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To struggle to see beyond traditional skill in art?

(119 Posts)
HeyNannyNanny Mon 18-Feb-19 13:14:17

I love both looking and and creating art, in many different medias. I'm contemplating doing a Fine Art degree in the next few years but I'm worried that I'm actually very narrow minded and don't have a true appreciation of art as I look at a lot of "masterpieces" and cannot understand them.

A lot of art, particularly traditional stuff, is a clear representation of artistic talent - the level of attention to detail and skill it would require to take is impressive, even if the final piece isn't something I think "looks good".

However, I've seen a lot of art in galleries, particularly modern stuff, and in degree shows that is, well, a bit shit.

I just cannot understand how art is valued, as a lot of things I see look like a toddler has thrown paint at a wall, or someone is taking the piss by screwing up a tissue and then declaring it art with some pretentious description on how it represents the death of the environment by social media, or something.

I KNOW I must be unreasonable, as people far more versed in the art world admire things like this, but I'm genuinely concerned about applying to art school with the opinion that Jackson Pollock is just messy blush and Tracey Emin should probably be done for being a con artist.

DianaPrincessOfThemyscira Mon 18-Feb-19 13:20:16

I feel the same as you. I don’t have any artistic talent but there’s a lot that I don’t like. I want something visually pleasing - if it’s not, then to me it’s not art.

Simplistic ideal maybe, but I don’t care. I remember seeing a Tracy Emin thing at the Tate years ago - fried eggs and tights strewn across blood-stained sheets if I remember correctly. I mean, I get that it’s a metaphor for rape and women’s rights etc, but if I can’t visualise it as a display in my own home I’m not really interested.

QuaterMiss Mon 18-Feb-19 13:24:41

Interesting ...

How are you with abstract thought more generally? Do you only like murder mysteries and struggle with poetry that doesn't tell a linear story? Can you enjoy Theology or Philosophy that is not apparently immediately relevant to your own life? Can you appreciate fashion shows as discourse on what it means to be human or do you see them as laughable?

I wonder if you might find the crafting of physical objects made for practical use more satisfying than 'art'?

daisyjgrey Mon 18-Feb-19 13:28:44

Im in my third year of a fine art degree. Art school is fantastic although the pressure to essentially create your own content to a timetable is difficult at times, creativity is not necessarily a timetable-able affair!

You will learn the justification behind most things and it's up to you what you take on board; some of it makes sense, some of it will leave you cold. I will say however that you need to drop the preconceptions and its 'a bit shit' mentality.
Critical thinking is a big part of an art degree, you'll spend a lot of time critiquing your own and others work, in groups and to lecturers, you have to be able to do this in a reasonable way. Your fellow students will be less than pleased (and it's in no way helpful) if your only opinion is "I don't get it, its just messy'. You will also have to write a dissertation which will require you to argue two sides of something and use critical thinking and discussion to argue your points.

In my experience very little, maybe 10%, of my degree has involved paying attention to 'traditional' work, a fine art degree is not exclusively painting and drawing, in fact in my class of 40, only two people are painters. You need to seriously investigate the type of course you apply for, the majority of fine art degrees focus contemporary art practice.

I'm going to ignore the Tracey Emin and Pollock comment and simply suggest that you research both artists, in particular watch the Emin interviews on YouTube, it will do you the world of good.

LaurieMarlow Mon 18-Feb-19 13:33:39

I don’t have an issue with modern art but I do sometimes struggle with art ‘installation’ type things.

Even if there’s an interesting idea behind them, they often strike me as bizarrely pretentious and overblown. I am willing to be told IABU though.

Squigglesworth Mon 18-Feb-19 13:49:22

YANBU. I don't think you have to "appreciate" everything that passes as art to be an artist or to enjoy some (or even most) art. Art is incredibly subjective, and I fail to see how one person's idea of what is or isn't art can be definitively right, while another's opinion is wrong.

Now, how that translates for someone pursuing a degree or career in art, I couldn't say, but I find it extremely doubtful that everyone who studies, deals in, or creates art finds all schools of art equally deserving of attention and admiration. I'd just focus on the things you do enjoy. You can still study and be knowledgeable about the pretentious tosh without actually liking it, I'm sure.

SileneOliveira Mon 18-Feb-19 13:54:44

Modern art doesn't have to be like that though. I struggle with conceptual and abstract art installations too, I often don't get them.

But something like the poppies at the tower of London were a modern art installation and were stunning and very meaningful. I can look at the work of a skilled silversmith, sculptor, knitter, embroiderer, stained glass worker or woodworker and totally get the time, skill, effort and design process which went into the making of the object. Doesn't mean I have to like it, or want it hanging on the walls.

Genderwitched Mon 18-Feb-19 13:54:57

Have you actually looked at Tracy Emin's drawings, or her latest paintings, all of which are exceptionally beautiful.

My honest opinion is that, yes, you are too closed minded to take a Fine Art degree. Maybe do some courses with artists that you do like, many artists do week courses which I am sure that you would get something from.

PresidentHump Mon 18-Feb-19 13:55:56

In short, you don't have to like something aesthetically to appreciate it or its merit/cultural significance. I feel the same way about music - I personally can't just dismiss a musician who's a bit of a prick but is musically genius.

Have you done an art Foundation course yet? Perhaps look into doing one of those before you commit to doing a fine art degree. And look at lots of foundation courses - they can be different. I for example did one at a university of the arts college that was completely different from friends who did them at other colleges within the university.

PresidentHump Mon 18-Feb-19 13:57:16

But I am very surprised someone who can so easily dismiss Emin and Pollock is considering a degree in art.

AndhowcouldIeverrefuse Mon 18-Feb-19 13:57:46

Yanbu. For me art has to have:

Aesthetic value
Technical merit
At least an attempt to communicate, convey or express something

Without at least one of the above I am not interested. I do realise the above are not necessarily objective criteria. Just my opinion smile

SmellsLikeAdultSpirit Mon 18-Feb-19 13:57:51

I love abstract art and can appreciate it
There are some incredible techniques and amazing works
Some is shite and really is a blob on a paper no matter how much they waffle on about the concept and like telling minions they don't understand it
The crap is only there because it has a name attached to it. Our blobs on paper would not get the same attention because we arw not known

5foot5 Mon 18-Feb-19 13:59:48

I bought this book Why Your Five Year Old Could Not Have Done That: Modern Art Explained because I wanted something that might explain it in layman's terms that I could understand.

It is quite an interesting read but I was slightly disappointed by it as in some cases it seemed as though the author is just saying "It is good because I say so" rather than explaining exactly why a particular piece is highly regarded. IMO.

Like you I do struggle sometimes to see the point of some things but then again, I can really enjoy looking at some installations. A while back I saw some of Cornelia Parker's works and absolutely loved them - especially Cold Dark Matter.

I think to me there is a difference between what you can enjoy looking at and what you would have on your wall at home.

MitziK Mon 18-Feb-19 14:02:48

That's the point of your degree - to learn to understand and appreciate different schools of Art. You don't have to like them (and some you are most definitely not meant to - they're supposed to shock, anger, infuriate or confuse you, not give you a nice, warm feeling), but you might come to (or not) once you learn to recognise the different techniques, styles and messages.

I would never want to have a long concrete bench in my front room and wouldn't be able to sit on it if it isn't level, for example - BUT - following the Art Gallery rules of Do Not Touch, if you follow the piece with the palm of your hand outstretched, you find yourself mimicking the movements you make as a child playing Aeroplanes; that made quite a few people smile when they realised it as I went around Tate Modern with a youngster in tow.

The (Hirst?) piece of medicine packets is seemingly mundane, but each packet was designed by somebody for a purpose, a size, a colour, a typeface; they are immaculately organised, every one is slightly different, and they list the vast number of diseases and efforts put into treating and curing diseases that we suffer and fear. The boxes neatly order our terrors - of madness, of old age, of pain, of death - and our hopes for cures, for relief, for happiness, for life. Whilst one of my kitchen cupboards may well resemble a mini version of it at times, that doesn't mean I actually want it like that. But knowing that makes it a lot more understandable than 'Oh, he's just put any old tosh out and got paid millions for it'.

That's what studying Art does - teaches you to see the other points of view beyond what is already apparent.

LoisWilkerson1 Mon 18-Feb-19 14:02:54

Modern Art is about feelings, emotions, dreams, ideas etc. Imagine if the only art that existed was paintings if things around us, people, trees etc. It would be so boring.

MitziK Mon 18-Feb-19 14:06:39

Oh, and have a look at Pollock's Summertime in the context of listening to music. See if you can ascribe a particular shape of colour to a particular instrument, motif or timbre - Jazz from the period would be good. Try and think of the colours of summer in hot countries, the fruits, the water, the sky. See if that helps you see what he was depicting in those apparently random slashes and splashes.

oldfatgreycat Mon 18-Feb-19 14:07:17

So I just looked up Tracy Emin artwork. I couldn’t see anything beautiful. I don’t get modern art.
But then I’m defintely a scientist not an artist and I lack any artistic ability.

Halloumimuffin Mon 18-Feb-19 14:14:06

I mean, yanbu not to like that sort of art, but I find it a little odd that you would want to a degree in it if that is how you feel.

PengAly Mon 18-Feb-19 14:22:41

Art is down to interpretation, therefore what the artist meant and what some else see's will be different and you may not like it at all- which is ok. But calling art you don't understand or like "shit" is a bit insulting. I'd imagine a fine arts student would need to have a varied understanding of different art styles. Maybe branch out and attend more shows/exhibitions and talk to some of the actual artists about their pieces? My SIL is an artist and I didn't understand the modern work she was exhibiting but once she explained it, it made sense. There is no one answer for each style of art, you'll need to do a bit of research and come to your own conclusions.

HeathRobinson Mon 18-Feb-19 14:27:46

'...once she explained it, it made sense.'

This is at the heart of it for me - shouldn't we be able to derive meaning from a piece without having it explained?

Genderwitched Mon 18-Feb-19 14:37:14

shouldn't we be able to derive meaning from a piece without having it explained?

Can't we just enjoy looking at a piece of modern art without knowing the meaning behind it? we don't always need to know the meaning behind beautiful music to be able to enjoy it.

PengAly Mon 18-Feb-19 14:39:34

This is at the heart of it for me - shouldn't we be able to derive meaning from a piece without having it explained?

Yes, that would be your own interpretation. I asked my SIL what HER intention was. Which is a good way to mask the fact that you really have no clue. Then when you understand their intention, you can make you own mind up. Otherwise, nothing is wrong with being honest about what you think the meaning is (as long as you stay away from insults!)

HeyNannyNanny Mon 18-Feb-19 14:39:48

Reading through the replies, thank you.

Just a note whilst I'm reading through - I was very flippantly using Pollock and Emin as examples, I have no lt paid much attention to their work nor researched them (and I realise this strips me of the right to have an opinion of them) I was simply calling up two names to use as examples of abstract work that does not immediately reflect traditional artistic skills. I will make sure to look into them properly before forming a specific opinion, I didn't mean to cause any offense - they were simply "easy" examples.

peachgreen Mon 18-Feb-19 14:42:52

It's like comparing, say, the Sex Pistols to Beethoven and valuing Beethoven more highly because it takes more technical skill to compose / play. But that doesn't necessarily mean it has greater artistic merit and it certainly doesn't negate the cultural impact of the Sex Pistols.

HeyNannyNanny Mon 18-Feb-19 14:47:22

@MitziK that's basically the response that I was hoping for. That art school would open my mind, rather than reject me for not already having an open mind.

@QuaterMiss my knee jerk reaction was that I would describe myself as very abstract minded but now I think about it, I'm not so sure. I'm the "creative" in the family, and certainly think outside the box, but that has always manifested in away that has been directly useful - eg. Starting a business, being successful at work as I saw opportunities others didn't etc. But in reality those are all practical...
I listen to music for pleasure and I cried slightly (though managed to restrain myself from screaming wink) at the art within the sistine Chapel, despite not finding it to my usual tastes.
I enjoy philosophical debate but is any philosophy not somehow linked to oneself?

@daisyjgrey that's another big concern of mine is fitting within a timetable. I was appalling at art at school for this reason.

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