How many documentaries on art have you watched? How many gallery or museum tours have you walked through? How many books on art have you picked up, and then not finished reading? Today I’m not really talking about the painting, although it does summarise nicely the little moan that I’m going to have.
I have been lucky enough to visit galleries, and museums all over the world, I am infinitely passionate about art, films, symbolism, mythology, and all the other things I write about, and I suspect that art critics, historians and tour guides have that same passion in them, but a lot of them seem to have had the passion beaten out of them.
I want to just say here, I don’t consider myself a critic by any means, nor am I an art historian, or an absolute expert in mythology, but I do study it a lot, and what I bring to you as my audience is simply what I see in anything I present. If it’s a bad film, I’m going to tell you passionately why, if it’s an amazing piece of art, I will do my best to do it justice. So why is it when I hear professionals speak on the subject are they so dull?
This gripe has been a long standing issue of mine, but it has grown more recently. It started to build when I watched a documentary on Goya. I was excited to have found this documentary and eagerly sat down to watch it, only to find that everyone who spoke in it, were drab and lifeless. Almost as if they were reading what they were saying. Every single one of them dressed in clothing that was either too large or too small for them, and not one ounce of passion shone through about the subject. This is such a shame as Goya was a talented and interesting artist. What I found was they were more interested in the brush strokes and less interested in what the painting was telling the audience.
This was enhanced over the weekend. I did a couple of things, one was an urban street art tour around Brick Lane in London, which I will write about another day, and the other was a trip to the National Gallery. These were a dramatic contrast to each other. The street art tour, as you would imagine was vibrant and the guide was exciting and passionate. She couldn’t wait to tell me about each piece of art, she showed a true love and appreciation for every single thing that she talked about. So when wondering past a guided tour in the National Gallery, I couldn’t help but linger and listen as the guide ramble on poorly about the symbolism of a painting that he had an unfortunate group of punters looking at. He was monotone and clearly had learnt a script.
Now, I do appreciate that for these people this is a job, but for anyone who talks on art, I really think it needs to inspire those around, open up their mind to seeing different ways of seeing what is before them and engage them. It’s not good enough to just impart the knowledge on to another like you’re in a dull history lesson.
I find the same with art books. They never give me the detail I want. They never tell me the story behind the painting in full enough detail, and they make for very dry reading.
When I started this blog, I thought about a guide I had when I visited the Hermitage in Russia. She was so colourful when she spoke on the art works, where she had been so quiet on the journey to that stunning site. It literally brought her to life. You could see that this was her calling, to help enliven the art to others. She encouraged interaction and didn’t shy away from questions.
I’m really not having a pop at all art critics or speakers, I am sure that there are many out there who are wonderfully enthused by they job and can present it in a way which can even make a hardened art hater soften to the works, but they appear to be few and far between.
This is why I think this painting by Tom Brown captures my discontentment so well. The critic is created from crude brush stroke (Yes I went there), and can be seen giving a close up look to the painting, regardless to anyone else around him. His hair line, suppose to indicate age and experience, but to me indicates a lost touch of the present time. The whole piece screams to me, this is an art critic who I would not read the review of.
Of course, as I have said many times, art is objective and one Cranky’s bugbear is another persons delight, so perhaps you enjoy how art is presented… why not tell me in the comments how you feel about it. Like this post? Why not share it?