I was standing in the Deluge Gallery looking at Brian Grison’s suite of drawings when an older than me couple also came into the gallery. They didn’t really look like art lovers or at least the bitchy stereotype I’ve come to expect from art lovers. They weren’t wearing flowing hemp robes or the relentlessly hip clothing of their youngest daughters and sons. The woman had sensible hair and I believe that the man was wearing a pair of GWG’s. So I was curious and I tried to listen in to their conversation without appearing to do so, of course.
The man immediately wanted to know what the devil the show was about! He wanted to see the statement. He knew about statements. Some people don’t, you know. He seemed so agitated that I felt obliged to point out the printed sheet, titled Relics of Prester John; An Introduction which was tacked to the wall. Either the old guy was a speed reader or else he just couldn’t be bothered to read the entire page, because very shortly after turning his eyes towards the statement, he exclaimed, in a contemptuous tone, “Rubbish!”.
Now, Brian Grison can probably, quite safely, add to his resume the claim “good writer”. He probably has because that is exactly what he is, a good writer. Unfortunately though, contemporary art is so driven by the concept behind the image that even the most beautiful, evocative and soulful of work must be accompanied by an explanation. The image itself, whether two dimensional or sculptural is not enough. It must be over intellectualized. Sometimes it must be psuedo-intellectualized.
In this way, mushy soggy nothing art is elevated, unfairly, with a whole lot of mushy soggy nothing writing, writing that at first glance might seem to offer a promise of something , ANYTHING, interesting. It’s an old trick, something along the lines of “baffle them with bullshit”. For those of you with more refined tastes, the verb I’m referring to is to obfuscate.
On the flip side we have Brian Grison and a series of delicate, but rich, drawing/collage constructions. So lovely and so all-encompassing. But Prester John and the “frightening charasmatic other”? What’s it? I couldn’t understand it myself. Rubbish, I almost said, but didn’t. Fortunately the older lady with the short hair explained in a gentle voice that “he just wanted to invent a character, that’s all”.
Suddenly it all came clear. Actually it was about 18 hours later, after a bus ride, a visit with an old friend, a bubble bath, dinner and a good night’s sleep. Then it suddenly all came clear. You see, the statement so completely distracted my attention away from the images hanging on the gallery walls, in frames and everything, that I forgot about the larger picture, by which I mean the margins. In the margins of each drawing/collage, among notations related to dates and materials, is the prominently placed title of the show, Relics of Prester John, and the name of the artist (author), Brian Grison. Just like the title page of a novel.
The drawing/collages certainly tell a story. About a boy, I think, who was almost a man sometime a way back in the cozy, candy-coloured 1950’s. The boy was a normal boy. He loved cars and girls and the collective fantasies of his time. But he was a secret dreamer too, and a lover. He could lose himself in patterns and shapes. In math and in art.
Is it Brian Grison’s story? Was he the boy? Perhaps, perhaps not. If it is Brian’s story, then is it a true story? Does the present-day Brian hold a true memory of young, long-ago Brian? Or has the dreamy boy become a dreamy man? Perhaps, perhaps not. My last question? Yes, here it is. In relation to the drawing/collage works of art, which, I say again, are a marvelous mysterious fulfilling narrative, is the explanation/statement/introduction really necessary?
The one thing that I’ve always really loved about Andy Warhol, was the first thing I ever learned about him. It was that during his early days as an artist of interest, Andy Warhol was absolutely reticent about explaining his art. Why? I think it’s because good art, great art, strong art, powerful art, does not require an explanation. It tells it’s own story. And if someone doesn’t get it, can’t get it, won’t get it, then fuck ’em.
*no pictures today. please see Deluge instead.