An Ode to a Practice

Google’s definition of conceptual art is:

“art in which the idea or concept presented by the artist is considered
 more important than the finished product, if any such exists.”

In a time when conceptual art seems to have taken over the art world, appreciation for the skilled artist is increasingly overlooked. When did we stop worshipping the talented few who could pick up a brush and paint a landscape which you could gaze at and practically feel the sea breeze on your face, or who could create the figure of a man with a lump of clay that you could reach out and touch it, almost feeling his breath? Why, sometimes, is a chair in the middle of a room of four white walls, a dead animal carcass, or a blank canvas with the date painted on it a work of art assigned an overblown meaning?

Andy Warhol said:

 “Art is what you can get away with.”

And certainly many of today’s artists are doing just that. As a dear friend of mine recently pointed out to me in a hushed whisper at an exhibition: “there sure is a lot of crap out there.” Although, I do appreciate the definition, and I do regularly engage with, value, and understand much conceptual art, frankly, I still think there is a certain amount of danger in marginalizing artists with real skill and the respect they still warrant.

I really started contemplating all of this more closely when I examined the works of Singapore-based UK artist, Piers Bourke when I recently visited his studio in Boat Quay to see what he does. I didn’t know what to expect when Piers invited me to the studio, but when I arrived what I found was a body of unique and progressive works with incredible attention to detail, created by an artist with a love for the process itself.

Piers’ restructured photographic images, combined with painting techniques, play with space and form to create revised and fun perspectives of original subject matter such as postage stamps and telephone booths, working both with sculptural and two-dimensional. Piers tells me that the concept for all of his work is the same; find an object, then ask the question: can he adapt his process to this object to bring something new to this well known image? He says that the challenge for him will always be to find a conceptual or a technical process to add an angle that hasn’t been seen or thought of before.

If an artwork’s message is open to interpretation, as they say, then the message for me is Piers’ love for his craft and a testament to his technique. The ability to transform the inert into something more interesting and aesthetically pleasing is a reminder that visual perspective and ability should still be highly valued, and fiercely nurtured.

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Piers Bourke has exhibited in several solo shows in London, many groups shows in France, Ireland, U.S. and Asia and is represented by Rebecca Hossack gallery in the U.K. which will show his works at the upcoming Affordable Art Fair in Singapore this 18-20 November 2017. Piers is also available for commission.

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