In order to do this, I am going to start with what I have already written, expand and clarify it, as best I can. It is, perhaps, easiest to start with the negatives. I wrote:
Art as decoration, as wallpaper.
I remember watching an interior decoration programme, I think that it was called “60 Minute Makeover”. The team needed something to add a splash of colour to a wall, something which would match the furniture and the rest of the colour scheme. Someone took a blank canvas, splashed some paint on it to form an abstract pattern and, voilà, instant piece of Abstract Expressionism - which matched the wall perfectly! This may be rather an extreme example, but a lot of people do buy art because it will match in with their décor. It may be rather arrogant of me, but I want more for my art than that!
The possession of art as a means of establishing intellectual status.
I am not opposed to the various other movements of modern art, such as Conceptual Art, Minimal Art, Post-Modernism, etc., as such. However, I am left with the uncomfortable feeling (hopefully untrue) that many of the purchasers of such work do so to establish, at least in their own minds, their status as intellectual beings, capable of the superior aesthetic understanding required to appreciate such work. I believe that the only genuine reason for purchasing art should be the depth of the feeling that the piece evokes in the prospective purchaser. Provided that such depth of response is present, the type of the artwork is immaterial.
The Media as the Message and The display of skill as the purpose of art.
In the end, I decided to lump these two together. I suppose that I was very much thinking of the Photo-Realist and Super-Realist art movements. There is a good example by Richard Estes online.
“Diner”, (1971) Oil on canvas, 40 1/8 x 50 in. (101.7 x 126.8 cm.) It is of course, beautifully painted! But I find myself asking, what would be the difference between this and a photograph produced to the same scale (if one such a photograph existed)? It does not seem there could not be that much difference, since the apparent object was to paint in a photographic manner. Therefore the value of the painting – as art – had to be in the fact that the medium was changed from photography to painting. In other words, this was the painting skill itself being presented as art. It could also be said that, in this case, the media, paint, was the message. Looking at the painting, I do not find myself interested in the place represented, so much as the means by which it represented! I am distracted by the quality of the painting!
The idea as art.
Essentially, this is Conceptual Art, but also the work of artists like Damien Hirst. I would consider his diamond covered skull, titled “For the Love of God” to be in the same vein as the Dadist Marcel Duchamp's “Fountain”. Duchamp's piece was a ready-made urinal which he elevated to art by signing it “R. Mutt”. Damien Hirst's skull was a ready made skull, which he elevated to art by having it covered in diamonds! Duchamp mocked the establishment by the cheapness, in both price and effort, of his “readymade”, Damien Hirst mocks it by intrinsic value of the diamonds with which he decorates his own “ready made”. Duchamp was outside the Art Establishment looking in, Damien Hirst is inside the Art Establishment looking out. In some ways, complete opposites, but on the same line! However, the most important part of both items is the idea behind them.
Other people's conventions of beauty and ugliness.
I think that a large part of the value of any creative person is their individual viewpoint. So what I mean by this is that every artist has to find out for themselves what they consider to be beautiful or ugly. Truly original work makes new conventions, rather than simply repeats old ones.
I have one major problem with all the points that I have listed above (even though I believe them to be valid) – and that is their very negativity! In the end, I think that it is more important to know what an Art Movement is for, rather than what it is against. So I hope to explore this next week.