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{03/02/2012}   Art

Don’t start me off on contemporary art, I don’t take kindly to seeing daubs or piles of rubbish disguised as art.  I love going to the Royal Acadamy Summer Exhibition, I enjoy complaining, groaning and declaring “I could do better than that”.  In fairness, there is also a lot of art there that is wonderful.

Image          In November, I was fortunate enough to go to the Chicago Art Institute.  On discovering it was ok to take photos, I decided to photograph paintings that I liked.  Ludicrously, I didn’t take photos of the artists’ names.  The painting in this photo is one I really liked.  I don’t know who painted it, but from the blurred edge of the information plate, I think the artist’s first name begins with an H.  I’d very much like to know who painted this, it’s lovely.

Going round there reminded my why it’s great to see original paintings (and sculptures, furniture, etc).  I went at the end of the day, it was very quiet and I got to put my nose to within centimetres from Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks.  I then did the same with Grant Wood’s American Gothic.  I know frankly nothing about art and techniques and artists.  Comparing these two iconic American paintings, wandering between the two of them, I could see the brush strokes.  Nighthawks is almost crude, mere swipes of the brush along the counter.  I don’t care, it’s bloody marvelous.  The people aren’t perfect or beautiful, they are quite basic.  Yet with what looks like just a few strokes, he’s created an atmosphere.  I want to be in that painting.  American Gothic is much more intricate, much thicker paint.  The detail is exquisite and it looks like it should have taken a lot longer to paint than Nighthawks.  I don’t want to be in that painting though, they look miserable!

The reason I like the mystery painting above (in my series of photos, it’s between a Gauguin and a series of other unknowns) is because the house glows welcomingly.  I also love the spindley trees.  It could be quite dark and scary but there is something comforting about the house.  I also like that by seeing it up close, you can see the cracks in the paint.  It’s simple and probably called something like, “A house between trees by a lake”.

Modern art can be simple.  Living in Folkestone during the Triennial, I saw a lot of art around the streets, to the extent that a bit of rubbish next to a bin would elicit comments like, “It must be art”.  Some of it did absolutely nothing for me but there were some truly beautiful and interesting things.  A friend and I were in a small gallery, the kind where the curator can hear your every intake of breath and snigger.  We both took it in turns to feign knowldege of art, sage nods and the like.  There was an installation in one corner.  I stood by it, absorbing its simple white structure, the way the straight lines left shadows.  My friend did the same.  We both moved onto the next installation or picture.  And the next one, the last one … was remarkably like the simple white one before … yikes, another radiator!  Seriously, how ridiculous!  Just emphasising my point that anything can look like art when we’re lead to believe it is.  I doubt we were the only people to linger over the radiators in that exhibition space.  Because the actual art wasn’t much more imaginative.

But when it comes to real art, the stuff that makes you shake your head in amazement or smile or just look at in wonder, seeing it up close makes it so much better.  I even got a bit watery eyed at a Van Gogh, one of the chair-next-to-bed ones; whether you like Van Gogh or not, that thick paint and those wonderfully chunky yet detailed paintings are a joy to behold.  I just hate the pomp and la-de-da attitude of so many people connected to the art world.

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