when people rush by a work, it's not that the work is amazing, most likely it's boring.  A Museum of Modern Art curator has a youtube video telling us how to see Duchamp's work. If we need to be told how to see an artist's work, perhaps the artist's message is unclear.

In 1996 (then MOMA curator) Rob Storr spoke of the transformation of the art world from the "Cedar Bar to the seminar", which made art intellectual and discarded non-verbal syntax. That's when Marshall McLuhan, in a quote often misattributed to Andy Warhol, said that art is anything that you can get away with. When art is anything you can get away with, then the worse you can get away with is always the best strategy, leading to some pretty bad art.

Roger Scrutton said it is now an effective requirement of finalists for the Turner Prize in Britain to produce something that nobody would think was art unless they were told it was. At that point the artist’s message is strategically incomprehensible, but that’s terrible! I think we’re cornered, we can’t escape it; we need to define what good art is. Don’t be scared,  it’s not that difficult.

I’m assuming a good work of art attracts our attention so we don’t have to be scolded into looking at it, and I’m hoping that good art makes a statement, so we don’t have to be told what to think about it. That's a failure, when it's not interesting... no matter how profound the marketing! Postmodern art is proudly difficult, counter-aesthetic, unattractive and undesirable; this thrills art experts, but are those people really experts or are they just brilliant mistakes?

Miklos Legrady, Digital art, Superpaint, 1991
Miklos Legrady, Digital art, Superpaint, 1991

According to William Deresiewicz’s article in the Atlantic, today’s art is not our highest achievement. It’s on show because the artist was a superb salesperson who fits snugly in the curator’s comfort zone. And that is why we need a shake up, a reformation, some would even settle for a plain old-fashioned revolution.

May 14, 2019

45-why unions formed in the first place

Winnipeg general strike

A must read. Before unions, the pay and living conditions of workers meant poverty for a guy working full time. With a totally free market, you get a situation like the famine that occurred in Ireland in 1845–49 when the potato crop failed over 4 years. For the rich British landowners, the Irish starvation was none of their business. 1.5 million Irish starved to death, but the country was still exporting chickens, pigs, and cows as usual. 1.5 million. You can't trust the warm heart of the rich, who are Conservatives, who conserve their money by paying the lowest salaries, but when workers unite they can negotiate for a living wage. That is until 1990-2019, when rents went up like crazy and costs went up but salaries barely budged. In Canada we're lucky that getting sick isn't going to get us evicted. Few have more than one month's money in the bank. That's wrong. But we have a government safety blanket so there's government services that keep us afloat. Now the Conservative government is going to cut those services that we and our families depend on, often without knowing it, like at Walkerton. After they make those cuts they can lower taxes for the rich, who will get richer, till the workers revolt and hang them from lamp posts.

May 15, 2019

46-The rules of art

Miklos legrady
25" x 36" - 63.5cm x 91.44cm, acrylic on cardboard. October 24, 2015.
Rose and Thorn image by Neil Googe.

A curator a while back asked if I ever write nice things but the reply only popped into my head a year later. I couldn’t reply then because I’m Canadian, we’re polite, we try not to hurt feelings. Basically the work the gallery showed and that I criticized was not real but fake. If you know about General Idea from the 1970s then fake is a strategy; it’s acting a role. From that point it's but a moment before being a genuine fake becomes even more edgy... because it completely destroys art. To shock is postmodern, it's the art of the avant-garde.

Roger Scrutton in his BBC article “How modern art became trapped by its urge to shock” wrote that “it is now an effective requirement of finalists for the Turner Prize in Britain to produce something that nobody would think was art unless they were told it was”.

The postmodern ethos identifies art by rituals and allows ritualistic gestures as art, so performing the role is acceptable. Faking it, acting the part, is now a genuine work of art.

Scrutton continues in Aeon(1), “Faking depends on a measure of complicity between the perpetrator and the victim, who together conspire to believe what they don’t believe and to feel what they are incapable of feeling… Anyone can lie. One need only have the requisite intention — in other words, to say something with the intention to deceive. Faking, by contrast, is an achievement. To fake things you have to take people in, yourself included. In an important sense, therefore, faking is not something that can be intended, even though it comes about through intentional actions. The liar can pretend to be shocked when his lies are exposed, but his pretence is merely a continuation of his lying strategy. The fake really is shocked when he is exposed, since he had created around himself a community of trust, of which he himself was a member. Understanding this phenomenon is, it seems to me, integral to understanding how a high culture works, and how it can become corrupted.

Hans Haacke was never an artist. He believed he was, and made other people think he was, but he was an administrator and justice warrior, not an artist, and nothing of his work falls within the definition of art. He’s made no contribution to the visual arts nor to aural art nor performance and theatre. Considers Edward Fry’s 1972 statement, that Hans Haacke “may be even more subversive than Duchamp, since he handles his Readymades in such a way that they remain systems that represent themselves and thus do not let themselves assimilate with art.”(2) Instead of admiring this subversion, one wonders why someone would want to subvert and reject art. Being subversive is long past its shelf date, we've all been there, done that. Destroying art is no longer (if it ever was) the answer to our time..

1- Roger Scrutton A Cult of Fakery has taken over what’s left of high culture
2- Dario Gamboni, The Destruction of Art, Iconoclasm and Vandalism, p278, Reaktion Books.

May 19, 2019

47-Sol Lewitt's letter

Miklos legrady
Miklos Legrady, 23" x 25" - 58.42cm x 63.5cm, acrylic on cardboard, December 17, 2015.

A number of people have asked why these essays that brings major artists into disrepute? Why shade our heroes, take away our myths? Reason is that we have to move on and that's harder when respect for authority is the enemy of inquiry.

Having read it a few times, less hypnotized by his words, there are questions concerning Sol LeWitt’s letter to Eva Hesse. In some ways it reminds us of Duchamp who wanted to get rid of taste in art, both good taste and bad taste, and who often contradicted himself in order to work against his own taste. Duchamp himself is equally a cautionary tale. After he negated his own taste he lost interest in making art, and for his last 20 years only dabbled in it as a hobby.

In his letter LeWitt recommends a cure against preciousness and artist’s block by attacking one’s vanity and purposefully doing bad art. There are pitfalls to this practice, the worst being his words were misunderstood so that later generations believed he was encouraging us towards bad art, ugly art, stupid art.

Perhaps someone forgot that Sol LeWitt’s letter to Eva Hesse, his advice to make bad art to break through an artist's block, was meant as a temporary solution to break through that block so that you can make good art again. Instead his words became a postmodern practice. Legions of academic artists are feverishly producing bad art, making the worst art they can and putting it out there in the public sphere.

And that's why we must review and question LeWitt, the reason his writing needs a reality check. It's interesting enough that LeWitt’s visual art touches genius but his philosophy lacks common sense. “If an artist changes his mind through the execution of the piece he compromises the result and repeats past results.” In fact it’s the opposite; it is not changing your mind that repeats past results whereas making art consists of change that builds on past results. Pretty much the entire corpus of his Sentences on Conceptual Art and Paragraphs on Conceptual Art are nonsense.

Sol LeWitt laid out the terms for conceptual art in his seminal “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art,” published in the June 1967 issue of Artforum. “In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work,” LeWitt wrote. But this is a contradiction when we’re talking about a work of art, work happens after one has an idea. Through work change is inevitable. The first state of the idea, before it is worked on, can’t be the most important aspect of a work's multiple changes. It’s an ill omen no one noticed the obvious or thought this through; respect for authority is the enemy of inquiry.

LeWitt’s a brilliant artist, a creative mind so gifted we’re surprised his visual complexity is not matched by equally developed intellectual powers. And so we learn that creation and comprehension each use a different toolkit.

Carl Jung writes of four mental functions; sensation, feeling, intellect, and intuition, each with qualities of equal value to consciousness. We all have a dominant function, some more intellectual, others more sensory or feeling types. Jung also notes a person relying only on their main function is a rather shallow character… while engaging more functions creates depth of personality, for example when an intellectual listens to their feelings and intuition, or a sensory type like a dancer also engages their intellect, feelings, and intuition.

I came to think Sol LeWitt’s powerful visual ability counterweighed a lesser intellectual cognition. Not that LeWitt was less intelligent, but his primary thinking could have been a visual mode, i.e. visual cortex, leaving less territory for intellectual faculties. And then as a visual art genius LeWitt was asked to talk about his work, and of course it’s hard to resist playing prophet to the people.

May 22, 2019

48-Politicizing art

Miklos legrady
18" x 24" - 45.72cm x 60.96cm - acrylic on canvas, May 23, 2019

Recent work doesn't explore questions of power, gender, territory, sexuality, or institutional intrigue. So many artists are already doing a bad job of politicizing art, I didn't want to add to the mess. But quantum theory says I already politicized art by occupying the opposite territory.

However I was interested in defining visual art. A well know curator wrote that no one knows what art is anymore and I was facepalm; every other profession knows what they are doing. This work explores visual statements made using a single shape, the circle. Shading and colour then lead in creating context. Through repetition we see the differences and variations of visual language, where graphics are syntactic.

It’s typical that we don’t value what we don’t understand, and few of us have taken concern over the unconscious mind and those subconscious activities that eventually add up to our conscious thoughts. The landscape in this painting can be viewed as a metaphor of unconscious landscapes, a territory deep within our mind, behind our blind spot.

While the work makes no political statement calling for an immediate end to global injustice, it should not be dismissed as lacking merit in today’s woke art movement. It is precisely by following the least travelled path that one discovers the subtlety generally lacking in any popular trend. The personal is political and our instinctive sense of aesthetics reminds us that personal taste is also political. This painting is not like a bulldozer shoving rocks in the quarry but rather like the architect's drawing. This image doesn't fight for global politics but for the importance of the personal, following one’s instincts, which is what we should expect of art.

May 23, 2019

49-Feel your way

Miklos legrady paintings

What interests me here is visual language, how the painting at this points satisfied my sensibility while earlier versions left me wanting. There's more writing these days about non verbal languages, in this case visual language, whose message has little to do with daily concerns, perhaps more about cultural belief systems. Painting is therapeutic in that it organizes deeper layers of the mind, it can smooths things out or in this case lead us to consider the contradictions in the work. This is something you feel your way through, not something you think about.

May 25, 2019

50-Closing Churches

Closing Churches

May 27, 2019

51-Robert Mapplethorpe

Robert Mapplethorpe
Robert Mapplethorpe: Lisa and Robert, 1982

"Thirty years after Robert Mapplethorpe’s death, the world still cannot turn away from the compelling nature and emotional complexity of his influential photographs. " I just saw a show of Robert Mapplethorpe's photographs, it looked like a famous person's quick snaps of other famous people. The "compelling nature and emotional complexity" is just lip service, it's marketing. Mapplethorpe's work is famous because he photographed famous people after an assistant set up some studio lighting, not because he has anything personal to contribute to the art of photography.

May 28, 2019

52-Baudrillard’s mistake

Robert Mapplethorpe
Miklos Legrady, 18" x 24" - 45.72cm x 60.96cm - acrylic on canvas, June 4, 2018

Baudrillard argues that copies or even forgeries were not as denigrated in the past as in the contemporary world because art was more the collective product of artist's studios while today art is supposed to be the "authentic" product of an individual as part of their oeuvre. (Critique, p. 102).

In 1617, Sir Dudley Carleton protested to Rubens that paintings offered to him as by the artist himself were in fact largely the work of his studio. Rubens was quick to replace them with works he could vouch for as being entirely his own — it would not do to acquire a reputation for passing off inferior work as original.

In 1652, Peter van Halen, painter and Master of the Guild of Saint Luke in Antwerp purchased Brueghel’s painting Cattle Market for 204 guilders. On closer examination, Van Halen decided it was not an original but a copy. After three years of lawsuits, van Halen managed to establish that the painting was indeed a studio copy made by Brueghel’s assistants and was awarded damages. (Going Dutch, pps. 105, 108, 123, 124, Lisa Jardine, Harper Perenial, 2009.)

Talent and skill make a difference as they did in the past. While the master’s work was sold to the wealthy, studio apprentices produced copies for the middle class at a much lower price.

May 29, 2019

53-Time to stop faking it

Miklos legrady paintings

I'm constantly chewing on my disagreement with academic art and how to phrase it. One sure thing about a work of art is when the magic is missing, then it's something by another opportunist with great PR skills. William Deresiewicz wrote in the Atlantic that today a top tier artist is a superb salesman whose assistants do the work.

In 1617, Sir Dudley Carleton protested to Rubens that paintings offered to him as by the artist himself were in fact largely the work of his studio. Rubens was quick to replace them with works he could vouch for as being entirely his own — it would not do to acquire a reputation for passing off inferior work as original.

We settles for inferior work and that's what wew've taught our students, that idea predominates and production is belittled. In art the process is proven the opposite, according to the science. Since non-verbal languages play such a large role in the timeless influence of art, the execution, the making of it, serves as a conduit for the unconscious mind to express universal truths.

When the artist works only from conscious ideas is when we see mediocre work supported by paid critics who write about why the work is so important. It is time to end all this, when such worthwhile and interesting art is possible, why is everyone faking it?

Roger Scrutton says “Faking depends on a measure of complicity between the perpetrator and the victim, who together conspire to believe what they don’t believe and to feel what they are incapable of feeling… Anyone can lie. One need only have the requisite intention — in other words, to say something with the intention to deceive. Faking, by contrast, is an achievement. To fake things you have to take people in, yourself included.

In an important sense, therefore, faking is not something that can be intended, even though it comes about through intentional actions. The liar can pretend to be shocked when his lies are exposed, but his pretence is merely a continuation of his lying strategy. The fake really is shocked when he is exposed, since he had created around himself a community of trust, of which he himself was a member. Understanding this phenomenon is, it seems to me, integral to understanding how a high culture works, and how it can become corrupted.”

Seriously kids we need higher standards because what’s going on in the art world today is embarrassing. If it’s not magical then it’s an expensive hoax.

May 31, 2019


54-Conceptual Camus

Albert Camus’ 1945 interview by the French journalist Jeanine Delpech noted how “accepting the absurdity of everything around us is one step, a necessary experience: it should not become a dead end. It arouses a revolt that can become fruitful. An analysis of the idea of revolt could help us to discover ideas capable of restoring a relative meaning to existence, although a meaning that would always be in danger.” (1)

The academic “publish or perish” reveals a competitive aspect to any career, the need to stand out, and the most effective way is to be shocking. Roger Scrutton in his BBC article “How modern art became trapped by its urge to shock”, wrote that “it is now an effective requirement of finalists for the Turner Prize in Britain to produce something that nobody would think was art unless they were told it was”. That does sound like an absurdity.

legrady conceptual works

In our review of art history we’ve seen a hundred years during which a denial of art was taken up by a few artists in the early 20th century. Until Benjamin and Duchamp, no one had objected to the medium or the art of painting. Then in the 1960s, coinciding with the rapid expansion of fine art departments in North America and Europe, came a counter-aesthetic postmodernism. It rejected traditional art but it also brought a new freedom.

Any object can now be a work of art, in fact no object is necessary for art. Well, that’s not quite true. Martin Creed’s "Work No. 227: The lights going on and off" consisted of an empty room which is filled with light for five seconds and then plunged into darkness for five seconds. but the instructions actually consists of a piece of paper or a digital file, which is physical matter. The writing tells the museum to turn the lights off in a room, then turn them back on. One copy of this paper or digital file, this work of conceptual art, was purchased by the Tate, another copy by MOMA, supposedly at $83,000 a pop. But the museums at times placed a color gel over the lights, which made for even more object matter, detracting from the concept by the physical reality of space transformed.

In 1962, Yves Klein sold three “Zones of Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility” in ritualized ceremonies held on the banks of the Seine. In exchange for a quantity of pure gold, the collectors received printed receipts; Klein then threw half the gold into the river, while the collectors burned their receipts, so that nothing material supposedly remained of the transactions, except for the gold in the river and the still valuable gold now owned by the artist.

legrady conceptual works

I myself created this certificate in July 16, 2014 - one cubic meter of air to be a work of art in any room where the certificate is displayed. For conceptual art, that’s as transparent and clear as it gets. But what does it give? Nothing. The word art meant quality. An absence of quality is bad art. Bad art may be a career strategy to shock the bourgeoisie, but good art… it’s not.

And why it’s not is well worth a look. A psychologist would take into account if behavior was positive or not, the subliminal statement embedded in the work. Benjamin and Duchamp and countless others since have denied beauty, aesthetics, skill, and the importance of intuitive and non-verbal languages, a deconstruction meant to achieve great things. But then we ask what great things can there be without those qualities you discard?

Martin Creed’s bad electrical wiring signals a breakdown. Yves Klein throwing gold in the river, Robert Barry and others’ closed galleries, or my own work of invisible air, these give nothing. If our grandpa paid $83k for Creed's piece of paper, wouldn't we seek a restraining order?

The absurdity that Camus combed for meaning goes round and comes around. It might just signal civilization's impending collapse, the failure of democratic politics degenerating into dictatorships and warrior states, before our civilization is wiped out by climate change. Or we can reject the absurdity, clean up our act, and ditch practices proven destructive.

There’s the paradox of the Tolerant Society, that to survive must reject the few among them who would destroy it from within. This rejection is of course a necessary act of intolerance, which reminds us that survival is a struggle and we must adapt to constant change. The deconstruction of contemporary art these last four decades left the philosophy of art in ruins, like an old broken temple where under a full moon sky we see how vines crept up the marble columns, now that there’s no caretaker to hold back the jungle.

The rejection of traditional standards and praise for Dadaist values may have been a historical force to break up tradition and open the gates, but it’s mission statement have been accomplished and the gates are open, the stone walls pulled down, the castle is in ruins. It sounds like the pendulum should swing the other way. .

June 7, 2019

55-Art and Soul

Miklos legrady paintings
Miklos Legrady, 29" x 36" - 73.66cm x 91.44cm, acrylic on cardboard, November 22, 2015.

Anna Lovatt writes for the Tate Papers "that drawing emerged as a key strategy precisely because it problematized notions of autonomy, materiality and medium-specificity." Lovatt said Sol LeWitt refuted the modernist conception of ‘the medium’ as an autonomous entity, foregrounding instead its relational and communicative potential and Canadian Art magazine recently issued a call for articles on painting as a problematic medium that's oppressive, shady, and undesirable.

Postmodernism met these accusations of painting with the counter-aesthetic mode, which rejected all tradition. Aesthetics are a series of judgmental functions, an evolutionary development of subtle feelings on the instinctive spectrum of like and dislike. Denying tradition by acting opposite was surely liberating, however it does ignore the need such traditions evolved to meet.

In 1918 the Soviet Republic abolished money, in the 1960s the Western art world denied the past by promoting the counter-aesthetic. Both attempts failed from superficiality, a lack of depth in considering the issue. There was nothing problematic in an artist's autonomy, except for Walter Benjamin who as a Marxist said the only genuine art is that made by a worker's committee. Today there's nothing problematic about materiality and medium-specificity, except for revolutionaries making dramatic statements that fail in understanding. In fact, a top curator recently wrote that no one knows what art is anymore.

Autonomy means the individual artist. Material and medium are the tools an artist uses in their work. Experience with their material gives the artist mastery, an uncommon skill in shaping their work. An artist's work is our highest achievements, as in the art of music or the art of medicine.

The supposed problems of postmodernism are self-made and artificial, born of publish or perish scenarios. When modernism's notion of the medium as an autonomous entity is rejected to focus on relational and communication potential, one is simply following Walter Benjamin who said the only valid form is political art. No artist would say that, only a writer. Relations and communication are political actions as they are social, between people. But there’s another communication that occurs between consciousness and the unconscious mind, and this one better explains the nature of art since the dawn of time.

Benjamin and his followers insist art is social messaging, but they're stuck at the most superficial understanding of art, one dictated by Marxism, art as social realism. When Marxism denied religion, the human soul, eternal values and mystery, they also shut the door on an understanding of the subconscious mind that spoke to consciousness through spiritual expression.

Political art can only be propaganda. In fact the knowing of art is between the unconscious mind and consciousness, and this communication, this speech, occurs through the transformation of materials as media for the artist’s work. The making of art is then an urge to excellence that comes from within, and an urge to shape the world of matter according to feelings and ideas that emerge into consciousness. This communication we speak of in art is then primarily between the artist and their unconscious mind, their soul. Communicating to others, the social element, is an afterthought.

1-Anna Lovatt, Tate Papers, Ideas in Transmission: LeWitt’s Wall Drawings and the Question of Medium.

June 09, 2019

56-A Gap in Art History

Miklos legrady paintings

Ten, twelve years ago I started re-reading art history and was shocked at the gap between what we've been taught and what the artists themselves said. Which reveals cracks and fractures among the academics. I thought perhaps the creative and intuitive flow by which artists worked was something unknown to intellectuals, and so when academia took over the teaching of fine art back maybe 60 years ago, the mindset they taught destroyed the integrity of traditional art making with an emphasis on non-verbal languages. So that today as the marketing grows ever more sophisticated, the art work looks more like an illustration of art theory and less like a powerful work of inspiration. 

June 10, 2019

57-A Cult of Fakery

Aeon, Roger Scrutton

In Canada, our highest paid artists are people who cut pictures out of art books, supported by top tier curators who say that's so shocking it must be art.Many of our art magazines are loaded with nonsense while denying their own vested interests, for example aiming for the Politically Correct mantle by pretending the unfairly oppressed yet morally superior street kids and the local poor would never tell a lie. Not only have fakes taken over, but they fight to maintain their posts; Kim Fullerton has banned me from Akimbo to protect her friends whom my articles expose, so I'm forced to publish through Chicago. It's certain we're stuck with fake art, fake artists, and fake curators for at least the next decade; the corruption has permeated the system and is upheld by these veryt same curators and art magazines.

June 11, 2019

58-Subverting conventions

Miklos Legrady, High Park Duck, Toronto, June 10,  2919
Miklos Legrady, High Park Duck, Toronto, June 10, 2919

Just saw a promo for a photographer who "subverts the conventions of portraiture. He inserts himself as the subject of his images, performing multiple fictional personas for the camera." But wait. There's nothing subversive about selfies, that's so bogus. And what is this pretence of being subversive? What is so terrible and tyrannical about photography or portraiture, that it must be subverted?

Who would want to undermine the power and authority of an established system or institution that's providing this artist with an exhibition, and the artist’s all in favor, not objecting nor undermining the process. Some have said they're disgusted with this disingenuous lying that goes on in art, this pretence of being rebellious and subversive, where in reality they're working hand in glove with the system because it’s logical to do so and there’s nothing wrong with that.

The rebellion myth, think Russian revolution, is that our culture must be overthrown. Where did such stupid myths start and when will they stop? The art world can be just as fake as an American president.

June 12, 2019

59-Non Art

Miklos Legrady, painting
18" x 24" - 45.72cm x 60.96cm - acrylic on canvas, May 27, 2018

The excitement of postmodernity was in dismantling the language of art, reducing art to its bare constituents and then to a negation where nothing’s left but the concept. This was supposed to reveal the ur-impulse of creative work; by denying and discarding it, postmodernism would uncover the very essence and meaning of art. Unfortunately this ambitious program was more like kids tearing the wings off flies; once you reach non-art, you have no art.

The demand is driven by an evolutionary biology, where art is crucial for personal and cultural development. Once we discard standards and lack a definition of what we do, then fakes and charlatans rise to the top, especially when art is anything you can get away with. In that case the worse you can get away with is always the best strategy, leading to a steady degradation of the field. There are exceptions; talented visionaries who'd produce works of genius under any circumstance, but they are rare.

More common was an art made according to academic theories. Art became an illustration of what it was supposed to be according to the critical theory of the seminar room. When art is an illustration of itself then it is no longer art, it’s a sign. An illustration passing as an original is a fake. Thus arrived the fake artists, who understand intellectually what is debated in critical theory, but these intellectuals, had no clue about non-verbal languages, intuition, feelings, sensations, inspiration, and the creative unconscious.

June 22, 2019

60-Body Language

Miklos Legrady, painting
24" x 30" - 60.96cm x 76.2cm, acrylic on cardboard, November 30, 2015.

What we discover is that in a work of art the idea is the least important part. Think of Albert Mehrabian’s 7%-rule on the relative impact of words in a conversation, compared to the subliminal messages encoded in tone of voice and body language. In art then the idea is likely worth 7% of content and the most important parts are non-verbal; the subliminal codes of sensations and feelings embedded in the making, the mindset, the execution, the effort, the statement the work makes, a judgment and performance of ourselves and our culture.

Therefore it’s time to raise the bar on clever art or intellectual works that need an explanation. We now have enough info on non-verbal cues in works of art to see that they form a language, it's always been the language of art. An aural language in music, body language in dance, a visual language where a picture is worth a thousand words. Art has a living biological function reaching back to the dawn of time, and that function speaks in non-verbal languages, to complement intellectual thinking. When we make art intellectual, we reduce it to 7% of what's possible. It's time to focus on the non-verbal in art, because the art process is distinct from intellectual functions.

That's what we learned when Duchamp made art intellectual and got bored, stopped making art, spent the next twenty years playing chess. Of course if that's your dream or goal then by all means…

June 22, 2019

61-Semiotic Codes

Miklos Legrady, painting
18" x 24" - 45.72cm x 60.96cm - acrylic on canvas

Part of my writing embedded in these essays is the concept of art containing a semiotic code of values which explains the culture that produced them. When art is “anything you can get away with” and “no one knows what art is anymore”, those statements are moral values about who we are and what we do.

Some years back I found myself digging through art history, surprised at major contradictions between historical documents and academic interpretations, equally surprised no one corrects canonical artists even when their ideas are obviously unsound. What does this say about art theory and those artists whose ideas were seminal to postmodernism?

Today we draw on readily available sciences such as anthropology, sociology, and psychology to correct their mistakes. We need to revise and update our history books - we cannot keep grounding art theory on fallacies, errors, misunderstandings, and confused arguments.

June 26, 2019

62-Information Theory

Miklos Legrady, painting
18" x 24" - 45.72cm x 60.96cm - acrylic on canvas

In 1948, Claude Shannon, of Bell Telephone Laboratories, published two papers on a system known as Information Theory. In his 1948 paper, Shannon proved that noise or haphazard disorder contained a message. Most interesting of all Shannon’s math equations for information were identical to the equations devised n the Victorian era to explain entropy. The equation was a mathematical expression of the tendency of all things to become less orderly, suggesting that chaos is the destiny of all things.(1)

Information theory brought about a revitalization of the concepts of creating form, “in-formation”, a causative force or pattern that organizes entropy. It’s telling that five years after Shannon’s work came the discovery of DNA by Watson, Crick, Wilkins, and Franklin at Cavendish Laboratories. The something that exists in the middle of noise, that operates even in entropy, is information, a universal formative pattern which directs how any process executes its function.

Information can be wrong, mistaken, faulty, and when this occurs its processes are illogical. As Jeremy Campbell wrote, "since all things in the world have atendency to become entropic, disorderly, their random deviations from order must be corrected continually.

In the arts this occurs when Jerry Saltz says that “artists are de-skilling like crazy” and Benjamin Buchloh says that skill is not required in art. A reality check will answers Jerry Saltz that no amount of de-skilling will bring about the golden age of the simple mind, when those lacking experience do better work than a professional. Buchloh need to brush up his etymology because the word art means skill; the art of cuisine, the art of conversation.

Information theory tells us that information can be wrong, right, or both, and needs constant reality checks. The art world seems to have neglected these lessons and it is now time that we verify our assumptions, instead of accepting the lazy thinking earlier generations passed down to us.

1-Jeremy Campbell, Grammatical Man, p18-19, Colin and Campbell 1982.

June 27, 2019


Miklos Legrady, painting
Miklos Legrady, 60" x 72" - 152.4cm x 182.88cm, acrylic on canvas, June 30, 2019

Perhaps postmodernism ads a degree of complexity to the way we think about art. Where modernism was all about proficiency, postmodernism added irony and contradiction, in line with the dual nature of life. . So here's this painting with a beautiful abstract pattern, yet it needed an intellectual or conceptual aspect to make it exciting, which meant adding the spoon. A spoon just doesn't belong here. It's that level of contradiction that makes things interesting. it's an applied philosophy; we're mapping the evolution of visual language by the change in style as time goes by.

June 27, 2019

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