Monday, 18 January 2016

Who are you? Theorist? Pragmatist? Activist? Reflector?


Some time ago I wrote Learning for Life, a book indicating ways in which adults  could discover and practice their preferred learning style. The book drew largely on the work of two British educationalists, Peter Honey and Allen Mumford. You can get a free download of the quiz I used to help you discover your own preferred style. 

Below is a clutch of excellent and diverse art books, all but one recently published.
Which book appeals to you?  Are you a theorist? a pragmatist? a reflector or an activist?  

100 WORKS OF ART THAT WILL DEFINE OUR AGE by KELLY GROVIER (Thames and Hudson, 2016, 27 x 22.6cm)
Beautiful and daring illustrations, some spilling over onto a second large page and accompanied by text written by the distinguished art critic and poet Kelly Grovier, who is setting out to capture the zeitgeist of our age. The earliest piece is Marc Quinn's Self from 1991: the most recent is Ai Weiwei's Sunflower Seeds from 2010.The premise is that these 100 works will stand the test of time when it comes to critical acclaim in the future, (though some may question whether 20 years is a long enough span to find 100 enduring masterpieces). I have written blogs about 27 of the chosen artists - this blog only includes living artists whose work has been on show recently in central London.

The joy of the book is that here is a bold author, brave enough to lay his cards on the table, and challenge us to think about what work will endure for generations to come.  Who can resist leafing through and deciding what's there under false pretences and which of our favourites has  (incredibly) been left out? Full page aphorisms challenge us: can art go too far? Is all art transformative? does art still have the power to forge new myths? Govier's highly accessible book offers a unique perspective on the imagination of the artist and the age in which we live.
Theorists are people who are hungry for patterns of ideas and like the challenge which springs from a lively, authoritative viewpoint. They enjoy being intellectually stretched and making their own connections.

It reminded me of an earlier book - Prestel's ICONS OF ART: THE TWENTIETH CENTURY by Jurgen Tesch and Eckhard Hollmann, published in 1997, well illustrated but not quite so sumptuous. It would appeal to those who would like slightly more of a text book feel, such as a b/w picture of each artist with dates of significant life events running down the side of the page. 
Pragmatists learn best when new knowledge is useful and clearly accessible, perhaps because they face a  challenge, such as an assignment or a situation which needs a response.

THE THAMES AND HUDSON INTRODUCTION TO  ART by Debra DeWitte, Ralph Larman and  M Kathryn Shields 2015
An imaginative, exciting and well-illustrated book, but not one where you begin on page one and plough through. It's more like a recipe book. You have seen an art work or you've had an idea and you want to do something about it, so  you turn to  the pages waiting there ready to take you forward. How do you find them? There are 4 sections and everything is colour coded for easy reference. Are you interested in Photography? The art of India, China and Japan? Print-making? Time and Motion? Sculpture? The  Middle Ages? Art and Illusion? Art and Science? and so on. If so the entry is there with excellent  illustrations and text.
Activists are enthusiastic and open-minded. They like variety and enjoy bouncing ideas around with other people.

PORTRAITS: John Berger on artists (ed Tim Overton) (Verso 2015)
John Berger says 'the illustrations in this book are all in black and white...because glossy colour reproductions in the consumerist world of today tend to reduce what they show to items in a luxury brochure for millionaires'. Sworn enemy of art critics, the book consists of 74 essays in chronological order of artists, starting with the Chauvet cave painters (c30,000 years BC) and ending with Ramda Mdah, born in 1983.  He is one of the best and most provocative writers on art I know. The influence of his 1972 book and subsequent TV series WAYS OF SEEING was enormous. It has 7 chapters, 3 of which use images and no words. Their unique insight into ways of seeing women was revolutionary.
This book defies my classification. It's as if John Berger has  dropped by and drawn up an arm chair to sit down and share his unique ideas and insights with you, and you alone.

THE ICEBERG: a memoir,  by MARION COUTTS (Atlantic Books 2014). 
Winner Of Wellcome Book Prize 2015 - 

'This book bowls me over with its beauty and profundity, and it seems a new kind of thinking in itself, a work of word art unlike any other.'   Laura Cumming
In beautiful textured prose and with extraordinary narrative force the author describes the last 18 months of the life of her partner, the distinguished art critic Tom Lubbock. I knew of him as, to my mind, the most outstanding art critic of the day. He changed my life. The moment I read his piece in the Independent describing all the ways a conceptual artist could transform an electric toaster into a work of art, I knew I was hooked.
Reflectors  like time and space to ponder and try to make sense of our messy and unpredictable world. They have the energy to listen and reflect on other people's experience and convictions.

 'Seeing is an action, Marion Coutts says, like aiming or hitting. And writing, in her hands, becomes yet more so, harsh and fierce and beautiful in this shocking book.'
Jenny Turner

P.S.My earlier books were published under Yvonne Craig. I did not realise I shared the name with BATGIRL, the  glamourous 1960s film star, who had an overwhelming internet presence. Confusing! There is also a third party:Yvonne Joan  Craig. So now I publish as Yvonne Craig Inskip

No comments:

Post a Comment