Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A kid could do that, they say about modern art

from w
There's a very funny story in today's Age newspaper about an art exhibition in Melbourne where a few abstract paintings by a 'new' artist are being shown, and publicized very well. It turns out the 'artist' is about two years old. Mum painted the background colour and let the little nipper rip and what fun she had. Okay, that's fine, but the gallery did not know it was a kid. For years many people say about so-called 'modern art' meaning non-figurative painting, that any kid could do it. Well, that is so but I like some kinds of non-figurative pictures because there's a magical element about some, but of course other pictures are horrible, worthless, and a big rip-off.

by Clare Kermond
January 8, 2009

IS THIS a story of a child prodigy or a deliberate joke at the expense of the art world? In the curious case of Aelita Andre, it could be both of those things — or neither.

Back in October, Fitzroy commercial gallery director Mark Jamieson was asked by a Russian-born photographer whose work he represented to consider the work of another artist. Nikka Kalashnikova showed Jamieson some abstract paintings by an artist called Aelita Andre; Mr Jamieson liked what he saw and agreed to include it in a group show, alongside work by Kalashnikova and Julia Palenov (also a Russian) at his Brunswick Street Gallery later this month.

Mr Jamieson then started to promote the show, printing glossy invitations and placing ads in reputable magazines Art Almanac and Art Collector, in which the abstract work was featured. Only then did he discover a crucial fact about the new artist: Aelita Andre was Nikka Kalashnikova's daughter, and she was then just 22 months old. She turns two tomorrow.

"I was shocked and, to be honest, a little embarrassed," Mr Jamieson said of his response to the revelation.

He thought hard about whether or not to proceed, and talked it over with his colleagues. "And then I thought, 'Well, we'll give it a go'."

Mr Jamieson says the Brunswick Street Gallery has a policy of supporting emerging artists, though that policy doesn't usually extend to artists quite so young. He stands by his decision to show the work but concedes some people will think the gallery is doing the wrong thing.

He argues it is difficult to judge abstract painting. "There are different approaches, there is a formal approach and then there is a free-form approach that comes off a more intuitive base. And if you're thinking about the latter, perhaps a two-year-old can do it as well as a 30-year-old."

Nikka Kalashnikova says she and her husband, Michael Andre, did not set out to mislead the gallery. They simply wanted Aelita's work to be judged on its merits. "Of course, every mother is proud of their child. I didn't tell him (Jamieson) because I had all these feelings going through my head — fear, embarrassment."

Kalashnikova says Aelita began painting shortly before she could walk. Both parents are artists and Aelita was used to seeing them work on canvases on the floor.

Kalashnikova at first dismissed Aelita's painting as "just mucking around" but by August last year she'd seen enough potential that she provided her with a canvas painted red (by her mother) and let her get to work. The image that resulted is among those on display in the exhibition, which opens on January 16. etc. etc.

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