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Author Topic: Modern Art
Nil a fhios agam
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I realise this has been done to death on OTF but bear with me please.

In school I ignored art completely, I was always more focused on science and maths. I then did engineering in college so not much artistic influences there either.

Three years ago I travelled to Italy and saw the great galleries in Rome and Florence. It really opened my eyes up to how wonderful art can be and the absolute beauty that can be present in a painting. My interest wasnít sustained when I returned to Ireland but it was definitely awakened.

Last year I was in Barcelona and Madrid. Picassoís museum in Barcelona gave me a really good overview of how an artist develops over time and the creative thinking that is triggered through the events of his personal life and what he experienced in the time around him. The Prado museum opened my eyes to Goya and Dali as well as a host of others.

Since that trip I have read quite a few art books, mostly Taschen. Iíve read the books that are aimed at a general audience rather than academic minded ones. Iíve also gone to the National Gallery in Dublin and also the Hugh Lane one a number of times. As a result I have more of an appreciation for the classic paintings, cubism and early surrealism. I wouldnít say Iíve ďgotĒ them fully or considered everything about them but I feel I can appreciate it to a good extent.

Now, I get on to the point of the thread, modern art. Thereís the museum of Modern Art beside where I work in Kilmainham. Iíve visited there several times. In The Hugh Lane gallery Iíve mentioned half the exhibits are of modern art. Iíve read three books on modern art, all of them of the kind where an artistís work is shown in two or three photographs and two or three pages on their style and work.

My understanding of modern art is that the artist feels a certain emotion or feeling or has a statement to make. They then create a work of art based on this that symbolises their concept. My problem is that I find it almost impossible to grasp it when I look at a painting. When I read explanations a lot of them seem woolly to say the least. I wasnít expecting precision of the meaning of each object but a lot of what I read seems like complete bullshit.

I can see that this form of art must be incredibly exciting and creative for the artist producing it. For me though when I see a Picasso, Monet or Caravaggio painting the feeling of creativity, beauty and skill hits me straight away. When I see modern art I see things that look a lot simpler but obviously have further meaning I get frustrated when I canít figure it out without being told by someone. Instead of leaving the gallery feeling exhilarated by what I have seen Iím a bit pissed off to be honest.

Now, there are very knowledgeable people on art here and Iíd really appreciate pointers on how to appreciate these works better, I really donít want to end up saying all modern art is shit and a child could do it just because I canít understand it.

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Amor de Cosmos
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My understanding of modern art is that the artist feels a certain emotion or feeling or has a statement to make. They then create a work of art based on this that symbolises their concept.

While not exactly incorrect that tends to overcomplicate the process. Like any creative work a painting is primarily a result of an artist's engagement with process. How light falls across the subject, how colours change according to the hour, or on different surfaces, or in proximity to other colours. How paint blends on the palette and feels on the end of a brush, and the awareness of the muscles in fingers and wrist as pigment is applied to canvas. The distillation of a subject, into pure form, colour, or value, in other words its essence at the moment of execution. These things, and more, are the concerns of the visual artist. It is a mindful process and often a sensory one but rarely is it consciously intellectual. Other than technical tips on how they produced something be wary of artists who make statements about their own work, nine times out of ten they're utter bollox. Some are better when discussing other artists' paintings ó the bollox meter drops to maybe seven out of ten ó but always remember they deal with images not words. Would you ask a poet to paint a picture about a verse he'd written?

When I read explanations a lot of them seem woolly to say the least. I wasnít expecting precision of the meaning of each object but a lot of what I read seems like complete bullshit.

It is. There is, or has been, more elitist claptrap produced on art In the past fifty years than probably any other subject. Sadly art writing became a magnet for every "ism" that wafted through academe. It took a long time to acquire populist forms, or forums, where it could be discussed both intelligently and accessibly like, for example, music. There's hope though. There's more general discussion of applied arts than ever before, these often provide an entry point for people who feel intimidated or excluded by traditional fine arts.

For too long there has also been a tendency for art writers to assume knowledge of the artist's intent: " In Dejeuner sur l'herbe Manet was illustrating the subserviance, and even metaphorical rape, of the female in mid-19th Century French bourgeois society." I'm sure old Edouard would have been surprised to hear that. However well-informed he may be the viewer's relationship is with the painting, not the painter. We can only discuss with authority what it means to us, not what he/she was trying to "say."

I'm interested in exactly what you consider Modern Art to be and specifically which paintings/artists you have difficulty with? Picasso and Dali are certainly moderns and you also mention your appreciation of Cubism and Surrealism, where exactly do you feel at sea?

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Gas Filled Dolphin Carcass
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Ditch the Taschen books/Modern Art For Idiots and get yourself something like 'The Shock of the New' by Robert Hughes; this book was the start of me loving 'modern art' having previously disliked it.

The Tubster could probably recommend something good as well.

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Oadlad
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ADC is spot on, 'modern' art appeals primarily to the emotions.
To test this out sit for ten minutes in the Rothko room at the Tate Modern and see how it affects you. If it doesn't that's Ok, it doesn't connect but it may with the person next to you so it is still legitimate.
The other thing to remember is that any work you are looking it at is almost always a stage in a long, often lifetime process and should be considered as such. Therefore Andre's bricks which cause the Sun so much mirth can be seen best when seen as a stage in his life's study of composition, (also the TM)
You admit that some impressionists affect you so you have touched on the process.
So when you suspect that some/most is bollocks it is just stuff that you can't/don't connect with.
I suggest you read less until you have found stuff you gel with and then read to see where it came from...

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what's his name, the number 10....
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My brother is a modern artist. I really just don't undestand the stuff, though I often think it looks cool. I am to Art what Michael Owen is to literature.

Examples.

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Stumpy Pepys
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I agree about modern art making more sense as a continuum of work over an artist's lifetime. For instance, I never really understood Mondrian until I saw an exhibition devoted to him ó his early stuff was much more conventional and demonstrated a great deal of skill.

The problem I have with some modern artists is that they never went through this process of development ó they just take their influences from other artists' end-points. As a result, their work has no context and they often have no technical ability at all.

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Gangster Octopus
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I'm sure that I've made the same point on here about Jackson Pollock. Didn't get it originally, but now love it.
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boffin2
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I confess that much conceptual art leaves me feeling both cheated and that the artist is cheating. Tracey Emin's unmade bed, for example. I've never seen it and I never want to.

I know what unmade beds, in general, look like -- and I don't believe that seeing a "specially created" one would do anything to enhance my appreciation of them -- or, indeed, of anything else. And I just think about the work that it is an exhibit devoid of skill that communicates nothing.

I guess I stand accused of prejudging it and, yes, guilty as charged. But I am fully convinced that seeing it for real would merely confirm my impression.

[ 07.08.2007, 14:43: Message edited by: boffin2 ]

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Ginger Yellow
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"Would you ask a poet to paint a picture about a verse he'd written?"

Depends if it was Blake or not.

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Reed
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I'm inclined to agree with Boffin2.

A painting or even a photograph of an unmade bed would be far more interesting, because it would reveal, perhaps, how the artist saw it - the details of space and shadow and all of those considerations that, I imagine, go into creating any kind of still life. But an actual unmade bed could be be done without much thought at all. Then again, maybe that's her point.

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Ginger Yellow
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I don't mean to defend Emin, because I think she's a bit crap, but still:
quote:
But an actual unmade bed could be be done without much thought at all.
Could. Doesn't mean it was.
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Dr. Hofzinser
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But could the viewer tell the difference between an unmade bed that was done without much thought and an unmade bed that was done with much thought?

[ 07.08.2007, 15:30: Message edited by: Dr. Hofzinser ]

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Amor de Cosmos
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That's irrelevant. A variation, in fact on the "pot of paint thrown in the face of the public" case made against Whistler over a hundred years ago.
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Reed
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I think that, by definition, an unmade bed is created to be such without any thought.
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boffin2
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Indeed not! However, when a writer uses a word, with care, in a particular way, he/she creates an impression which might have been very different with selection of another word, or the same word (perhaps) in a different position. These are fine, balanced and nuanced judgments that master wordsmiths make with considerable skill in the creation of a finished product that is often a masterpiece.

Similar considerations can apply (say) to painting. A brushstroke made in a certain way and with a certain hue might have one effect very different from that produced from a slightly different brushstroke and shade of colour. But again, in the hands of a master craftsman/woman, the whole will fit together like the pieces of a jigsaw; with anything done in a different way looking as obviously out of place as a bit of the jigsaw that dosen't fit.

Here is a photograph of Emin's umade bed Its features are the oddments on or around the bed as well as (I understand) the creases in the sheets.

Now, seriously, would anyone notice or care if the items had been different from those chosen; or placed in a different position? Would the whole effect be strikingly different and somehow inferior if the creases in the sheets had been other positions than the ones chosen, and longer or shorter?

And yet, and yet ... the unanswerable retort to the snipers like me is that there is no illusion, no conjouring trick, no deception. What you see is (literally) what you get. And if what you get pleases, then what right does anyone else have to say: "Well, actually, you've been duped ..."? None! I suppose.

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