Eye of the Beholder - the Art Critic.

by Richard Small

Eye of the beholder the art critic.

What makes for art? Someone saying, this is art', he supposed, even if they were alone in the world thinking so.

He listened to the rain on the roof; was that art? Might be if someone recorded it he supposed. On the washing line outside, hanging as though executed on a bad day, a pair of black waterproof trousers revealed artistic folds and shadows as they moved gently in the wind, water running down like rivulets.

"Was that art?" he thought, "mmm, could be if it was planned that way. Or perhaps if he hadn't either!" What if he were to invite a crowd around to see his 'art exhibition'; telling them that he'd been working for years on this masterpiece. Why, he could even title it. . . what about 'inside out' or 'at last done', or more subtle like, ' not on the moon'.

Placed on the spot, who knows what a guest will make of it. . . "Oh, I do so love the title, so er, evocative of the quasi post neuvois yet pre nartzine period". "Beautiful, I can look at it for hours, I see mountains and valleys. . . it's as though it tells a story of where it has been and now is taking us. . . oh, just wonderful."

"I can't quite see anything in it", says someone, (who is probably not alone in this honest revelation either, but the others are keeping quiet).

Now the supposed art critics/lovers among them turn and look at him with pitiful ness as if he were a fly stuck in the paint and all coloured with a tinge of disbelief blended with the hue of disdain.. . . "What a shame you are unable, (adding silently, 'you ignorant thicko') to appreciate such work, the delicacy of the sinews of pacifism woven into nature's brutality. . . the psychic journey to which it alludes is beyond anything else I've ever seen." Smug faces all around for those that did, or pretended to, see something of grand art in a pair of waterproof over trousers left in the rain to wash off the mud.

As he listened to the voices of the beholders his memories interrupted him and spoke louder than they of times past in Russia. The Hermitage museum to be precise. . . we'd looked at several of their Picasso collection trying to work out what they were supposed to be, beyond daubs of random paint that is. Lianna said,"My kindergarten children can do better than that." Earlier Lianna, used to taking kindergarten children around town, had stopped in their tracks the speeding psychopathic Russian traffic with an outstretched hand so we could all cross a busy road. Do you think Picasso could have done that? The gesture in her outstretched hand more powerful than any in his so called paintings.

Why is he famous? Anything to do with. . . "How much!!!. . .for THAT!!?" Clever bit of sales work that and promulgated by generations since. . . for money!

Let's face it, if you owned one you are most unlikely to say, "of course it's rubbish really, I think it was a scrap of paper on which he cleaned his brushes and practised a signature. . . yes, total tosh. . . worthless really."

Another memory shouted down the first. . . "What about Van Gogh" had said Natasha, the interpreter, "a sad man in need of therapy who cut his own ear off and then did a self portrait. He did this painting for himself; it was for his own psychological needs, why should we even look at it?"

Of course the counter argument is, "well, if you can't see anything in it then it's obviously not for you and you should clear off and let others enjoy it."

The implication being that you are in some significant way lacking, inferior or less worldly than they who see everything. They suggest that you should exclude yourself in your ignorance from those that really know. Perhaps that's why they see the Emperor's new clothes and having said that they can see them they are unable or unwilling to retract and are therefore forced by ego to remain prisoners of their own false belief.

Why do we know only a few famous artists when there are many more unsung and whose skills are greater and whose works are just simply better. Who was the arbiter of fame and ignominy and why? This is the question that may open our minds to a truth. Vested interest, both financial and egoistic . . . neither being the great attributes to which the good in us would aspire.

My own view is that an artist is one who can present that which is real and that which is imagined in such a way that any other, regardless of education, status, creed or nationality, can recognise it for what the artist 'saw', now that is skill worthy of our appreciation and even admiration. It's only my opinion.

What would you hang on your wall?

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