Friday, March 08, 2013

Art Exclusion 2

I'm enamoured with the Renaissance, a bizarre period in history that from a small part of a small country - turned out a set of artists that did amazing things. More curiously though is that some of these artists, these creatives were also the leading engineers, architects of their day.

These days take two thirty year olds, one dressed in a shabby paintflecked attire of an adolescent his/her skin rendered with inks that in turn render him/her unemployable and another in drab and unimaginative office attire, and they will probably both find eachothers lifestyles foreign and curious.

Yet half a millenia ago, a pope would turn to a painter/sculpter and say 'Michelangelo, would you mind redisigning St Peter's Basillica?' and another sculptur may turn to an architect and say 'well you sculpt a crucifix then!' and they did. They did it.

Perhaps the idea of a mechanical engineer drawing and painting in their spare time is not such a stretch these days, but for that person to paint some of the greatest paintings of all time... unthinkable.

The renaissance I look at with envy because these cast-system of trades was dissembled, gone, one was a thinker, and expressed themselves in any way and any medium they could. Neither was their expression considered more pure in the absence of science, thought, technique.

I don't begrudge my parents not sending me at a young age to apprentice in an artists workshop, nor do we live in an age where one of the Grollo brothers is going to walk into an art studio and say 'design a building'. The job market has become far more streamlined, specialised and the sheer number of people that use to toil on the land that now want to go for that creative dreamjob mean nobody is going to corner the market on ideas like the renaissance masters did.

But the real point I would labour is that a lot of disciplines used to inform eachother back in the day, and science and art held hands as prominently as religion and art did. There is much about art that does not get cradled by the arms of subjectivity - anatomy, perspective, proportion, lighting, rendering, working with colours. Much of art is highly scientific. That is to say, falls under the purvue of objectivity - we can conclude based on evidence whether an image, or sculpture is in proportion or not. It can be measured, tested.

Then as art becomes abstracted, soft sciences like psychology still take hold. It may be a mystery to us as to why we enjoy music, but there is definitely a body of evidence to say most of us will inuitively prefer listening to beethoven over John Cage. John Cage himself said he enjoyed listening to sounds - any sound - equally. But you would be surprised as to how much science there is - which is to say - knowledge there is and how far it applies into the most modern and abstract of art.

I sympathise, I totally sympathise and think that it even makes good sense, if you lack the knowledge of how to create great art, it is no excuse not to make art, or even great art. Many art movements require little more than our ability to concieve and conceptualise and require nothing of us in terms of execution. 'Found Art', 'Installation Art', 'Minimalism' etc. do not require years of practice and mastery to execute. There are even mediums of art that have sprung up in the undergrowth like 'Video Art' that require different standards of execution to the large canopy that is 'Film' above it.

Drucker said the Executive's role is to bring his employees strenghts to the forefront and make their weakness irrelevant. It is totally strategically valid to adopt a style that makes irrelevant many of the demands other styles may make. It's good self management on the artists part.

But, the danger is adopting a philosophy that says that technique is irrelevant. Concept is where it is at. We have accumulated much knowledge, and in many ways the work of Renaissance Artists is some of the most vacuous. Paintings of religious themes and subjects, many say nothing of the human condition, nor challenge us philosophically, they are in their superb execution merely propaganda for an ideology or belief system, a seductive image like advertising. But it's been a long time since the Renaissance, there are few concepts worth exploring that weren't explored by artists that could ALSO paint, sculpt, draw, design, really really well. Performance art expires with the artist, and can be renewed, redone, reinvented.

Execution is where it is at. Art lecturers, art schools are in many cases not psychological retreats, nor even spiritual ones. Concept also is the most subjective, and thus the hardest for any individual to lay claim to expertise on the matter, craft though falls under the purview of objectivity, if the paper sizing is wrong the watercolours will make it buckle. This can be taught, transmitted effectively.

To have such a luxury of time to just pursue and perfect the craft, that is what I envy as a self taught artist, the idea that any of that time (or accumulated debt) is invested in talkfests borders to me, on the criminal. (petty white collar crime mind you, like defrauding investers).

Much as I agree that their are ways for an artist to work around a lack of finely honed technique, he also said that an organisation cannot demand an ideology from its workers, that any expectation more than performance is usurpation.

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