The most important questions in art… Take 2

I return to this subject with some trepidation, as I have no academic background in it, apart from a (very) dimly remembered essay for my first degree. I feel compelled to add something to previous tentative stabs at it. (See ‘The most important question in art’)

Grayson_Perry_by_Ella_GuruThis thinking has been sparked off by watching Grayson Perry give his opinions on gardens at the Royal Chelsea Flower Show. He said (and I’m paraphrasing wildly here) that to say “I like it” is a hugely complex thought: class, background, job, age, education and gender (I might add sexual orientation and race, if I knew what I was talking about) are all leading up to that moment.

My thoughts on the subject were, if you remember (do try to keep up, we were on this months ago) that the first, most important question is: “Do you like it?” The second is: “Why?”

Grayson Perry’s comment implies that we all have different reasons for liking it- whatever it may be, a garden, art, music….. any endeavour that might be considered partly aesthetic. After all, we all differ in our class, background, job…..

It follows, I believe, that no one aesthetic opinion is worth more than any other. If that was the case, then one person’s class, age, gender… would be worth more than another person’s. (I am sure we could debate education’s role in this endlessly. So forget that one for now.) If you feel that a work has more aesthetic worth than another, you are entitled to that opinion; there is no absolute ‘good’ here here.

My second question in considering art was “Why do you like it?” (The factors of class, background, job….. may obviously figure in any discussion, but will probably be secondary to points of colour, harmony, rhythm, composition, form, craftsmanship, technique, etc.) I feel that this question is the key to much pleasure and particularly to aesthetic education. If children can be taught to explain their likes and dislikes and to discuss them sensibly, then their horizons can be hugely expanded. I do feel that art is important, although the reasons for that view are a subject for future exploration, at least as far as the Oblique world view is concerned.

Woolly, isn’t it? As I have explained before, this blog is often about me sorting my ideas out. I really would welcome any responses.

[I should mention an incident from a Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, many, many years ago. There was a gloriously splashy, colourful portrait of Guy the Gorilla by John Bratby. Two ladies with upper-class accents stopped in front of it.

And this,” said one, “is obviously rubbish.”

Perhaps I should have asked: “And why do you think that?” Being English, I smiled, looked carefully at the painting, decided I liked it (because of its gloriously splashy colourfulness) and walked on.]

“Grayson Perry” by Ella Guru Copyright © Ella Guru, Released under GFDL, 28 March 2008.



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