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Monday, 28 November 2011

They Shoot Horses Don't They?

"I don't know much about art but I know what I like" has stood me in good stead these many years. Plonk me down in front of anything from the 14th century up to about the 1910's, be it paint or plaster and I reckon I know what it's all about. I even have a few paintings on the walls of our small adobe, along with a couple of pieces of rock that resemble something living. I'm a representational/figurative art man that's me. I can't be doing with any of this Cubism, Post Expressionism, Modernism or, for that matter, Post Modernism.

In a word, this modern stuff stinks. And anyone suckered by it is a fool. God dammit they can't paint! Splashing onto a canvas a couple gallons of paint is not my idea of the creative impulse - a paint sprayer's got more heart. No sirree, it's degenerate and anti - American.

Except, rather surprisingly, recently I found myself getting extremely worked up about a Jackson Pollock or two (see above) and decidedly weak at the knees when viewing a Rothko. It must be the medication I'm on. Or the benign influence of Andrew Graham Dixon and his wonderful programmes on BBC 4 about the Art of America.

He's a bit too young to be classed as a national treasure, but is surely in line to put on that particular crown when Sir David passes on. I think he's great; engaging, treating his audience as least as knowledgeable as he is himself, a major miscalculation in my case, and with a proper English reserve which contains but does not diminish his enthusiasm. I just love him.

He clearly loves America, and its art. What was so helpful is the way he illuminated American art with reference to its surrounding and the surrounding to that nation's art.

In one programme he discussed the art of the 40's and 50's and suddenly the TV screen was alive with shapes and lines. It was one of Pollock's large-scale pieces. It was electrifying, it was confusing, yet as he talked about it, in that moment the confusion became less daunting and instead the painting took on an exhilaration, and a purpose.

The Rothkos were just sublime. Their silence, their strange presence draws you in, holds you, asking you what you want to see and experience. You're suspended and then, snap, you're released to ache to be drawn back in again and again.

So that's it. My partial conversion. Does the Tate Modern have any Pollocks or Rothkos? It must do surely?

Otherwise, I'll have to get out my oils and finish off that canvas I began in 1973. I'm sure I still have that  creative spark stashed away somewhere.


The Sagittarian said...

So the Cats Can Paint brigade left you cold as well then! I know what I like too, which didn't sit well with my Art teacher while at high school - I do have a fondness for Dali and Picasso tho'.

Steve said...

Apparently modern art is all about the concept as well as the execution; teaching us a new way to look at things - art as objects, objects as art.

Having said that most of it is still bollocks not at all worth the price tag that some toff attributes to it. And I work in an art gallery.

Marginalia said...

Dear TS, with Dali and Picasso, you can just about recognise the human form.

Dear Steve, so that's where you hang out.