On Friday night, after I spoke to a group of painters in a distant city, a young woman came forward and asked, “As a painter of mostly rocks and trees, do you in any way follow current art trends to stay abreast of what’s going on, and if so, what, in your opinion, is happening, and what do you think will be the Next Big Thing?”
I’m not sure what I blurted out, but it was probably glib. I was signing books at the time and trying to remember my name. When things calmed down I looked up with the intent of giving her a decent answer, but she had mysteriously melted away.
Even though I’m a small statuary gnome down at the bottom of the garden painting rocks and trees, I’m totally interested in following the trends. I have been all my life. I particularly love the mind-bending joy and challenge of installation art in practically all its forms–with the possible exception of displays that include raw meat.
I’m particularly fascinated by the art and the sociology in magazines such as Modern Painters and Juxtapoz. And yes, since I’ve been reading these and others, I’ve been able to follow a few of the trends. Over the years I’ve often been told about the Next Big Thing.
During the last decade the painting department has seen a great resurgence of figurative art. This has actually brought a lot of brilliant young draftsmen and draftswomen to the fore. Add to this the requisite anger, protest, mixed metaphors and casual nihilisms and you have some pretty interesting stuff. Dribble-downs, sore-looking mouths, sensuality, drugs, inner demons, religion and human fluids are all the rage.
Charlie Isoe, a young, big-painter of Berlin and now of Amsterdam has been anointed one of the “Next.” So you can get an idea of at least one branch of NBT we’ve put some of his recent work at the bottom of this letter.
Getting back to my lecture, if that young woman ever reappears I’ll tell her we’re currently enjoying a complex of variety, novelty and retro. Drawing, decoration, design, mindlessness, off-the-wall goofiness and thick paint are all in style, as well as anything that might upset your grandmother.
PS: “I shot a tractor by mistake. A tractor is quite big. I don’t really shoot animals these days. I don’t like to, and I don’t need to.” (Charlie Isoe)
Esoterica: Hand in hand, museum-feed and collector-feed thrives on what is perceived to be new product. It’s a sacred trust between the imaginative and the entrepreneurial. The object of the latter is to gain control of the former. The object of the former is to keep going. Anticipating, predicting and developing NBT is the game. Hype helps. Now I’m going back down to the bottom of the garden.
Stop looking for it
by Bob Ragland, Denver, CO, USA
There ain’t no next big thing in my opinion. Sunday Morning TV last Sunday showed artists using everything to make “art.” Hey, Robert Rauschenberg already covered that ground. Everything after that is, well, er repetition. Artists need to just make what they make, and stop looking for the next big thang.
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Just make it good
by John Ferrie, Vancouver, BC, Canada
The thing about the “next big thing” is by the time anyone knows it is the “thing,” everyone has moved on to discover the next “next big thing.” Call it a Flash in the Pan, a trend or just the current hot spot. It happens in art, fashion, Movies and Politics. And what may seem like something HOT one day is quickly the dark side of the moon the next. “I love it, I hate it” are the catch phrases that make someone famous. But, at the end of the day, there is nothing better than good quality work. The thing about being “hot” is there are decades of work and acres of canvas that the artist has done. Then the ‘system” wants more work and they want it right away. There is no way anyone is going to sit up and take notice of the second wave of the “big thing” when the work is just half baked.
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by Pepper Hume, Spring, TX, USA
The interest in The Next Big Thing hits me with coincidence. I’m reading Russell Lynes’ 1949 book which deals largely with this very issue over the years. This 60-year-old book is full of observations that could have been made last week instead of 60 to 160 years ago.
The trouble is, trying to be TNBT probably involves novelty for its own sake. Chasing TNBT smacks dangerously of copycatism. It’s the name of the game in Hollywood – when something original catches the public fancy and becomes TNBT, suddenly that becomes the thing to do. In the arts, what makes TNBT is actually marketers glomming onto something original, whether it has honest foundation or is the aforementioned novelty, and selling it to the public. Mr. Lynes points out more than once that TNBT is often a flash in the pan and soon fades from sight. It boils down to the artist’s ultimate concept of success. Do you want to make a lot of money and live well or find your own voice and just possibly contribute to big A-art? Sure, it’s disheartening if you never sell, but is that why you make art?
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Be true to yourself
by Deby Adair, Australia
Art is about individuality. If it flows and it really belongs to you, then I don’t have a problem with it. However, if an artist bases what they think they should do, so they can catch the whirlwind of a ‘trend’ or flavor of the month, in opposition to what they actually really want to create; then the end result might indeed shock, might even be acclaimed, may even make them millions but, in effect, defeat the entire purpose of following their art.
If anyone is ‘in’ art to catch the Next Big Thing, then you’ve already robbed yourself of your purpose. By all means, keep abreast of whatever ‘it’ is, be interested, look at it, critique but unless you create the Next Big Thing because it really means something to you, please don’t jump on to a meaningless bandwagon of artifice. It will be bound to offend the artists out there who are busy doing what they love, and, invariably, as in some unfortunate exhibitions that occur, it will offend the eye of everyone other than your mother. Be true to yourself.
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The NBT secret council
by Susan Holland, Bellevue, WA, USA
It would be interesting to know who it is who determines what will be “the next big thing.” I do know that in the fashion industry, there are clutches of merchandising experts who have critical forums on what colors should be becoming fashionable in the next three to five years, and they collude to “push” those colors (different from the current ones, of course) into the public view as what’s right at the front edge of haute couture, so then the regular people follow along and we have a new Big Thing that makes a lot of money for the fashion industry. (Everyone has to empty their closets of that frumpy last year’s stuff and get the cool stuff. Often the school kids lead in the trends… “Oh, PULEEZE, Mom… all the kids are wearing them.”)
I wonder who is in the back room deciding it’s time for figurative to come back, (personally I say “Yay”) and who is pushing the angsty, drippy, horror show figurative stuff — pushing the envelope — trying to move folks by shock to throw out the frumpy old tame paintings and get some cool ones.
Usually it seems the historically significant trends are brought on by a big movement in the arts that is based on the spirit of the times. Art that is in some consistent way welcomed by a receptive “in group” (read “patrons”) who declare that it’s collectible and valuable.
There are certain Big Things that stay big. Why do we still gawk at Leonardo da Vinci and Boticelli, and Van Gogh and Hokusai? If we can work on THAT question we will be better served in our souls, and maybe eventually in our wallets.
Attuning to the real world
by A. Robert Malcom, Tampa, FL, USA
Actually, the ‘next big thing’ is not rehashing of the SOT (same old thing) but in different colors, which is basically (judging from the example you gave) disrespect for being human, and more of the gory idiocy which pervades the post-modern nihilists. No, the real next big thing is one which has been creeping slowly up from underneath the filth and bland and rehashing of the ordinary or depraved. It is a glorification of the real world, the human world in all its rational (which is to say, human) possibilities. A world of self-responsibility instead of dependency, of enlightenment to being human, not lowering to the animal, the egoisms of the true individuals aggregating peacefully with each other, where the artists show the world of intimacy and objective joy and flourishing of the non-sacrificial. It is of the recognition of the sum-plus with the whole of the universe eventually to explore and use to the advancement of our well-being. And where old techniques can take renewed use in the showing, not in recycling worn mythologies and fantasies, or hatreds of what is, but attuned to the real world and relishing it.
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Blood gore and more of the same
by Adolfo McQue, South Africa
Yes realism is back, with a vengeance. It is much easier to create an impact with a realist technique understood by all but the message carried is one of death and negative feelings, the sad part is most of these artists are totally dishonest and only want to be noticed. Political art is out, too incorrect, nothing much to revel against in the Western world, (or no money in it).
Please guys do not be happy when you paint it may show in your work, be sad and think of every morbidity possible, it’s the way to fame, blood gore and more of the same. Francis Bacon said it all much better and he was an original and a really tormented soul.
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Hoola hoops and pet rocks
by Jan Ross, Kennesaw, GA, USA
Consider this: my state just had its own ‘revolution’ as the powers-that-be were about to dissolve ANY funding for the arts. The public schools in my county have just let go over 500 teachers, including those who specialize in areas outside the 3 ‘r’s, so that means the average child in a public school is not being exposed to art on a regular basis, as those of previous generations. Museums, art associations and galleries are dying.
With that in mind, one has to wonder if future generations will have enough interest in visual art, much less knowledge of the masters, or the basics of how creating art, to even CARE about anything more than, “I know what I like when I see it.” I do not doubt that creative, innovative minds will continue to be born, and the hunger to create will exist, but I believe the overall population’s perspective on art will match those who consider bumper stickers ‘literature.’ For that reason, I believe the tried and true will prevail. Who doesn’t like rocks and trees, waterfalls, portraits and familiar objects? Obviously, paintings on velvet appeal to some people as they still exist, go figure. Like the hoola hoop and pet rocks, the craze will not last long (but garden gnomes will always rule!).
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Not led around
by L. Anne McClelland, Mountain View, AB, Canada
Although, like you, I find it interesting to see what other people are doing in quest of the Holy Next Big Thing I’m quite happy to remain on the outside of all that fuss and just follow the old axiom “To thine own self be true.” I have no patience or interest in attempting to utilize ‘this season’s colour trends or other fashion ideals. I find it fulfilling enough to explore my inner world as well as the things that I find beautiful in the outside world. I am being true to myself painting the little things that catch my eye rather than being led around like a bull by the nose in order to mimic or attempt to compete with people who are high stepping on the wave of the NBT.
There are always new things to discover — I don’t believe you have to search that far to find your own direction. Maybe I’m just a bullish individualist, an outsider, a mad painting fool, or perhaps a person who simply finds sufficient reward in my own life and immediate environment. Perhaps I’m over 50 and have released most of my adolescent angst already.
Good luck and good fortune to those who wish to surf the big waves but I’m a life long beachcomber quite happy to putter about sifting through the flotsam and jetsam in my own little back eddy of the world — occasionally finding rounded stones and small treasures of quiet beauty in places and people and creatures not normally seen from the fast lane.
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French River Town
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.
That includes Elisabeth Seeger of Seattle, WA, USA, who wrote, “Who cares? The Next Big Thing changes every 5 minutes. I paint what I love — the play of light and color on mostly rocks and trees!”
And also Nicole Rigets of West Vancouver, BC, Canada, who wrote, “Isoe: Francis Bacon meets Emmett Kelly!! Well Resolved — I admire the titles.”
And also Peggy Small of Gibsons, BC, Canada, who wrote, “Who’d want it on their walls?”
Enjoy the past comments below for The Next Big Thing…