Art and Artists


I’ve started E.H. Gombrich’s ‘The Story of Art’ which was recommended by one friend and came up in conversation with another today. Gombrich says there is really no ‘Art’, only artists and what they create.

A lot of what what ‘Art’ is actually about, is nothing to do with experts, critics, audiences or patrons – it’s about the artist and their personal effort to produce something of intrinsic value. The painting above from ‘The Story of Art’ simply and powerfully captures not only the passion of Christ, but also the passion of the unknown 12th Century artist.

I pointed out today that this connects with one of my dictums for social media – if you like what you’ve done that’s good enough, don’t worry about anyone else. I think social media is largely about forgetting the ‘audience’ and simply writing or posting something you personally care about, are interested in or want to say. It then finds an audience through chance and serendipity.

At this point in our conversation today I was forced to bring in Aristotle – and we had a laugh about it. Aristotle is knockout reference once you buy into him. There’s often nothing more to say once you’ve heard what Aristotle said on a subject.

So, drawing on Aristotle’s ‘Poetics’, my definition of the job of the artist – and bloggers too, I reckon – is to forget about ‘Art’ or ‘audience’ and simply:

Say, write, paint or sculpt something transcendent and universal about the human condition in no more and no less words, notes, chisel blows or brush-strokes than are needed.

If it’s good it will find appreciation – if only from the person who matters most, the artist.

Digital Art

20111120-180755.jpgAs I’ve written before, the job of the poet is to say something transcendent and universal about the human condition – in no fewer or more words than are needed. It’s the liberating, inclusive and motivating definition of poetry from Aristotle.

And I think it applies to the other arts too – no fewer or more brushstrokes, musical notes, dance steps and now maybe pixels.That’s why I like s[edition]art the new digital art marketplace.

I bought a Damien Hirst (a piece is to the left) on Thursday. Number 54 of a limited edition of 10,000. I have a digital certificate of ownership which says so. Talking about it to an expert in visual arts on Friday, she asked me why? Why bother, why pay, what’s the attraction, what’s to stop people copying them, is it just a scam?

I think it’s similar to the way Aristotle has changed my views on charity. It’s not about being ‘seen’ to give – that’s Aristotle’s virtue of magnificence. Charity is the entirely personal internal feeling of doing the right thing – connecting with a cause and doing something about it, however small.

I think that’s why digital art works for me. It involves some appreciation, some choosing, some discernment, connecting and empathising with the artist and personally recognising – in a small way – the value of their art.

As I said to another arts expert on Friday, I think the ‘art of life’ lies in developing and exploring ‘relevant complexity’ – intricacies which embroider existence, refine judgement and develop character. For art, walking a gallery is one way. Browsing and buying in a virtual one is another.

£7.50 is a small price to pay in recognition of an artist’s attempt at a statement on the human condition. I think Digital art – along with digital poetry – is here to stay.

Poetic Licence

The experience of rapidly tapping out some words (‘School Run’ below), to manage my stress and frustration at my son not getting out of the car this Thursday morning, was an interesting one.

There’s something about tapping an iPhone screen and conjuring a few words of rhyme which both soothes and fulfils. So I did another on ‘spelling’ on Friday morning:

Spelling test
Practice quest
Raised tempers
Points incentives
Distraction reigns
Everyone’s cross
What have we lernd
Very little

‘Awayday’ (below) tumbled out last night and I find myself unexpectedly enjoying churning out poetry instead of prose for a change. Perhaps it’s the influence of Twitter. Saying more in less distills your words. Overnight I got a cheerful ‘like’ and a nice comment to encourage me along.

As so often in recent times I have Aristotle to thank. He says the job of the poet is to say something transcendent and universal about the human condition, in no more or less words than are needed. I find this strangely liberating. It doesn’t matter if it’s perfect, scans or rhymes. The job is done if it says something which chimes.

Banal is meaningful if it triggers a memory or a moment of empathy. I read in the New Scientist this week that life passes more quickly as we get older because our senses are no longer constantly alight with new experiences – we’ve seen it all before. The challenge then is to keep finding ways to bring life to life. So I’ve recorded my morning for my own pleasure and future recollection. Aristotle gives us all poetic licence, which is good for the mind and the soul.

Post office sorting
A Saturday routine
Too large for your letterbox
Sorry you weren’t in
Stand in line
For modern life’s Aladdin’s cave
Got any ID for that
Cardboard boxes and sealed bags
New household treasure
To carry off
In triumph

Bacon sandwich
Warm baguette
Irish rasher
Ketchup lash
Focused eating
Greasy plate
The only trace

Sun’s rays
Happy days
In the park
The children lark
Throwing and catching
Tearing around
Shouts of delight
Ball goes to hand
Ball goes to ground
Swings, bumps and bikes
Life is easy