Simon Barney : Christopher Dean


Simon Barney No Ideas

Front Room, Sydney


It would be hard to imagine a politician or a
hairdresser boasting about their own stupidity. If
they did the scenario might be as follows: "I'm a
politician and I've got no idea how to run this
country" or "I'm a hairdresser and I've forgotten how
to do a perm". A world consisting of unresolved
government policies and bad hair-do's would be the
obvious result.

In contrast to this painters often like to boast about
their own stupidity. The steady decline of the status
of painting in capitalist economies goes part of the
way towards explaining this trend. Andy Warhol would
often request that interviewers provide him with both
questions and answers. This strategy of active
passivity allowed artists such as Warhol to reclaim
their lost sense of cultural authority. Simon Barney
takes this level of 'critical stupidity' one step
further by insisting that other artists provide him
with instructions for paintings because as he claims
in an artists statement "I have no ideas of my own".

The result is a show titled 'No Ideas' which was
recently held at an independent gallery called Front
Room. For this exhibition Barney contacted six artists
with the request that they each provide him with ideas
about what he should paint. This information formed
the basis for six abstract and figurative paintings in
both oil and acrylic which formed the basis of the
exhibition. To prove his well developed sense of
stupidity the oils were not allowed sufficient time to
dry and entrapped the lustful fingers of visitors like
flies in ointment when they touched the works at the

In keeping with the spirit of this exhibition the six
artists who supplied ready made ideas are not listed
in this review because No Ideas is an attempt to
demonstrate that even if a curatorial concept is
devoid of ideas it is always perceived as being more
important than the original concept of an individual

Christopher Dean