Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Collaboration with Wijnand Steemers

Poems inspired by the photographs in Classic Mode: A Reverie
 by Gregg Simpson, New Arcadia Publishing, Vancouver, 2008

Translated from the original Dutch by the author

Not in a lotus position on the carpet at home, not

in a buddhist monastery or during a yoga session, not

on a bank with a view at a park or sea, not

in the seventh heaven of a long-lasting orgasm, not

at the toilet or at the dentist's waitingroom reading magazines, not

to the roadside to take a rest from a long drive, not

during the reading of a good poem, nor this one, not

at the back of the ship of the desert, not

on a air bed, bobbing up and down an austrian lake, not

certainly not, perhaps, no, maybe, not at all, not

after the silence of a lost football match, not

standing before these solemn pillars, no, probably not

but in our improperly long-lasting stare at this stone globe, oh yes

when the gods had stopped to play at marbles

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Critical Writing
Harold Rosenberg
(From Criticism and its Premises)

        In art, the prime history-makers are painters and sculptors.  As indicated earlier , there are writers and cultural commissars who wish to appropriate this privilege of the artist and to use him as an instrument for their own art-history-making.  The result is a new kind of conflict - between the artist and the professional representatives of his public.

Art criticism today is beset by art historians turned inside out to function as prophets of so-called inevitable trends.  A determinism similar to that projected into the evolution of past styles is clamped upon art in the making.  In this parody of art history, value judgments are deduced from a presumed logic of development, and an ultimatum is issued to artists either to accommodate themselves to these values or be banned from the art of the future. An aesthetician founded on art history wields a club of dogma similar to moralistic criticism in the nineteenth century or political criticism in the Soviet Union.

Dead art movements are the normal life of art; all that can be expected of them is good painting. 

In regard to creation there is nothing to indicate that a new art movement has any advantage over an obsolete one; the contrary may well be the case.

After 1972 anyone could be an artist, except, perhaps, painters and sculptors.

No degree of dullness can safeguard a work against the determination of critics to find it fascinating.

Rosenberg on Museums and their Acquisition Policies:

        Moreover, its new position of power led the museum to develop its own version of bureaucratic corruption: favoritism in buying and showing, falsification of recent art history, using museum prestige to enhance investments by trustees, secret deals in the acquisition and sale of  museum properties.

Edwin Varney
(From Preview Magazine, Feb./Mar.,1998)

Curators and critics of the late 20th century have dominated  the visual arts - intimidating, contaminating and corrupting artists who want to play the game and ignoring and deprecating those who won't.  Beauty has become an ugly word. In the process the public has become alienated by effete, elitist, theoretical, and academic versions of what art should be. Meanwhile the best artists starve while the  curators and academics get fat and advance their own careers.

Geoff Chris Olson (Vancouver Courier)

Greg Felton
(from the Courier,Vancouver, October 10, 1999)

        We are told to accept non-art as art because our obsessively democratic culture is too craven  to acknowledge that artistic standards should exist. Art is whatever an artist says it is, whether that be a Renaissance fresco or hasenpfeffer al fresco. Anyone who dares challenge this nihilistic dogma is anathematized as √©litist, yet art is inherently an √©litist enterprise.
I recognize that artists  must seek new means of expression to remain vibrant and relevant, and that censoring bad art will  only make matters worse, but the bar of what is classified as art has been lowered so much that anything, no matter how moving or mindless, is treated equally. The fault lies less with these "artists" than with the politically motivated ignoramuses who allow such work to be funded.

Vincent Van Gogh

 The buying and selling of art is nothing more than organized robbery.

William Baziotes
 From The Artist and His Mirror
    When the demagogues of art call on you to make the good art, the intelligible art, the social art, spit down on them and go back to your dreams, your mirror and the World.

Edgar Degas
I think literature has only done harm to art.

Matthew Collings
from Art of the Moment (Modern Painters, Autumn, 1995) :
From a review of the Rites of Passage exhibition at the Tate Gallery, London
        The exhibition is all doomy and deathly and obscure.  It's not for normal people. It's for the artworld.  ...Usually I flit amongst the artists who do the more jokey and ironic type of exhibition... But this one doesn't beat around the bush with japes and cleverness and banality, like Jeff Koons, but just goes straight for death and the body and sickness and millennial fears.
        Probably to normal people the smirky art and the death art are all the same old onions, and, if so, I kind of know what they mean. But anyway King Death is Joseph Beuys and Queen Death is Louise Bourgeois. King Smirky is Jeff Koons and Prince Smirky is Damien Hirst.  So this is definitely a Beuys and Bourgois type show.  Long faces all round.

Pablo Picasso
Quoted by Herbert Read
        ...mathematics, trigonometry, chemistry, psychoanalysis, music and whatnot, have been related to Cubism to give it an easier interpretation. All this has been pure literature, not to say nonsense, which brought bad results, blinding people with theories.

Pierre-August Renoir
(as quoted by Cezanne to Ambroise Vollard)
        Renoir once said to me: They think we are nothing but makers of theories- we whose only object, like the old masters, is to paint with clear and joyous colours. These literary people will never understand that painting is first of all a craft, that the material side of it comes first.

Robert Motherwell (from a 1944 lecture)

Criticism moves in a false direction, as does art, when it aspires to be a social science.

Alex Gregory, New Yorker Magazine

Man Ray
From The American Masters Documentary Film
        I am an old man now. In sixty years you can do a lot of work. I  did a lot of things in sixty years, my paintings, my photography, my objects. I change all the time.  I have periods where I do one thing, then for a few years do something else.
        I am a free man.  I do not work for a padrone, or a boss. I am indifferent to things  that do not interest me. But never would I attack them. Especially in the creative arts. Because I say anybody who does creative art is a sacred person. I do not care what he does. Whether he paints academic pictures, or he is modern, or different from anything else. He cannot do any harm. Whereas a bad politician, or a bad doctor, or a bad cook can kill you!"

Donald Judd
(from an essay in  Art in America, 1984)
        The elaboration of the term ‘post-modern’ is not due to real change but is due to naked fashion and the need to cover it with words.

Bridget Riley
A woman artist needs feminism like a hole in the head.

Sandro Chia (from Flash Art, Trevi, Italy)

        The transavantgarde means nothing to me, signifies nothing, just as neo-expressionism signifies nothing.

Waldemar Januszczak
London Sunday Times
        Thaw appears to be a typical rich American Europhile, whose collecting taste has an undertow of fierce disillusion with the modern world. I know this because the catalogue features a marvelously haughty interview in which he frequently interrupts his own display of high connoisseurship to take a pop at modern life. "In a period of declining standards, its staff has maintained the old ways of scholarship, and I believe in that," says Thaw of the Morgan Library. "In the current age people are looking forward to museums with nothing in them except television monitors where you can dial the Louvre and get some kind of holograph," he opines, casually, of the electronic revolution.

 Dr. W. Grampp
Prof. of Economics at the U. of Chicago
 from Pricing the Priceless (1989)

        Because museum, arts councils, art service organisations, and even some artists are subsidized, their reasons for negotiating/dealing with each other are often difficult to divine.  In his chapter on art museums, a fictitious cultural worker admits: I don't know for sure what I'm supposed to be doing and if I did I would have no way of being sure I was doing it -- but I would like to go on doing what I'm doing, whatever that is, and I ask you to give me the money I need to do it. 

Jose Pierre
from Surrealism1979
        Today it is a fact that the art market has placed itself almost to a man under the flag of a dominant ideology….  American Minimal Art, and its paler European imitations, only accord favour to painting which is only painting, that is to say that which forbids any modulation, vibration, emotion, form, any manifestation of the sensitive and even more of the unconscious and of myth.  This admirable conjugation of puritan iconoclasm, of neo-positivist empiricism and of Wall Street is sometimes - like the olive in a dry martini- accompanied by a pinch of Maoist ideology.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Regarding the new book and Facebook Community, Vancouver Vanishes, I have to say it reminds me of the Modernist heritage battle I was part of in the early 1990's over the fate of the Main Branch Library, a silver Governor General's award winning building designed by Semmens and Simpson in 1957.

It's not that different an issue in the sense that the old character homes being leveled for the uber rich are the victims of the same old gang: greedy developers, super wealthy buyers who care nothing for Vancouver's history and may not even live in these giant houses, plus weasel politicians who dance to their tune.

Like Caroline Adderson, co-author of  both the book, Vancouver Vanishes and the Facebook Community of the same name, I believe whether it's character homes from the early 20th Century or the mid-century West Coast Modernism of my father's generation, we need a collective roar of disapproval from Vancouver's caring citizens.

This never came in the Library issue because at that time Modernism was the enemy. One wag wrote to the Georgia Straight calling that building "evil, phallic Modernism", despite the actual shape of the place. I blame many academics for fostering this ignorant attitude by systematically, and with the apparent blessing of so-called Post Modernist critics, laying at the feet of this movement all the ills of western society.

Doubtless they would say these early houses now being destroyed are relics of colonial and eurocentric thinking and are better off gone. Like the architect of the new library, Moshe Safdie, who called the attempts to save the old library nothing but sentimentality, we are again being over run by a cabal who cares nothing for Vancouver  history, short as it is, who will remind us that, like the old Main Branch VPL, these structures are not worth saving. 

I urge everyone to write Vancouver City Council and join with Caroline in her efforts to save our heritage: https://www.facebook.com/VancouverVanishes/

Monday, July 13, 2015

Let in the Infinite?
Text by Paul McRandle
Collages by Gregg Simpson

Let in the infinite? What a racket it makes tumbling from the closet like a host of clown-shaped sponges rising in a water jug. The infinite is a porpoise trained by the CIA to attach listening devices and strange boring mechanisms that harvest the words onboard along with every noise—forever. So there isn’t to be more said than what might occur in the hull of a Russian trawler. 

I’m sitting on shore sucking a lozenge, pondering the shapes in the waves, the shadows of the surf, rocks, subtle things fleeing out to the horizon. It’s my way of garnering some bit of the world in this hideous present. The sea is a vast personality. A twisting, confused melange of impulses at war with itself and the world on every scale—diatoms having it out with flagella, carcids rising from sandy pits to pinch off angelfish fins, mankind scouting about above like children rubbing their butts against asphalt, dragging their deep-weighted prisons.

 It’s a numberless volume of death, energy, chaos, night, and we can do little more than watch its light from the shoreline flashing up towards the infinite from the skin of that denser infinite beneath.

A Phony War
Text by Paul McRandle
Collages by Gregg Simpson

 A phony war plagued the Balkans for the off-seasons of three consecutive decades. Generals babbled on television screens to the populace about necessary sacrifices to avoid the devastating consequences of an unjust peace. For Shlomo, it was a weary day when he finally had to pack up his family and move to a place in which he might be able to read a newspaper without unattributed sources speculating on the necessity of continued attacks. He found a roadster with a roof rack and attached a wide trailer to a new hitch.

With these he was able to pack a lifetime’s collection of pewter figurines, ewers, world atlases, and a range of pot plants from the exquisitely hued to the shockingly poisonous. His children rode in the trailer, playing cards on an old canasta table and inviting passersby to gamble with them. His wife drove and he consulted atlases at random to lead them across the continents in search of an intelligible realm. 

The passage over the Rhine into Austria involved acts of bribery he would have shunned in previous days. The guards were the usual sadists and Shlomo’s display of tears and hat-wringing, an act he’d practiced before in dealing with this border, proved insufficiently degrading.

 He was asked to unhitch the trailer and de-articulate the transmission of his roadster to demonstrate neither contained a bomb. When that had been done, they impounded the roadster anyway and Shlomo understood that it was the only bargaining chip he had. He left pulling the trailer, a roadster short, while wife and kids alternately heckled him and played canasta. 

What kind of a life had he let himself in for? He took counsel on occasion from his wise namesake, but as he trod the bitter miles he found himself increasingly bereft of uplift. He never had these kinds of problems. What kind of advice could a guy like him give a Balkan refugee? Shlomo shuddered on, feet plunging into the muck of the road until he’d sunk to the shins and then the knees.

He urged his family to climb out and help him, but they rigged a sail and set off across the mire sea without him, waving and wishing him well as they dwindled in the distance. 

He was truly encased, couldn’t move a toe, and felt vermin crawling about his calves. With some internal tugging, however he found that very gradually he could slough off his external husk, pulling himself up through aged skin and disposable organs until he managed to climb out his own mouth—happily he didn’t get turned around—and land with a splash naked on the ground. 

His new form had pleasing adaptations. He possessed a large and daunting third ear in the middle of his back and his eyes could be removed and relocated to sockets scattered across his body. He possessed a spare brain in a bucket, which would do him some good so long as he held onto it. His feet had long growths jutting forward from the toes like two ski-tips, allowing him to glide across the muck with grace. This wasn’t the body he wanted, but it wasn’t the world he wanted either. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


Exhibition: UBC Fine Arts Gallery 1971

bill bissett, Christos Dikeakos, Gilles Foisy, Gary Lee Nova
Al Neil, Terry Reid, Gregg Simpson, Ed Varney, davis uu, Jeff Wall, Ian Wallace,
Michael Morris and Vincent Trasov.

Review by Richard Simmins in the Vancouver Sun

A little known fact about today's so-called Vancouver School of photo-based conceptualism is that the original exhibition at UBC, which used this term first, also included several other artists who were not part of any academic coterie. This was a time when the battle lines hadn't yet been drawn between the different groups in Vancouver's developing avant garde art scene, which led Vancouver Province reviewer,
Joan Lowndes, to write: "As though through some time-warp surrealism has returned, along with alchemical visions, pop, eroticism, political satire and protest in the free-wheeling spirit of the West Coast".

What is amazing is that five of the six artists in the Canadian West Coast Hermetics exhibition, which was also launched from the UBC Fine Arts Gallery to tour Europe and eastern Canada in 1973-'74, were also in this show. However, following the mid-1970's the photo-conceptualists in this exhibition began an un-precedented, but well documented, collusion with the Vancouver Art Gallery to promote the idea that theirs was the only artistic movement that Vancouver would be known for. Protests over this were met with threats of defamation lawsuits.

With a dismissive attitude, they advocated exluding all traces of West Coast Surrealism from not only the VAG' s collection, but any further exhibitions, discussions, historical surveys, or publications at the gallery in the future. Serious critical  attention did keep coming for the surrealists in the exhibition, but it was almost all from Ontario, or Quebec, and even more so from Europe and Latin America.

Thus the "free-wheeling spirit of the West Coast" demonstrated in this exhibition in 1971 was buried in the mid-1970's by an unprecedented cronyism, characterised by a desire to keep out any other group of artists with a different philosophy from the inner circle of the Vancouver art scene. 
The main point is that by using a publically funded gallery for the sole advancement of their own careers, the so-called Vancouver School of today made a once open minded public gallery into their private club with no inclination to return to the 'free wheeling spirit of the West Coast."

One can only surmise what things would have been like if fairness and objectivity had prevailed instead.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

I can recommend the Rouges-en-Verts Atelier and Gallery as a great place to get some serious painting done. During April and May of 2013 I produced fifteen canvases and numerous works on paper. Art Materials are available in nearby Alencon, or at the Bricollage in l'Aigle, where you can catch a train to Paris.

The series is called Perche Mode and it reflects the light of this beautiful region of Normandy.

The studio where I completed a group of work begun in 2012 and the spacious gallery where
I exhibited both paintings and works on paper from 2008-2013.