What is the point of making art? What is the point of viewing it? Art is a two way street. We make it, we see it. We see it, we make it.
Art is described as a medium for exploration, expression, finding meaning in the world, creativity, showing and revealing beauty and telling stories, is a basic human need.
NY painter Verne Dawson states art “ is a primary activity, somewhere between whistling and scratching. It’s an extremely efficacious and enduring method of communicating simple as well as complex ideas. For me, its also a means of expressing love of life and love of creation. ”
How successfully can we communicate through cloth? As someone who has made both representational and abstract work (nearly always abstracted from, rather than a formal arrangement of abstract geometric shapes) I’m intrigued that I prefer the abstract quilts in most quilt shows. However, when I come to my own work, I usually prefer the more representational ones. I think this is because I find I want to communicate something in my work and I find it very hard to do that abstractly. And from reading about art, like the painter’s comment above I find I am not unusual in wanting to communicate?
Obviously “pure” emotion can be conveyed abstractly – different shapes, different value patterns, different colors and qualities of line especially, can convey different feelings. Curving lines and pastel colors suggest peacefulness. We can heat that up into warmer emotions by rounding the lines more and increasing the temperature of the color!! Of course if we make the lines harsh, jagged and diagonal and heat the colors upto red and orange and intersperse with black, we’re into a different mood altogether! Everyone knows that Rothko was in a very depressed state (and did soon after commit suicide) when he painted the black on black panels for the Menil chapel in Houston. Depression is definitely grey or black. Though the reverse is not true – this is a case of all As are x, but not all Xs are A!! (which so many newscasters, chat show hosts and socalled image makers conveniently forget).
So what do we – as the viewer – want from a painting art quilt? When I’ve had a show it seems as if most people are there to find out how I make the quilts and then they dash back home and have a go themselves. At large quilt shows that have both quilt galleries and vendors you see people take a quick look at the quilts and then shoot off to the vendors – they may come back later for another quick look (was it blue….or pink?) and then zoom off again! This is hardly the behaviour of someone who looks at the art as an image of beauty to be savored and enjoyed. So why do we want to look at art/art quilts anyway? Why do we want to make (or, much more rarely, buy) them?
Well…art does look good on a wall! And we all have walls! but there’s more to it than that…
Tony Godfrey (the author of several books on art) poses an interesting conundrum: “one way for a viewer to experience the [artwork] is to imagine [it] as the [maker made] it…(and vice versa) one way to create an art work is to imagine oneself the viewer”.
I know some people make work totally for themselves and their own use entirely, but I think they must be in the minority: they are the trees that fall silently in the forest. Most of us see ourselves as communicating something with the art, we want other people to see it and to understand what we’re saying/seeing/feeling.
It’s hard for the viewer to do that with only one example from the artist though. For every artist (sooner or later) develops their own “language” and it takes more than one piece to be able to read the language. I remember that when intelligence services were trying to decode enemy signals they always needed more than one example. Strange the connections you make! But these are enduring patterns in human behaviour and cognition, so not so very surprising. Needing more than one example, leads me to bemoan the current tendency of art quilt shows to permit the jurors to select only one piece per artist instead of being able to select the top N quilts entered. I think this started with the uproar when Michael James was a Visions juror and he selected several pieces by the same artists. Apparently everyone was so up in arms and so vituperative, he said he’d never jury a show in that way again!! It’s a bit like the audiences booing the judges on the reality shows for their criticisms. This need for us all to win, for us all to be wonderful comes from current educational practices I assume. And, cynically, I feel those are based on politics. So much cheaper to tell you you are wonderful and you passed all the exams, than actually making sure you got the education such that you could really do the work. “ Just tell them they can do it and they’ll never notice the difference!” Or at least not until after his/her 4 years in office!
This is getting too long, so I’m afraid you’ll have to come back in a few days to find out about the Pink blob!! If you have been, thanks for reading. And, as always, your comments are what keep me cogitating …and writing! Thank you. Elizabeth