Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ignoring Art

Context is everything. It's no surprise displaying artwork from a famous contemporary artist on an urban street is overwhelmingly ignored. This was demonstrated when Belgian artist Luc Tuymans participated in an experiment where he painted a large artwork and hung it on a busy street in Antwerp. Predictable as it is, I find the video interesting because of the comments by curators and admirers of Tuymans work.

I have a tic of internal eye rolling every time I hear artists referred to as 'important'. It's confirmed now I'm a philistine because I've only vaguely heard of Tuymans although he's considered by many as the most important living painter alive. I like his paintings and I'm curious to read more to see why his work is considered valuable and influential. But c'mon, as much as I love painting, looking at painting, talking about the process of painting, the self-proclaimed importance of the art world makes me, well... barfy. Tuymans himself doesn't seem to suffer from this inflated view of contemporary art. The people surrounding him do.

I once had a professor (also somewhat important in the art world) who I did think was brilliant say, "If you can do art, you can do anything". It's been over 20 years since I first heard that comment and I still can't figure it out. I do have glimpses of what he meant. It takes a high degree of intellect to create great, meaningful art in any artistic pursuit. Still, I would like to know what he meant exactly. Clearly in that context, I can't do art, because if someone wants me to discuss the Euler-Tricomi equation as it's used in the investigation of transonic flow, I am so, like, totally clueless.
Now, be a dear, watch the video and have a little chuckle about how wrong all those curators were.


paula said...

well i just woke up and dont feel like watching a video (my back is still out so sitting is precious time) anyhow. you struck a chord with me on that comment about if you can do art you can do anything.
i see it as....if you stick with it and are 'an artist' that takes more gusto than so far anything i've personally experienced in 48 yrs of living.
great post as are 99.99999% of yours :)

andrea said...

I noticed that while the non-viewer numbers rose steadily, the viewer numbers would jump by several all at once, meaning that probably a large percentage of the viewers stopped only because someone else had stopped just before them and were curious. It says even more about the stats (and the lemming-like nature of humans).

As one eye roller to another re. artspeak (I didn't fit in any better at art school than I did at a regular high school) I love this quote: writing about art is like dancing about architecture. That said, I *must* learn to use the phrase 'moral gravitas' in a sentence correctly.

Ellen said...

Paula- hope your back is feeling better. I'm starting to think everything about life takes guts in it's own way from choosing an art path to having the strength to stay in dead end jobs to survive. i wonder is art about gutso or is about it ego and maybe even escapism? I think it takes a big amount of selfishness to be a successful artist. That sounds bad, but I don't have a judgement about it, as the selfishness isn't necessarily in an ugly way, just a strong determination that art is what "*I'm* going to do, no matter what" kind of attitude. You can tell, I'm no romantic.

Andrea - good point about the numbers. It's a bit of a silly experiment, the end had me 'eye rolling' the most about the 'wake up' call. Pffft. A painting has no power to speak to the general public or any gallery art for that matter, Tv and film are far more powerful. These artspeak people should openly admit it and be fine in their exclusive, insulated world. And yeah, 'moral gravitas' stood out for me too, love it.

*note- maybe not a good idea to respond to comments when I'm feeling extra cynical.

paula said...

i agree about the selfishness to a point. is it selfish to live your life the way you want? or is it just healthy and few do it? its hard. but it is hard to live a life you DONT want too. i've deleted a huge paragraph, its too ealry for all this philosophical stuff...
and yes my back is better thank you :)

GEM said...

"Moral gravitas" and my all time favourite barfy verb "to resonate" osed by self important fashionable arty types to say " I think, maybe I kind of get it!" I concur, Blagh, Yuck, Groan.
i find we are so inundated, almost drowning, in created visual images during everyday experience that we are inured to selecting out to notice even a novel and perhaps possibly shocking image as the Tuymans in the video.
Tuymnas is an interesting painter. His earlier work showed the use of a compressed tonal range, mainly monochromatic. This tends to suspend a viewer in an aura, and acts as if the image is seen through a scrim. Kind of distancing from the hectic colours and contrast of reality. It reveals to me as much about this artist's emotional expression as about my own tendencies to prefer images which seem to me to have a dreamlike affect. I'm a sucker for movies in which atmosphere is palpable and i am transported to almost a dream-like meditative place. How abou all my art-speak nonsense. Ick - more purplish prose from moi.
This was a good blog post. Thank you! G and GEM