How I appreciate art

This is in part a reply to Mongolian Deathworm’s comment to Unconquerable Wet Fire.

Although I enjoy painting and some other activities that might be called art, I am not a big art appraiser myself. I might find something nice, but most of the items are somehow boring – or maybe that’s what bad art is? or maybe it just doesn’t get through to me because I am not a big art appraiser? Anyway I thought to write a little bit of how I think of different art.

One and the earliest ways I have appreciated art is by seeing how exact and recognizable objects are. If I understand the story behind the piece, if I can explain myself why the artist did what he or she did. I can appreciate the exactness and ability of replicating the real world in his/her work. That way I am appreciating more the skill not the overall piece. But I think it is really hard to make realistic art tell something straight to your heart. You can enjoy the picture, the beauty (or not), the objects, associate them with your own life, but there is something missing. I myself try not to replicate objects that I see, mostly anyway. I think I am not very skillful at drawing but, more to the point, I feel that I rather take a photo than draw the same thing up. It is only rare cases when a photo can’t show what you wanted to.

Another way is when you can’t really tell by picture alone, what is it that the artist tries to say. Does he or she try to tell at all or is it just beauty- an ornament – that he or she is after? You have to look at the picture as well as inside yourself to understand what it really means. Sometimes the picture’s name will point you in some sensible direction, sometimes the name doesn’t connect you at all. I like this way the best, because each time the experience is different. Every time I might feel differently about the picture, every time explaining it differently. Yet sometimes not making the connection at all. That way even a familiar art museum can give you something. That is what I try to achieve with my pictures1. Nothing recognizable (though I am a human and have trouble making it abstract enough), nothing even in symbols. Colors, movement, techniques, lines and contrast – these will have to stay because a picture is nothing if it does not captivate somehow.

And then there is conceptual art. Art which is to shock you somehow. Art of exploring the boundaries. I say this is only rarely done well enough for me not to feel bored and even disgusted with it. This is how I think about "Domestic Tension" of Wafaa Bilal. It is a novel way of doing art, the random element of the mass thrown in as co-artists, Internet as the new media is used. It is all nice – and it is sad that his point got proven -, but it is only an interesting idea and one that doesn’t captivate me, doesn’t make me feel enlightened. There might be more to it, maybe if I had seen the performance at the time I had thought about it differently, but right now it’s just a curious fact that that kind of art exists.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not against good conceptual art. To illustrate I’ll tell you about a video I saw in Kiasma (Helsinki Modern Art Museum) a few years ago and can’t forget even now. It was a silent video, at first nothing special. It was a sunny street corner, where several young people were hanging out. There were four different groups of one (with a mobile phone) to three (on some kind of discarded couch in the center). When you gave it a passing glance you thought it to be just about hanging out, about social life. But when you paid more attention, then you understood, that each group was in a separate loop in itself. They all repeated their actions, but the length of one loop was different. But nevertheless you could see how the groups still interacted with each-other and it was always as if it was meant to be exactly like that. You could see one group telling a joke at another and the other answering, etc, etc. I think I sat there for fifteen minutes absolutely in awe.

And then there is life and the appreciation you can get only from living yourself. You might find me captivated at odd moments. It might be an emotion on someone’s face, it might be the feeling I feel in my arm, it might be some vague thought that happens to come into my mind at just the right moment, it might be an unwanted detail in exactly the right position on the floor, it might be the room designer has done a good job – but you’ll see my eyes going distant and me, I am happy for that moment. Happy to have recognized it, to have felt it, maybe even memorized it for later viewing or thinking about it. Some might tell, that it is not art, but I appreciate it just the same. What is art anyway? Only the things displayed as art? That is a question still unsatisfactorily answered.

Notes
1. I am a bad judge of that because in me there is the itch I scratch with making the picture and I can remember it too well when looking at it.

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