Would you like some chalk or some cheese?…

But first…
Dulltown, UK: Today’s dictionary words are: espagnolette, telesm, plash, skatole, whew, inarm, and areography. Please have these words looked up and placed in suitable sentences ready for Professor Mouldie first thing after breakfast tomorrow morning. The professor will probably turn up with a flashlight and will conduct the whole lesson in Morse code.

I was walking across the square under the big ‘Blade’ thing (now removed, but if you’d like to see it, you could click here) a few days ago and spotted someone I have known, sort of, for many years; not really a ‘friend’, but perhaps an acquaintance.
She asked me what I thought of all this current ‘City of Culture’ business, and in particular the ‘Blade’ installation that we had just passed under. I said that I thought that is was a lovely piece of engineering, but didn’t think much of it a piece of ‘art’. As we headed off towards the supermarket to get our bits and bobs she said that she agreed with me about it not really being art, and went on to utter things like, ‘I just don’t know what it’s doing here!…’ and, ‘I just don’t get it… I just don’t get it!…’ complete with their exclamation marks.
I said that I thought that it was eye-catching enough for people to notice and goggle at, and also to marvel at how they got it fitted in between the buildings without smashing anything, and that it was, on the whole, interesting, and probably ‘a good thing’.
My acquaintance continued on the theme of, I just don’t get it… and discussed what was art, and what definitely wasn’t. Damien Hirst’s cow and Tracey Emin’s bed were mentioned once or twice. I joined in and said that I thought that D H and T E were pretty piss-poor artists anyway, and that they were examples of the relatively new phenomenon of artists who don’t have any actual skills (and are, for some reason, proud of not having any) apart from those of P R, and marketing, and cultivating powerful slimy friends in high aesthetic places.
Then, still on the subject of not getting it, she moved on to the topic of ‘abstract’ art – ‘Picasso and all those squiggles!’ The phrase emperor’s new clothes popped up and was tossed around for a bit. At this point, and almost fearing for my life, I threw into the mix a word or two about my liking for abstraction, and added that I found it stimulating, and yes, even meaningful.
She looked at me with a rather sad expression on her face, as if I were an idiot who needed to be humoured. I mentioned Kandinsky and Joan Miro – but she hadn’t heard of those two scallywags. For a moment I considered bringing up Surrealism, but quickly reconsidered…
Now, I do like to think that I have an open mind, one which will respect and consider other people’s viewpoints on things, whatever they are. For a few minutes I inwardly pondered on the idea that perhaps my love for this sort of art was indeed a silly mistake, and that I had been taken in by some massive confidence trick that had been perpetrated on us all a good hundred years ago – Pablo, Joan, Wassily, and all the other wily abstracters, lolling about on clouds up there somewhere, laughing at us behind their paint spattered fingers. This line of pondering didn’t last very long and my thoughts soon turned to wondering how a mature and seemingly intelligent woman could have managed to exist all these years with no knowledge or interest in this kind of thing, and who has always seen all abstract painting as devious nonsense to be avoided.
I suppose people can have meaningful and interesting lives without art; maybe they have instead, things like golf, motor racing, an interest in politics, shopping, keeping up with the soaps?…
I wondered if she had similar views on abstract sculpture, novels without a proper story or a decent and satisfying ending, spiky scraping classical music, poems that don’t rhyme, films that make you think a bit too much, upset you, and don’t end well…
Still, we did our shopping, and then went our separate ways at the bus station, our long-term acquaintanceship, (is that a word?) still intact – if a little bit bruised…

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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8 Responses to Would you like some chalk or some cheese?…

  1. I came across something online which looked like a little poster, and it said “The Earth Without Art is just “eh” (eARTh – geddit?), which I thought was quite lovely. Also I read that other cultures don’t have an actual word for art as a “thing” because its all around them and affects every aspect of their lives, so it just “is”. Maybe your acquaintance isn’t actually aware that she responds to art/creativity in every day life – from the way she dresses, to how she cooks, or even how she enjoys music. Having said that, if you had mentioned Debuffet, she might have thought you were asking her out for dinner! 😀

    • Dave Whatt says:

      “Debuffet looks good today… Do have a prawn Stella…”
      I think attitudes to art are similar to those to science – these are the two things that people should find really interesting and stimulating – but don’t seem to…

  2. Dana Doran says:

    What is art? What isn’t? A couple of months ago I was reading (that’s funny, I know) an article that pointed to alternatives to traditional art school graduate work….in case one could not get into a fine art master’s program…among the listings was one for attorneys. Immediately I thought – well, artists should have some training in contracts…but that was not the premise of the continuing studies – the reasoning behind the program was that lawyers are artists and the “law” is their medium. I was repulsed. It just figures though…seems as though there is no respect for art especially when – well, the Blade. I’ll just wait for the day when MOMA is littered with court documents that claim billion dollar awards…and not a piece of “art” to be found. Hope you’re feeling better!

  3. Claudia says:

    I am a latecomer to the world of abstract art. Although I admit I dont get the red-circle-in-the-middle-of-the-white-square thing, I am becoming fond of a number of artists. Give her a canvas and a bucket of paint and have her give it a go!

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