People have constantly argued, and are likely to continue arguing, about what art is. I studied Aesthetics for a whole year, in the hope that some grounding in the philosophy of the arts would help me to arrive at an answer of my own. Nothing original, just one that I felt at ease with. In the end, I reached the conclusion that the art I admire most is raw, sometimes referred to as 'Art brut'. I mean, I can definitely appreciate the skill behind a painting of near-photographic quality, or a lifelike sculpture, but it's the manifestation of an artist's inner vision that does it for me. I want to see those thoughts laid out before me, represented in the chosen medium.
A seven year deluge of art produced my grand-daughters has played a large part in reinforcing my feelings. As Picasso said, 'It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.' I can only imagine how hamstrung he must have felt, when he made that statement. Conventions are hard to disregard, unless for some reason you are working outside of the mainstream. In fact, there is actually such a thing as ‘outsider art’, a term I was unfamiliar with until recently, when I watched a documentary about Carlo Zinelli. One female artist who was interviewed during the course of the programme strenuously resisted the idea that she was an ‘outsider’. Instead, she suggested that she and others who were labelled as outsiders, were in fact, at the very centre of artistic creativity. Another colourful character declared that no one ever learnt anything in art school. His view was that to discover your art, you need to get out in the world and connect with it.
A few days ago, SW and I were drawing. She suddenly pushed her paper to one side and asked for a fresh sheet. “Finished?” I asked.
“It’s rubbish,” she said, “I need to start again.”
“What’s wrong with it?”
“I wanted to draw a giraffe wrapping its tongue around some tree leaves.”
"But that's precisely what you've done," I said.
As far as I could see, she had achieved her goal, but she was far from satisfied with it. Not so long ago she would have worked away at her art, proudly presenting it once it was finished. I suspect SW may be moving ever so slightly away from that magical period in her life that Picasso spent a lifetime trying to get back to.
Of course, I quickly assured her that she may sometimes be disappointed with her efforts, but however she expressed her ideas in art, they would never be rubbish. That’s the message I’m peddling, anyway, as an 'outsider'.