Contemporary Art. Art or Artifice?

Contemporary Art. Art or Artifice?
May 26, 2014 bbritadmin

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Wine, classical music, art. We all like them  – well, at least we think we ought to like them but how many times have we all heard (or thought) the words “I don’t really know very much about it but I know what I like when I see it”.

I guess we are all guilty of some lazy thinking in these areas. It saves having to challenge oneself. (That said, I have always made strenuous efforts to push my boundaries in relation to wine).

The challenge came my way again. Very recently, I was in London with a couple of hours to spare and so I went to the Veronese exhibition at the National Gallery. It was one of those exhibitions which had been heavily trailed in the press as a “must see.”

If I’m honest, I sometimes go to these things because I think I ought to and come away feeling distinctly underwhelmed. The ticket prices are often significant, queues long and then one has have the pleasure of moving around in a phalanx of people really unable to spend any time on any one picture. However, the Veronese was a revelation.  Overwhelming.  (Read what one critic wrote – I agree! 

http://www.spectator.co.uk/arts/arts-feature/9185211/the-national-gallerys-veronese-exhibition-is-not-likely-to-be-rivalled-in-our-lifetimes/

Two days later, I went to the launch of the “Somewhat Abstract” exhibition at the Nottingham Contemporary. It’s worth seeing, names from over the last hundred years and thus a good spread of “contemporary” over that period.

But, I have been trying for years to see what others clearly see and feel far more easily than me in contemporary art. My problem is that whilst some abstract art does communicate meaning or even a feeling, there are times when one’s underlying concern is that the artist is merely poking fun at a rather serious chin stroking audience.

The Contemporary has examples of both. I enjoyed the video installation of a large block of London flats. I suppose I could “see the point.” However, at several points in the exhibition rooms,  there were jars, clearly part of a set, each apparently containing food colouring, but all bearing a portentous description that Private Eye would have shuddered at and, to cap it all, from a famous national collection. I just didn’t get it.

Maybe that’s the point. One doesn’t have to try as hard to understand the basic idea behind a “traditional” painting. One can just enjoy without thought.  But in pushing one’s boundaries and struggling to understand contemporary art, does that mental process in fact makes one think more deeply about all art?

It’s a thought… (And then, talking of boundaries, there was the “re imagined” Chekov play in Serbo Croat with English surtitles – but that’s for another day)

Ps Both exhibitions are running for a few weeks yet. See them

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