Monday, February 26, 2007
I went to the Renoir Landscapes exhibition at the National Gallery and suffered a panic attack. For some reason, I felt I was seeing him for the first time, without the gauze of prejudice and cliche - sunlight, nature, plein air, chocolate box, school trips, the French good life - through which the impressionists are usually seen. Seen thus, he is a very scary painter indeed. Even the critics, whose job should be to see without contemporary preconceptions, can't seem to push the gauze aside. This by Andrew Motion is fairly typical. Apparently learned, it is, in fact, no more than an anachronistic distillation of conventional contemporary thought. Gilbert and George, now honoured with a huge exhibition at Tate Modern, receive a similar treatment - this is good, this is what we must like, this is how we must like it. Germaine Greer, brilliantly, breaks ranks, pointing out the extreme, hermetic obviousness - both in form and content - of G & G. Critics can't seem to see things clearly. The same thing happened with the acclaimed and now Oscared movie Pan's Labyrinth. Leaden and essentially static, it nevertheless mesmerised the critics. People whine about access to the arts. What they don't realise is that the greatest barrier to access is received opinion.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 6:58 am