Saturday, 4 October 2014

But is it Art?

My shameless promotion of my Daughters art work.

When photography started in the 19th century there was a lot of resistance to it from established artists who saw it as a threat to there livelihoods. For a long time the question was whether photography actually was art?

That debate has been put to bed a long time ago. Up and coming artists are as likely to use photography as part of their work as any other tool such as canvas, oils or pastels. Even mainstream artists such as David Hockney have used photography to much acclaim. I sometimes wonder what artists such as Picasso, Dali, Van Gogh and Turner would of made of Photoshop if it had been available in their time.

Recently I went to a 6th form taster session with my eldest daughter at her school. As part of this we went around the art department, where present 6th form students were showing off their A-level art work in progress, including their photography work. The work ranged from the excellent to the sublime, and generally put anything I have done in the shade. In fact it really made me think about the work I do and whether I am taking enough risks.(I must add that my daughter had her African art work displayed in the gallery which would of made any parent truly proud to have such a talented child)

I have pondered in a previous blog, what the definition of a good photo is. To me a bad photo is one which is obvious, or a duplication of another work without addition. Unfortunately as I watched some of my photos being displayed at the photographic society new members show, I could not help but cringe at how many of my photos fell into that category.

While it is relatively easy to define what you don't like in art, defining excellence is much harder.

Since photography can now be safely catergorised as art, without mobs of rampaging painters burning your house down (presumably afterwards capturing the flames on canvas), we are left  with the question. What is good art?

My mother was an artist, and it was a discussion we used to have many times. At the time I was a opinionated 13 year old and she was completing her Art degree, so we rarely agreed. I sometimes wonder what she would of made of my photos? Hopefully she would of been happy that someone who had seemed to have missed the artistic gene entirely would of at last found a genre to express themselves in.

I think she would of also been interested in the use of computers in art. I know computers fascinated her, but she felt she had reached the age where they would be forever beyond her.

As I I've grown older (wiser? )[Editor's note - Not that you can grow younger], I still look for the definition of what is 'good' art. Obviously technique and execution is important, but after competency what is the 'X' factor that separates the extraordinary from the merely good.

This blog by Robin Ince started me thinking. He mentioned the controversial art work Exhibit B which some has said is racist. Also in the same week a Banksy art work was painted over for the same reasons.

For me both works have a quantity that defines 'Good' Art in that they make you think about reality and your relationship with it (even if you don't like those thoughts)

If I had to list my 3 favorite artists(which is difficult) they would probably be
  • M.C. Escher
  • J.W.M Turner
  • Joseph Wright of Derby
  • Dali
(I know that's 4, but I said it was difficult)

Although generally of different era's, they all in there own way provided a new insight into reality.

Good art has to stick in the brain, You may not want to agree with the subject, but it keeps dragging you back to it, long after you've seen it. One example is the painting of Myra Hindley by Marcus Harvey. The subject matter is disturbing, even shocking, but one thing it isn't, is forgettable.

Photos are the same. The ones that stick in your brain are the ones that shock, show great humor or talk to you in some way. It is unusual for a photo of a landscape, however good, to have that effect on you.

I am not the kind of photographer who could use shock tactics. I am not brave enough or confident enough in my art. However it would be nice to take a photo that would make people stop and think for at least a second.

Anyway I have a long term photo project on-going which involves a lot of construction and some new kit and hopefully coming to fruition soon.

In the meantime the Melbourne Photographic society program is starting to pick up steam with the club chairmen, Ian Petit, doing a talk on his photographic year

Thanks for reading..

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