Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Art is As Art Does


Art - what is it? Has the word lost its meaning - if it ever had one in the first place?

Everyone knows when they see a great painting or play, or hear a great piece of music that moves the body and stirs the soul, or reads a wonderful book that keeps one riveted. The problem comes in that area where art nudges up against craft of even mere decoration and it's impossible to tell whether, say a painting, is a 'work of art' or merely some commercial art or even a scrawl.

Hay maintains it's all in the intention; I have my doubts and feel a level of skill is required. There are disciplines where such levels of skill are readily apparent between practitioners and the men are easily sorted from the boys. Playing an instrument is within everyone's capability, but playing it well is evident to the average listener. Acting is also within everyone's repertoire, but most of us make a complete hash of it. As for dancing, dads the world over make a bold attempt, but few can master the necessary skills.

The visual arts are where opportunities open up to mere mortals and virtually anyone can pass themselves off as an artist, with the consequence that charlatans abound. Not, of course, in traditional painting and drawing of reality, but the more modern visual art forms, such as expressionism and art installations, which can mask a total lack of talent, as demonstrated below.


Marcel Duchamp's famous 'Fountain' had the following said about it; "Whether the artist, with his own hands, made the fountain or not has no importance. He CHOSE it. He took an ordinary article of life, placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under the new title and point of view – created a new thought for that object." To me that sounds like pretentious twaddle - it's declared as art merely because the person who 'created' it says it is. If that's the case, a bricklayer can declare his wall a work of art and Colin (our tame builder) has been creating art all over our property for  the last 10 years. Not the house, of course, as the designer was an architect and Colin merely the assembler.


Duchamp did have talent though, but this is only evident through his early work before he started his experimentation and went from what he called retinal art to a form of art that challenged the intellect. He was actually challenging the very notion of what art is.

The concept of a work being defined as art (rather than decoration) purely because the maker defines it as such not only democratises art, but opens the floodgates for all manner of charlatans, as evidenced by the burgeoning 'modern art' market controlled by the Sarotas and Saatchis of this world, who cannily set themselves up as arbiters of not only of what art is, but what constitutes great art (because no-one actually knows). It's a master class in creating a market demand, fulfilling it and making a fortune through patronage. It's a con on a massive scale, but because institutions and luminaries have bought into the scam with vast amounts of money, it's self-perpetuating and there's too much to lose by highlighting the fact that the Emperor has no clothes.

Don't get me wrong - I have no issue with artists who have demonstrated talent in a more conventional sense then pushing the boundaries and experimenting, but when someone starts out as an experimenter with no underlying talent whatsoever - and some modern art forms facilitate that - then it becomes a decorative gewgaw at best and a scam at worst. Even then, one can't tell whether what's produced is great art and it all boils down to whether the artist showed earlier skills in the more traditional works, and even that is not a guarantee.

One only has to remember that great artist, Pierre Brassau, who wowed art critics in Gothenburg in the '60s. Only one critic saw through the hoax. Pierre died aged 10 from tuberculosis - not a common ailment among chimps. Below is one of his works.


Much of what's termed modern art is the equivalent of someone pressing random keys on a piano and declaring it an artistic endeavour.


1 comment:

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7dgRxpx6XY

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