Tuesday, 30 April 2013

What Is An Artist?

I was chatting to Tanya in the Bookart Bookshop about 'bad art' because two days before I'd overheard a woman in an Oxfam shop saying she'd once put on an exhibition of Bad Art. Turned out the woman was her aunt. 'You'd be surprised what sells once it's framed', her aunt said. How true. How amusing too.

Tanya said she dabbled and had been prompted by her aunt to submit something. When you think about it, being asked to contribute to a Bad Art exhibition is quite something. I'd like to be asked. I'd have no trouble there, but Tanya said she struggled once the premise was set, if not defined. How do you define 'bad art'? Stuff made by anyone who hasn't sold? Surely not. Stuff that doesn't fit the predefined criteria for 'accomplished work'. Who makes those rules? Outsider Art is a recognised genre, although I don't know how you qualify for it.

'So, are you an artist?' Tanya asked. We both hesitated. Why? Because the word is so loaded. And the question raises all the dead (?) definitions and debates of the last --------- years. Fill in your preferred number. How long has Art been questioned? I don't mean the quality of certain works, but the concept of an Artist. It feels like such a (post) modern question. Since Art began confusing everyone who saw examples which did not look like something from The Renaissance? Those Warhol prints? That pile of bricks? It seems to me that early 20th century abstraction went largely unnoticed by The Masses. It wasn't on TV or in the tabloids. Because there was no TV for The Masses.

An artist cannot fail; it is a success to be one, said Charles Horton Cooley. I wonder how Charles defined an Artist......


  1. Yes, what a question... so many variants, so much subjectivity. (I've always struggled to understand how art exam entries are judged so it's been with me a while!)
    A friend of mine tried to organise a 'Bad Art' exhibition last year and I was quite excited about putting something into it but I just couldn't get my act together. Obviously nobody else could either 'cause it was cancelled in the end due to lack of interest. I think there is also some irony in that what a lot of people might think of as 'bad' artists are often the ones who try too hard be something they're not and are delusional about the results - so they wouldn't consider entering such an exhibition. I hope that makes sense and doesn't sound too harsh... So much outsider art is, on the other hand, incredibly creative, modest, natural, original, witty, captivating, inspired... and definitely not 'bad'!

    1. Oh the irony of a Bad Art exhibition which too few could be bothered with! Guess they were put off by the title...ha-ha...


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