Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Art. And Mexican Art.
I have had the great privilege of having my eyes opened in the last number of months. Opened up to art. I have always of course enjoyed a good exhibition, been able to tell the difference between a Picasso and a Van Gogh, but really my appreciation of art has not got much further than that. I suppose I have always enjoyed it, but never really found true inspiration from it. (I am talking about fine arts here, plastic arts.)
But recently I have been realizing the scope and meaning that art can bring to me This is due to a few reasons: 1) You cannot escape the visual in Mexico. You become an art lover when you step off the plane. 2) I have become close to some committed art fans which has allowed me to be a lot more exposed. It has been a great privilege living with someone who knows so much about art and literature.
I have also recently had the pleasure to take on a private english student who happens to be a reasonably respected mexican artist. The two hours each week I spend with her have been fascinating, as all she wants to do is practice her near -perfect english by talking about art. From all perspectives - I am putting so many pieces together!
Why is Conceptual Art such a threat to the evolution of art - in my student's opinion it is an involution, artists such as Damien Hurst who have really no technical skills but are selling animals preserved in glass cases. We have talked about art as being "elite" by its definition, or about being for everyone. We have talked about the overwhelming aesthetic tradition that Mexico has - that the visual will always be important here! where as nowadays you may find people selling plastic water bottles as art, my student argues that that has destroyed the aesthetic experience of art which is so important, that if you have to first read a caption about an artwork to be able to form any sort of reaction that is a warped development in art.
Oh there are many more things I have learnt.
But then there comes the real clincher:
We were talking about that when an artist makes art, they have to think if it is going to communicate at all, if they are going to exhibit it, why? Because if it ´s just a cathartic process, why show it to others? why not just hang it on your wall in your house?
Well, basically this discussion got me thinking as I walked home from our class last night: artists are always thinking and labouring on their finished product, in a way that I find so inspiring. I was thinking that if I could inspire that fine brush tone to my work and consider what I do as some sort of art - a press release, an email or whatever must always be considered as a form of connecting. In this world where airbrushing or spell check or factories or any automated process can outdo the perfection of what we can do, unique voices need to keep coming through and being heard, whatever field we work in, be in artist or doctor. I suppose I found it inspiring to think about work as being a voice in the world. Of course I had thought about it that way perhaps, but the light that I have been getting from art has gone further than what I can explain here.
Finally, again, I repeat: Mexico is a country of artists. My student was demonstrating this by saying:
"You look, for example, at all of the famous, world renowned artists in the 20th century, let's say, from England. You would be lucky to count 3 or 4.
Mexico, in contrast, a country with much less privilege than England, can easily claim 5 world classers of the 20th century: Diego Rivera, David Siquieros, Frida Kahlo, Rufin Tamayo and (i think it was) Clemente Orozcos. All of these artists would easily be hung in the best museums in the world and go for a high price.
You don't find that sort of thing, let's say, in Peru, for example. Mexico is very unique."
I cannot help but agree. visual, visual, visual. When a Mexican says "que bonito (how pretty,) something is, they really mean it. Mexicans have the visual sensibilities of young children in many ways: the attraction to colour and texture is so evident here, it is lived in the blood.
Another great artist, the wonderful singer Steven Morrissey, describes the poetry he sees in Mexico: the struggle to get by in this country has not produced a group of drab doers but rather a nation of artists.
Finally, I am very proud of both my sisters who are artists!