Dots dots dots…

But first…
Dulltown, Europe: Today’s elephant in the room is the small pot one next to the clock on the mantelpiece.

A year or two after I’d finished at art school I would still occasionally pop into the pub frequented by the art students. One night I bumped into an acquaintance who was just starting the final year of her fine art degree at the college. She mentioned that she was a bit worried because she didn’t have any ideas for her artwork – both her real and her metaphorical canvases were blank – she was suffering from artist’s block…
Having consumed half a pint of Guinness, and feeling rather confident I said, ‘Hey, tell you what, I’ll set you a project!…’
Happy to clutch at any straw that came along she said, ‘Oh, okay…’
I thought back to a few ideas that I’d had back at college, but had never got around to making.  This is the one I suggested.
I’ve always had a glancing interest in mathematics and numbers (but without much actual skill in the field) and one day I began wondering what a million things would look like, and if it would be possible to clearly see exactly one million things, and (bearing in mind that those were the days of ‘conceptual art’) if an artwork could be made showing this. My idea was to buy some sheets of graph paper printed in tenth of an inch squares and mount them on all a large board edge to edge. The board would be 100 inches square – one million small squares. A rather boring looking piece of art, but possibly of some ‘conceptual’ interest to someone.
Of course for my friend this wouldn’t do at all, as she could have it all finished in a couple of days. I suggested that she should instead do series of works based on large numbers. Perhaps get a large sheet of paper or a canvas, and inform everyone, including the tutors, that she would be counting out and painting on it a specific large number of dots – say 5,000, or 10,000, it doesn’t really matter so long as it is impressively large. She should do this daily in a place where the maximum number of people could see her doing it; they could chat and ask her questions, and be supportive in her great laborious task…
This project had three things going for it: It was novel, and eye-catching; it was painting, sort of (even the painters on the staff might be impressed); and people could see her putting the hours in – this is always impressive at art college.
Anyway, she was busy and visible doing quite a few of these ‘number paintings’ over the following academic year, and apparently at the end of it she was awarded a first class degree.
I wonder if she’s out there somewhere, and still painting dots?

About Dave Whatt

Grumpy old surrealist artist, musician, postcard maker, bluesman, theatre set designer, and debonair man-about-town. My favourite tools are the plectrum and the pencil...
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2 Responses to Dots dots dots…

  1. Hi Dave, well, despite the intended sarcasm and your dig at art education, I do think that there is something interesting in the project you set. I really would like to see the one million small squares, especially if they were hand painted. I think they might be visually interesting, equally they might not, but I would love to give it a go). Would you mind if I did it and credited you with the idea?

    • Dave Whatt says:

      My Dear Chap, That would be marvellous! Go ahead! Would you really go for a million painted ones? It would take a long long time.
      I’d still like to see the graph paper version done – you’d see the individual squares if you stood close up, but as you stepped back it would, I think, turn to a grey mist, but knowing that it really is a million would be interesting… Best wishes Andy!…
      (PS: Just thinking: If you painted one square a second it would take 278 hours to do.)

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