A reader generously shared some interesting thoughts about the paintings I showed you last week — the poured pieces with silicone added to the paint to create open cells. Here are her words:
Although these works are interesting you can’t really call this painting as the accidental nature of the process is great for experimentation but shouldn’t be an end in itself. If you used it as a background or worked into the shapes and patterns created then it becomes an original work with the artist’s mark. This technique is too gimmicky. I would like to see you take it further than just the initial pouring of paint. I’m sorry to be critical but it’s the sort of technique that viewers would say maybe unfairly ”my 2 yr old could do that” You have to make it your own.
Her comments got me thinking about what is art and what’s not art.
How about Damien Hirst’s spin paintings? He has taken the technique of spin art, which many five-year-olds have done, and elevated it to fine art. His spin art paintings are considerably larger than the average five-year-old, but other than that, it’s the same thing. Is it art?
Art collectors seem to think so. Damien’s original paintings sell in the six- and seven-digit price range. And his work is in art history books. Are art historians the authority on what is art? Who gets to decide?
Here’s how Damien describes the spin paintings on his website:
The works are described by the artist as “childish … in the positive sense of the word”. Whilst the chance spontaneity of the spin paintings stands in stark contrast to the formulaic spot series, both explore the idea of an imaginary mechanical painter. The results of the spins are controlled purely by the artist’s colour choices and the motion of the machine. Hirst explains the simplicity of their appeal: “I really like making them. And I really like the machine, and I really like the movement. Every time they’re finished, I’m desperate to do another one.”
He really likes making them, and he really likes the machine. Not exactly a lofty concept, but one that I can embrace and identify with.
So called “accidental art” is an exploration of process, learning to work with materials and using techniques that aren’t easily controlled. When I have complete control, it no longer interests me.
I like the serendipitous results of the pushing and pouring techniques that I use. I try to keep these paintings simple and fresh looking without a lot of extraneous marks.
As for children being able do this work, it was Pablo Picasso who said, “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.”
So what do you think? Is it art? I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts. You can share them with us in the comments section below.
P.S. – I want to show you a couple of necklaces I made out of the poured cell pieces set in wood. They look like miniature framed paintings! How cute is that? I’ll have them available for the holidays later this year.
With love and appreciation,