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Art and Its Environment


And of whence it comes

The art website is still some way from having a shape and form whereby it can go public. In the meantime, there is space here to talk, as artist, of my preoccupations and thoughts.

For some days I have become aware of a gap, I can’t call it a void, in my artistic life. There are 198 works on SaatchiArt/malcolmdbmunro. Four new works came to my mind as I woke this morning. I can’t promise all those will see light of day. But, where the work on Saatchi Art’s website is concerned, I simply cannot tell what people will like and people will not. Why is it that, among the Eco-Works I have done, Or,Rather, It Was is so well liked.

So, this gap, this void, this sort of stretch of artistic soil that is not being fertilised and producing crop or feeding sheep, what am I going to do with it?

Well, last night, in my journal, I wrote:

Art and Its Environment

What does this mean? I cannot answer the question. Yet. That is what is going on here. A sort of public meditation.

I recently joined the Scottish Society of Artists and, all things being well, will visit Edinburgh over the next week or two to show up and look at my work hung in the Royal Scottish Academy. Since I do not have agreement nor have warned the person I am about to write about, I shall not mention that person’s name. Suffice to say that the person is associated with the Society, a body run by its members.

I had some questions associated with the show and approached the person with them. And discovered that the person is deeply involved in the community. The commitment comes from a heart felt desire to relate the art done to the community in which it is produced.

Now, what does this mean for me? One answer is that if you wait long enough, Malcolm, and give yourself a bit of time, the penny will drop. Well, it might cost you a bit more than 1 penny.

What strikes me is that any involvement as an artist in his or her community has to reflect the personality, desires and preoccupations of that person.

So, the first thing you do is to take stock. What are these preoccupations? What kind of personality do you have? We’ll put aside desires at this point.

Some months ago the board member of an arts association here in Houston told me of a public arts work that the City of Houston was commissioning, and that that organisation was charged with finding a suitable person, group, or company, that could fill the requirements for that commission.

I heard of this four days before the deadline. At the time I was involved in getting out my first art sale out the door, and so that had to be done first. I thought, and did some research on what might fit the requirements. The results of the research were excellent but the conceptions I came up were plain dumb.

As I trawl through open calls I see lots that ask for artists to do public art works. I steer away from them. I cannot imagine inflicting on an unsuspecting public some artifice that … you fill in the blank.

But it doesn’t have to be physical.

What form might it take? Let’s take stock and see what that produces.

I have many preoccupations as evidenced on this blog. But in a field of horses you are not going to back every horse.

The art I do is conceptual. The book I am reading at present is a history of Roman Law, The book I have put aside for this one, and will return to shortly, is on writing systems. Full of arcane language used only by linguists. You know, the likes of Noam Chomsky.

In past times, depending on at what point of time you pick, the actual work involved in creating, let’s say a painting, was excruciating. Egg tempera is not a friendly medium. Nor is oil for many. Viz the popularity of acrylics. The training of artists was long and rigorous. I think if you simply survived to the end you qualified regardless of talent, ability, authentic creativity. Three years spent drawing from plaster cast copies of famous Greek statues, held to be the very epitome of artistic creation. At least in round form. Only after 2 years of this, day after day, hours on end, did you graduate to live models, at which stage you were expected to produce a verisimilitude to the real figure that …

Then along came those in my time who threw the whole art teaching syllabus out the window. “You don’t need to learn to draw,” “Art is what I say it is.” Marcel Duchamp does art the great disfavour that has ever been performed on it. He turns a urinal upside down and hangs it … and toddles of to play chess, his real love.

But, but, in The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even; Large Glass, Nude Descending the Staircase, he created two of the finest works in the modern era. You could argue that it is the equal of anything done since the end of the first decade of the twentieth century. With the exception of Guernica. Of which there is no match.

I could be thought of as conservative. I do not think that true. Aesthetic sense, certainly. Preferences, perhaps.

I do not deplore that what has resulted in a heterodoxy, a broad church that allows a multiplicity of means and kinds of expression.

But is it art? I don’t think I am capable of answering the question nor do I think that it is right that I do so. I do digital art. The same could be asked of mine.

But, but, there is an area of creativity referred to as fine art.

Art as we know it in a historical sense, derives from the Renaissance; a time when art, high art, was produced for courts and kings. Who employed artists, some of the greatest that have ever lived, but never paid them. Well, yes, they did, but very, very, very late.

In due time, an audience grew with money enough to pay for the individuals. The geniuses. Men, most, of breathtaking talent producing works to die for.

So here we are. In a time where some prognosises were that painting was dead. At the recent air fair in Brooklyn which I attended and showed, there were 120 fellow artists, a large percentage of whom painted, who paint.

What haunts me is … I am deeply aware of our tradition. Our heritage. Our long march from the earliest art. Of all that has proceeded us. How do I pay homage to that. How do I depict hunter gatherers who shortly will have vanished from the planet. How do I depict hieroglyphics, cuneiform. The arabic world was forbidden to depict the human figure or even the world itself and so turned to glories renderings of their script. Wonderful, wonderful. How do you share these. For those who do not know history. Who shy from learning or hearing of such stuff. The web produces it in abundance at the click of a mouse or with a cell phone.

Perhaps I should teach. I have a friend, an architect, who said to me. “You must teach.”

How? I have no formal qualification. I am not an academic. And where?Which, what forum?

I did teach, have taught. For ten years. 1994, awarded One of America’s 100 Best Teachers.

But I was bored. Out of my tiny mind. At that level, people, youngsters have not or have no inclination to express an intellectual curiosity. To develop a life of the mind. A long and arduous business. That produces for the person a reward that the rest of us can barely glimpse. Particularly in our time, when such a state of being is disparaged. Held to be elitist. No more public long reads.

But there remains the remains. Who here, how, next year and the year after will unashamedly celebrate them and bring that joy to others.

Malcolm D B Munro
Wednesday 9 December, 2018

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Filed under: Arts, Media, Music, poetry, songs, stories

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