Sunday, April 30, 2017

No words necessary

 
Midwinter

 I've always been puzzled by the way some show entries require one to complete an artist statement especially as they don't require this for a mixed media art show.  Who wants it?
I doubt it's at the juror's request:  the couple of times I've been a juror, I didn't  look at the statements - or the title.  I did, however, consider the size of the piece...but that's a whole other matter!

What is the point of the words?  if the work cannot speak for itself in order to convey the artist's intent, then it is ipso facto a failure surely?  (hopefully the quilt above looks chilly enough without me having to go on and on about it in a statement!)

 We don't turn over a Picasso painting to see what he wrote on the back:  "Dear Viewer in this painting I was endeavouring to show the many sides of woman since I've had trouble with women all my life".  Actually, though, thinking about it - that might be kinda of fun to read!!!  Michelangelo : "oops...just couldn't quite get those two fingers to connect, but you get the general idea".....Matisse -  I mean Monet (where is my head?  thank you Renate!)  "I did wonder if I was seeing things a little blurry, and then I found out I had cataracts...I wonder how that will affect my painting? My intention was a botanical representation of those water lilies...but it seemed like they floated out of focus". Stuart Davis: "well it all seems like a jungle to me".  Mondrian: "Actually, it was a map to show where we were meeting tonight".

But, back to the words? if we do NEED them, then it suggests that either the work isn't in itself successful....or that perhaps a quilt was the wrong medium for the idea.  I have sometimes wondered "why cloth?"  at times when I saw people trying to recreate a photograph in cloth, desperately trying to match up exact colors and include all details.....

If the work is valid and true: No words are necessary!

Can you imagine a sign in a gallery?

 PLEASE DO NOT EXPLAIN THE ART!

fSince I became interested in Abstract Art and have give talks about it - particularly about those long forgotten female artists (thankfully museums are beginning to catch up there) - people have often asked me to Explain a painting to them. 
But I begin to think that good art shouldn't need an explanation. The subject is either quite clear: a portrait of a person, scene or event etc...or, being abstract - then it's just that: Abstract!
 i.e. Addressing concepts, ideas, emotions for which we have no words.  Consider music.  Do you feel that the composer should give you a "composer's statement" before you hear a piece?
I was fascinated to read that the brilliant British pianist Stephen Hough said one of the reasons he loved music was because it did NOT need words....

So, what d'you think?  do we need the words?  The laborious explanations? Or should we just let the art and the music speak for itself...opening our eyes (or ears) and just absorbing......

If  you have been, thanks for reading!!!!  and thank you so much for commenting....
Elizabeth





15 comments:

sonja said...

In art, music, painting, and mixed media, life, and yes art quilts, works are expressions by the maker precisely because of the desire to communicate when often there are no words to explain/contain the intention, in many instances . Even words that are the currency of poets, have a different definition for each of us. i am a big fan of allowing the viewer to make their conclusion of meaning. if i am asked how this piece came to be i will tell a bit of inspiration as that is a much better question to answer than...how long did it take it make... i would rather not reveal my age, i would rather speak of curiosity, inspiring points, of the many decisions, bright moments along with materials used.
Thank you for your thought producing posts on the art of art!

irene macwilliam said...

I get highly annoyed at expecting entries to quilt/textile shows wanting us to give explanations, techniques used and materials used. Yes I am often curious how someone has done something but why should I expect to be given details of how it came about.

Rebecca said...

Sometimes I will get a depth of meaning from an artist's statement that I did not discern from perusing the art, and in that way, learn more about art and its expression. I think this helps move me beyond "oh, pretty picture."

It may have been the first Visions show I ever went to in which I saw a piece protesting gun violence, and pointing out the discord between the subject and the idea of quilts as comforting. Sometimes, some of us benefit from having things explained!

Melanie McNeil said...

I'm of mixed opinion. It's sort of like a joke -- if I have to explain it to you, it wasn't very funny. For art, if it has to be explained to be appreciated, it isn't very good art. On the other hand, consider religious art. If you are Christian, you may think you don't need are from the Christian tradition explained, but in fact you already have a lot of the context or explanation. If instead you are looking at art from a Hindu tradition, you can appreciate the work from a superficial level, but if you know more of the context, you can understand it better.

I have the same thought about art I saw in Cuba in 2015. Much of the work was specific to the history of Cuba. Knowing something about that history allowed me to enjoy the art more.

So, artist statements? I think there are ways they can be useful in providing context for appreciation. I suspect many do not actually do that. Perhaps that is the problem.

Anonymous said...

I would LOVE to not have to write an artist's statement for every piece of art I enter into shows and exhibitions. I try to read others' statements, but it takes so long that I miss a lot of the art! I think a piece of art speaks for itself. The viewer should be allowed to appreciate what is before her. If her perception is different from the artist's intention, so what? There is no right or wrong here. We all see different things in different ways in a piece of art. That's a good thing. I think the angst the artist experiences in writing an artist statement is not worth it.

Ellen Lindner said...

I like words, especially titles. But, I read them only after first studying the work.

But, now you've got me REALLY curious about the size issue! I hope you'll share that soon.

Vicki D. said...

Have you ever attended a concert when the conductor took a few minutes to talk about the piece that was to be played? There are reams written about works of art. Does that mean that those works of art are not successful because they have been "explained"? Have you ever encountered a film, or work of art, or theater production that you wanted to explore more in depth because your curiosity was stroked? I enjoy reading artists' statements about works that intrigue me. Artists statements can help put a piece in context or even explain a technique that an observer may not be familiar with. Most people who go to museums or galleries are not necessarily proficient in "reading the meaning" of a work they are viewing. I worked in the museum field for almost three decades and I asked for artists statements. The best statements weren't laborious tomes, but sincere thoughts meant to bring clarity and shed light on the work. One of the most profound was a statement written by an artist about her work that dealt with nature's ability to regenerate. The artist explained that she was dealing with breast cancer and she was channeling her imagery to help her remain positive and focused on the cycles of nature.

Elizabeth Barton said...

I really like it when the topic gives us so many different points of view; so thank you to everyone for expressing them. While I know what you mean about how interesting it is to find out more about what lies behind a piece of art on music, I've often found myself distracted when in the real situation, whether that be a gallery or a concert hall, by the words. And I think this happens to other people too - I've seen people spend a lot more time with the card describing the work then with the art itself. Or if I'm in concert hall and read the program beforehand then I find myself looking out for the motifs, or the symbolism or waiting for a particular solo. So I think the best thing to do would be to go to the gallery and the concert completely bare(well not literally!). Then go and have a nice meal and a drink - read over all the statements and then go back to the gallery or the second playing at the concert! That way you get the best of both worlds.

Rayna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rayna said...

Deleted because of a typo. I totally agree - nobody needs to hear/read my interpretation of what my piece means to me. I want the viewer to bring his/her own experience, eyes, and instincts to the work and not be influenced by me. By the same token, I don't want anybody to tell me what I should be seeing or listening for; let me have my own dialogue with the work.

Robin Lancaster said...

I have always assumed the "write something about your work" to be optional. I see accompanying cards with artist statements and some that don't in the same show.

Personally, I like reading them and if I have time, I read every card after I view and study the piece. I like when the artist shares WHY she (or he) made it. Was it a challenge to a group? A personal challenge? A technique she was trying? Because she always wanted to be an art quilter and she decided TODAY was the day!

Sometimes I learn something. She may have been trying to convey a certain feeling/image/etc. and was successful. How was she successful. She may have been less than successful. What might she have done differently to be more successful?

I try to make everything I do/see a learning experience for me.

Renate said...

Excellent topic of consideration. I enjoyed all of the examples given for why words are not necessary. It would indeed be funny to see "artist statements" written on the back of famous master works similar to the examples you provided. I noticed your "Matisse" example and I wonder.....was it not Monet that had cataracts and did waterlilies? Just curious.

Elizabeth Barton said...

Several times somebody has bought a piece of my art and said they really loved it because of X - X being something I had never even thought of!! why disillusion them - they bought it because of their own good memories which my art work reminded them of..couldn't be better!
I certainly agree with you Robin...that we should never stop learning, and always think now what can I learn from this? and there is so much out there to be learned!

Janet W said...

I just curated an art quilt show. In the CFE we asked for an artist statement, size and price. When the images went to the juror, she asked where the materials/techniques list was. It had never occurred to me to include that. They were obviously fiber. What difference does it make if it is digitally printed, painted or fused. As to artist statement, that was added to the CFE against my will. If I can get away with it, I do not include them on my own entries and if required to do so, I make them as vague as possible. I'm with you on this 100%.

Betty said...

With the quilts I really like, I become greedy and want to know everything -- the inspiration, source of fabric, the things you would be told in conversation by the artist. But this information is a luxury and not essential to my viewing pleasure.