Everybody Gets a Cat

Iris Scott and the Problem of Kitsch

Iris Scott, Tabby’s Star, 2017, oil on canvas, 40×60″, private collection.

In the winter of 2018 there was a row in PN Review over the work of poets who have taken to Instagram and YouTube as alternatives to traditional publishing that foreshadows a similar reckoning in the world of painting. Rebecca Watts takes aim at “The Cult of the Noble Amateur” in issue 239 of PN Review, criticizing poets such as Rupi Kaur, Kate Tempest, and Hollie McNish for reducing poetry to mere honesty and accessibility. Watts argues that such a reduction ignores important elements of craft and leaves such poets devoid of “the aspiration to do anything well.” Similar complaints have been lodged against artists working in other mediums who have used social media to boost their profile and have, over time, achieved massive commercial success through digital accessibility. Paintings by artists such as Iris Scott carrying substantial price tags in the tens-of-thousands and have garnered her a huge following on social media platforms. It seems the problem of “kitsch” has again reared its head in the art world – but can such a criticism stick and does it even matter? Continue reading “Everybody Gets a Cat”

The Politics of the Apolitical

There is a certain kind of commentator that calls themselves “apolitical” while engaged in explicitly political projects. More often than not, the apolitical person will claim that they do not like politics, that they would prefer not to engage politically, but that circumstances have forced their hand and, because of a situation that is beyond […]

Existentialism for Our Times

What is Existentialism? Existentialism is a system of philosophy developed in France during the Second World War and its immediate aftermath. It has roots in the 19th century, particularly in works of German philosophers who wrote after Kant, like Hegel and Nietzsche, and also in the writings of the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard and the Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky. Existentialism proper, as a systematic view of human beings and the world they inhabit, is expressed in many books and articles written by Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. Why talk about existentialism today? Continue reading “Existentialism for Our Times”