Thursday, 8 March 2012

Perception, Perseption, Persepshun

I am now going to ask the dreaded question "What Is Art?"
This question cropped into my mind whilst finishing a piece inspired by the February challenge. As I wondered whether the figure was watching a new day dawn or an old day sleep, I began thinking about how perception influences art and creativity.

I confess that I am not, in any way, a fan of "contemporary art". To make a sweeping generalisation, on the whole I find it uninspiring and borderline lazy (the piece that jumps to mind is a canvas painted blue that hit the news several years ago. Just plain blue. One colour over a large blank canvas... I could have done that, and I am not an artist). Whilst I appreciate there will be a meaning/message in the artwork, I simply have lost any enthusiasm to find out what it is. I like to be drawn in to a piece, to wonder at its complexity or marvel at its simplicity.

But there are others who pay millions of pounds for something that I wouldn't buy as an image on a bookmark.

Surely this varied perception though is what makes debate around art so interesting?

For example, is graffiti art? Years ago I would have said 'no', but whilst living in Brighton I saw some fantastic pieces of graffiti, my favourite of which is:

There was also the infamous Banksy piece of the two policemen kissing:

I have come to the conclusion that these pieces, possibly because they can be captured as a consumable image, have now crossed the line into what I perceive to be 'art'. (More on consumerism another day!)

So what about this?:

I took this photo in "graffiti street" in Melbourne, Australia (I forget the real name!) In the middle of the city centre there is a tiny lane, full of graffiti. It is ever-changing as new artists add their own tags and images and take over the space once dominated by another piece. Looking at this photo, my gut reaction is "what a mess!" but at the same time something draws me in. I took several photos of the bins, as the 'TG' tag was written out as The Ghetto/Train Game/The Gang and various other slogans - every bin had something different etched on it.

If we assume that graffiti is art, would I be able to call myself creative if I had scrawled something on one of the bins? Would that have made me an artist (or criminal!)? After all, there is a saying "imitation is the highest form of flattery" - would I have been honouring the original artists by copying their work? On that note, what is creative about copying another idea? Or is it about the interpretation of the idea? Would I have been more creative if I had not used a standardised graffiti font? How do we measure the value of anything as a piece of art?

I do not identify myself as an 'artist' (in the fine art sense). To me, art is something that I cannot recreate; not a bucket of paint thrown at a wall (oh, how many times I have wanted to do that!), nor an unmade bed (just a daily occurence), nor a pile of bricks (that would be my genuine attempt at bricklaying). But then, if everybody thought/felt the same about art and its creation, the world would be a rather dull place.

And by no longer dragging my heels through contemporary art galleries I am freeing up that space for those that really want to be there.

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