Monday, August 11, 2008

So what IS good art?

Is anyone else trying to predict what those Quilt National judges will like?
I know I am!
How can we predict what the judges will be looking for?
Do judges of art shows in general follow particular guidelines when deciding whether a piece is IN or OUT?
Some people say it’s impossible to define good art – or bad for that matter.
But I think one can get a bit closer than that …….

One way would be to ask if the art in question fulfilled its purpose.

A good doorbell is one that rings loudly and clearly and predictably enough to summon the household to the door. People can have different tastes in door bells – but no one would think a door bell “good” that didn’t serve the function of a door bell.

The purpose of a piece of art is determined partly by the maker and partly by the ultimate owner. The painter may paint the picture to convey the beauty of color and light in a particular scene, the owner buys it because the image gives them great pleasure and delight. He/she just can’t stop looking at it – every time they go into the room their eyes are drawn to the piece and they derive joy from the colour and light.

The maker decides what they want to convey with the clay as they begin to mould it, the value sketches preparatory to the painting, the mood before the poem, the sounds before the symphony.

In judging a piece, assess how well the maker of the piece expressed the idea they had in mind at the outset. It’s impossible to make a strong piece without a clear idea – if Picasso wanted to paint a pretty picture for a maternity ward when he painted Guernica he missed the mark!! Of course he didn’t, he wanted t o express his feelings about the war that was going on at the time - but had his commission been for the expectant mums/moms, they would probably have given up their labour and gone home!

It’s very difficult to assess art where the maker states that at the outset they had no idea they wished to convey – they “just moved the pieces around until they seemed to fit”. Can you imagine an engineer thinking – “oh what a lovely day to make a machine….I’ll decide what it’s going to do after I’ve got a few pieces put together”!!!!

The composition of the parts (whether they be lines, shapes, values etc or nuts, bolts, rings, motors) should relate completely to the basic idea and t o each other.

A good toaster is one that toasts but also keeps on toasting year after year……

A piece of art should keep on fulfilling its purpose year after year. This is one of the problems with “pretty” art – it looks attractive when you first buy and hang it, but mere prettiness soon gets boring – it doesn’t delight and refresh our eyes year after year. There are several “pretty” paintings that now hang in our guest room!!! I can’t bear to look at the boring things any longer!

I think that the reason this kind of art doesn’t work for long is because the reason it was made was slick or spurious or manipulative – e.g. “I’ll make a pretty picture of a pretty thing that people can hang in their bathroom and I’ll sell a lot of them…”.or “I want to show that my beliefs are right and yours are wrong”, or “if I make this cigarette look really enticing to teenagers they will buy it and get addicted”….

A good piece of art will also be well made: Craftsmanship is important. Whatever the object is, if it’s poorly made it’s not going to be good: poor craft will detract from it either because it won’t last very long, or because the ugly stitches or gaping holes etc distract from the main intent.

So now…back to my sewing room – what do I want to convey? How best can I do that?

And ….will they believe me?

Please write....tell me what you think good art is.....

and, if you have been.........thanks for reading!!



Deb Lacativa said...

I've been thinking a lot about it because I have been taking an inventory. There's nothing like looking back on where you've been and what you've done reveal that your motives and actions were not always correct and clearheaded.

On one hand I want to clean house and have a pyre in the yard for some of my past work. Then I stop and remind myself that once there was enough juice in a piece to keep me going right on through the signing and the sleeve making. Enough even to prod me to send it out into the world in one form or another.

So what's changed? The piece is obviously the same. My eyes haven't undergone any serious deterioration and I haven't attended any credit bearing art appreciation classes.

Like most people, life's circumstances have changed for me over time and I find myself impatient with what are now looking like petty concerns. For the moment, for me, making art, good or bad, has taken a back seat on life's trip.

Jill said...

I totally agree with your words about 'good art'. For me it is a piece that never fails to delight me with discovering new relationships in line, color, or even interpretation of the subject because something has been left 'open' for my mind to fill in the blank. I think that's the problem with pretty art, that it leaves nothing to the viewer's is so....LITERAL. Everything is spelled out in detail right down to each flower petal or roof shingle. For me, that is a 'brain dead' kind of art and why you'll never see a 'Kinkade' in my house....