Art is a wonderful thing but the art world seems to be dominated by snobs who won’t let me into the Royal Academy just because I ‘can’t paint’.
Well I can and I do. Just ask my husband who has begged me, more than once, not to paint the curtains or the floor anymore. It is the only thing about me that seems to annoy him. I have tried to explain to him – when I am painting, I don’t see the carpets or curtains, much less care about them. I go into a trance like state where all I care about is paint. Oh and the music; I must have music when I am painting – usually Aerosmith or something equally upmarket. Art and music are inseparable in my world.
So am I an artist then? Apparently not in the strictest sense of the word. Are you also a person who plays with paint but feels the title ‘Artist’ is too grand for you? How about ‘Painter’? Does that also sound too big for what you do? If you are like me, you probably feel as if the words Artist and Painter describe people who produce ‘proper’ paintings. One look at the definition of the word ‘Artist’ on dictionary.com makes me think we may be right. None of the definitions given apply to me, particularly number five which says, ‘a person whose work exhibits exceptional skill’. Nowhere does it say ‘a person who slaps paint around and annoys everyone in the vicinity’.
Some days, I spend hours up to my elbows in paint. Quite often I end up with it on my face, in my hair and on anything else I happen to touch while I am ‘in the zone’. But according to dictionary.com (and possibly the very posh people at the Royal Academy of Arts in London), that does not make me an Artist. The mere act of transferring expensive acrylic paint from a squeezy bottle onto paper (or household furnishings that are too close to the paper) may not be enough to qualify me as an Artist with a capital A.
So how come I often see art that I consider to be as ‘naïve’ (a posh word for crap), as my own but done by famous contemporary artists and hanging beside classical works of art in the prestigious galleries of the world? How come I can’t get away with childish scrawls and be worshipped by the art world luvvies?
A couple of years ago, at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, I stood for absolutely ages in front of a print, by a very famous contemporary Brit artist, with my mouth opening and closing like a rather surprised fish. I was silently mouthing, OMFG! Please excuse the expletive nestled in that acronym but I was shocked into f word territory that day.
The picture featured crudely drawn willies jumping over a small washing-line towards an equally crudely drawn naked female. Well it probably wasn’t actually a washing-line but I assume one can interpret ‘art’ in any way one wants. There was a caption that said something like ‘I didn’t know they could jump so high”.
It looked as if maybe the artist’s inner child had produced the scrawly, infantile picture. Well gosh, my inner child can do stuff like that with no problem. However, I am pretty sure the Royal Academy elite would turn their delicate noses up at any little leaping penises I could draw.
The thing is, this print was absolutely plastered with sold stickers. From memory, I think a tiny print cost around £400 and a bit. I was tempted to stand around and tell potential buyers that I could draw better willies than that, in color, for a fraction of the cost but I thought I might be asked to leave.
My educated friend (who is a proper Artist having been to art school and held proper exhibitions) explained to me why someone like the artist in question could get scrawly willies into the Royal Academy while I can’t.
Apparently, it’s to do with earning the right to produce childish scribbles and be applauded for it (if I understood my friend correctly). He said it’s about proving you can paint ‘proper’ pictures first and making a name for yourself in the very fickle world of art. Once you have become a darling of the RA, you can spit on a canvas and sell it for hundreds of thousands, apparently. And if you add a caption in your own blood explaining what the spit means, it could go for millions.
Or you could arrange a pile of toenail clippings carefully on top of a used tissue, put ropes around it and call it an ‘installation’. Or is that ‘concept’ art? I am never quite sure. If the toenail clippings and /or tissue belonged to an important public figure, like say… Bart Simpson, you’d be made for life.
Last year, a very posh London Gallery was charging good money to see an exhibition by a German artist, consisting of chairs turned upside down. My friend and I had planned to go and see it while we were in London seeing the Anselm Keifer exhibition at the RA (now Anselm Keifer can paint). However, after finding that the tickets to get in to see the over-turned chairs cost more than an actual chair from Argos, I decided to go home and turn my own chairs upside down and study them from all angles for free. It was fun. I had to do it in the garden because my dining room isn’t big enough to turn furniture over without creating trip hazards.
Also, I was able to walk around my ‘installation’ a lot more easily and view it from the garden swing for absolutely hours. I was also able to look at it from the bedroom windows and gain an important perspective on what upturned chairs look like from above. As far as I know, that was an added bonus that the real exhibition didn’t have, although I may be wrong.
Now where was I? Oh yes, so us people who paint without knowing what we are doing aren’t Artists in the strictest sense of the word, neither or we ‘proper’ Painters, apparently. But don’t worry, I made up a new word just for us – we are painterists. I am sure there will be someone on the internet that will claim this word is not new so let’s just say, it’s new to me. To qualify as a painterist, you must be a dabbler who hides their work and then blames the children for the splashes down the curtains.
You must only paint in abstract and you must use a variety of household items to apply the paint. We’re talking scouring pads, sponges, toothbrushes, cocktail sticks, feather dusters etc. Actual paintbrushes are allowed but only as part of an overall mix of painting tools.
Us painterists must stick together and claim the right to shine in our own way, even if the fancy-shmancy world-famous galleries don’t want our offerings. Some of my worst pictures are just as good as the ‘best’ (in my opinion) pictures that famous artists produce – I just can’t back it up with any ‘proper’ paintings and I haven’t been to art school.
However, I paint on with pride! (That is, on the dining table, the curtains and even the laminate wood floor at times). The upside is, I have found a fantastic use for my boxes full of unappreciated works of art and now I wear them. I make jewellery and t-shirts from them and whether they like it or not, the public is forced to look at my art wherever I go.
I intend to exhibit at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2016 even though they have not invited me to. I won’t bother involving them in the process because they will only say no. I’m not being negative, just realistic – trust me. I will be exhibiting very subtly at the Royal Academy simply by walking in and standing around wearing my art. I may even call myself a subtle walking installation. And then at least I can say I exhibited at the Royal Academy. I may have to disappear into the toilets about 15 times to change my floaty scarves, T Shirts and paper jewellery, but hey, who said being a walking exhibition would be easy? How Bohemian, artsy and ‘out there’ is that? I bet Picasso never thought of that but then, he probably didn’t need to, did he?
Do you paint or make art in some way? I would love to hear from you and see your work. If it is bad enough, I would love to have some on my Facebook page.
This post has a link to Perspectives On Leisure , a site where Terri Webster Shrandt and friends explore the many exciting things people do with their leisure time.