I am backing up files like it’s December 1999, and I stumbled across a couple of pieces of “art writing” from two-and-a-half years ago. They made me smile, despite — perhaps because of — the fact that I sound like such a bitch. Sorry… I am a bitch! And where else should I put them but on this blog? Especially as I have been helping my mother a lot recently with her art history coursework, and of course as I am about to start my degree in Cultural Materials Conservation, so art writing is back on my mind.
This pretentious little essay was inspired by my visit to the Ron Mueck show at the NGV.
I never actually got round to writing about Mueck, because I got so carried away writing about how much I hate everyone else and how I’m so much better at appreciating art than the plebes. Hilarious! It’s unfinished, and that’s probably not a bad thing. I bolded my favourite paragraph — it’s like a synopsis of the overall thing. For a real review of Mueck, read Ella’s piece, linked to below.
Before I sit down to read my Ron Mueck catalogue, I wanted to try and get down in words my own impressions and interpretations of the exhibition I saw; something like a test of my own understanding and appreciation of art. If I find my ideas in the collected essays on Mueck’s work, they will be validated and will also prove to myself that I truly “thought of it myself” – once I read other people’s opinions, my own will be so much harder to distinguish from the mass. Otherwise I’m never sure: was that what I originally thought?
But before I even start writing about Mueck, I want to write about writing about art and experiencing art. I haven’t done so in many years, despite having dedicated most of my teenage and early adulthood to the study of art history and having spent seven years writing about art on at least a weekly basis (this claim to quantity brings with it no claim as to quality, I hasten to add). I cannot even claim to have read much about art, at least not in the last couple of years, since I started working full-time. In fact, since graduating, I have seen very little art, attending shockingly few exhibitions, and in truth seeing very little around me that could qualify as Art with a capital A. The only aspect which has seen an increase is, ironically, my capacity to purchase art, and in the last three years I have bought 3 paintings and a print, all of which have remained in limbo, waiting to be framed, hung and actually appreciated.
I had to be practically bullied and shamed into visiting the NGV this morning. Several times I almost went, and once even made it to the door, only to discover the gallery was closed for the day. I was originally inspired to visit when reading a review by a fellow graduate art-history student (who continues to be passionate and verbose when it comes to art, unlike my sorry self), which injected me with a flash of inspiration and regret. It had been so long since I had been to a real exhibition, and there were several things I had forgotten about seeing art shows and which came flooding back over the couple of hours I spent in the NGV today.
I had chosen my time and day carefully, so that my visit would coincide with a minimal number of other people. This was based on the advice of a friend, who told me that you really need to have space around you and the exhibits to fully appreciate their impact. I am doubly in his debt for this advice, because within seconds of joining the queue for the exhibition, I was assaulted by the overly loud, irritating tones of a woman behind me, sharing with the world her overwhelming, compulsive need to see this particular show. “I just, you know, HAD TO SEE IT!” she brayed, “there was something about it which made me just, you know, REALLY WANT TO COME.” “Is that any different from other art exhibitions though?” her companion asked, with a quiet sense of humour that made the whole conversation only just bearable to witness. “No, it was the same with the Dali exhibition,” she reassured her audience, “I mean, Dali is my absolute favourite artist EVER so I had to come.”
I absolutely loathe people who claim that Dali is their favourite artist, ever. No matter how intelligent and perceptive the Dali-lover, upon further investigation it will generally come to light that they “normally dislike art” and that in fact, they don’t really know any other artists, apart from “Van Go” or “Van Gog” or whatever twisted approximation of poor Vincent’s last name they have absorbed. (As an aside, I also tend to dislike the Van Gogh fans, whose knowledge of his art and life are generally reduced to a couple of Sunflowers, a Starry Night, and the idea that he cut his ear off, a la Chopper. However, a certain proportion of his audience, myself included, is genuinely sensitive to his emotionally charged work, and therefore I will avoid making the same swooping generalisations that I am currently bestowing to the Dali supporters).
Yes, Dali has his qualities, and I suppose that years of drug consumption have given me an extra degree of appreciation for his work. But those who worship at the shrine of Dali go a long way to explaining the presence of the shops that leave me gasping with laughter and disbelief at their stock of mediocre, over-polished, gold-adorned, uncomfortable, impractical and utterly tasteless furniture. Somewhere along the line, a lack of form or function, wrapped in ostentation, became a substitute for tasteful decoration amongst the masses. I am no minimalist, but you can see where the glass-and-brushed-metal crowd are coming from when you’ve visited one of these gaudy furniture stores.
Yes, dear reader, you have guessed correctly; I’m a snob and I hate sharing my experience of Art with the common-or-garden general public. I can think back to so many gallery visits that were marred by the presence of a loud, more often than not American, viewer, whose opinions one could not escape. So it was with a wry smile that I noted, amongst the scores of iPhones capturing yet another crappy snap of one of Mueck’s works, an amusing similarity.
Alas! the writing stops there, and I guess we will never know what the amusing similarity will be.