Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Adding meaning to your work.

Rothko: "There is no such thing as good painting about nothing".

Walter de Maria: "Every work of art should have at least ten different meanings".

Lori McNee: "Utilize historical works. or nostalgia for things lost. to help you create artwork that is meaningful" to others.
Recently (at Quilt National) I noticed that several quilts were awarded prizes because their content was very meaningful to the prize giver; a quilt with photographs of miners was given a prize because it reminded the prize giver of a relative who used to work in the mines.  Collectors buy work that is meaningful to them, work whose content in some way reminds them of a person or place or experience they loved.
Meaning is important, and where there is none people will look for it.  After all, don't they say that we're all looking for the "meaning"?!!  I'm reminded of the lines from Alan Bennet: "Life is like a sardine can, we're all of us looking for the key"!     (the whole video is fun, but the sardine tin (can) starts at 5.34).
Here's another link if the first one doesn't work for you.

The key to making meaningful work is to make it about something that really inspires you, something you know intimately - whose sights, sounds and smells come back to you constantly, whose colors and textures fascinate you.  Many painters have made work like this:  think about Marc Chagall's paintings which always reference the village he left long ago. John Marin's sea paintings, and Wyeth's series about Helga.

Many of my early quilts were about my home town, York, UK.  Not York as it is today, but the York I remembered from my school days.  I always loved to walk and would go across town a couple of miles, to and from school, every day taking a different route. 
Lendal Bridge

Along the bar walls, erected by the Romans around AD 43, over the bridge over the River Ouse with the Minster towering in the distance..


sometimes I went through the medieval streets, twisting and winding with cantilevered, exposed beam 


and always the Minster, silvery grey beyond the little clustering houses...
My grandfather, too, was a miner and I remember the old winding wheels - and all the coal dust everywhere - from my very early childhood - 

of course to me the wheel was a matter of wonderment - I even liked the old gasworks!  though I've never made a quilt of them (it's an idea though!)....I didn't realise that the winding wheel was truly a wheel of fortune, both good and bad.

I've seen the same phenomenon of the importance of meaning with the watercolors too - people want to buy them when they're of places or people they know personally and if you can convey your passion about the image with every shape and line and stitch, your work will glow.

And...if you have been...thanks for reading!   Do hope you enjoyed Alan Bennett, one of the great playwrights and actors of our time.  And there's loads more You Tube vids of him!


Elsie Montgomery said...

Thank you for this post. It kicks at my heart and makes me want to chuck all my UFOs that are drivel or at least cut them up and give them some sort of importance.

Linda Hicks said...

I couldn't agree more?