Brian Gibson: Real Art… Really?

Above image: Transient Graffiti on Bath Abbey (courtesy of

Brian Gibson: “It’s 2015 now and after recent events the world seems a lot more complex … so I’m heading back to the relative calm of late 2014. Like a lot of people over the festive break I got myself hooked into various forms of social media, reaching saturation point – bloated with meaningful and quirky distractions offering opinions on this that and the other, making me feel futile in the ever-expanding and absorbing world of news feeds and interesting information. I was, however, able to break away from such infectious technology and get back on track, find my bearings and find some time to make a little bit of artwork, engage in some art dialogue and do a bit of offline viewing, that is to say look at some art situated in the real world.

Image from the Transient Graffiti project

Image from the Transient Graffiti project

It was early December, when listening to the radio, I heard a series of broadcasts on Radio 4’s A Point of View by Philosopher Roger Scruton. Someone that I had not heard of but assumed he must be quite learned and well informed to get such a slot. He began with the subject of ‘fake art’ and, as I’ve had a number of conversations with people on the possibility of faking Outsider Art, I thought that this series would be interesting.

His intent from the start was to clear some ground between what he sees as ‘original art’ that is genuine, sincere and truthful, but difficult to achieve, and the much easier ‘fake art’ that appeals to many critics today. His ire was directed towards the slick world of Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst and the art market that supports them. Cries of the emperor’s new clothes ensued – easy targets, I thought, why mention them now? Ok, they may well represent a particular brand of slick and successful art that looks like a product rather than anything hand made but any real significance either of these two monoliths had in the art world was decades ago. But this high-end financial world is so alien to me and those I know, that I cannot think of a single person who really cares that much about this type of work or what these artists are up to. The likes of Koons and Hirst are really not that important in the world of art that I and many other creative people inhabit. Sure, they are incredibly wealthy but they are old news.

Image from Transient Graffiti project

Image from Transient Graffiti project

Next Scruton, in a sweeping gesture, guns for the faceless bureaucrats of the Arts Council who, he implies, fund only that which is unpopular with the public and is therefore arcane, excruciating and meaningless. I find this both insulting and a little disturbing as the Arts Council also funds a number of arts projects for historically marginalised communities who would remain hidden without their support. I have personally been involved in a number of projects, including Transient Grafitti, an animation created by Deaf Adults With Additional Needs, which was projected onto the face of Bath Abbey with additional artwork displayed inside Baths 44AD Gallery. A bringing together various organisations including Action On Hearing Loss and Suited and Booted Studios CLC, this project provided opportunities for a range of creative people to work with each other, developing ideas; going out into the community; being taken seriously; making it happen and showing it to the public who loved it. This would never have happened without their support. It does make me wonder what such an apparently erudite and influential thinker makes of Outsider art? Who knows? Despite listening to all three broadcasts I never get to find out. He does mention in his final broadcast that ‘real art’ (as opposed to ‘fake art’) has to have lasting appeal with three essential factors: beauty, form and redemption. I do not dispute the value of such qualities but they are not the only ingredients that make art real, tangible and meaningful. In the end I found his views quite narrow and patronising, the all-knowing expert dispensing his wisdom to the great unwashed telling us what real art is …really?”

Post by Brian Gibson


One thought on “Brian Gibson: Real Art… Really?

  1. Daniella Norton says:

    I really like his article on confessional art – In response to the idea of confessional art becoming like the ‘selfie’. I think we are missing something in dismissing the selfie, isn’t it about controlling our image, about creation with the most basic of materials? I think it’s a think to be celebrated and probably significant that it happens at a time of austerity – something a bit performative and theatrical about them, a reaction to a time of cutting the fun (austerity). Therefore, for people to allow themselves to confess, to post personal information and not expect much in return marks an expression of emotional freedom. It could be the beginning of a period of creativity and exploration, of people finding a relevant means of responding, which doesn’t require traditional art materials per se.

    xx D


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