Saturday, 30 January 2010

A lack of creative thinking..

I don't think we learn much or grow by surrounding ourselves with sympathetic people. I prefer to be surrounded by a spectrum of opinions rather than by people who all like the same art and feel art is about the same things.

I think there is an artistic apartheid in the UK.. if you're not left of centre and have come through some academic institution you really don't get into the art debate in the UK.

In my view because artists pursue independently their vision of the world..this makes artists more likely to be independent thinkers.. because by the nature of our practice we have (or should have) the will to be independent of the political mainstream.. more so than any conviction that one grouping, establishment or a single philosophical position is correct. I have strong and probably quite unpopular views on the type of art receiving State subsidises in the UK and there really is no general platform for open discussion of this... rather like global warming (sorry I mean climate change). In my experience where the debate ends the creativity quickly dries up as well... that's probably why I find much contemporary art in the UK insular, self absorbed and frankly.. dull.

In my opinion artists generally deal with ideas.. and because we deal with visual ideas we are quite capable of bringing a "different perspective" to an established debate, not seen in the wider social context. We are less interested in the actual political application of these ideas and political loyalties but artists generally explore ideas. Free and open debate is the anvil on which new ideas are hammered into some form of coherent shape. In a healthy society artists should generally be challenging accepted ideas and truisms.. we explore visual ideas and therefore the idea of any rigid "truth" should be met with suspicion by artists. We are less likely to follow the debate we are generally more likely to create, renew or stimulate debate. I think its healthy that when the "truth is proclaimed".. artists eye this declaration with suspicion.

In European history over the last couple of centuries "creatives" have always been close to the heart of the evolving debate. But with the expansion of education the debate has been largely hijacked by educational establishments. It seems only right that the internet should create and sustain forums for the exchange of international ideas and theseart sites are probably the modern equivalent of the Parisian cafes in Picasso's day.

At this time I see society as in urgent need of fresh thinking and new vision.. the right/left thing is largely redundant.. society needs its "creative thinkers" now to find a way through the mess.

In fact I would go further and say the absence of genuinely creative rather than economic and political thinking across our society has lead to our present predicament. Of course there are many creative people out there in many walks of life but I do not believe their voice is being heard where it matters because of a media controlled by narrow economic interest on the one hand and politically entrenched people on the other.
Take the political establishment for example 50 years ago the party system in the UK was a mix of the brave, the out spoken and tenacious mavericks. These days our political classes tend to go to university directly from school and have little or no experience of life beyond, and yet these people are almost completely in control of our political system.

Andy Mercer

(Interesting that this is by far my most visited blog post)

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Wednesday, 13 January 2010

In defense of Abstraction

I equate abstraction in art with rhythm and harmony in music.. words in music are much like realism in art for me. Words in music can convey human emotions and create pictures in the mind etc.. but the "words" depend absolutely on an underpinning of rhythm and harmony. Likewise realism in art can convey direct human emotion.. but this emotive quality in realism is dependant on an abstract visual composition of basic shapes and colour.

Is instrumental music somehow less than music with words ? I doubt many orchestral conductors would agree with you on that.
Is abstract art somehow less than realistic art.. not at all.

They are simply different.

The relationship between realism and abstraction is a fascinating historical one.. "realism" as we know it is a relatively recent phenomenon and arose in public consciousness after the Renaissance... with the emergence of engineering and the material sciences. IMO certain aspects of visual art practice somehow got mixed up with scientific thinking and practice..(probably due to the Royal Academy's) in the sense that accurate observation and description in art i.e. "Realism" became the artist equivalent of accuracy and precision of scientific experimentation. Its is not in my opinion co-incidence that the rise of realism has occurred at the same time as the rise of scientific thought and practice. Precision and accuracy of observation and delivers good science so the argument goes this must also be basically true in other areas of human activity... including art. This idea has certainly stuck in the public's mind in western cultures.. how many times have we heard someone equate accurate depiction with the quality of the art ?

But "abstraction" is not really concerned with accuracy or precision of depiction so abstraction in some quarters is somehow devalued in the same way that religion/spirituality has become devalued by the prevalence of our scientific based philosophy. As Darkest said at the start of this thread.. why do people "switch off to abstraction" ? I believe they "switch off" because of this basic taboo towards anything not quantifiable in culturally established scientific terms.

But artists have been using pattern, texture, colour, shapes and rhythm since time began.. every mark made by an artist is basically abstract.. a line or a splotch, a block of colour is basically abstract.. all art starts as abstraction.. abstraction is at the core of visual art. I think artists who are musical are more inclined to understand the true nature of abstraction as the building blocks of art... as rhythm, tempo and harmony are the building blocks of music. Here the comparison between music and art breaks down in a revealing way for me.. because there is (as far as I am aware) no similar comparison to the scientific method influencing music in recent centuries.. music in all its forms is still just music.. as art in all its forms should simply be the many varied and wonderful forms of visual art.

I have no problems with experimentation in art and visual perception.. I don't really like any artificial boundaries or restrictions.. that we ALL just do art will do for me.

But I do have more of a problem in this respect with contemporary conceptual art.. when Art deals less and less with the timeless basic constituents of visual art i.e. colour, shape, rhythm, pattern, texture.. and even accuracy.. for me it becomes less and less art. Its no surprise to me then that it has to rely more on context to be accepted as art at all.. place a bucket of rice with a light bulb in a field and its a bucket of rice with a light bulb in a field.. place a bucket of rice with a light bulb in a gallery and it becomes art. But I'm not sure that a devalued art.. is not ultimately devaluing the context.

I would never agree with the idea that art only exists in the gallery.

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