There is a guilty pleasure after twenty five years in the business to finally begin a catalogue introduction with the warning that the content of this show may be offensive or disturbing to some audiences. Its bluntness will offend against some sensibilities, its politics will offend those it sets itself against but simply, as a gallery, it is refreshing to be able to glance over the parapet to promote the principles we have practiced under for decades.
The artist certainly has no wish to cause offence for its own sake but rather express two decades of frustration building within him. An escalating sense of disbelief at what he has felt passionately is a betrayal by the art establishment of the core values of artistic practice; of the absolute triumph of conceptualism as a credo amongst our academic and public art apparatchiks and the consequential exclusion of figurative drawing and painting to the point of extinction outside of the commercial world.
Many have made similar points about the direction of public funding in the visual arts but to my knowledge this is the first concerted attempt through an exhibition in oil paintings to argue so cohesively and concisely against the prevailing hegemony. In our own experience talking to art buyers at dozens of fairs and exhibitions in the UK and abroad we have found a collective grudging acquiescence to an unpopular status quo. Naturally those who we come into regular contact with us as a gallery are likely to be sympathetic to our outlook but that is no reason to dismiss their views out of hand, the majority of them are after all British taxpayers. Those same taxpayers fund the relentless stream of public art commissions and exhibitions from which they feel so alienated.
Peter Goodfellow’s personal sense of artistic alienation has proved remarkably fruitful. His recently published book Treason of the Scholars is a collection of his own paintings and selected essays by likeminded academics, David Starkey, Roger Scruton and Duncan MacMillan. The book is intended as a call to arms against the perceived patronage and cronyism permeating the British contemporary art establishment. Trahision des clercs, Julien Benda’s 1927 phrase, is perfectly germane to Peter’s view that the very academics who we trust to retain intellectual integrity have in fact colluded with their commercial counterparts. In consequence, he feels, the mediocre has been glorified at the expense of the probity of traditional skill.
The paintings Peter has produced for the accompanying exhibition to Treason of the Scholars demonstrate that skill in abundance. In a large series of beautifully crafted figurative paintings Peter excoriates the sacred cows of the contemporary art establishment. The anger he feels at their betrayal spills over into each scenario and the blaze of biting satire is a wonderful contrast to the cool control of his faultless technique. At the heart of this storm is his simple wish to redress the artistic balance in our society, not to deny the importance of the many movements within conceptual art but to allow that all artistic endeavors of quality and integrity have equal value. The public policies of our art schools and museums have led to the casual obliteration of skills learned over centuries. Ironically, perhaps it will take the internet through the burgeoning democracy of social media to adjust the balance. Here at least the elitist commentators and dictators of taste are increasingly sidelined by a new generation of grassroots protagonists on the blogosphere. The most visual of media, the internet is now rediscovering traditional figurative painting.
Peter would like me to say that his exhibition will change the world as we know it. I know from bitter experience that it will not but my cynicism is leavened by the knowledge that there is one bluff northerner with a great deal of talent who will not lie down and take it anymore. Isn’t that after all what being British is about?
Read The Herald's article on the show here - Artist takes on Turner Prize with rival show and book
Watch Peter discuss the show on STV News - Aberdeen
22 October - 6 November 2015
Panter & Hall
11-12 Pall Mall
Monday to Friday
10.00 AM - 6.00 PM
BY APPOINTMENT ONLY
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