Monday 4 June 2012

Isaac Nugent: A painting

When you’re dealing with figurative painting, there’s a neat way of telling how successful a painter is with his/her skills, and one part of it is done by looking at the hands of the figures. As you can see Isaac Nugent scores a 5 ¾ on the scale, which settles him nicely in the midfield of successful art pieces.
There are some other factors, however, which will deduct from this score - you might laugh at this notion of score counting, but it’s the official method of measuring an artist’s success in figurative painting. It has been taught at art schools for centuries now.
Lucien Freud for example scored a breathtaking 14 ½, Mark Rothko on the other hand still managed a surprising 2 ⅔ (mainly due to the lack of the colour pink or ‘caucasian flesh tone’ as we professionals call it).

But back to Isaac Nugent’s painting. As already stated the hands score Nugent a 5 ¾ (hands not hidden away in pockets, inside of one hand fully visible without separation of the digits, second hand cut off), but we have to make the following deductions:
- Fluorescent light bulb used instead of head (silly)
- Mob not fully recognisable as phallic substitution (disappointing)
- No boobs (predictable)

All in all the numbers add up to a round 3, which makes Nugent a better figurative painter than Mark Rothko.

Mark Rothko: Reclining nude in field of tulips, 1966

I think whilst it is clear that Nugent has a greater technical grasp of his material (paint, probably poster/powder, its a well known fact that oils take too long to dry) the emotional depth of his work also challenges that of Rothko.
 The emotional content of Rothko’s work is infamously simple roughly coming down to “I like her tits so I’m going to paint her” (see his famous piece below “Hey bitches let’s get high and talk about high modernism in the nude”). The motivation behind Nugent’s piece is fraught with far more troubling sexual desires.

This is perhaps most obvious in the confused use of mop in place of the phallus. Does Nugent want someone to have sex with or someone to clean? Does he want both? Is he simply cisgendering everything in sight? Or is it a radically masculinist statement? Is the use of the light bulb a nod to fan fiction about Minority Report? Googling “Monica is going to be murdered in the next four days and they don't know who will do it. John Anderton is assigned to protect her and forbidden emotions brew between them. set before the movie” doesn’t help.

Is Nugent Tom Cruise? Is he Brian Sewell? Is he both? Why haven’t I got dressed now? Where is the paracetamol? Why do I feel so ill? Was it something I ate? Why do I feel so cripplingly alone? Should I switch the lights on? What would it feel like to be loved? Are Pink Silk Sheets morally reprehensible but carnally desirable? Why do I even bother anymore you never listen to what say or do you? Overall I feel like this painting poses more questions (lots) than it answers (none).

I really do wish the painting could provide an answer, in whatever way possible, to communicate to us what it is we are seeing - I cannot bear to see JDA suffer from all the ambiguity. 
Surely there must be some way - maybe give it an appropriate title? Maybe label the objects in the painting? Like so:

Now I know that I’m far from being a figurative painter (I’m still stuck at pointilism), but I think my subtle additions are rather fetching, and will enable JDA to overcome his anxiety that this painting used to create in him. Assurance. That’s a word. It’s the word that abruptly appeared in this paragraph. Assurance. That’s what you feel. It’s the feeling that abruptly appeared in the painting after my addition of labels and arrows. Assurance. It’s also a great title for this piece.

First of all I’d like to just thank DJR for his excellent system. The room has stopped rocking and I feel a lot better. I’d like to see this extended to other paintings, sculptures, performance pieces and life itself. I call for a complete labelling of everything, of meta-labelling, of labelling of meta-labelling. Never mind blurring the boundaries between art and life let’s label them!

I  think labelling will help clarify the art world a great deal and believe that we should also have small signs explaining the art in greater detail so people know why this is art. Here of course it is very easy to tell that this is art because it is paint on a canvas which only gets done in art. Here are some more common types of art:
  1. Photographs on photo paper in a frame on a wall in a room that is white and only has photos in it.
  2. Really big things in public places with no clearly defined function
  3. Things that look like things but are not those things because they are copies of things
Obviously this is far from being a comprehensive list but this is definitely the way to go, a really big list of what is art. In Nugent’s defence he has gone some way to achieving this with his lovely written description of the piece. All the piece needs is clearer labelling. My suggestion to our errant artist would be to reprint the piece with DJR’s additions and exhibit it like that.

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