Monday, April 16, 2012

a point of view?

Maybe I’m strange, but I do think a work of art has to be about something.  The “something” doesn’t have to be a concrete object like a flower or a building or a boat, but could be about light, about layering on color after color (Rothko), or an abstraction about the mechanization of modern life (Mondrian) , or the mark of the hand as shown by the texture of a monoprint (Nancy Crow’s new work).  I always start with  a spark of an idea….could be the way the light falls on the edge of a building




or how many shades of grey there are in a city






could be a certain play of shapes – two shapes and two colors abstracted from a favorite painting….




or the way that light glows through windows warmlight





or about the experience of laying on the floor underneath the skylights watching the clouds scud by……

scud 300


I do feel it’s important to have a strong emotional connection to each quilt (or painting) as you make it and to try to convey with the arrangement of the various elements your thoughts and feelings that were the starting point of the piece.  Why would you want to put in all the time and effort it takes to make a quilt if you weren’t expressing some fairly strongly held feelings about something?

I think it would be very hard to start with a great big nothing.  Art is a language too – a visual language with consonants (positive shapes) and vowels (negative shapes) and sequences (rhythms and repetitions)…and surely “I wandered lonely as a cloud” is more meaningful, more thoughtful and more engaging than “k szncdfdc .l d.zh zxz c.ljc”.  

Yes, I have seen paintings that had no paint but just a knife slash through the canvas!  and I do remember them! But not with awe, and admiration and meditation!   Really, a jumble is a jumble whatever language you speak!  But!  maybe I’m missing something….please educate me if I am – the Comment Forum is open!

And, if you have been, thanks for reading!   Elizabeth


Rayna said...

Agreed! Art needs to be about something, but I find that for me, that something may not reveal itself till the piece is well in process or almost finished. I don't believe that the "something" needs to be conscious when you start the piece -- although many artists start with intent. But along the way, as the painting or the fiber piece or whatever it is, evolves - and certainly when it is done -- one would hope the artist knows what it is "about" (at least for him or her).

The viewers will bring their own sensibilities, experiences, and emotions into a dialogue with the piece (or not) and I don't believe they need to know what the artist thought it was about. It would not have helped me to know what the artist who put a little black dot in the center of a big white canvas had in mind. For me, it was the emperor's new clothes.

MariQuilts said...

I'm in agreement with Rayna on this one. For me ideas don't always come until I start working.

Jackie said...

Whether the kernel for a piece is consciously articulated or not, I think there is a motivation. For my own work, when I find myself confused and feeling off-track, it is often because I've been seduced by the colors or lines of a piece and follow a second path, creating confusion. It helps me to articulate my idea to stay focused.

That does not mean, however, that I have everything figured out or, or even if I have a concrete plan, that I don't stray from it. The work takes on life of its own, evolving and maturing until completion.

Faith said...

Since I'm new to both art and quilting (as a creator), I wonder if beauty, or joy of color or something like that would fill your requirement of being about something.

I really agree with you about some minimalist painting (whether or not that's what they are actually called). It doesn't appeal to me at all. BUT if it is true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I can see where it might make total sense. I see in my mind's eye, at the moment, a large white canvas with a tiny red circle on it slightly off center. Kind of blah to me, but if someone is used to paintings/life that could vie with a Where's Waldo picture, I imagine it would seem so calm and restful. A slash of color? I suppose I could find a meaning, depending on what the color is. But then, I can find wonderful pictures in clouds and I don't think that qualifies as art, exactly. (I'll bet there are those who would disagree with that!) So, it is a combined meaning of the artist and the beholder that makes it art to me. If it's made without any intent, it's not art. If it's seen as "not art" it's not art to that viewer. Good and great art is something that many and most people would agree is art. And sometimes it's just complicated, because even a pretty flower may not be "art" and yet it has the right intent and appreciation. This is such a simplification, because I'm sure there's a reason for the "rules" and theories of art that would explain the flower being or not being art.

I'm in way over my head here, but I think the red dot is apt...OH! I misread -- a knife slash THROUGH the canvas.. Hmmm... "Art is dead" or "Art is wounded" ??? What is the art quilt equivalent? Hanging up a torn fat quarter or length of fabric? Not art to me. I dunno. Maybe context is still important, though. (Obviously not IN the painting, but IN WHICH the painting exists.)

Sorry to be so wordy, but you DID get me thinking.

Elizabeth Barton said...

to get you thinking is the aim!! I declare my intent!! Thank you for your thoughtful comment.
Probably the more important the local context (time, place) is to the understanding of the piece, the less chance of the art work being universal.