Monday 4 November 2019

'Because things don’t appear to be the known thing; they aren’t what they seemed to be neither will they become what they might appear to become.' 

Posted by Jeremy Dyer *

This is a detail from a great work of art. Which one? Whose? We are expected to admire it, to marvel and to learn. 

What if I told you that it was a detail from one of Pollock's works? Would you then try to 'see' the elusive essence of it? On the other hand, what if I told you it was merely a photo from above the urinal in a late-night restaurant? Does that make it any more or less 'art'? 

If everything is art—the sacred mantrathen the reverse corollary must also be true. Nothing is art.

* Jeremy Dyer is an acclaimed Cape Town artist.


Tessa den Uyl said...

Dear Jeremy, thank you for this picture post.

Whether something is, or is not, depends on where we are going to put the idea about that something. All life is, or is not, is probably a similar ’truth’. When we cut life into pieces, conceptually this might raise more thoughts. Though too many thoughts can cut up life to such an extend, that eventually tiny fragments replace an idea about life. In some mysterious way, I think that a ‘great’ work of art embraces life in a particular that moves beyond its outline. Outlines serve us to function, i.e. to pick up the teapot which without seeing its outline, would be difficult. Though the teapot withholds all life. Now when I smash the teapot and crush the remains into powder, can I say: this is a teapot? I guess we can, though for most it will be comprehensible only when accompanied with an explanation. Then no matter what we are talking about, the question is if life should be explained?

(Let me try to explain!)
When you see earth and stones and many other elements nature provides and you can turn this into a teapot, you are combining life, not cutting it. When we are showed a particular of an image, (even of a teapot) this image is cut. And it is this unnatural outline, for naturally we have a larger vision, that we can conceptually play upon though meanwhile we are cutting up life. I think that this is risky, i.e. to reduce something into something it’s not. The slogan above the picture posts here: because things don’t appear to be the known thing etc. was thought off in regard to the entirety of life. In your post Jeremy, if everything is art... nothing is art, that is a ‘truth’ though proposing this idea while you cut a piece out of life, symbolically speaking, the word art enters the necessity for explanation. When things have to be explained, names become important, education etc. though this does not enhance the perception that nothing becomes what it might appear to become, it rather turns things into something as a result of creating forced outlines that somehow overlook, strangely, life. (And you will not create a teapot)

Your post, to me, enhances that an explained life, is not a creative life….

Keith said...

What is ‘art’? I suggest, Jeremy, that defining ‘art’ is a tall order, occupying books. Something you, as an artist, are undoubtedly more informed about than I. To consider just one sliver of the subject, however, I believe ‘intent’ is required for something to rise to the level of art. Which can happen in any number of ways, without intent being confining.

So, for example, if there was a person’s intent behind the image shown here — whether the ‘canvas’ is a traditional canvas, as we know it, or the wall above a urinal — it’s art. No matter, I believe, how critics, professional or lay, might (dubiously) assess the value of the resulting product. Can, therefore, an image on the wall above a urinal be made, in some intentional fashion, to qualify as ‘abstract expressionism’ — even in the vein of Pollock? Indeed.

I’d go a step further: If the intent is that of a photographer, who spots the abstract composition on a urinal wall and shoots it for its visual interest, the resulting photo is art. Even if the image above the urinal is there just serendipitously — say, a mix of natural discoloration and peeling paint.

As to the latter point, my wife, who’s a photographer, specializes in taking photos of similarly abstract scenes, such as macros of the curious patterns and colours of rust on abandoned cars, to give just one example among many. (There are other instances, typically involving unexpected, often offbeat subjects.) I would argue she engages in creating art — abstract expressionism, perhaps — even if the rust otherwise isn’t. There’s intent on her part.

Among obvious wrinkles is when concepts like ‘aesthetics’, ‘beauty’, and ‘design’ are also introduced to the calculus of ‘intent’, and what does or does not then rise to the level of ‘art’ — including the arguably hazy intersections where one concept leaves off and another begins. There has to be something much more to the story, I suspect, to parse the definitions of such terms and help differentiate among instances of them and their interplay with creative intent.

Thank you, Jeremy, for giving air to an interesting topic and prompting discussion.

docmartincohen said...

It doesn't look like a 'Pollock' to me... Mind yuo, it could be in the sense that it could be , as you say, a 'detail' of a phyiscal object created by the aforesaid famous person. But would that then make it art? I don't think so. One could tae a tiny corner of any great paiting, but surely that would not be art either, merely a few bits of pigment on a piece of canvas. I think art is more as (I think) Tess is saying, an holistic exercise requiring a purpose as well as an effect. And I agree too that "if everything is art... nothing is art".

Rather incidental point, but I saw several Jackson Ps recently (in the New York Met and Guggenheim galleries) and I would humbly assert that only SOME of the qualified to be there. That is to say, however we define art, it should not be by saying that it is whatever is produced by an artist.

Thomas O. Scarborough said...

Something that interests me here is the observation ‘everything is art ... nothing is art’. Some say that ethics is art. In which case, art is ethics. The way that I placed my pen on my desk is art. The way that I arranged the sushi on a plate is ethics. I think we are missing a lot by confining things to categories.

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