Saturday, 12 February 2011

Intellect as Art’s Enemy? 2

“People have an inbuilt sense of art, particularly the ones who haven’t had it taken out of them.”
Quinlan Terry

It has always been my ambition that everyone can take hold of the joy in art [even slightly] that I do, and quotes like this remind me that it is not my opinion that education is the only way to understand art – understanding as I discussed in ‘Intellect is…the enemy of art’ (January 2010) that prohibits many from engaging themselves uninhibited. After all it is understanding that stabilises one’s confidence. However, it is my understand of art, that like the creativity that creates the art itself, is in fact intuitive. Appreciation isn’t taught, it is felt; and likewise for understanding. Therefore although I have practised and studied art, I am no more the likely to identify the beauty in an artwork.

Sometimes I wonder if education only builds a veil, of terminology, pretence and ordered analysis, over ones’ eyes. Do not get me wrong, I yearn to learn, it is what I am deeply passionate about – not just appreciating art, but knowing about it. But I do not believe a crash course in Rodin is necessary for a viewer to sense the emotional content in one of his sculptures, to identify the character of its making, and the attitude of the artist. This is purely observation, closer to body-language studies than art history (in this case).

My foundation art tutor was, while I was under his instruction, working on a project with a similar theorem. He studied the art he asked his children to create, and the way in which they appreciated and understood art, believing that they had as much potential as he – a trained teacher and fine art practitioner.

I don’t wish to sound like a bohemian. I am very consciously aware as I write, that I sound like an expressionistic tutor from the early Bauhaus – those that were deeply criticised for their methods of teaching, and scared many of their pupils away from art because they must have feared that they would sound as crazy as them at the end of their education…However, I’ll risk it for a biscuit, because I believe I’m speaking rationally: Art could do with being less taught, and more affectively, experienced.

So I’ll end where I begun - with something someone else said. E. H. Gombrich advised his readers not to loosen their tongues, but to open their eyes. So look and then you will love, because you are bound to observe something lovable. Personally this detail from Ford Madox Brown’s ‘Baa Baa Lambs’, 1851-59, does it for me…


  1. I couldn't agree more!


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