Subscribe by RSS

Saturday, 19 October 2013


My son is wrestling with the same questions as Grayson Perry in the Reith Lectures. The difference is he's not doing it in a dress, and I must admit I'm grateful for that.

There is a time and place for being a transvestite and one in the afternoon at Sweeney's cafĂ©, Maryhill Road is neither.

"I'm not sure what Art is," he tells me, as we study the menu. 

That was Art with a capital A, wasn't it?" I say.

"It was," he says. "Take this group project I'm working on. I'm building the props for it because I'm good at woodworking. It's great fun but it's got me wondering. Where does woodwork end and art begin?

"I'm also looking at fractals and making little machines that generate patterns. But how do I know that's art and not physics or engineering? You see what I'm saying?"

We pause to take delivery of a fried egg roll for me and a macaroni cheese and chips for him, which gives me time to dredge up Marcel Duchamp's "Art is whatever an artist says is art."

"But that doesn't get me very far," he replies. "I've been asking artists around the College. They all have a different story. One claims science looks for answers while art generates questions. Another says an artist spends his time trying to understand things.

"That was Dean Hughes. He's an art lecturer who's been bought by Saatchi, so he's a recognised artist. When you look at it, his process is sound, his methods are valid and there is an integrity to his approach."

He pokes his pasta with a puzzled fork. "But the stuff he's producing is ... kinda crap," he says.

"That must be confusing," I say.

"It is," he says. "Normally confusion is good. But I would like some straight answers to this. I want it nailed down in my head so I'm not just pissing about with stuff."

"You're not," I say. "You've been an artist since you were born. Remember the time you made a model spaceship out of two dog biscuits and a postcard from Paris? Or that ice sculpture of a polar bear that gradually morphed into Marilyn Monroe's face? You even built little Mongolian yurts from rusks when you were barely out of nappies."

"I don't remember any of that," he says. "But you're right - being at Art School is helping me validate a lot of the stuff I've always done. But I still don't know what makes it art." 

"I'll try another thought," I say. "Frank Lloyd Wright. 'Art is a discovery and development of elementary principles of nature into beautiful forms suitable for human use.'"

"That's fine if you're an architect," he says. "But he's saying it's about beauty and function. Plenty of modern art has neither. Grayson Perry was talking about this. He said beauty is 'a constructed thing built on shifting layers'. 

"And another thing," he says, whacking his macaroni with his fork for emphasis, in much the same way as I'd hit the guiro. "A lot of exhibition people are elitist, arty and wanky. I don't like that."

"So you aren't enjoying the course?" I say.

"I'm loving it," he says. "I just have to get this straight in my head now, because I can see a danger in the future."

"What's that?" I say.

"I go to Art School, have a great time, get my degree and emerge into the real world in four years time as an artified, wankified, unemployed joiner."

No comments:

Post a Comment