Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Technical Precision vs. Passion: Art Lesson from Desperate Housewives?

The plot is simple: Susan (the character from Desperate Housewives) wants to take an art class. The teacher, an artist she admires, turns out to be disapproving on Susan’s art. When she proudly presented her portfolio of perfectly drawn images, the teacher decided she wasn't suitable for his class. When she provoked him for a reason he said that art is about passion and not about how technically accurate one can draw.  Infuriated, she took a canvas and started to show her anger by cutting the canvas and throwing buckets of paint on it. Hoping that this outburst was the spark he was looking for in her, he accepted Susan in his class.

Ever since photography started to grow, the artists felt less constrained to accurately portray reality. Creativity replaced tradition and passion replaced technicality. Throughout the decades the definition of art was constantly challenged and more meanings were added to it. Art is subjective, art is what critics say it is, art is what I like, art is showing one’s skill, art is creativity, art is passion – we all heard all those phrases in different circumstances. Even though we may not agree on some aspects of today’s art, it doesn't mean it is not art.

When I asked some acquaintances what they thought art was, their responses were, well ... diverse. While one of my neighbours is not impressed by impressionists, as he likes paintings that accurately depict reality, another neighbour concluded that as we have digital photography today, artists don’t have to be pressured into copying reality. He appreciates the artist’s input in what they create. A friend of mine said that she doesn't mind abstract paintings as she is free to interpret them as she feels like, while another friend said that she likes to recognise the subject of a painting. She wants to know whether she is looking at a landscape, a portrait or a still life piece.

What about the artists’ inner feelings and deep passion? Some say that an artist can easily get away with being self-centred when they are more interested in their inner world than in the outside surroundings. Others say that if an artist likes what they create, people will like it too. No matter how different we all are, and no matter how many tendencies in arts there are, we can still find that piece we enjoy looking at. While you won’t be able to relate to a conceptual or an abstract painting and you’ll say “this is not art” other people will. While you will dismiss folk or naive art as being too simple, other people will pay good money to have it on their walls. While you will reject decorative paintings as they have no content, other people will love it in their living room for a cosy atmosphere.

From any angle you look at a piece of art, whether you like it or not, there is always the opposite side which gives it meaning and a place in the art world. As for Susan, after painting fruits, flowers, seascapes with boats which the teacher didn’t want to see, she eventually managed to create that masterpiece based on a buried secret. If you watch Desperate Housewives you’ll know what I mean.

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