Can we talk about...Is Abstract Art Any Good?

I was recently asked if I paint portraits, in the past I would have said yes because I felt like I needed to almost prove myself as an artist, that I could actually paint, you know, things.

I was as surprised as everyone else when Tracey Emin moved away from textiles and installation based shock value pieces and showed us that she could paint as well. 

Image Credit NY Times. 

But then again there are always those saying, but is it really art, looks like she just scribbled on a canvas, my five year old could have done that. I mean yes they could have, but did they have the though process and the drive to do it? It sounds like i’m angry and would like some appreciation but I’m not, I just want to open the conversation.

Yes I rely on paint dripping and sort of let the paint do it’s thing but the pre-requisite to this is that I have learnt and experimented to see exactly how the paint is going to behave or react and then I push it in the direction that I want. 

Does this require skill, I think so? 

Is abstract art, or art that looks simple, any less worthy of being called great art, just because it doesn’t show the type of skills require to paint a portrait? 

The french artist Pierre Soulages ‘is known as “the master of black” because of his interest in the colour, “…both a colour and a non-colour. When light is reflected on black, it transforms and transmutes it. It opens up a mental field all of its own”. He sees light as a matter to work with; striations of the black surface of his paintings enable him to make the light reflect, allowing the black to come out from darkness and into brightness, thereby becoming a luminous colour’. (Wiki Arts)

Pierre Soulages (Pienture). Image Credit MCBA. 

Soulages is undoubtedly a master of black because of both his skill and his lifelong studies into it. But is it just a black canvas? 

I think relating this to other fields might be useful here. I work part time in an engineering company. I’m a flood risk engineer but I also work with civil engineers. highways engineers. project managers to name but a few. Are we any less ‘good’ than each other because we have different specialisms? - I mean i’m sure the laddish banter would suggest maybe, but in essence, if we’re all at senior level, then no. And I guess it’s the same with art, is an abstract piece less ‘good’ than a portrait or is it just that it’s different. 

Just thinking out loud here, is art too elitist a subject for people to discsuss from day to day if their not artists? Does this therefore mean that people who voice the kind of opinions I referenced above, that they don’t have the knowledge on the subject to make an informed analysis so just say the first thing that comes into their head? 

Image Credit (STAND). 

Putting the shoe on the other foot, so to speak, I don’t know anything about music composition or producing but I hear songs on the radio and immediately know if I like or don’t like them and will happily voice my opinion of Oh it’s not as good as their last album. But what do I know? 

Is an opinion on the arts permitted without any information to back it up, of course, as with anything. So I think we need to ask here, do I like that piece of work, yes… could my five year old have done it, I mean probably yes, but would I say that to the artist, no. 

Have your opinion, yes of course you are entitled to it, but don’t say it to my face, maybe, just a thought #bekind. 

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