My Feelings on modern art.
The age old debate as to ‘what is art’ rages on, well, at least that is so in my own interpretation. I once read an article about submissions for the Turner prize. It seems that even a few judges were baffled by some of the modern art entries which have made it in! Of course us Artits need to stretch boundaries, although some works really have had me in turmoil. I firmly believe in art invoking the emotions and being a cause for discussion and there are many times that some works have done this for me.
The first time that really sticks in the memory was during an art trip during my college years when our class was taken to an exhibition in and around Cardiff, South Wales. If all that the artists wished to produce was to leave the viewer perplexed, it certainly worked for this attendee! Paper bags filled with Elephant dung or a floor covered in flat pebbles with male genitalia on each? Um, ok. The correlation between what was in front of me and the description of the works was confounding. At the age of 19, did I consider this to be art? Not in the slightest. Again, if the aim was to create years of discussion based on these works, then my congratulations to the long forgotten artists. My sincerest apologies to you, for I remember glimpses of your works but no name or other relevancy to that which was before me.
The art of the Tate Modern
More recent and memorable instances stem from my time living in London, UK and being within a short walk of the Tate Gallery and even closer, the Tate Modern. On days when lectures were slow or done, I would enjoy a wonderful walk along the Thames and invariably arrive at the Salvador Dali ‘Metamorphosis of Narcissus’. The subject of this is so abstract and surreal, yet its execution and technique is stunning to look upon. Strangely with this work of art, I get the correlation between the artist and the works is tangible, obvious and recognisable. The visual reproduction of a dream reality. Now place this piece alongside a torn hessian canvas. Is the tear meant to represent angst, the inability to paint, frustration, incompetence? An unmade bed. Why? Izz and I leave one of every morning, well at least until we destroy our ‘work of art’ by smoothing out the duvet. A tent with pictures of all the people you slept with? The purpose of works such as these truly escape my knowledge.
The height of my disbelief and, I suppose you could say, cynicism towards modern art came when reading an article during my morning commute to University. There had been a gallery press and opening evening for some new exhibits, at a small venue on the South Bank. The write up stated that an entire work was swept into the bin. What was the piece? An artists’ table complete with dried tubes of paint, over flowing cigarette ashtrays, crumpled cigarette boxes, dirty plates, half-drunk glasses of wine and cups of tea, all placed to represent the artists’ studio space. Is it any wonder it was thrown out by the cleaners the following morning? I must admit that it made me laugh out loud, much to the chagrin of my fellow solemn morning travellers. What topped off the article was hearing of the curators rummaging through the garbage to collect the items and ‘painstakingly’ re-constructing the tableau from photographs. There surely is some irony in there, is there not?
Perhaps it is down to the personal preference of mine in following traditional styles of realism and technique, which have shaped my tastes and appreciation of art. Canaletto, van Gogh, Monet, Banksy, Salvador Dali, Johannes Wessmark, Luis Royo, David B Mattingly, all incredible traditional artists whose style is based in realism. Don’t get me wrong, there are many modern works which I believe to be very beautiful, cleverly constructed and which have some great thought, meaning and insight into the mind of the artist. The abstract works of Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky and Mark Rothko are interesting and well executed. There has to be some connection and ability to understand in order for me to appreciate an artistic work. The subject may not be to the same taste or style, yet if the process, idea, technique or connection shows through then I call that art. Yet I am grateful for the diversity we have in the human race, it surely gives us plenty to talk about.
The debate goes on. A penis on a pebble? Nope, still don’t get it.