Soapbox: publisher's perspective |

Art. The Realisation Of Our Vision, Or Just A Mirage?

Soapbox: Publisher's Perspective | 31 August 2017

There is an awful lot of nonsense talked about art, and sometimes a little bit of reality. The secret is in understanding the difference, and that is very hard!

Art critics talk in languages we don’t understand, artists can be even worse and I often think they don’t really want us to understand. Here are two wonderful examples of this deliberate obscurity taken from “Pseud’s Corner” in the British satirical magazine “Private Eye”.

“This project, to be called The Poetry of Cloning, will explore, through poetry, the scientific, medical, spiritual, social, cultural and ethical implications of cloning, and the wider context of the mapping of the Human Genome. It will seek to respond to the scientific possibilities of this new genetic research and creatively examine the challenges. After a period of research and interviews with front-line scientists, including Dr Severino Antinori, the doctor who wants to clone the first human, Gillian will create a series of ‘Light Poems’ etched or sandblasted onto glass and finally the book itself.”

Any idea what this is about? Is it medical, scientific or artistic? I’m not sure. But now here’s an artist talking about her own work. Makes the first quote seem relatively clear!

“If I’m working with certain materials the squeamishness that I have managed to suspend during the day will come out in my dreams. I stitched a lot of little lambs’ tongues together for one piece and the physical feeling of digging the needle through, trying not to tear the flesh, pervaded my sleep for a few nights afterwards. It was a rough roller-coaster ride and I would wake up exhausted. Most of my ideas for works crystallise in that reverie between sleep and wakefulness, when you idle into neutral and follow funny little chains of thought that flow.”

The first is a description of an art project by an art writer, the second an interview with an artist. Neither has any relation to anything I understand!

But we ordinary human beings feel we need art to explain ourselves, we need to express our emotions through paintings, sculpture, dance, theatre, video, graphics, mime, and opera. So many media and so much opportunity to lose ourselves in other people’s imaginations! Or for them to convince us their creativity reflects our emotions and our needs.

I confess I am not an “art” fan: I love music, I love paintings, I love sculpture, but it all has to be done by experts, craftsmen, people with skill, not just vision. Then we can appreciate not only the imagination but the creation. To me there really is a difference between the statue of David and a pile of bricks. And certainly there is a huge difference between the Mona Lisa and a bunch of lamb’s tongues stitched together!

There still lurks the suspicion that behind it all there is an “art mafia” who make some artists rich beyond belief and others eternally poor no matter how good they are. But who knows? Just enjoy our (hopefully easy to understand!) foray into the art world!

Alistair G. Speirs