A new exhibition at the Ink_d gallery in Brighton promises a “selection of British artists who work in traditional methods but with a subversive nature and walk the fine line between craft and fine art.” I went along to the private view last night to see what kind incendiary material was on offer.
I suppose if you think the Iraq war was an unmitigated success and that fellatio is the epitome of decadence, then you might be irreversibly scandalized. Call me uncouth, but I found the show less shocking than Lady Gaga’s new video.
The first item I was confronted with was a vase by Dan Baldwin bearing the legend ‘Fuck Religion’. I ventured upstairs where a brass plaque by Lori Bell aka Lady Muck informed me that ‘Bankers are Wankers’. Within a matter of minutes I had absorbed two messages akin to the shocking information that Paris is the capital of France.
In the upstairs front room the Lichtensteinesque depictions of oral sex created by Carrie Reichardt aka The Baroness (what’s with all the aliases btw?) struck me as witty on first encounter, tedious on the second – like an acquaintance who insists on repeating the same salacious joke. And Nick Reynolds’ piggy banks have no place at all in this supposedly anarchistic company – they are irredeemably cute.
The point is that setting out to shock is a shaky strategy for the modern artist. We’ve seen Jeff Koons bring porn into the public gallery. Julian Schnabel’s numbskull plate paintings tested our patience ten years ago. Artists can’t go on provoking gasps with the same old routines. I guess a truly subversive artist would suggest that bankers are martyrs and that Jesus saves.
One artist of true power in the Ink_d show is Paul Scott. His Cumbrian Blues series features bucolic scenes which on closer inspection reveal unsettling significance. They are subtle and satisfying and they prove that the quietest voice often speaks with the most authority.