Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Don't Plagiarize or Take On Loan...

The Loves of Shepherds (after 'Doublestar' by Tony Roberts) 2000
Oil on canvas, 219.5 x 336 cm (86.4 x 132.2 in)
Collection Nouvion-Rey
© Glenn Brown

Last month me and Wendy went to see the Glenn Brown Retrospective in Tate Liverpool, it is quite possibly the greatest body of work I have ever seen, either in real life or in books! Its sounds really fanboy of me to say that and to sit here rambling away about how amazing his painting is, but it is! If you don't believe me then go see for yourself, but get there early, we spent nearly 3 hours sat staring at the paintings, and if I could of stayed there forever I would of.
I liked Brown's work long before I saw the exhibition, having seen it in books about the Saatchi Collection way back on my Foundation year, but this was the first time I'd ever seen any in real life, it was the first room of the exhibition that impressed me the most, it contained the large "sci-fi" paintings [the above painting included] which are the paintings that caused Tabloid outrage when he received his Turner Prize nomination in 2000. The crux of the arguement against Browns work is the fact he uses found imagery within his work, often reproducing famous [and not so famous] paintings within his own, but changing them slightly - scale, colour, etc. The painting "The Love of the Shepards" is a personal favourite of mine, and after getting home and Googling a bit I found a brilliant article about it and the outrage it caused [www.plokta.com/plokta/issue22/art.htm] its very one-sided, but matches my opinion, so I'll use here to strenghten my arguement.
Most tabolids accussed Brown of plagiarism because 'The Love of the Shepards" 'copied' the cover of Sci-Fi novel "Double Star", which features a painting by Tony Roberts, they failed to realize that Brown had stated in his paintings title that it was inspired by Robert's cover.

"Double Star" cover featuring Tony Robert's painting

Brown himself has said that he feels its because he paints objects like Spaceships that his work is criticized, I've already used the quote in a previous post, about his belief that he would be taken ever so seriously if his paintings where completely abstract. The painting was derided as a mere copy, no mention was made of his faultless technique - done the old school way with actual paint and a brush! no computer trickery here! It was seen as a silly painting of a spaceship copied from someone else. However the article I found points out there is meaning - and room for "Intellectual Discourse". I'll let the quote do the talking:

"One recurring theme of the reportage on Brown's controversial picture was the title. "Why is it called The Loves of Shepherds?" asked the critics. They were mystified. But two minutes on the web gave me the answer. "The loves of shepherds" is a term of art describing pastorals—for example, the William Holman Hunt painting The Hireling Shepherd. Pastorals are lyrical and hyper-coloured. The scenes they depict are pure fantasy; far removed from the harsh life of real shepherds. Their purpose was to provide a brief respite from the grind of early industrial society. By titling his huge panorama The Loves of Shepherds 2000, Brown's clear implication is that science fiction books and movies provide the equivalent escape from our world. Similarly, nobody worked out that the choice of Double Star was deliberate. Although several writers suggested (much like Plokta correspondents) that it was a pleasing and accidental happenstance, Brown's work is layered with endless shades of meaning. I have no doubt that he chose to ape the cover of a book whose central motif is impersonation. In particular, Double Star asks many questions about the validity of copies, and of whether an impersonation can equal, or even surpass, the original".

But of course Sci-Fi is far too "Low Brow" to warrant any real discussion within the Art World, so Brown was really fighting a losing battle, but it's paid off he makes a living off his painting, and is a phenomental painter [a real one as well - he even still uses paint!] and now has a retrospective gained without giving in and conforming.
My favourite part of the article has to be Brown's own explanation of his Rembrant inspired painting "I Lost My Heart to a Starship Trooper":
"This small Flemish boy might well have loved SF [Science Fiction], but was never given the opportunity"
It's frightenly similar to reasons I've given in the past for my own work, so at least I know that its not been cocky its having confidence in yourself and your work, I guess if you don't defend it no-one will.
Glenn Brown has become my hero after seeing his work up close and reading his quotes. I want to be just like him when I grow up [ok, if I grow up].

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