Little White Squares Of Essence

When sitting down to write about Contemporary Art, there are two things to consider of the audience.

1: Prior to the first letter being inked (or in this case – pixelated), the reader will have dug their heels into the ground, before quickly whipping said heels off altogether and preparing to stab those stilettos between the authors eyebrows.

This is true of the coupled viewpoints on the matter, from the admirers of the form, to those who are adverse to it, or rather – in quote form: “How much?”, “Load of bollocks!” And “My two year old could’ve done that!”. (Indeed, then why didn’t your genius little two year old do it then and bring his postnatal worth up into the seven-figure bracket? Two years old and such an under-performing disappointment already…)

2: They’ve already gone.

Contemporary Art is to them confusing, accusatory, kind of funny, exceedingly odd, uncomfortable and alright-I-guess, to which is added the viewpoints of the above category and thereby making their lack of presence on the gallery floor more than understandable.

I’ve been all over the world and have walked into many an art gallery in my few years, so I feel I’ve a good handle on whether or not I’ve got a opinion on the matter.

And I’m pretty sure I’ve got an opinion on the matter.

And I’m about to share it with you.

Any second now.

There’s a great deal of art that floats my boat and splendid. Well done world. Good idea on all that art you did.

And some of the art I like provokes powerful emotions and thoughts within me, and that’s also fairly smashing.

When I take a good long look at the later work of Vincent Van Gogh, I am filled with a very sad understanding of the artist; who and how he was before his thoroughly documented end.

Of course I would, I believe, feel differently (indeed – potentially not feel at all) if I were unaware of the documented (by art historians via pen and Van Gogh himself via thick globules of emotive colour) decline of the artist as a fellow.

If it weren’t for my parents, some minor schooling and a jolly good book or two, I’d think ‘Sunflowers’ was but a painting of sunflowers and that ‘Starry Night’ was a painting of a village with low light pollution.

Had it not been for all that prior knowledge, I’d have no idea about that distinct hue of ‘I-want-to-shoot-myself blue’.

It’s the same with art in a gallery, particularly Contemporary Art.

There are two facets to Contemporary Art, as follows:

1. It looks cool.

Like guns and smoking and smoking guns (and, I don’t know if you can ‘gun smokes’, but if you can, that too).

I saw a piece today that was a wooden mallet, nailed to a wall.

It looked tremendous, suited the wall very nicely, and was unforgivably cool; giving the poor mallet some of that ‘juxtaposition-medicine’. The sort of thing I’d wear on a t-shirt, although preferably inked on – rather than nailed.

Sometimes art can be cool and at other times it can be pretty, like singular strips of highly expensive wallpaper by a renowned wallpaperist.

To bring up Feng Shui (because I feel bringing it up here will really focus the article’s inner energy and help with my flow), I’d say that art can really tie the room together (as per Lebowski’s rug).

Not much to think about, like a simple absurdist joke; the point is in the silliness.

There are worse things to walk past; worse things to ignore.

2. The second facet is that they have a tremendous given explanation typed on that vital little white plaque next to the art work, detailing what you should be understanding and how you should be feeling, all whilst speaking in the definite.

You may have seen the Damien Hirst piece: ‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living’. It’s a shark, preserved in formaldehyde, in a tank suspended from a ceiling, whilst you look at it and think about how you cannot really configure death, only ponder about how you can muse upon it.

The use of the shark as an image of death having died, paired with the image of it frozen in time whilst we are not, gets you oh-so thoroughly.

This is an example of a sturdy bit of art, something which stirs you deep down in THERE and gets you whirring away up THERE. Just like ‘Sunflowers’, just like ‘Guernica’.

And a good deal many people know how they feel about it and these other pieces I because it said what to feel, just next to it, on a little white plaque.

That little white square of essence.

A picture paints a thousand words, but I’ve got a thousand and one words and a whole load of capital letters and exclamation marks! See!!?

This is by no means the rule of all Contemporary Art: the nice art made for walking past, the art that looks cool whilst you ignore before wearing it on a t-shirt and the art that is utterly visually moving. But for the rest of Contemporary Art…those little white squares of essence are the only tale teller.

I could say that they go hand in hand, and that one cannot live without the other, like conjoined twins sharing the heart, but although I tried understanding some of the lesser communicable pieces of Contemporary Art prior to reading the plaque beside it…I think I preferred just reading the plaque.

The thousand-word-worthy image to accompany that plaque; I can conjure that on my own in my head.

Because that’s what words cause us to do.

The writer does the hard work for these guys and gals, so I’ll keep on reading, but I want the author of those little white squares of essence to get some credit.

Perhaps the main plaque could come with another, minor, plaque, detailing the intents of the main plaque’s author and listing his or her’s previous work.

Or maybe they could really broaden the genre, and squeeze some Romance, perhaps a little Sci-Fi, maybe even a good dose of innuendo (and out-your-endo).

Either way, all I’m really trying to say is that I went to an art gallery today and I emerged opinionated.

Objective complete.

‘Guernica’ is heart-wrenching, ‘Sunflowers’ are heartening and the little white squares of essence are at times just as informative and emotive as the art whose meaning they attempt to convey.

Here’s to Pablo, here’s to Vincent and here’s to the authors of our art.

In related otherness, sunflowers are my favourite flower; I’ll tell you why soon.

Sam

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