It is so easy to mouth of about things we don’t like especially that which we see (an ill-composed outfit, an undesirable figure or a regrettable hair cut) and art is another. I read that, ‘In a permanent status quo there is nothing left to be connoisseuriral about…’ because everyone has the knowledge available to be an expert, so in a post-modern society we all become critics don’t we?
The question is: How often do we listen to the justification - the redeeming statements of artists prior to deciding we detest? So, it is true that I regularly ask whether work should need an explanation, and have argued that affective artwork is plenty powerful or clearly stated that words are unnecessary. As Gombrich points out, “No painting can be fully ‘explained’ in words. But words are sometimes useful pointers, they help to clear away misunderstandings and can give us at least an inkling of the situation in which the artist finds himself.” So let’s hear the artists out.
We deny some artists the right to any praise, when their art fails to fulfil us, yet we state no brief. We hope to be pleasantly surprised by the meeting of our vague requirements. “If we do not ask them to do anything in particular, what right have we to blame them if their work appears to be obscure and aimless.” Partly the problem is that we don’t know as post-modernist people what we want, and so we conclude regularly there is nothing good enough in art. Unlike in pre-modern times, currently artists are ‘forced’ to work to their own aims, because they do not live off of the reward of commission received by working to another’s requirements.
What do we expect when we go to a gallery? What do we ask artists to do to meet our viewing pleasure? Generally we want anything that is big, bold, statement, shocking, enigmatic or surprisingly. Quite, we don’t want an exact anything, just something ‘good’ and someone’s ‘good’ is quite obviously not the same as another’s ‘good.’ I think mainly we ask artists to surprise us…we ask artists to birth a new energy or innovation in their art. It appears to me that art had got to a stage, where a dramatic change of direction was required to keep people’s attentions, to stop the audience from boxing it with old works that can be perceived dull and out of date. Also, to provide a new invention of art so that it wouldn’t repeat itself. But, no one can quite decide on the preferred direction; or at which point we have run too far from the core of art - the key definition or understanding, (that is shaped by the past,) of what art is and should be.
So the fun for contemporary artists in that they are in complete control of their understanding of appropriation, of classification, or mediation, of standard and of taste. Hence, every artist’s work becomes a statement of the artist’s taste. Artists have to, at one stage in the progress at least, like the work they are creating, because they are pleasing none other from their point of view. Yet, later that year, or a few years late, the work will be in a gallery, where the audience of thousands will each individually judge whether or not they like it.
So much about art has become a like or dislike - An unfair trial for any artist to please the thousands of anonymous, commissionless patrons who look on.