24 April 2017

Art

What is Art? Is it something pretty that catches your eye? Is it something that stops you in your tracks and challenges your thinking? Is it merely an exhibition of technical skills?

Probably there isn't one simple answer. 

The first art gallery I ever visited was The Ferens Art Gallery in Hull. Many years had passed by since I last visited it but I was back there on Saturday morning.

The place was heaving with visitors - rather like a popular London exhibition. Many of them were there to see a new photographic display by Spencer Tunick in which hundreds of naked Hullensians gathered at several city locations. Often their bodies were painted blue to suggest the sea:-
In the gallery's vestibule there was a pile of what appeared to be stones:-
What do you think of it? Is it Art?

I kind of like to observe natural things in gallery situations. A different context can make you see things differently. But that pile of rocks wasn't a pile of rocks at all. It was a pile of pieces of sea-battered polyurethane foam that the artist had gathered from different coastal locations. That makes you think differently about the pile.

The artist-collector is Alexander Duncan and he calls this piece "Cove". He said of it, "Lost in the sea, these hyperobjects have returned to the land reminding us of the waste and pollution we are all responsible for".

Only a century ago, no such material could be found around the British coast but now it's everywhere. Even in the vast Pacific Ocean millions of plastic bags and bottles are floating, washing up on deserted islands or entering the food chains of precious marine life. Without words, Alexander Duncan's "Cove" makes you stop and think - perhaps we don't deserve to be the guardians of this beautiful planet. We continue to ruin it, thoughtlessly, arrogantly, stupidly...

26 comments:

  1. The pile of stones are amazing. Did he shape and colour each stone? I live 2 mins from Brighton beach where it is all stones and these are so realistic.
    Couldn't agree more on the destruction of the planet by humans but nature will always win in the end.
    Briony
    x

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    1. Briony - None of the pieces of foam were coloured or altered by Mr Duncan. They were simply found, saved and then brought together in this pile. Nature will win in the end? I doubt that the dodo will ever return.

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    2. I see what you mean about the Dodo and of course there are many species that are in danger and likely to disappear but I meant nature as in plant life. When I see plants pushing up through mini cracks in concrete and asphalt for example I know that they will survive.
      I hate what man is doing to this wonderful planet of ours but until greed goes out of the window sadly I can't see a change coming.
      Briony
      x

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  2. I did a double take at Briony's comment but then she is right, humanity will make the earth uninhabitable and then we will die out and whatever is left of nature will do perfectly fine without us.

    I like "Cove" but in general I think environmental issues are so urgent that we need some other way of getting the message through, art doesn't seem to be confronting enough people in a serious enough way. Of course, that is more a reflection of the audience than the artist

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    1. I hear what you say about Nature. When we are all gone, The Earth will find a new way forward through the millions of years beyond our self-inflicted demise.

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  3. It's not my idea of art...but that's what it's all about, isn't it? One person's idea of art is not that of another. And on it goes...unique in its own way...in expression and appreciation thereof.

    Art lives down the road around the corner; he doesn't know if he Artur or Marta....whether he's coming or going! ;)

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    1. Art used to sing with Paul Simon, but then changed into lumps of polyurethane foam.

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  4. How do you define "art"? It's become an inflationary term. Anything thrown on the page is claimed to be "art". A doodle, a scribble, soon just breathing will be an art form. And woe betide you if you don't agree with the "artist" or their sycophants. Emperor's New Clothes and all that.

    I think that pile of stones and pebbles most interesting. Visually stimulating. But it doesn't make it any better than it is - and it is good - by calling it "art".

    By a strange coincidence, not only is this is the first time I have visited your blog (though have taken notice of your comments not least on John's blog and those overlapping), this morning I contemplated to write a scathing piece on self proclaimed artists' contempt for those who don't see the "art". I decided against it. Effort is wasted better on other endeavours.

    You raised the subject ... good on you.

    U

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    1. Thanks for dropping by BotB and for considering the question this post raised. If someone calls something Art that claim surely doesn't oblige everybody to agree.

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  5. Art by its very nature is subjective, a creation of one mind in the hope of communicating feeling or emotion in another. Some people prefer that to be a recognisable depiction of real life, while others hanker after the abstract. But as for a pile of sea-battered polyurethane.....

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    1. Why didn't you finish your comment Ian? Run out of ink cartridges?

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  6. An interesting and thought-provoking work -- definitely consistent with what I expect of art! It reminds me of a sculpture I saw in Copenhagen made entirely of plastic objects retrieved from the harbor: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sreed99342/30624291694/

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    1. I just went over to that on flickr Steve. I can see the obvious connection. Good to see you have over a thousand followers on flickr!

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  7. When I was little, a primary school friend of mine had a father who liked to paint in his spare time. He once entered a local art competition and, for devilment, just threw a load of paint on a canvas and, wherever it fell, he left it. He entered it for a joke and he won first prize. Nobody was more surprised than he was. I often think back to that when I see modern art. One man's tat is another's beauty. In the eye of the beholder, as they say. It's a very personal thing.

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    1. That's a great story ADDY. Maybe what is important is how other people respond to something - not necessarily what the artist intended.

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  8. I can generally see the point of a piece (sometimes only after the artist has a chance to explain) but I still question an installation that showed in a nearby city a couple of years back -- a huge pile of pennies, thousands and thousands of them poured on the floor. I did read the explanation but it didn't make sense to me then so I can't remember it now. I do understand what the artist in your post meant, and I think we all should try to get across the sentiment with whatever means we can work with the best. Artists do it with objects and drawings and paintings, writers do it with words, activists do it with demonstrations ...

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    1. Saving the planet? Is that like knocking one's head against a brick wall? Our so-called leaders don't have long-term visions. They're just looking at the next election down the line and capitalists businesses seek profit before anything else.

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    2. Yep, pretty much.

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  9. ...and have we gone too far in ruining the planet. Are we past the point of no return?

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    1. So much harm has been done in the last two hundred years - most especially in the last fifty. We probably have come too far Red. I'm not optimistic.

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  10. I enlarged "Cove" and the "stones" seem most realistic.

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    1. When I first saw them - even close-up - they looked liked normal stones from a beach to me. It was only be reading the exhibit's description tht I realised they weren't stones at all.

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  11. When it comes to modern art, I am often in two minds about it. Is it still art to me if it needs explaining? Can't I just enjoy an aesthetically pleasing sculpture, painting or other object? Does it have to be thought-provoking? Food for thought is welcome, though, and what is shown at the Ferens gallery certainly fits that bill.

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    1. As I suggested at the beginning, Art can be different things and there is absolutely nothing amiss with simply enjoying aesthetic beauty or delight.

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  12. Are you familiar with .... thisiscolossal.com. ? Amazing stuff. Mainly more " arty" than the pile of foam!

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    1. Thanks for the link Frances. Some amazing thought-provoking creations there. I shall visit the site again soon.

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