Sunday, 13 April 2014

Art is in the Eye of the Beholder

Aaaand another one that crops up a lot. I have some pretty strong opinions on the topic and you won't like any of them. But what the hell, it's Sunday, it's kick back morning. I may as well stir things up a bit, and this usually does.

So first of all I'm going to make a statement that will enrage half of you, and it is this.

Art is the most important thing there is.

Actually that probably just confused many of you who've known me a long time, because I've been heard to say otherwise. A lot. So you'll have to read all of it now, won't you?

And just so I've covered all bases, to enrage everyone else, art is a complete waste of time and money.

Right. Good. That's pissed everyone off, now let's actually examine it.

When I was a little girl it was noted that I was artistic. Probably very early on too, so I grew up being told that I was. When I was 11 a teacher took me aside and said I had the greatest ability with colour and form that she had ever seen and I really must put every effort into developing it. So, I did what all kids do, I completely ignored her.

It came too easily, you see. Whatever medium we were using, I took to it like a duck to water, and I often outshone everyone around me. I never took it seriously because it was like breathing.

Some of my peers were talented though, and some of them took it VERY seriously. They were best described as arty types. They talked about nothing else, and they all had great plans to be real artists in one way or another.

But, in fact most of the arty types I considered my peers back then probably don't even as much as doodle anymore. It's a great tragedy, but it's commonplace. Art is something we encourage in the young, and then consider a hobby for those with time on their hands in adults. Why do we do that?

Well, for the most part there's no money in it, you see, and we're all about money in the adult world.

However, the fact is that if you put enough effort into it, if indeed, you follow your bliss, you can make a living out of art. You may even make a GOOD living out of it. And if you struggle financially, you still have your art. There's no real downside to it.

But a few truths have to be faced. Some people are more talented than others. If you go to art sites online you will find endless pieces of what is best described as accurate work. Technically it's hard to criticize them, if you had done this work you'd be very pleased with yourself. Your family and friends would gush over it. This is competancy.

On the other hand, there is...........other work.

Now, in fairness the second piece is fantasy, but if you were an art teacher, and this was handed in as a piece of homework, what would you give it? How about the detail in that moon huh? In fact it's not by a student at all, it's for sale on a fine art website. I'll say no more.

So, there's technically correct and there's, hmm, well, but then.....there's art:

So let's not pretend we don't know the difference.

Let's also remember that it's all in the eye of the beholder, especially once you get into the abstract.

Let's also not forget that art takes many forms, but we'll stick to the visual arts.

So, this is art:

And so is this:

And this:

And this too:

And when I found that last one, I found this statement that I thought I'd bring in here:

"A characteristic that defines our species is the making of art."

Nature and humans create art. OK, other species do by accident, and I suppose Nature does it by accident too. Well, there it is. Perhaps a lot of art is accidental, so that just makes it harder to define.

Art makes me happy. It also takes up a lot of my time, as it happens, but am I an arty "type"? No.

Fraid not.

For a start I think there's good art and bad art, which is a complete no-no in artistic circles. One is NOT supposed to criticize. Oh, believe me, arty types DO criticize, but they do it in arty ways. Because they talk arty talk. They live arty lives. They drive me effing nuts. I can't be done with it.

On the other hand I want to claw the eyes out of people who dismiss art altogether. Or who put really bad art on their walls. OK, OK, you like what you like, we all do, but there is still bad taste. If I visit your home and you have something like this displayed (yes, even if it was YOUR work), I will judge you. Sorry and all that.

If you just don't bother because you don't have the money or time, that's one thing. Life gets in the way. Most of my art is rolled up in tubes because I can't afford good frames and I won't use bad ones. Lack of art is just....well, lack.

But if you don't think art matters, or if you actively oppose it, what else drives you?

It isn't enough to say that people matter more, because the people who you care about may be the ones whose lives would be enriched by art. There are people out there who give their lives to save great works of art. They consider its importance to future generations is greater than their own existence. I'm not certain I could be that selfless, but when the elderly ladies came between Mussolini and the paintings - yeah, I grok

There is a popular quote attributed to Churchill, which apparently he never said at all, but which I still love. It goes like this: when asked to cut arts funding in favour of the war effort, he replied: “Then what are we fighting for?” 

 That is what I mean by important. If there is no art in the world, and that includes the beauty of nature, by the way, then really, why bother? If all is ugly, or just plain, where's the excitement? Obviously if you were born blind and never knew any different, you'd never miss it and you'd find all your beauty in music, or poetry, or whatever. But we evolved sight and then we evolved sentience, and when you place the two together there is a yearning for colour and form.

So, what does it achieve? Well, nothing useful. One could go broke, into debt, into destitution even, spending money on making or buying art. If you can't put food on the table because of art, you may not be making the wisest of choices. I hear regularly of the work colleague of a friend who has expensive tattoos but can't make rent. I have run into many people who buy non-essential clothing or other decorative things and have to go hungry, or borrow money, as a result. There has to be some common sense involved somewhere, because if we all sat around carving rocks instead of growing food, we'd die out.

Therefore, as always, I conclude there's a balance. We should all make/buy/enjoy as much art as we can, and plan our sacrifices carefully. We should be realistic about our abilities - we should accept criticism and advice gracefully, and act on it. But we should never be put off by people who just don't get it. Happiness is the guide.


  1. Thank you for your post, which does serve to illustrate(!) that there is a spectrum of acceptance when it comes to artistic work...good AND bad...and everything in between.

    Kind of like people.

    And yes, there is imbalance, unfortunately. If happiness is going to be our guide, then we'd better get on the plus side, quick. ;) ~ Blessings! :)

  2. In second grade we were supposed to fold paper cranes for art class. I can even remember why I couldn't get mine right, but I do remember the art teacher, Mr. Whitehead, pounding on my desk so hard I popped up out of the seat a little bit even though my feet didn't touch the floor. He told me I was stupid, I have done my absolute best to not create art since and honestly I don't have much appreciation for most things people consider art. I am amazed at origami and people who can actually do it. My neighbor is an artist and does cute things in his yard and sometimes I think maybe I should try doing something, but it is just a yard. I will admit I have become the sort that just says "well it isn't practical" and moves on.

    1. It's a very easy approach to fall into, and I can be quite the minimalist, but I am trying harder to make the effort.