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Thursday, 19 June 2008

Comment with the experts.

The Times newspaper is running a weekly article under the title "modern art explained", which is actually claiming too much for it. The format is that each week (Tuesday) they reproduce a significant work of modern art, together with verdicts by readers and an expert. Interesting though these can be (and so far the readers' have had the edge on the expert), they have not, in my view, amounted to an "understanding" of modern art - or even of the works themselves. There have been two so far. This week it was the turn of the Jake and Dinos Chapman brothers to have their "One Day You Will No Longer Be Loved" put up for scrutiny. It is basically a desicration of a perfectly respectable portrait, such that it now depicts the inevitable decay which the body must suffer. Rachel Campbell Johnston, the expert, considers it the modern equivalent of the traditional image of St Jerome meditating on the skull beneath the skin . Last week's offering was Pablo Picasso's "Woman Weeping", an image which grew out of "The Greek Chorus of women weeping" in the aftermath of Guernica, one of the worst atrocities of The Spanish Civil War, involving the bombing of the Basque village. He produced a series of such images, all related to his great work of that name.

At any time the work for the following week can be viewed at www.timesonline.co.uk/modernartexplained, thereby making it possible to email your views in time for them to be published alongside the expert's. Next Tuesday's offering is to be a Robert Gwathmey print.

This week the views seemed to divide according to whether or not the person commenting considered that art should depict beauty. There certainly have been times when the universal view would have been that beauty was art's business first and foremost, and many even today would be inclined to ask what is art's business if not beauty in some form or other? Possibly a more productive talking point than the work itself?

21 comments:

School Daze said...

modern art fans should check this out...

THE COOL SCHOOL is the story about how LA learned to love modern art. Its a lesson in how a few renegade artists built an art scene from scratch. This great new film, which has already been an enormous success is now available for viewing at iTunes! To watch- click the link below, and you’ll be brought straight to the iTunes store!

http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewMovie?id=281974357&s=143441

Jim Murdoch said...

Yes, I've heard that but I can't say I agree with it. Beauty is a subject like any other and there have been many beautiful works of art. In its own way Picasso's Guernica is beautiful but what it portrays and what it commemorates is not.

Art is not a hammer. You can hammer nails in with a hammer and with the right kind you can pull then out again. You can turn throwing them into a sport or you can sneak up behind the guy whose been giving your wife one and beat his brains in with one. Art is limited only by Man's imagination. Why restrict it? And that is what any kind of definition is.

As to explaining it, art is not an equation to which there is an answer. Okay, it is, but one of the variables is the viewer so the answer has to be different every time.

Dave King said...

School Daze
Welcome and thanks for that: will certainly have a peep.

Dave King said...

Jim,
I do believe you have hit the nail on the head! You certainly echo my thoughts, so you must have!

Ken Armstrong said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ken Armstrong said...

I don't think Art needs to be all about Beauty - that's Fashion, isn't is?

Re: you last comment Dave.. funny! :) Jim has put it very well.

Completely lowering the tone (as one does) the summary of this post on your Entrecard Profile page is quite funny and a tad rude.

'Profile'

Jim thought me the link thing - (which I messed up, hence the removed comment).

Ain't no stopping me now...

PS - I moved to Firefox and can see you EC widget now, happy days!

Dave King said...

Ken,
Thanks for all that - bit of everything there, and I'm all for lowering the tone occasionally!

hope said...

You guys always brighten my day. :)

I suppose art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Some of what passes for art makes me turn a blind eye, even if I try to keep an open mind.

Dave, any time someone speaks of experts, I think of what I was once told about their almighty opinions:

An "Ex" is a has been and a
"Spurt" is a drip with a little force behind it.

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

Dear Dave, very engaging these two latest posts of yours, they must be very carefully read.
In particular the two questions about art and beauty.
Thank you for your comment on mine. I feel too that "emotion recollected in tranquillity" is still the best sentence about poetry, what most captures what happens.
Best wishes, Davide

Sorlil said...

That art ought to depict beauty is a very high classical greek idea where sculture idealised and tried to create the perfect human form.

Picasso and Van Gogh are my favorite artists and it's not the beauty of their paintings that attract me but the energy and passion that blasts from their work and makes me catch my breath when I see it.

Dick said...

Trite as it appears in print, surely the business of art is to depict truth.

Dave King said...

Hope,
That is excellent - you have now brightened my day. Much thanks!

Dave King said...

Tomasso
My thanks to you for your kind remarks. I suppose that at the end of the day (as they say) all questions on art are open questions.

Dave King said...

Dick,
Not rite, but yes, I guess no one could disagree with that. Which brings us to Pilate and "What is truth?". Some (not me) would say that truth and beauty on the one hand and untruth and ugliness on the other are synonyms.

Dick said...

Keats has much to answer for!

Dave King said...

True, very true!

Elizabeth said...

This is a fascinating to me. I have been an art student/ artist/ teacher for 25 years now and don't always agree with the "experts". I have always felt, personally, that Art is the expression of the Joy of God's Creation. Sometimes, that creation is perfectly ordered, symmetrical and soothing; at other times, parts of creation seem disorganized, asymmetrical and wild. At all times there is an underlying beauty to the world around us, from the human form to the blasted tree or rush of a waterfall. If the order of creation is the "truth" we are after, then our art will be beautiful. If our pupose is only to "push the boundaries" and offend, we may not be creating honestly.
I often tell my students
(6-18 year old homeschoolers) that a piece of "art" that needs a three page essay to explain the artist's "intention" is probably NOT succeeding at being ART.
Isn't the famous saying that a picture is worth a thousand words? Visual art should SPEAK without having to explain too much.
(As should music, etc.)
It is fun to hear different perspectives sometimes...I'll be checking out the Times articles.
Blessings, EJT

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