some secrets revealed

these are the four small postcard paintings that i submitted to the recent rca secret exhibition at the royal college of art…

they were not signed on the front, nor do they have any titles…

other than the ubiquitous roman numerals…

untitled i, ii, iii and iv, 2010

if any environmental influence were needed for these four abstracts then maybe these four photographs might suffice to illustrate (i am now recycling some of my blog images since a quick delve into the image folder revealed over 1500 used on this blog so far!)

lake, early morning

winter field in fog

a long view of the fens

stubble field with frost

i received an email this week from someone who had bought one of my secret postcards at the aforementioned rca exhibition, which was nice – but i wonder who might have bought the others..? since the exhibition was a ’secret’ the works were displayed in a random order, so my postcards would not have been displayed together. you can view all 2800 postcards on the rca secret website, with the artists’ names now revealed. i’ve been having another browse through the secret archive…

who’d have guessed this was a genuine Grayson Perry?

[grayson perry, rca secret postcard, 2010]

i wonder which artist grayson perry could possibly be referring to, with the big, vaguely spiritual shiny sculpture..? hmm, could it be..? the room filled with people reading text panels made me chuckle, a rather laborious task which seems to be a prerequisite at any curated exhibition, because we must first know and then we can fully appreciate the art in context… and what of the never-heard-of artist in the isolated project space..? those sparsely occupied white cubicles where the art is often presented in the minimalist manner of a forensic investigation – collections of things in cabinets, suspended in space or more fugitive offerings on the floor, or perhaps a projected video playing on a loop – but it’ll be too dark to read the text panel… we have all been there

perhaps this all hints at perry’s cynicism towards much contemporary art – that of spectacle and performance. grayson perry is a british artist whose work reveals (firstly in ceramics but more recently in textiles and printmaking) with a wry hogarthian eye, the cultural & social issues of our times. his work also graciously acknowledges many historical, narrative influences – one can see elements of european folk art, medieval paintings, classical greek, egyptian, chinese or japanese art. with a dash of dark comedy thrown into the creative pot he provides us with a thought-provoking visual commentary on contemporary life, from war to shopping.

i first saw his ceramic vases at the 2003 turner prize exhibition at tate britain and instantly knew he would win – and he did! he successfully married beautiful craftsmanship with thought-provoking and often shocking social narratives. i like that his ‘pots’ (as he still humbly calls them) bear the hallmarks of being handcrafted, ever so slightly irregular in the tradition of coiled pots – it seems unthinkable that he would use studio assistants, unlike the other brit artists of his generation. he still manages to assume the role of a roguish outsider and yet he is fast becoming something of national celebrity, in the mould of stephen fry or michael palin – entertaining and enlightening us in equal measure, but many are not happy that such ‘celebrities’ travel the world at our expense – but aren’t they missing the point? i think that perry is one of the most engaging & intelligent artists working in the uk.

[tracey emin, rca secret postcard, 2010]

tracey emin’s postcards were, in contrast and rather predictably so, showing emin’s scratchy poetic words and spontaneous doodlings, so much so that i thought they must be fakes, another artist or a student having a joke, in light of the recent news report of emin fakes for sale on ebay… emin thought the fakes were very poor quality and too ’sentimental’ to be ‘true’ emin’s – i guess she’s the best judge, but ’sentiment’ seems to be innate her style, the work often looking quite weak out of context…

emin is quite a contradiction in that she needs to ‘confess’ her feelings and yet derides the public response that it causes – does she want our pity, our love or just our respect? she comes across being very in control of her emotions and what they project (some might even say manipulative), but exhibiting just enough angst or vulnerability to be mildly intriguing. her best work is undoubtedly the appliquéd textile pieces, perhaps because they appear less sentimental, but with the so-called ‘drawings’ or monoprints i am left wondering just what the big secret is…

it is interesting to compare perry with emin – it’s no secret that both had troubled childhoods which has undoubtedly been a factor in their art, but it seems some artists create a ‘confessional’ type art as a method of personal psychoanalysis much better than others…

thinking about perry & emin also reminds me that it’s drawing close to the time when the current year’s turner prize winner will be revealed to the nation. the turner prize, if anyone needs reminding, is an annual art prize which is awarded to ‘a British artist under fifty for an outstanding exhibition or other presentation of their work in the twelve months preceding‘. in 1999 the shortlist included tracey emin, the exhibition featuring emin’s ‘my bed’ – a true mess of an installation which still ignites controversy in art circles. emin herself has since said she (or the work) was probably nominated to add a flurry of media interest. the remade ‘unmade bed’ definitely drew some attention, most spectacularly from a pair of chinese performance artists. emin didn’t win the prize that year, but the exhibition did inspire the alternative and rather ridiculous turnip prize (mentioned previously here), where any artwork can be entered so long as it’s rubbish… you can view some of the current turnip prize entries on their facebook page

sometimes rubbish can be art, but that’s another story…


  1. Posted November 29, 2010 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    hi there – thanks for writing that. I enjoyed reading it. Totally agree with you about Grayson Perry.

  2. Jazz
    Posted December 10, 2010 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    thank you for leaving a comment and for being a champion of the rca secret…

  3. charlie
    Posted December 20, 2010 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    grayson i love you lol!