Art Market Blog – I’d Buy the Book but Not the Art
I attended an exhibition a few weeks ago of works by the Scottish artist Callum Innes which I decided to view while at a gallery for another exhibition and I have to say that the it was one of the most disappointing exhibitions that I have ever been to. Upon entering the gallery space I was confronted with a bunch of barren and empty paintings that left me feeling completely unsatisfied, and worst of all, indifferent.
The technique that Innes uses to create his work involves the repeated application and removal of paint from the canvas to achieve what Innes describes as “a crucial moment when the whole surface starts to move and flow”. Innes work is supposedly more about the process and the journey of creation than the finished product which is fine if the finished product reflects the process and journey in some way, which these works just didn’t seem to do.
Innes says that he wants ambiguity in his work but I think that in the case of the works that I saw Innes’ apparent attempt at deliberate ambiguity could well be mistaken for confusion and directionless blundering. One of the things that bothered me most about this exhibition was that some of the works on show closely resembled a range of mass produced decorative stretched canvases that I have seen for at a local home wares store which is a connection that I just can’t ignore. If I have made this connection then undoubtedly others have too.
Having turned to the exhibition brochure in an attempt to salvage something meaningful from the show I was disappointed again not by what Innes had written but by the fact that it didn’t really complement his work or make anything clearer.
The only thing I did enjoy about the show was the artist’s essay about his work which was very interesting, enjoyable and intriguing. Shame his art wasn’t. I just don’t see Innes’ work surviving the test of time primarily because many of his works seem to have nothing to offer beyond the decorative.
In a nutshell, if Callum Innes ever write a book I will be first in line to buy a copy but I would certainly not be buying his art.
Image above: from ‘Exposed’ series by Callum Innes
**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.