There’s a Spanish saying that I really like, deformación profesional, which is used to explain the angle on vision that our career’s impose on all other spheres of our lives. You would often use the expression to excuse a language slip, for example, if you had just used specialist jargon in a laypersons conversation. It highlights the fact that one’s profession is closely link to one’s identity (as questionable as that may be).
A few days ago, whilst waiting around in a corridor of a public building, I overhead a few people making casual conversation. The topic was the large canvas with lots of white cracked paint and some washes of grey and red, with a few other small patches of colour. I tried to blend into the wallpaper to hear this exchange in which one woman dismissed it as completely worthless, whilst another said the splotch of red looked like blood. I smiled when I head the unsurprising retort: ‘they charge thousands for something like that in a museum’ (little does she know that ‘thousands’ is an understatement).
The painting was not a well known one, nor was it by any famous artists, yet still I found it quite beautiful and interesting to look at, and skillful. And that’s when I knew that -although I have a large circle of friends and colleagues who are not ‘into’ art- I still have in my day-to-day life enough intellectual input on art that I have become a ‘deformed professional’, a person who is so imbued in a field that I can no longer see it from the outside. I continued eavesdropping, refreshed and excited at the thought that these laypeople were helping me see this canvas from the ‘why should it be valued at all?’ point of view. It got better. Along came a man who self-assuredly offered his interpretation of the painting, pointing as he said: ‘that is the Icelandic cloud of volcanic ash, there’s a field and there’s a city and there are no aeroplanes in the big white sky’!
The flippant comment not only added to my pondering on art-connaisseurship in the popular realm, but also made me consider art as a medium to portray current affairs. My mate Paul Shinn drew this version of the Iceland volcano. See his blog for other illustrations on current affairs.
Pop art is not around us like it used to, though. Like millions on London Transport, on Thursday this week I grabbed a copy of Metro magazine to forget that enjoying the journey requires paying attention to it. As I flipped through the daily news, I found this article on art made by a 10 year old boy, pretentiously labelled a ‘young Picasso’, complete with neckscarf and black beret (très chic).
Well, it is Metro and not Art Monthly, but even so, have people generally got such a poor understanding of art that they confuse these colourful images with Cubism? I’m shocked – especially considering that Cubism is a die-hard topic in GCSE art.
To add insult to injury, some mugs have paid over £600 for some of this boy’s paintings. In art market terms, that’s nothing, but considering that we are actually talking about a child who does vibrant paintings, well, get real. Buy yourself a couple of hand-made prints at the Affordable Art Fair and let this kid be a kid and not a gimmicky money-making trick. Look around at what children do naturally: those that have the privilege of owning paper and finger paints (not those poor slaves of Nintendos and PSPs…) do this kind of stuff all the time. It’s great, but it’s only mums, dads and grandparents who should want to own it.