Saturday, 12 June 2004
Blu-Tack on the Side of a House
Edward Hopper famously said that all he'd ever wanted to do was paint the light on the side of a house.
At the risk of continuing to plough a lone furrow, I thought I'd revisit my contempt for much of what passes for art (and incidentally art education) today.
It's often been said that a culture may be assessed by the art it leaves behind. Are we then content to be judged on the strength of a can of Manzoni shit, a light going on and off in a room, a piece of Blu-Tack stuck on a wall, a child's toy cast in bronze, only much bigger, or any of the other pretentious and shallow pieces of work that regularly catch the eye of the equally shallow Red Top editors?
Some time ago, The Little Git, an old acquaintance of mine, asked what criteria are available to evaluate conceptual art?
"You might try Sol LeWitt's Sentences on Conceptual Art, I said, "but you might then come to the conclusion that this is mostly bollocks, and who am I to argue?" And then I ranted something on the following lines...
Conceptual art is an art form in which the idea is paramount. You must determine how well the artist whose idea it is has conveyed that idea. If you feel the artist has failed to convey the idea adequately, it is almost certainly your fault for not putting in sufficient work to enable you to understand the idea. If you find the work conveys to you something entirely different to the artist's original conception, this is probably OK, because it means that it has succeeded in creating an interface between you and the artist which broadens the available dialogue and the artist will be content to have provoked a reaction, whether intended or not. Or he may feel that you have simply misunderstood his work because you have failed to put in sufficient work to enable you to understand the original idea.
Many conceptual works are, it seems to me, works of philosophy rather than artworks. Unfortunately, many of them are works of extremely simplistic philosophy, boiling down to "War is Bad", "Some People Do Not have Enough to Eat", "These Objects Have Nothing in Common But Look Interesting When Placed on a Shelf Together", "This Ordinary Object is Just Like Every Other of its Kind, But I Brought it Here from Somewhere Else and That Makes it Special."
Younger art students with no experience of life will find these ideas very attractive...
Do not, under any circumstances, suggest that the work on display (and in this case I referred specifically to the work in his local gallery) is an insult to everyone's itelligence and a complete load of shite, because the artist will chase you from the gallery and threaten you with physical violence. I could probably produce a sworn affidavit to this effect, which, when framed and hung in said gallery would be just as valid as anything else there. As I am an artist, I have the power to say that this is so.
I'm tired now. Think I'll go and sniff some turps for a while.