Thursday, February 18, 2010

Words and pictures

I have been looking at art lately.

In galleries of course quite a bit for the last three years.  Love my life.  But I have also been looking at art on-line.  Art that sells well on-line.  There seems to be something of a trend though.  A tendency to include writing on the art.  Not the enticing and sometimes baffling single words or short phrases, often with obscure relations to the painting;  more of a kitschy kind.  Things you might read on a hallmark card or in a self-improvement book.

A sort of 7 paintings for highly successful people kind of gallery.

I have to admit, I simply cannot get my head around it.

I know some of it comes out of a graphic design model which naturally blends both image and text.  I know also that some people are buying the text and the image is a nice effect.  Sort of the same reason self-help books and scented candles sell so well.

Somehow though,

It usually leaves me dry.  Cold.  Unmoved. Well, actually, not unmoved.  Disappointed and not a little insulted.

I am trying to think of instances where I have seen words in paintings or sculptures where they have truly added to the piece.  I have to confess I am not coming up with many.  There are the medieval illuminated manuscripts, though they are a different and specific beast.  Video works often include dialogue....I have seen a LOT of art in the last few years.  I have a particular interest in more modern art, indeed to some extent the further out there the better, and despite the fact that as I ponder this I am coming up with more examples of work that has some words in it.  For the majority of the work there remains something so very obvious about writing phrases in, seems that it defeats the purpose of the painting.

Like taking all the words out of a book and summing it up in a short phrase.

The Bluest Eye,  concepts of beauty damage everyone they touch.
Nikolski, home is where we make it.
Gideon, trust. (The verb, not the noun)

But that's not really the point is it.  You can buy those 365 day tear-away calendars with a wise saying on every page, but that isn't the same as reading a book, or looking at a great painting.  One feeds you a McFish burger and the other teaches you to tickle a trout's tummy till you can flip it out of the stream into your lap.  The painting, or book, what I would argue is art, leaves room for your own mind and work and thought.  Something to ruminate over and taste and re-taste in the days and years to come.  

I feel the same way about text in paintings.  The imagery slips away in a bath of punctuated unctuousness.  How stupid do you think I am?  Can you not give me a chance to ponder and consider and relate to my own life and experiences before you ram your trite orders down my unwilling throat?

I sound a little huffy there don't I.

I have seen incidences of text in painting and sculpture that I would consider art, that I would consider great.  However, not of these are painted on platitudes patronisingly aimed at the ignorant masses living unexamined lives.

Rant done.


Beth said...

To paraphrase Marshall McLuhan, the medium itself should carry or convey the message or at least allow our imaginations to make of it what we will...

oreneta said...

You may not feel you have a niche, but you have a way with words my dear.

Beth said...

thanks :)