Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

An attempt to climb Mt Impossible

Ever tried to explain why you bought a picture? Objectively? Honestly?

The one I have in mind purports to show the natural world. Except it doesn’t. The random colours, lines, shapes and shades that constitute nature have been replaced by an ordered view. Ordered but not predictable. An order that carries the type of logic that is just about detectable in a language you do not understand. For this is a work of art, and that’s a fact not necessarily a compliment. The word art has links with artificial and artifice.

From 3 m away the picture is seen as a pattern, not of course symmetrical. A pattern defines something that is whole. Closer examination reveals that the logic – recognised if not understood – is worked out so that all parts combine harmoniously to create the pattern. The pattern in no way resembles any other picture I know but the certainty of its logic does.

The picture is unique and matches my untutored prejudices. The decision to buy is not based on the desire to own but to live with the picture, an important distinction. Buying refines the assessment processes; it tests their validity since there is nothing sadder than a picture that has managed to dupe itself into acceptance.

Pictures change because we change. This one already has. Once it consisted of a foreground containing the subject matter and a small, much darker background. The latter is now more dominant by, paradoxically, becoming more distant. There is now a sense of “out there”. I have tried to avoid subjectivity but I must accept a newer brooding quality, even confrontation. The picture would not look well on a chocolate box.


Plutarch said...

The decision to buy in order to live with a picture rather than own it is fine indeed. I have have often wondered about the effect of getting used to a picture. That is a way of becoming fond of it, which has nothing to do with any objective idea of merit.

Rouchswalwe said...

Reading your words caused a tickle. And I just had to go home last night and check on something before being able to comment. Yes, it was as I had suspected ... there is not one picture hanging on my walls that I chose myself. Each one, as it turns out, was a gift. What do I see as a consequence of not having chosen any of them? How do I live with them? My closet is full of pictures I could not bear to look at (or have guests see hanging on my walls).

Barrett Bonden said...

Plutarch: "Getting used to" is good and I take your point that fondness may justifiably live apart from merit. The collection of pop tracks on my MP3 player includes several tracks I could hardly defend if it weren't for their place in my personal geography (eg, "Tijuana taxi" which was playing everywhere when I arrived in the US, "Don't go breaking my heart" which conjures up the hotel bar of my first ski-ing holiday).

But suddenly discovering a significant change in a painting (provided it isn't downwards) is possibly the reason for looking at paintings in the first place.

Zu Schwer: You reveal yourself to be labouring under the definitive burden of the bourgeoisie (which the greatest of all journalists, H. L. Mencken rejigged even more woundingly as the bourboisie.) Too genteel to convey your feelings about bad art at the outset you are doomed to suffer the curse of bad art for the rest of your life - a combination of Sisyphus and the guy whose liver was pecked out by raptors. Contrast your predicament with mine; taking deliberate advantage of my unpleasantly nasal Northern accent and the notion that no Yorkshire person knows how to conduct himself, I announced to everyone I met for the first time during my journalistic career that I was a wine expert. As a result, at lunches the wine list was always passed to me. So there are no unopened bottles of Piat d'Or in my metaphorical closet. The price paid has been a non-existent social life but then my profession had already turned me into a pariah.

I must add something in German. How about eine Witz:

"Zwischen Tulpen und Narzissen,
Ist ein kleine Hund... gesitzen.

Barrett Bonden said...

Should be "booboisie".

Rouchswalwe said...

Vielen Dank, BB für den goldigen Witz! Ich habe gelacht!