Friday, 29 June 2012

I am not an artist, but...

Followers of this blog will be aware that it has always dealt almost exclusively with current political issues with occasional references to recent history. This is not about to change.

However, this post relates to the launch of a sister blog dealing with the politics of art from the perspective of someone with virtually no knowledge of art history. As the name of the blog suggests I am not an artist, but... I still feel the need to give my opinion despite, or pehaps because of, my ignorance. I believe art is not handed down to us by great artists any more than political ideas are handed down to us by great thinkers or laws are handed down to us by great men (politicians and judges are still overwhelmingly male). My approach to art is the same as my approach to politics; it is something we all can and should engage with.

"It seems to me that for many artists there is a dichotomy between the urban landscape and the natural landscape. In many ways this might seem obvious. If one is an artist in Central London one might paint the Houses of Parliament or St. Paul's Cathedral. By contrast in one lived in the countryside in Scotland it might be hills or lochs. But it seems to me that this is quite an arbitrary divide. Most places have elements of both.
"Take for example the many paintings of St. Michael's Mount that any visitor to Penzance or anywhere else in West Cornwall would be confronted with in the many art galleries found in those parts. They are almost all looking from the beach opposite (usually Marazion) or from a little higher up or even from the point of view of the sea. Again it might seem obvious to look from a good vantage point.
"But to me this is not very interesting because it is not the view that someone living and working in the area normally sees. Not unless they have a lot of money and an incredible view and most people do not. It is also usually a timeless view as it has no historical context. It is a painting that could have been painted at any point in the last hundred years. To me, a painting without relation to the times or the people living and working in the area is pointless, it must be contextualised.
"I also prefer the composition of a picture of a natural landscape if it has human-made forms interrupting it. This, for example is a photograph of the sea, a boat and a cliff. I love the way the TV aerials and chimney pots cut across the landscape unwelcome and unbidden. It makes it more real. This is the way we usually see the sea or the countryside whilst we are running to the shop or out of work on our lunch break.
"To me, a landscape painting needs to tell us something about the relationship between nature and humanity. It is not enough to simply present nature as something timeless and unchanging and that stands on its own. To me that suggests a desire to escape human society to an imaginary natural paradise. I don't want to escape the human world, I want to change it."

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