Dear Editor

Cheers to Ken Turner for his courageous performance in St. Ives, Codwallop reviewed in the last issue. While raising awareness around town pulling a fish in a wagon, Turner asks questions to the public and to the cod. Where is the art critical dialogue? What’s going on in the art world today? Do you know what is happening?

The New Art Examiner offers concise analysis of the art world that desperately needs good writing and criticism. Wake up St. Ives, of all places to slumber with lethargy when great art once prospered in your town, Alfred Wallis, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Rose Tremain, Bernard Leach, Roger Hilton, Liz Hunter created important work in St. Ives. Extricating the status quo from the noose of conformity is hard work, it’s people like Turner who remind us of the great responsibility to refuse to be silent.

Annie Markovich 12/11/2017


I thought you might like these. I didn’t take any photos earlier but I thought you were very good and the way the absent actor was coped with was very good. Whole thing was memorable and zany. The people next to me did not realise Ken’s first intervention was part of the show at first. Dyhano remarkable.

I wrote a bit about the exhibition Alternative Visions in Falmouth which Jane Sand did not like. It’s on my blog if you want to read it. If you want it in NAE you are welcome.

Happy Christmas and New Year,
Mary Fletcher 20/12/2017


You know what’s funny, I did a lecture once that briefly discussed the real hidden values of experiencing art and culture… the argument was that the financial and material value of experiencing art happens at such a snail’s pace, it is near impossible to measure. How much does having a painting like Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks add to our stock market just from its existence? The power of art, music, films, to inspire us acts as a driving force… makes us just a little sharper, a little faster, more enlightened, and this has actual monetary value. I know I’m probably sounding a little pretentious, but there seems to be a direct link between the power of a culture’s influence in relation to their position in the world.

But I don’t know, living in Chicago I’ve always had to find a way to translate creativity into something more tangible, something that a businessperson could understand… staring at something for 10 minutes means I’m actually working… allowing myself to pause, to think, that’s when the great ideas happen, was never an easy sell in the past, and is looking to be an even harder sell now. Fortunately, I work for great people and have great people around me that get it, but for years it wasn’t the case.

But I don’t know, my biggest concern is when I talk about the experience of viewing art, is not my feelings of guilt, but rather that I’m boring someone to death… like I am right now, explaining all of this conceptual nonsense.
Michael William Foster, 23/12/2017


Daniel Nanavati’s revisit of Dwight MacDonald’s Midcult and Masscult could not be more timely and prescient. In terms of how one chooses to see art in the 21st century, no other essay could have a greater significant forewarning than MacDonald’s insights. They are absolutely providential.
Masscult is the dispelling of culture into a primarily popularist format on a grand scale. “Watering down” the quality of art-work to banal standards is our society’s omnipresence’s market of seamless consumption. MacDonald alerts us to this subversive driving force of how every facet of culture, as we may know it, is absolutely bleached forward. What makes his insights invaluable and incisive is the degree to which these filters of culture have grown. Exponentially. He lays the ground work from his mid 20th century view point, how would he have ever seen the advent of electronica, Hollywood’s blockbuster routs, computer into social media, cell phones, the massive on line flow of messaging, information, news … six international media companies control 96% of the world’s communication. Every important thing squeezed through relatively few outlets. Communication dominance of the overwhelming masscult flood creates power, and so acts like a mold of prerequisite control, preordained, preformed through which the popular culture spigot pours upon us. It is in a sense “pre-seen”. Chosen, edited, controlled. The shear enormity of this phenomenal wave has effectively drowned out any cultural competitions that may be up for consideration. This constant beast-beat has become the dynamic of the ART World. Indeed, the art world directly mirrors the social real world for consideration. Art becomes a safe brand, an amelioration. It is packaged, sanctioned and permitted in the art world “insiders”. Alternatives to the major thrust of art world narratives are simply ignored, never hyped, mentioned or actively acknowledged so not known to ‘us’. Witness the effect of this at the local or community basis. The Masscult culture resonates down the cultural ladder until the bottom rung choices made about local culture are subjected to the sieve that mimics the big boys. The after effect changes his continued practice to widespread habit, followed by rote, programed to the micros of this world-mind atmosphere. Can you hear constant howls of media in your head, agendas roaring in the cross winds? You may know what to expect but did you know it has been “expected for you”. This is often a very subtle process but the suitability factor dominates. I is the social art snowstorm.
Alternative art spaces or outside the box establishments, this is so constrained, development comes only when it is hyped, broadcast or mythically described. Nothing but cul-de-sac or niche culture, confined to a non influential space, and it struggles to gain recognition or realization. It is the lost present art history. Many fine artists have been ignored, rarely to be discovered at a later date. Like so many out of vogue artists, lost. Cultural sanctioning made to fit the political and commercial intents of the minders of the media, has taken a mighty toll on the consumers of message, namely, their conformity is to the message “filing-filling” down.
MacDonald writes that midcult wore the pretense of playing to higher culture but inevitably failed because it never addressed the standards or real terrain of established culture i.e. it just made it more easily consumable. This predigestion of culture plays out in crippling an art scene, often by hampering or pre-disparaging the standards and fruits of critical success. You have all heard it, what is the “price”? But moreover, with this smokescreen in mind, what is the real price? That is the highly corrosive atmosphere of artist betrayal and the subversion of “real” new art. Has that ever existed? What would that look like? Please, let us know.
If the art distribution system constantly has to wedge itself in the “omnipresent market” a condition that informs all things, where can it go? The homage psychologically and intellectually, we have to pay is always drifting to the lower common denominators, i.e. if artists are in a state of constant competition either with the system or each other, no one wins? For the public becomes a thing ramping in on itself as a mass, not a group of individuals. Success or “messaging the guidelines of achievable status”, is achieved either through market strategy, or a desired political outcome, or a set chute of non-intentional habit formed repercussions. What is the individual artist’s “play” in these preset cultural causeways? Especially if she or he refuses to melt under competition or market tension,….obscurity.
Many artists pander to the media, and are absorbed by the power, the Masscult, of open acceptance. Their work is materially acceptable because it has commercial value. “Known quantities” are preferred but the market will defang the so called cultural product as now “acceptable”, for by so doing it becomes masscult. The work will never have a chance if there is no organic discussion and interplay with other artists as an incubation process, as successful artists traditionally have done. Art schools are adjuncts of the media. Their critical apparatus is compromised by masscult standards, i.e. the interlaced tube of achievement, burdened by self directing, corruption spitting out Masscult like a machine, before the artist can ever ask who am I? This process churns and voilà! Post modernism. This process is so subtle. Unknown to those upon whom it is perpetrated on. Where will this stop?
The role of the critic is to sense the masscult pitfalls and traps, the wind of media, the crossed agendas, the attitudes and moreover to bear witness of critical standards for which we may value the art. The challenge is to pierce the veil of Masscult. Can this be done? What may we see?
Al Jirikowic 24/01/2018


Volume 32 no 4 March/April 2018 pp 4-6

14 thoughts on “Letters

  1. Hi Michael,
    I may be naive, but when you say, “there seems to be a direct link between the power of a culture’s influence in relation to their position in the world”, are you referring to the influence of American culture in and the position of the US in the world? I think it depends on how you evaluate the influence of culture and from what perspective you are evaluating it from or who is doing the evaluating.
    I hope we can open up a discussion about this here with you and among the New Art Examiner readers to see what they think. As can be seen from the map online, readers come from all over the world.
    Thank you.

  2. Fair game! What are we going to look at government integrity, property rights, economic freedom, freedom of the press, the happiness index, or the ranking of the world’s most admired art museums?

    1. It would be interesting if the New Art Examiner had a poll to rate favorite art museums. This could include a list of many museums from around the world, but should also give the possibility to write in the name of a museum not on the list. The results might be quite surprising.

  3. I’ve been following this magazine for a few months now and am quite surprised that only a little over 400 people have watched the Codswallop video posted here on the website.
    I don’t know if someone can answer me, but I’d like to understand why no one is interested in this truly incredible piece of performance art. Thousands of people are on the website every week, why so little interest? Is it precisely the message that Ken Turner is giving, a lack of perception and ignorance? I would add apathy.
    Codswallop video:

    1. Hi Joy,
      Codswallop is a brilliant piece of work. I must have watched it over 20 times; each time I find something new to latch onto. Ken Turner is also a distinguished painter. I had the unique opportunity to visit his studio in 2017 and see his work. It was a magical experience that left me enthralled; his paintings became alive as he pulled them out in rapid succession, commenting here and there, increasing my appreciation of them.

  4. Hello Annie,
    Lest we forget the very imaginative author of Artswallop, Maxine Flaneuse de Cornouaill, in St Ives? She does her part too in contributing to the art world through her writing. St Ives is a tiny city which wakes up in summer to host thousands of tourists, hence greatly increasing the living expenses for artists and writers, forcing them to look elsewhere to live in Cornwall. I think back when Alfred Wallis was alive that St Ives wasn’t as popular with tourists, but now it has a sort of artificial facade, thanks to all the hordes of tourists the small town has to deal with. However, it is still very beautiful and inspires artists and writers alike.
    Its sister city of Laguna Beach, California is a fairly new relationship, which could lead to some promising initiatives that could shake things up a bit. It wouldn’t take much to change the status quo, as ferment is already brewing.

  5. I appreciate the Comments on St Ives. Yes, the town is overrun by tourist banal culture. The ghost of the past lingers. But the lack of sensitive or sophisticated art patronage is the current problem. This applies to St Ives Tate, the St Ives Times and Echo, the Penwith Society of Art, The St Ives Arts Club, the Cornishman, the Newlyn Society of Artists, The St Ives Society of Artists and Cornwall County the Newlyn Orin Gallery and the Exchange; simply they are all waiting for Godot. Easier said than done. While St Ives Tate presents authoritative (usually) contemporary art, there is no dialogue. Ken Turner is a living example of the deep rut Visual art Culture has fallen into. He is an original and pioneer Performance artist, but also a painter of authority. Simple, he has been sidelined. I simply say Cornwall art people wake up; you have lost the plot. Vanity and self-promotion is all that is left of a dynamic past. While the past is gone forever, there is little art that deals with the living reality of St Ives.

    Derek Guthrie, Founding Publisher of the New Art Examiner

    1. Thank you Derek for answering my comment.
      I think one of the overall problems with St Ives, and as you mention the Penwith Society of Art, the Newlyn Society of Artists, the Exchange and the Newlyn Orin Gallery is that Southwest Cornwall is sparsely populated compared to a big city like London. The main activities are agriculture, fishing and tourism where perhaps the arts and culture aren’t people’s primary concern. There aren’t large numbers of people interested in the arts who live there, though those few who care about art do the best they can to keep it all surviving, mostly retired people. Some of these 115,000 retirees in all of Cornwall are interested in art, but it’s a drop in the bucket. I’ve often asked, what’s an important museum like the Tate St Ives doing in such a tiny town? It can only survive thanks to tourism. How can you have a sophisticated art patronage based just on tourism?
      What would be your definition of “sophisticated art patronage”?

  6. Looking at the New Art Examiner website and also following the numbers on the map online as they have increased over these past months, reminds me of the song, Ten in the bed”, but in the opposite direction:

    “There were ten in the bed and the little one said,
    “Roll over! Roll over!”
    So they all rolled over and one fell out

    There were nine in the bed and the little one said,
    “Roll over! Roll over!”
    So they all rolled over and one fell out….

    There was one in the bed
    And the little one said,
    “Good night!”

    It looks like an awful lot of people would like to roll over and wake up to a more equal and beneficial environment for artists to live and survive in the art world, not the art stock market.

  7. To Annie Markovich,
    Indeed, we have a “great responsibility to refuse to be silent” or to even to be silenced. It is thanks to the work of artists like Ken Turner and art critics like you who write and inform.
    Unfortunately, we have a severe lack of information today, while on the surface it appears that we have an abundance, it is only an overload of rehashed and rewritten stories that the media is allowed to publish. It looks like the New Art Examiner isn’t subjected to this censorship, yet.

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