January 3, 2010
The word ‘faux’ is French; in that language it means simply ‘fake’, ‘false’ and even, ‘forgery’. But we have co-opted it for our own use in English to mean something quite different. For starters, anything we substitute a French word or phrase for is supposed to infer that it is somehow more sophisticated, more urbane. We stoop to using such catchy phrases as “Je ne sais quoi…”, meaning, of course, a certain something we just can’t put our finger on, but which is a mysterious and sort of nice unknown. In French it simply means, “I don’t know what…”. Another favorite is, “raison d’être”, meaning simply ‘reason for being’. But, one just sounds so much more knowing and wise when this comes out of their mouth, especially when it’s imbued with a ‘faux’ French accent. Using such coy phrases has also come to imply sophistication on the part of the user, but more often it comes off as just kind of fey or pseudo-sophisticated.
It brings to my mind an image of someone smoking a cigarette in an ivory and silver cigarette holder, wearing a silk ascot and apricot linen sport-coat, hob-knobbing at a cocktail party in the Hamptons. Run from the room screaming…… So, why then is ‘faux’ eagerly accepted as indicating a kind of falseness and fakery that is positive?
I find this kind of coyness particularly distasteful when it is used in paintings. One of the worst forms it takes is that of proffering a level of supposed child-like innocence. In the painting seen here, Nigel Conway is not just telling us that he can paint like a child; he’s boldly inscribed an inane message across the bottom, in suitably childish letters, telling us that….in case we might miss his message. Maybe he’s just in intimate contact with his inner child. Right. Perhaps he’s hoping that we’ll view his work and get in touch with OURS. Oh, come on. I have this picture in my mind of him singing kindergarten rhymes as he merrily paints….and sitting down to a peanut-butter and banana sandwich with the crust carefully cut off, and a big glass of milk at lunchtime. Maybe he chases a kitty around his studio on his hands and knees, “C’mon Bootsey…I just wanna hold you.”
Bah, Humbug. The ‘innocence’ in his painting is contrived; it is anything but innocent. So, what is the point of this exercise in falseness? Are we supposed to be impressed by his mastery of kindergarten painting skills. Is it really more skillful to be sloppy and to act as if your powers of observation and motor skills have yet to be developed? No sale. If this were really done by a four year-old painter, then I would like it. Actually, I would think it was excellent. But, unless Nigel is a patient in some kind of institution, he is just making a mockery of innocence and the child’s pure vision of the world.
This is one more example of playing ‘the Game’. It has some of the “ugly is good” aspect, sloppy is skillful and, ultimately, there is a smidgen of the “…you won’t really get this” spice. Right on. I don’t want to get it. I don’t want to even have to look at it and I REALLY don’t want to be told that it is sophisticated, well-developed fine art.
Faux means ‘forgery’. Faking innocence is still a form of lying. And, with all the lying and fakery that is loose on the land….I am craving AUTHENTICITY. Nothing more, nothing less.
A little Beauty would be nice too.
December 23rd, 2011
I have received an anonymous e-mail that was supposedly written by Nigel Conway, the above referred to artist....or it could be some fan of his posing as Nigel....no way to really tell since this person is hiding behind anonymity. But, this writer--who ever he, or she, might be--insists that I remove the above image of a Conway painting, IMMEDIATELY and belittles those who would even read some negative criticism of such work as 'miserable'.
Well, whoever you are....grow the fuck up. If you paint, or make any kind of creative effort you are putting your work out there in the world, where some will hopefully love it and others may well dislike it. I happen to feel that it is long on guile and short on skill, making a statement that is beyond coy and just plain stupid. But, hey, that's just me. I am not condemning the artist, merely his output, so you need to put on your big-boy panties and deal with it.
I think it's great that you can make a living selling your work. So, do I, yes, a full-time painter like you. I know that what I paint will be accepted by some and rejected by others. It's just not that big a deal. In the end, it is you who must decide what you want to communicate to your audience, and you will have to look back from the end of your life and decide whether or not it was sincere and worthwhile. If you could be comfortable with that notion, then maybe you wouldn't feel so wobbly about having someone criticize it in a negative way. Putting yourself out there as a sensitive ego, taking whatever is said about your art as being a full-blown condemnation of you as a human being is just plain dysfunctional. You can do it if you want to, but you will suffer needlessly as a result.
I will not be taking the above image down, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it. It is legitimate criticism done by a lifelong artist who is making not a farthing off of doing so. It is wholly in the public domain and you need to realize that. Wouldn't it be a wonderful world if newspapers, magazines and blogs were only allowed to critique movies, books and art in a positive way? Anytime you didn't like what some big-shot printed in the New York Times, you could just call up the paper and tell them to print a retraction.