Friday, May 18, 2007

Red Hat.

The great thing about my job is that I get to think about and view pieces of artwork all day and it's all legit. People also approach me for my opinion about art as well. I find the later absolutely hilarious - since it was only a couple of years ago that I was in the classroom and people were asking me about reading instead. I haven't changed qualifications overnight - just the perception of me has changed. It's made me realise how titles can create an aura that has little to do with the actual person. To be fair, a lot of people talked to me about art before too - but just without illusions as to what I did and did not know.

I've been working with a lot of Australian painters with the kids this term. The upper levels with William Barak, the little ones with Charles Blackman and the middle kids with John Brack. I didn't consciously intend to do an Australian theme across levels but somehow things just ended up that way. They just seemed like the best choices to use for what I wanted to demonstrate. A few years ago I wouldn't have given Australian artists any credence but now I rate them highly. I guess I have always had a very euro-centric view of art which has been influenced partly by my upbringing but also by being an Australian, living in Australia. We tend to find validation in the outside rather than within.

Though I spend so much of my time now contemplating art, as well as teaching it - I've come to realise that I view Art primarily through my emotions and I didn't realise that not everyone does that. I've got my red hat on, so to speak. A piece is good because it has the technique, the cultural significance, the je ne sais quoi - all that and more - but my favourite paintings are the ones that make me feel something. Maybe it's a sense of sadness, or despair, or craziness, or ..something - whatever. For me, if it doesn't make me feel then it hasn't achieved it's purpose. Yes, abstract art too (so bloody ignorantly assessed as being something 'even a child can do').

So when a colleague commented favourably on John Brack's Collins St, 5pm, which I had displayed for my next lesson I was a little taken aback by her reasons for liking it - It really shows it all doesn it? The esablishment is there. She was refering of course to the stately buildings in the background. As well as this she liked how distinguished they looked in their coats, and commented that there were hardly any women. All valid of course. All true. Though I had never thought of the painting in these terms. For me it was about the drudgery of work life, the depressing nature of being part of the dehunanising machine - you get dressed, you get on the bus you go to work, you get out at 5pm with all the other plebs, go back to the bus looking a little more weary and begin the home life which may or may not also involve other aspects of drudgery - who knows? All we see is the ever imposing buildings (Bank of NSW, indeed) and flat, almost cardboard like quality of the figures, and of life itself. The painting makes me feel depressed and in some ways I can identify. It captures that sense of monotomous, monotonal life beautifully.

I was amazed my colleague didn't touch on these points, which are so important to me and important when I view any piece of artwork. I want to know about the emotion and the feeling. I look for these things and my colleague doesn't. She wouldn't even enter into a discussion about it and I realised this is why people disagree about art. I wondered about it later and realised that she views most things, not so much superficially but does concentrate a lot on the establishment and the look. I tend to see things through the way I feel. Things aren't going so well today because I'm frustrated. Or things are wonderful, I woke up happy. You might dismiss a certain kind of art (like say children's art) because it's not sophisticated, or not perfect but then maybe you view life in this way too - you might be unrelenting in other ways too. It's interesting in that art really is life. I wonder how the way I view art is influencing my little students. I certainly look at all aspects, technique, culture, emotion etc but I only ever pick paintings which I, myself can feel. I'm like that with everything.

How do you view art? What do you look for?

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