As one of the UK’s richest artists prepares to burn thousands of his paintings, Dr Jared Pappas-Kelley, Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at Teesside University and author of Solvent Form; Art and Destruction, shares his views on the destruction of art in the Guardian.
Dr Jared Pappas-Kelley is the course leader for MA Fine Art at Teesside University and supervises PhD students doing practice-based research in Fine Art as well as teaching on both the MA Fine Art and the BA Fine Art. He gained his PhD in Philosophy, Art and Critical Thought (PACT) at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, and in his own practice as a visual artist he focuses on an instability in the art object and the intersection between practice and theory.
His book, Solvent Form, explores the destruction of art, both in terms of objects that have been destroyed – lost in fires, floods or vandalism – and the general concept of art operating through object and form. He examines events such as the warehouse fire at Momart in 2004 and works indirectly destroyed by art thief Stephane Breitwieser, ultimately proposing the idea of solvent form (hinging on the dual meaning in the words solvent and solvency) whereby art, while attempting to make secure or fixed, likewise undoes and destroys through its inception.
Artist Damien Hirst recently revealed that he will be burning thousands of his paintings at his London gallery to show art as ‘currency’. His announcement has brought both condemnation and praise from the art community – Dr Pappas-Kelley would argue that all objects of art hold their own destruction latent within them. Commenting in the Guardian on the Momart warehouse fire which destroyed about £30m of British art, he suggests that such an event is good for revealing the way art metaphorically trips on the carpet. Of the fascination with fire and destruction in art events like this, Dr Pappas-Kelley observed, ‘In theory no one is neutral at these specific fires – you either set it, are attempting to put it out or are watching the spectacle of it.’
Hirst, who dominated the art scene in the 1990s will burn his paintings over several weeks, culminating in a final blaze during the Frieze Art Fair in London. Whilst some suggest that this is nothing more than a great publicity stunt, Hirst hardly needs the money, purported to be the richest living artist in the UK. Others see it as something more, an ‘out with the old, in with the new’ act of destruction that creates opportunity for a creative phoenix to rise from the flames.
Dr Pappas-Kelley is currently working on further book projects – one a collection of manifestos commissioned by contemporary artists and thinkers, the other a collection of short reflection pieces on works by contemporary artists such as Janine Antoni, Uta Barth, Terrence Koh, and Kiki Smith. He brings his wealth of knowledge and research activity into the classroom, informing teaching and benefiting students of Fine Art at Teesside.
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