Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Ideas and execution

click photo to enlarge
The artist, Martin Creed, hit the headlines seven years ago when he won Britain's premier art award, the Turner Prize, with a piece that involved a gallery's lights being turned on and off. You'd think it would be pretty hard to top that absurdity, but he's managed it. Tate Britain is currently hosting his latest "sculpture", which has an athlete running the 86 metres from a gallery space to the main entrance and back again, 8 hours a day, every day. A number of athletes work 4 hour shifts to "make" this "sculpture". In response to the question, "Is it pretentious?", Creed's priceless reply was, "No, it's not pretentious. No one is pretending. They are just running." So why, you wonder, if it's just someone running, is it art, and why is it happening in a gallery? If you want to read more of Creed's views on art and how he approaches his "work", augmented by the laughably reverent comments of the art correspondent from whom I gleaned this information, go here.

It seems to me that in today's cutting edge art, the idea is all. Execution and skill no longer figure in the making of a piece. This is, of course, wonderfully democratic - everyone can be an artist because there's no need to learn any skills necessary to make a work, you simply have to come up with the idea! Someone else can construct it, or better still, you can specify something that doesn't require any skill, or even making, in the first place! The problem is that it results in vacuous dross that's less interesting and challenging than the concept of an empty glass of water. However, Creed does provide an interesting answer for dealing with art today. "Why do we have to look at paintings for a long time" he opines. "Why not just look for a second? One way isn't necessarily better than another way." So there you have it - it's O.K. to give work like this just a second of your time. The trouble is Martin, a second devoted to work like this is way too long!

Last night, on an after-dinner countryside stroll I came across a disused cow shed. Or maybe it was an old milking parlour. The large metal doors at one end appeared to have been splattered with a liquid. It wasn't manure or slurry, so clearly the contemporary British artist Chris Ofili hadn't been been at work there. It looked like creosote or a diluted paint/oil. Whatever it was it had been fairly wet when it was applied in huge, sweeping arcs, probably through a hose or sprayer. The resulting effect was quite pleasing in the way that the differing levels of opacity and drips of dried liquid suggested the manner of application. Today's image is a detail from these large doors, and is offered for your artistic contemplation. Spend no more than one second looking at it!

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 106mm (212mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/60
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On