Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Don’t be so Literal! Tell it Slant.

Emily Dickinson wrote: Tell all the Truth but Tell it Slant.  This is usually interpreted to mean that truth can be so shattering it should be revealed gently…however that doesn’t make much sense to me…and I hate it when a salesman dances around telling you the price of something because he wants to soften you up! Or even worse, when the doctor says “D’you want the bad news or the good news?”

The idea that the Truth of something is to be seen by examining it in many different ways, not necessarily head on, is a much more interesting.  Therefore when I want to make a piece about a particular memory or scene I try to think of all the different ways that memory or landscape intrigued me.   I don’t want to make a quilt that is a full frontal photograph relating every minute literal biological detail…I want to show the complexity of form, or the twisted pipes, or the glowing viridian green.  I want to look at the idea from every angle I can, I want to slant myself around it!!!

One of the reasons that some major art quilters automatically dismiss representational pieces is because the maker has put too many mind boggling pettifogging annoying proliferating obfuscating redundant twiddly bits into it! If the work is based on a real place or object then it isn’t necessarily weak – it’s all in the telling of the tale.    I want to defend the poor old representational art quilt because I think often the abstract piece is preferred simply because it is abstract.  And I’ve seen some bloody awful knock off abstracts get into shows.  It’s harder in a way to make a good representational piece, it’s so easy to become too literal, or sentimental  or trite.  These approaches have to be avoided very consciously but it can be done if you’re aware of why you are making the piece.

If it was the colour and verticality of a place that struck you dumb, then reveal those!!! But you don’t have to include everything else.    If it was a sense of height, but the actual colour was immaterial, then think what colour  (or lack thereof) might give that sense of height.  D’you know I practically have to fight with some people to prevent them from using “ that green fabric the  exact shade the grass is in the photo”!!  Oh no you don’t!!  At least not unless it was that shade that just grabbed your heart and soul!!

Of course this is exactly what the Impressionists were doing. It’s wonderful to look at some of their paintings and see their Slant on Truth!   Monet. Yes! the light, the light!  Or Picasso,  I like this angle of the lady, or would that angle be better, and what about those boobs??!! Let’s put it all in…and nothing else!

So…tell the Truth, but the Truth that is in your mind, your own reaction to the scene, your sideways, upside down, inside out view of it…then I think the piece will be fresh and real and wonderful.  And now, I’ll go and try and follow my own advice!  Or maybe, make a nice cup of tea…..If you have been, thanks for reading!



Sue Reno said...

As a maker of representational art quilts, I concur completely with your take on it. Thanks for expressing it so well.

Deborah said...

so perhaps the quilt artist doesn't have to tell all the truth, but only the relevant parts

Louise in SW Saskatchewan said...

Thanks for your comments re: representational work. I am of the "less is more" school and often feel a bit out of place amongst all the "more is not enough" work that seems to be proliferating these days.

the work either wants something or it doesn't.... I've had pieces "boot" out some of my favourite things letting me know they weren't necessary, even if i thought they were.

anna saris said...

awesome thanks