Staring at art from the Tate's collection and thinking about it

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

What is the fucking point of this blog?

Many years ago, before I was a minor author of literary fiction, I studied art.  Not how to make it, but art history.  I studied it quite a lot.  At A-Level.  At degree level.  At post-graduate level.  I nearly got a doctorate in the stuff.  For better or worse, I even taught it a bit, and wrote precisely one exhibition review for art magazine Frieze.

But then I stopped.  Why?  Various reasons.  The money ran out, there seemed to be less and less of a future in it, undiagnosed autism was sending me a bit mad, and so on.  But one of the reasons was that I just didn't know what anyone was talking about half the time.  The whole discussion of art, at least in the English-speaking world seemed to be increasingly bogged down in what someone has called International Art English.  Meaning was obscured, rather than clarified.  People were being kept out, rather than being welcomed in.  I didn't want to be in the gang, and I didn't feel the gang particularly wanted me.

And so I haven't even thought about art much for the past decade.  And seeing as I don't live near that many decent art galleries, I haven't looked at it either.  During this time, however, questions have nagged at me from the back of my skull: how could we talk about art?  What is worth saying about it?  How do you keep the conversation open without treating people like idiots?  In this blog I want to feel my way in the dark, and see if I can stumble upon something, anything, that's useful.

To do this, I have set myself an utterly impossible, and perhaps totally stupid task.  I can't get up to art galleries to look at art right now.  I'm too poor.  I'm raising a small child.  Ain't gonna happen.  The Tate website, however, does contain many images from its collection. What I'm going to do is study these images by staring at them really hard and doing a bit of background reading, and write down my thoughts, in the hope that this will ultimately lead me somewhere worth being.

This is obviously moronic on a number of levels.  Firstly, an image on a computer screen is not the same as an object in front of you.  Any art object will possess qualities that can't be captured in reproduction.  Having said that, however, I did look at an awful lot of art over the years, and I reckon I can fill in some of the blanks from experience.  It won't be good enough, but it will be something, and something is better than nothing, unless that something is leprosy or something.

Secondly, the Tate website contains far more images than I could ever meaningfully study in a lifetime.  Seeing as I'll be working alphabetically, I'll be lucky if I make it to 'B'.  But I draw inspiration from the artist Roman Opalka, who spent much of his life counting to infinity.  Needless to say, he never got there, but it was the doing it that was the point.  In fact, I'd go further and say that all creative endeavour is, in some way, counting to infinity.  I haven't a fucking clue what that means right now.

So, these are the rules.  Working through the Tate catalogue, alphabetically, as found on its website.  One entry a week, on a Sunday, I expect, as everyone has a good rest and stares at art on a Sunday. Works from 1900 on only.  That's when the Tate's international collection starts.  Before that, it's British art only (fine though that is) and about a million scraps of paper that Turner blew his nose on.  My understanding of historical perspective isn't good enough to say anything worth saying about it, so it's going to have to be someone else's ridiculous blog project to wade through all that.  

I could be about to blow the door of perception wide open.  Most likely I'm wasting my life.  We'll have to see.

1 comment:

  1. Good luck with your quest ! Can art be described using words alone ? Have a cool day ! :)}

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