Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Trunk Wins Saatchi

I have been avoiding BBC Two's School of Saatchi show, because it was easy to predict that something ghastly and inartistic would win it. How right I was. Here's the winning entry: Eugenie Scrase's Trunkated Trunk (2009). And yes, it is merely a log impaled on a fence. Believe it or not, Eugenie is studying sculpture at the Slade School of Fine Art. What for, if rubbish like this wins her fame and fortune? Stop wasting tax-payers' money - and licence-payers' money - on so-called "artists" who churn out tripe like this. Pretty girl, 20 years old, with no discernible artistic talent, wins art show; somebody convince me this isn't a casting-couch job.


At 15/12/09, Blogger steveoyo said...

I disagree with this being rubbish, I didn't like anything else Eugenie did throughout the show, however I think this was an excellent piece, best on the show.

The reason being that it is such a weird scenario and a real thing she's found, all the other found object work she did was rubbish, it was just collected junk!

I could imagine if someone had photographed this object it would be seen as a striking piece of documentary photography.

This is why I like this piece so much, she has done what photography has been doing for years, but instead she's skipped the photographing and just stole the subject.

At 15/12/09, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Hi, Steve

The setting lends it a certain elegance, but it's still a log she got a couple of workmen to drop on somebody's fence. It's isn't her work; it's the workmen's. It isn't sculpture and it isn't art. It's a fraud, like so much in the contemporary art scene.

At 15/12/09, Anonymous Anonymous said...

eugenie's 'work' perfectly exemplifies the artist herself;somewhat hollow. By choosing her as the winner, Saatchi has openly professed his love for charlatanism, and appears to take real pride in alienating and patronizing the public. The terms of art have been seriously devalued here.

At 15/12/09, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Firstly, Saatchi should be given some credit, even by his haters. People are interested in art because of Saatchi. People may hate his taste in art but at least the interminable controversy surrounding Saatchi and the YBAs means that the general public are actually talking about art.

More importantly, Saatchi's brand of art is the dominant trend in art at the moment and that's an unavoidable fact, however much complaining there is of its lack of talent/beauty/inspiration *delete as appropriate. No doubt many painters a century and a half ago wished photography had never been invented but the truly imaginative and artistic artists moved with it and moved on. And the same applies now. There is nothing else for disgruntled artists to do but strive to hit upon the next big thing, the movement that will sweep Saatchi and co away. Personally, I don't think that this next movement will emerge from any deliberately anti-Saatchi, anti-conceptual art movement such as the nostalgia-sick Stuckists.

At 16/12/09, Blogger NCB said...

She didn't ask workmen to drop the log on the fence. If you'd been paying attention instead of making notes of what to be snarky about, you would have seen that she found the log on the fence. The workmen seen on film were those involved with cutting the fence away and putting on a truck. Something I think we could hardly begrudge a petite girl for, seeing as it took 6 guys to lift the thing.

At 16/12/09, Blogger delicate said...

I agree with Steveoyo. It was the best piece on the show by a continental mile. It was the only piece that Saatchi could take to the Hermitage and for him to maintain some creditability, for the show to have some credibility too. Could you seriously see him bothering to take the two discs of shaded plywood, one of them bearing "...because I'm a paki" delicately stenciled on it? Without Eugenie's masterstroke, I think the series would have had a very sombre end to it.

And it was a masterstroke wasn't it? A masterstroke of luck, no? Luck that the tree trunk fell on the railing in the first place, in what would otherwise be seen as a yet another Council fuck-up. And perhaps more luck that it fell on the railing and set so perfectly in spatial proportions; and that the railing buckled in such a dramatic (but not completely destructive) way; and that the loggers then not only decided to leave it (for another day’s work, perhaps), but to also lob of both ends to leave such an odd compact truncated trunk, so perfect in dimensions to offset against the aesthetics of the railings (not too large to still be a 'tree', not too small to be mistaken for just another discarded polystyrene kebab box speared on a railing top).

But was it 'luck', or was it 'look'? Because really the art of the piece is in the seeing - in the seeing and then the execution (ie. having the balls to find out about it and to irk the council to remove it for your pleasure). That Eugenie saw it was lucky but then to look at it as not just someone else's "work" (as you call it), or property, or problem, but as an object of interest/beauty/an-opening-up-of-questions: 'why is it there?' : 'how did it get there?' : 'was it deliberately placed there? [IS IT PUBLIC ART?], or was it an accident?' : 'if it was an accident, then why was it left and not removed?' : 'isn't that a potential health and safety issue?' : 'what do the neighbours think of it - refuse/an eyesore/undermining potential property prices in the area/vandalism/art?' : 'have they even been asked?' : 'has anyone else even noticed it?'...

At 16/12/09, Blogger delicate said...

And then the trunk itself. I find it hard to see why it isn't art. Man-made railings (tsk, those fortified buttresses of the gated-communities of wealth and exclusion!) destroyed by little old pithy nature? Better still, destroyed by unwanted, felled nature!; man's industry with industrial machine (the chainsaw) destroying machine-made industrialized utensil. A body (of wood) nestled across the barricades, oh sweet Luddites of Mrs Mother Nature.

And then there’s the curious vulnerability of the trunk and the railing – where the trunk now seems to be so entirely wedged onto the railing that both the railing and trunk are inseparable. The railing, which although in fact it has buckled under the impact of the trunk, now looks more like it is buckling under the weight of the trunk. So there's an odd cause and effect going on here, and the juxtaposition of the big and fat and squat (the natural, disorganised, untamable weight of the natural environment), and the slender and fragile grace of the unnatural, man-made environment. Aren't they like an odd married couple? Like chalk and cheese, true, but they just seem to work together. Or if they don't actually work together [they hate each other, every bloody day that they are stuck with each other: TRUNK: "I was fine before you came along and set yourself up below me." RAILING: "Yeah, well, you had to go and be a nuisance didn't you! And then you wouldn't just go quietly, oh no, not you, had to go crashing around didn’t yer, and now look where it’s got you, got US!! Oh … you'll be the death of me you will ..."] then they seem to need each other all the same. His weight is the counter balance for her to stay upright despite her rigid spine being smashed under his weight, and he needs her to stay ever so still, to do nothing but to be a railing, so that he doesn't lose his balance and go and take them both crashing down.

Or the sacrifice perhaps? The tree died to be removed and re-represented for the hearts, eyes and minds around the world (well, only a poxy gallery in London and St Petersburg so far). Christ (or perhaps the cross?) spruced by the spear!

Isn’t there also something of the stupidity of mankind to fell a tree that was in its way, and, through their ‘work’ (as you say, but I reckon their ‘bad-work’ or ‘not-working-work’), we end up with a tree trunk wedged on the railing. “What a silly place to go leaving a railing!” And better still, they can't get the damn thing off - so they lob off both ends and call it a day (no doubt a Friday afternoon): "cum'on Mickey, job's a gud'un".

Doesn't it say something about how little we value the importance of the aesthetic function of a railing that when it gets smashed by a falling tree we just leave it there (“still standing ain’t it?!”) and walk by it; perhaps as much as we undervalue the importance of a tree that trespasses on our urban progress? May be …

At 16/12/09, Blogger delicate said...

… or may be it was just a tree that was felled incompetently and the council workers, or whoever, thought it was the height of art so they left it there and went arm-in-arm, beaming all the way, down to ‘The Ginster’s Tabernacle’ and up-ended each other’s platitudes of the trunks’ art pedigree as they quaffed back flat beer?

It was art though wasn't it. It has to be really, that or divine intervention (and most good souls don't mouth that rubbish anymore, do they). The loggers can hardly be seen as turning up and going, "Ahh look Son_Of_Mickey, what a great fence we've got below that tree! Now I reckon if we cut it expertly enough then it'll fall flush on to that said railing and using my O-Level trigonometry I hereby declare that it'll be impaled good and proper and they'll either have to leave it stuck on that railing or they'll have to move the whole bleeding railing - and the Council won't be doing that will they! Money to burn? I don't THINK so! ‘Cos what this crappy area, with all these new-build one bedroom flats in it, yeah, what this lot ‘round here need is a bit of 'au natural' art, something quirky and juxtaposed without being all considered and overtly commissioned. Come on Son_Of_Mickey, you can do the cutting this time!" But Son_Of_Mickey looks worried. He's not sure, the Council won't like it, they'll get in trouble again, just like they did with the 'Angel of the North'. "There's no need to worry Son_Of_Mickey. The Council is a very considerate and thoughtful bunch. They'll understand that we deliberately took the initiative to destroy their railing - for the betterment of all those who pass it each day - even pretty 20 year-old art students. Because this is the wonderful caring, considerate, and ultimately inquisitive world we live in." But Son_Of_Mickey still doesn't look sure. "Alright, if we have to then we'll say it was an act of God. Or Maradona".

At 16/12/09, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it would have been better if it had just been left in situ and photographed - its very much in the spirit of Saatchi and the modern art world to steal from the public to boost their coffers. This was a happy accident that happened in South London and has now been appropriated by one of the perpetrators and perpetuators of the phoney art market. I suppose in that sense, its him in microcosm, which is no doubt why he liked it so much. You can't help but think that in even making something like School of Saatchi, Saatchi himself is poking fun at the morons who have followed him thus far...

At 16/12/09, Blogger David Buchanan said...

There's a park bench near my office. I walk past it every day and the way it's weathered over time with the layers of paint flaking away suggests the passage of time and the frail nature of...wait a minute what am I doing? I don't need to justify my 'piece' I'll just present it to my audience and let them justify it for me. All I need to do is agree with the most respected opinion former in the room. My piece which I'll call 'Park Bench' can be yours for just £5,000, no wait a minute if I say £10,000 that means it's twice as good right? Hell, tell you what lets say £20,000 and you're getting a real bargain.

At 16/12/09, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...


At 16/12/09, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Saatchi is so powerful because people who know nothing about art follow his lead. He is the almighty god of what's fashionable in art.

At 16/12/09, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...


If she found it like that, then she can't possible claim it as her work of art. You've just proved she's a fraud.

At 16/12/09, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Hi delicate

Council f*** up sounds about right. The big question is: Will she ever be so lucky again?

At 16/12/09, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Hi again, Delicate

I couldn't have put it better nyself.

At 16/12/09, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

I don't believe in divine intervention, so I guess I'll have to credit the coucil workmen with creating this work of "art".

At 17/12/09, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

In answer to the last comment from Anon, I couldn't agree with you more.

At 17/12/09, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Hi, David


All you need do is persuade Saatchi to buy it and you'll be the hottest newcomer to UK art. Why think small? Go for £1 million for starters.

At 18/12/09, Anonymous Anonymous said...

tax payers money blah blah blah whine whine whine. why do people insist on using this self righteous argument against art students all the time? get over it!
also-the whole 'she didn't do it herself!' thing is just exposing a lack of intelligence...how many of the painters that you probably think are worthy of your respect got apprentices to paint large portions of their paintings?
I didn't like Eugine's inability to articulate her ideas, but her piece was beautiful, exciting and unusual.and yes, lucky. i suppose everyone's going to start slagging of Duchamp, Rauchenberg and thomas Hirchorn now...cos they also use a rough aesthetic and play with the viewer's pre conceptions of what 'should' be in a gallery.
also it's a big feck you to all the people who pretend to appreciate art but really just want to see a nicely rendered painting of something they can understand.

At 18/12/09, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Oh dear, another Mills & Boon reader who thinks Saatchi is the word of God. Spare me.

At 22/12/09, Blogger charlotte said...

i know eugenie, she was and still is an amazing painter! i dont know why she is trying to be this artistic sculpturess tht just finds crap! and tries to turn it to art. i mean seriously look at the quality of tht grappling hook , sheer rubbish! a five year old could do this, and the thing tht won her the show was just summit she saw! i dont think any of the artists had any merit to be honest, tho i did like the guy tht came second! his projects seemed by far the best

At 22/12/09, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Hi, Charlotte

Absolutely. It's the old story of sacrificing one's art for fame and fortune. If the mugs want rubbish, give it to them and charge as much as the market will bear. Any real work of art wouldn't have stood a chance on the Saatchi show.

There are two nasty things going on in the art world. The first is a desperate need for innovation which hails anything that hasn't been done before as a great work of art. Eugenie's ridiculous log fits in very nicely with the works of Hirst, Emin, Kapoor and others. Stuffed sharks, unmade beds, guns firing wax at a wall; they are all firsts. So, unimaginative philistines welcome them as innovative art, even though they have no artistic merit.

The second nasty thing going on in the art world is snobbery. Creators - scientists, artists, movie directors - form our new upper class. But traditional artists are manual labourers! How can they fit in with the new upper class? Answer: get rid of the manual labour. Let them think up new ideas in art and persuade others to do the work. So Damien Hirst has a "factory" producing his tripe: spotty paintings, stuffed animals, pill cabinets, whatever.

Only by removing manual labour from art can the snobs look up to their new heroes as truly upper class. It's sickening.

But there is hope. Look at the popularity and growing world-wide reputation of Banksy: grafitti combining art with social comment. And look at Walking With Dinosaurs and Avatar for truly modern, innovative art.

At 22/12/09, Blogger ZedCar said...

There is a very strange coincidence going on here. Have look at this website for a work involving twisted railings which was made at the same time as Eugenies's. www.nervosi.com

At 22/12/09, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Hi, ZedCar

Thanks for the link. The font used on the website is diabolically small, but it looks as though Michael Croft started work on this idea in 2008. Plagiarism on Eugenie's part or merely ignorance of what another "artist" was up to?

Whatever, it's certainly a smack in the eye for a couple of my critics who thought Eugenie's log was a brilliant innovation! Bit passe by now, I would have thought.

I wonder if the BBC knows?

At 24/12/09, Blogger Ralph Kent said...

@18/12/2009 - "a nicely rendered painting of something they can understand". Is that as opposed to a 'post-ironic one-liner that you get in the first five seconds of seeing it in a gallery' then? Because, as his cronies and underlings kept on explaining during the course of the four part series, Charles does like his art to be obvious - sorry - 'immediate'.

Nuance, layering, subtlety, the true elements of long-term beauty have no place in Saatchi's world. What a pretender I am to look for such things in my art. You might want to check out the documentary on BBC4 about the fraud in the art market - Sotherby's loaning capital and extending payment to up to 2 years, effectively acting as principal and agent to keep the phoney cogs running on this low-grade conceptual art market.

RE: your point via Duchamp - that was when - 1917? Do you think we might have gotten our thick heads around the whole post-ironic, post-aesthetic idea by now? Maybe?

At 24/12/09, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Hi, Ralph

To answer your (rhetorical) question first, Saatchi hasn't got his head round it, nor has the BBC.

Duchamp twigged that the art world is full of phonies, and he took the Mickey out of them by signing a mass-produced urinal and submitting it to an exhibition. The phoney in charge of that exhibition accepted it as a genuine work of art, instead of throwing it back at Duchamp.

A year or two ago, a group of art critics voted Duchamp's urinal as the most influential artwork of the 20th Century! I suppose it was, because it opened the floodgates to rubbish as art, but that was all thanks to the phony who accepted it for display, rather than to Duchamp himself. If the phony had rejected Duchamp's urinal, end of story.

Your point about Saatchi wanting his art to be "immediate" is well taken and rebuffs those twerps who think that Saatchi is peddling some intellectual version of art whose meaning isn't apparent unless one gives it deep thought.

Phooey! One glance at a Saatchi-approved artwork and I'm off to the next work.

A great work of art may well be worth analysing, but only if it has hit you in the guts first. See if you can find the trilogy of posts I wrote on Bronzino's Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time. I got deeper and deeper with each new post until I reckoned I'd figured out everything that's going on in that picture. It's a hell of a lot! But I wouldn't have bothered if it weren't a brilliant and fascinating painting.

Also check out the reply I wrote for the previous comment: elitism and snobbery.

I do think the art world is changing for the better. I mentioned computer generated graphics for Avatar in a previous reply. Tate Modern thinks it's doing well to get 200,000 visitors for one of its shows. Think how many millions are entertained by Wallace and Gromit. They are sculptures. But try to get the art snobs to admit that.

At 2/1/10, Blogger Keith said...

Hi Coxsoft Art,

Perhaps you should read a little more about Duchamp? His urinal wasn't actually exhibited at all; there was no "phoney in charge of that exhibition" who accepted it. Duchamp was a board member of the Society of Independent Artists, the organisation that held the exhibition. He submitted 'Fountain' under an assumed name (R. Mutt), and the majority of the board of directors of the Society of Independent Artists chose to hide it from view (despite saying they would 'exhibit all work submitted'). Duchamp resigned from the board after the exhibition.

Crucially, he said that his intention with Fountain was to shift the focus of art from physical craft to intellectual interpretation. He also said that he wanted to 'de-deify' the artist and to discourage aesthetics.

He was taking the mickey in a sense, yes. But he was focusing on traditionalist art and art critics, NOT those enamoured of what we describe as modern art. In fact, at that point (1917) practically nobody even accepted this kind of work other than the Dadaists (which included Duchamp) and similar confrontational groups.

By all means use art history in your arguments. But please don't get it fundamentally wrong if you do so.

At 2/1/10, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Hi, Keith

Thank you for your very interesting comment. This could be a case in which the myth is more powerful than the reality. I've posted on Mutt's urinal before. I must check my referencies.

At 2/1/10, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Hi again, Keith

I found your reference:

Alfred Stieglitz took the only photo of Duchamp's original urinal - R. Mutt's Fountain - and added the subtitle "The Exhibit Refused By The Independents", referring to the Society of Independent Artists. So, was it rejected outright or accepted and hidden? Either way, it had a profound and disastrous effect on 20th Century art.

Read Patrick West's article on Duchamp's "taking the piss". West also seems to accept the myth that Fountain was exhibited in an art gallery in 1917. How else could it have been officially defined as a work of art?

At 10/1/10, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Visually log on a fence does say something powerful and iconic.

Art seems lost to me at the moment to the mercy of money.

I think it seemed to lose a lot of its context and impact, without the surroundings of the tree,grass,pavement and flats.

It seems a bit unfair and unjust that people can devote their lives trying to learn skills to create things of value only to be put aside, forgotten and ignored for someone who finds a log on a fence.

Still there is genius in seeing the obvious and changing its context.

Mad men flim flam man.
Emperors new clothes.
The midas touch.

Where will art go after the charlatans are exposed?

Maybe theres hope in Angel of the north. Creating value out of rubbish. I remember a pretty good scuplture of an elephant made out of old tvs.

Does any of it really matter except that it is visually striking?

Maybe effort it overrated.

At 11/1/10, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

I don't see genius in spotting the obvious, just cheek that it is presented as a work of art.

If cheek is all that matters - and that does appear to be the case - why are we wasting taxpayers' money on art colleges that teach nothing? Cheek doesn't need training. It just is. So let's close all the art colleges and spend this wasted money on the NHS.

At 9/12/12, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a great supporter of traditional art, and I do traditional sculpture and drawing, but modern art undoubtedly has some masterpieces too . Trunk on a fence is brilliant although it was discovered by a 19 years old artist. What's happening in the composition is amazing. Only that it should have been called " The Disturbance " . All the fence's verticals representing rhythm, and harmony are bended and disturbed in such a beautiful way buy the trunk's dark meteoric gravity.It's just like Einstein's universal Gravity field bended by a Black Hole.:)

At 9/12/12, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's simple,Trunk on a fence suggests Einstein's universal Gravity field bended by a Black Hole.:) It's the dark heavy surprise element distorting and destroying the cosy peace and harmony of the vertical rhythms of the fence.

At 9/12/12, Blogger Coxsoft Art said...

Of course! Why didn't I think of that?


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