Thursday, 17 July 2008

There’s an Art to This…

So after a few days of feeling ill I decide to get back into it. I meet up with Trev for some day game. He suggests going to a gallery and trying our luck there. Sounds interesting so I give it a shot.

Now let’s talk a bit about me...! When I was a kid I was good at art, and loved modern art. I remember going to the Tate as a kid (there was only one Tate back then) and really loving the modern art. It excited me greatly and while my parents trudged round the boring historical sections (though I didn’t know about Turner at that stage) I hung out in the modern art part, looking in awe at these big explosions of colour and paint, and loving it.

So I ended up doing Art at A Level. And at my school if you took Art then you took History of Art as well. This was all cool as the art stuff I was good at, and then learning about the history behind it as well really helped me gain a greater appreciation of the how and why behind the pictures, and the people that created them. It also introduced me to a whole bunch of artists I had never heard of like Paul Klee and Tom Phillips, who became some of my lifelong favourites since then.

Anyway what all this education really taught me, along with a lot of my own thought after that, was that modern art was bunk. Now that’s not to say that I stopped liking it, I did still like it, it’s just that I’m a little cynical about it. You see, back in the old days of “traditional” art, it was essentially a sort of marketing, advertising, or a tool to promote messages. These messages were the concerns of the time. Essentially art was used to communicate power, whether religious, political, financial etc. The top bishops (or whoever) would get the top artists of the day to paint pictures to glorify god or something like that. Or a rich merchant would get the top man to paint a picture of him in front of his worldly goods to show off how rich he was.

Well that was all great and good but then along came photography. This little box of tricks did one thing that all these artists had spent years learning to do. I call it pictoral representation, i.e. making pictures look like things in real life. So now the rich merchant could take a photo of himself in front of his house or what have you and he only had to sit there for a few minutes and then it was done.

So what you find is at exactly the point that artists no longer need to pictorially represent reality, the visual aspect of the work becomes more and more abstract. The first people to do this was the Impressionists (Monet, Manet, Pissarro, Degas, etc.) and they started off a process that led to a gradual disintegration of the pictoral aspect, via Cubism, and the disintegration of meaning, via Surrealism and Dadaism, to complete abstraction with Abstract Expressionism. After this came Pop Art, which was a celebration of the superficial, and after that came Conceptualism and Post-modernism, which essentially states that Anything Goes. Anything is art. You could seriously piss on the floor in the middle of a gallery and call it art. Indeed Duchamp famously and far-sightedly exhibited a urinal as art, and many artists in recent years have exhibited shit as art, with one Turner Prize winner using elephant dung in one of his works.

So this great, visually amazing stuff that I loved as a kid, it was all rubbish (I could have told you that you might say – which is true, but I’m talking about my experience and this will all come to a relevant point in a few paragraphs hopefully). I mean, people still gave it meaning. I became an expert at the pretentious art critique, providing meaning to works that I’m sure some artists actually thought “This might be fun – splash a bit of paint here – hey, that looks cool!” (In fact this is pretty much Damien Hirst’s approach and he’s done it very well). You can see it in the pages of Time Out. A key phrase to look for is “explores themes of…” as in “The work of [Artist X] attempts to explore themes of loss, betrayal, heartache, sunshine, the global economic process, sexuality (which usually means it’s really fucked up), power, corruption and cheese.” They didn’t have to write that. They could have just said “Wank.” It’s all just vacuous bullshit trying to justify making a bunch of rubbish interesting and important.

So I developed my own school of art appreciation. It basically works by saying to yourself, “How much fun do you think the artist was having when they made this?” and “How much fun is it for me to look at this thing?” It pretty much takes it back full circle to where I was at the start, looking a big swathes of colour and thinking, “this is cool”.

In fact I tell you this now – whenever you look at a piece of modern art from now on, never look at the description on the plaque telling you what to think. Look at the work and make up your own mind. It is literally just as valid.

So why am I telling you this? Because the weight of this realisation always hangs over my head when I go and see modern art. I go and I look at it, and I think it’s fun, and I enjoy it a bit, but in the back of my head I kind of know it’s bunk. And that gives me a background feeling of existentialist angst that I still haven’t managed to erase.

There’s also the fact that the time when I was most into art was when I was at school, and this brings back memories of how everything else was pretty much miserable then.

Either way, what this means is that art galleries are pretty bad for me when it comes to sarging. I went to the Hayward Gallery with Trev for the Psycho-Buildings exhibition, and outside of my feelings for art galleries there were pretty much no hot women to game. The gallery was mostly empty. There were one or two really cool pieces of work, like the “houses at night” piece and the “time tunnel” piece (I have a separate theory that all art reduces back to Doctor Who references, which is true by the way), but for game it was 10 quid wasted. I tried walking around on the South Bank for a bit to try to open some girls but my mind and my energy was gone (it can be surprisingly tiring walking around a gallery). Having just stayed on the South Bank in the first place would have been better.

Given my experiences in the National Gallery in recent days I think galleries in general are bad for me at the moment. One day I know I will get a cold-approach-day-game-same-night-lay from a gallery (most likely the Tate Modern) but I need a general skill increase before then.

“We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies.” Pablo Picasso

“An artist is someone who produces things that people don't need to have but that he - for some reason - thinks it would be a good idea to give them.” Andy Warhol

No comments: