3. COLOUR: waste lands of broken images

I found the work in this post to be wastelands of the mind and hand, of the brush and spray gun; and of colour. 


The work below was on exhibit at major museums


and they are representative of works by these and other artists who have found favour in our post-Everything institutions of art


where, it seems, anything goes so long as you can capture attention and append a philosophy, no matter how vacuous, and sell, sell, sell.  


This is not all there is but there is a lot of this.


I have been sustained by the work of artists:

workmanship which expands on our past, encourages and warns about our present, and imagines our futures. 


And the work below does none of this in my view.


Here we are deep in the personal intellectual and emotional constructs of artists without reference to anything else. 


And no skilled artistic techniques to encourage us to tarry, either.



The Waste Land, 1922 (first stanza)

T.S. Eliot, 1886-1965, Anglo-American


What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow

Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,

You cannot say, or guess, for you know only

A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,

And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,

And the dry stone no sound of water. Only

There is shadow under this red rock,

(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),

And I will show you something different from either

Your shadow at morning striding behind you

Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;

I will show you fear in a handful of dust…



I am exasperated by this broken image trend.




Katharine Grosse, German, born 1962

A commission at the Baltimore Museum of Art: Is it You? 2021


There was a long list of the names of students who helped stitch together 50,000 square feet of canvas.  This was then hung like an open-sky tent from the ceiling of a gallery of the museum.

The artist used a spray gun over several days to colour the canvas.


The anything goes practice of art.


Is it You? 2021, acrylic on canvas.

Katharine Grosse, German, born 1962






Shara Hughes, American born 1981


The Whitney Museum of (North) American Art noted that the artist was reprising one artistic role in offering views into another world;


and in this artist’s case, these worlds are ‘hallucinatory:  psychological scenes which are part landscape and part abstraction’.  


I found the techniques of these works, with their loose brushwork, bold colours, and simple outlines to be childish.




Reaching My Plateau, 2016, oil, acrylic spray paint and dye on canvas. 

Shara Hughes, American born 1981.  Whitney Biennial 2017






In the Clear, 2016, oil, acrylic, enamel and dye on canvas.

Shara Hughes, American born 1981.  Whitney Biennial 2017




Split Ends, 2016, oil, acrylic and vinyl paint on canvas.

Shara Hughes, American born 1981.  Private loan to the Whitney Biennial 2017




Beautiful Truth, oil, acrylic, enamel and dye on canvas, 2016.

Shara Hughes, American born 1981. 



Of the painting below, the Metropolitan Museum of Art also speaks of a


‘hallucinatory, invented landscape’ which explores ‘the relationship between abstraction and representation, process and impulse, real and imagined.’ 


You begin to long for the Surrealists…….



How Do You Sleep at Night?, 2017, oil and acrylic on canvas. 

Shara Hughes, American born 1981. Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY




Joseph Marioni, American born 1943

in an exhibition in 2015/2016 at the Philadelphia Art Museum



The museum categorized the artist as a ‘high modernist’ and a ‘leading living colorist’; and presented 15 of his paintings.


The artist said that the context of his work is:


.…‘the movement of artists away from storytelling in the composition of the picture-form and towards the structural identity of the painting’s own painted -form’. 

‘The artist says ‘’.what we are beginning to realize is that when we have achieved the full realization of an actualized painting, when we have stripped away all the worldly décor of the day, and come to look upon the unadorned flesh of its body – just paint on canvas – what we see emanating from its body is dematerialized light’’. 



The artist, in other words, is to facilitate the birth of each painting as an entity with the right to be, to live. 


Live as a plant lives:  with a body which processes light.  The painting is to have a relationship to us equal to those of the plants which enable our lives.


The painting is not to be an artifact of human endeavor.  An artifact with a long and special history as a reflection of human lives, hopes, fears etc.  



Each painting below appears to be a field of one colour only.  The names of the colours do not always match the common and garden idea of that colour.


If you look closely at the sides and bottom of the canvases it is clear that different shades and even colours of paint have been layered.


Not many layers and not thick either.


As a result, depending on the placement of your camera and the position of ceiling lights,  you may pick up varying nuances of colour and shade.


These paintings I found dead on arrival.   A narrow, shallow valley of thin layers of lifeless paint.  They represent nothing:  the nothing in the artist’s mind.



To add insult to injury, the Museum placed an 8th century Thai sandstone sculpture of Avalokiteshvara among these dead paintings. 



In the gallery


The museum suggested we find resonances between the meditative practice of Buddhist tradition and their suggested approach to these dead paintings: 


a suggestion which required Buddhist-levels of  patience to absorb without exasperation!






Red Painting, 2002, acrylic on linen

Joseph Marioni, American born 1943






Orange painting, 2000, acrylic on linen

Joseph Marioni, American born 1943






2 views of Yellow Painting, 2011, acrylic on linen

Joseph Marioni, American born 1943






two views of Turquoise Painting, 2010, acrylic on linen

Joseph Marioni, American born 1943






two views of Green Painting, 2004, acrylic on linen

Joseph Marioni, American born 1943







6 thoughts on “3. COLOUR: waste lands of broken images

  1. It was worth the time looking at the wasted paint just to read your comments! Thanks for being honest about the “art”. I wish the museums would see the fake bs but they’re blind, or maybe the artists paid the museums.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Chris!

    Standards have become very fluid, as you and I have agreed before, since Conceptual art displaced everything which came before it. If the concept in the artist’s mind is more important than the coherence and skill of the translation of that concept into ‘art’, then anything goes. And it has.

    And then there is the money aspect. It is anythng that can be sold and upsold that goes, as you also know..

    Thank goodness this is not the only art being made, even if there is a lot of this. Thank goodness there are artists persisting even if large recognition is slow to come, if it ever does come!


  3. Perhaps they are under work pressures I don’t have to bear, too? Sarah

  4. Cogently argued, illustrated and transmitted on your blog, Sarah. I am in agreement, of course, so perhaps that is part of why I applaud the thoroughness with which you arranged this precisely chosen material into a such a compelling presentation.

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