Art for Art's Sake
I see art everywhere - from beautifully framed prints in a home to grafitti on a bill-board. It's someone's idea of art. My thing with art has always been that is should be good enough to be remembered, and who cares if it is deep enough for the critics ! If I go to a home or to a public place and there’s stuff hanging on the walls, and when I return home, all I can remember is “stuff” and not the details, then that has really not been art. Hence my dislike for the generic plant/vases/fruits/animal paintings you see everywhere - one flower vase looks pretty much like another.
Figurative art is always interesting, because of the expressions and emotions attached to the painting. And it's always intriguing to read someone's views on something you yourself have strong views on. So while reading a not-so interesting novel, "The Sunday philosophy club" by Alexander Mcall Smith, it was most interesting to read the protagonist's view on artwork. The book falls in the mystery genre and some of you would recognize Smith for his other well known books (The No. 1 ladies detective agency) featuring lady detective Precious Ramotswe.
The protagonist here is a wealthy lady of independent means, Isabel Dalhousie, who has a penchant for solving problems not her own. At a suspect's house, Isabel, given to philosophical musings, observes the artwork :
"There were prints on the wall – the landlord’s taste, presumably mixed with that of the tenant: a view of the Falls of Cyde (landlord); A Bigger Splash, by Hockney, and Amateur Philosophers by Vettriano (tenants); and Iona, by Peploe (landlord). She smiled at the Vettriano – he was deeply disapproved of by the artistic establishment in Edinburgh, but he remained resolutely popular. Why was this ? Because his figurative paintings said something about people’s lives (at least about the lives of the people who danced on the beach in formal clothing); they had a narrative in the same way in which Edward Hopper’s paintings did. That was why there were so many poems inspired by Hopper; it was because there was a now-read-on note to everything he painted. Why are the people there? What are they thinking now? What are they going to do now?”Edward Hopper’s paintings indeed do have that “now-read-on” feeling about them. Each of his painting is a snapshot of people doing something – it could be something as prosaic as reading a newspaper, but they leave you curious.
I do like Vettriano too, although some of his paintings are too mushy and too obvious for my taste. I like the "Singing Butler" because it’s got that hint of romance, but then again, “Dance me to the end of love” is a bit much. A lot of Vettriano paintings feature nicely dressed people on the beach. And interestingly, Vettriano started out as a mining engineer, only accidentally turning to painting when he was given a set of paints by a girl-friend.
Vettriano’s art is much maligned as being “vulgar and devoid of imagination”. But in that respect I think the criticism of apparently “frothy” art is similar to the criticism of “frothy” books. Must we read only literature and must we view only “deep” art? What about the whimsical, the light-hearted, the fun? Should we give all that up because it isn’t deep or worthy of us? That would be silly – if it pleases the eye and warms the soul, why not?
Art for Art's Sake
- » Published on February 25, 2009
- » Type: Opinion
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