Friday, June 13, 2008

When is an Art Quilt boring?

Have you ever been to a quilt show and felt like you were seeing nothing new, nothing interesting, nothing challenging and engaging? Nothing fresh and real?

Obviously people have different points at which they can be bored, but human beings are definitely wired for novelty!! An appreciation of something different and new makes sense as a survival characteristic – we survive by spotting what is novel and Art moves forward by creating new images, sounds, sensations. Mozart was described as continually trying for a balance between what was comfortable and what was new and interesting. His survival really did depend on that.

Some artists jump so far forward into new uncharted waters that the result can be difficult and uncomfortable but they are the pioneers. Their work can lead us out of endless circular repetitions - though I don't deny some of the tracks are too rocky to be useful!! (and by the way I adore mixed metaphors - they are the only way to go!!) The way up from the comfortable recliner always requires effort - research suggests that while our attention is drawn to the new, our actions tend toward inertia (Thaler and Sunstein).

Think of all the examples from art , from music, from designer clothes where the creator has taken a new direction. Philip Guston changed his paintings dramatically in the 1960s because he feared they were becoming the epitome of “intellectual desiccation”. It may take some time to become comfortable or admiring of the "new look" but without the challenge we are doomed to a parched and mawkish sentimentalism.

Sometimes when I look at popular art quilts I worry that we are all playing it too safe. Is it time yet to eschew the excessively sentimental, to abhor weak overly pretty solutions and rise to the challenge as Mozart, Hirst, Guston and many other artists have?


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