Alice in Texas

Not writing here anymore- see top post for details of my new blogs.

Friday, July 22, 2005

crockery versus the Mona Lisa


I am never happier than when making something. Give me a lump of clay, a bag of flour or a ball of wool, and I'll be busy till the next one comes along. Hitherto, I have preferred making things with a Useful Purpose: "people will always need plates" as Maureen Lipman once said in the memorable British Telecom "ology" advert. It's the one where she's the Jewish grandma on the phone to her grandsom hearing about his GCSE exam results. He says he failed everything. Everything? she asks. Well, I passed pottery... That's good! she says. People will always need plates!

Then he admits he also passed (I think) sociology, and she says, "An ology! He gets an ology and he says he failed! You get an ology, you're a scientist!"

Actually, plates are really quite difficult. I made the rest of pretty much a complete dinner service years and years ago (it's all lost and broken now), but not plates. Too hard to get them off the wheel without causing them to fold up, ripple-style.

So, some time ago, I decided that the world did have enough plates already, and put a lot of thought, work, research and general singing and dancing into formulating some idea of how to produce actual art, as opposed to plates. Because it seemed to me that if Leonardo had painted the Mona Lisa on a great big turkey-server, well, it would have been less good rather than more so. And I came up with a way of making pictures that I enjoy and find aesthetically acceptable, which for me means original in its format as well as content. Because I agreed with British artist Tracy Emin when she said something like: there are hundreds of people painting the seaside, but that's not art, what I do is art.

It doesn't matter whether you think Tracy Emin's stuff is art, or good art: she is right that another bunch of watercolours of the seaside are not art. It's been done. Art has to say something new (and, I would hasten to add, valuable and good) to count as art. Otherwise we may as well all paint copies of Van Gogh's sunflowers. There is no point in that, because machines could do it for us. What no machine can do is create the next Mona Lisa.

Incidentally, last time I went to IKEA I saw that they were selling a giant-sized painting with real thick paint and brushstrokes. Behind it was another, and another, and another, and another. All the same scene, with the same identical thick brushstrokes. Machines are making 3D brushstroke copies now. It wasn't VG, but I'm sure they could now do a Van Gogh sunflower, and it would be indistinguishable from the real thing. What value will the original end up holding? Weird.

So, as I was saying, I am now making these pictures, but there is still a nagging voice telling me they are not useful, and should be plates instead. However, I am ignoring it. My best opinion is that my pictures are good in all the ways I believe art should be good, in other words I like them. They mean more to me than plates. I guess I'll keep at it.


At 8:21 AM, Blogger emma said...

On plates - I think potters mould them rather than turning them, often, FWIW.


Post a Comment

<< Home