Sounds like a big question – but is the answer simple?
What is art? ponders our expert
Idon’t ask this as a philosophical question or one posed for university students reading fine art, but rather as a question aimed at you or me. Most, I feel, regard art as either a painting or perhaps a sculpture. Art, in its broadest interpretation, is much wider than this, but let’s narrow my question down to: what is art in a home?
Again, most would immediately think of a painting, an etching or some other twodimensional image but when we think of it, there are so many other items that we can easily regard as art.
One of my favourite art forms is photography. Admittedly I have a great interest in historical photographs, particularly of social life in the 1960’s, but recently I have seen some travel photography in a home that really pulled me towards them.
These were large black and white photographs of social life amongst the natives of Papua New Guinea taken around five years ago when the owners took a walking trip through the highlands. What I suppose was as interesting was that this family were not collectors of primitive art or particularly interested in anthropology, but rather wanted memories of their travels where they could see them.
But what changed these images from simple photographs to what I would describe as art was their size and the impact of them being simply black and
white. The works had been blown up to around 24 inches square, with framing, almost 36 inches. Impressive, but also it allowed one to be involved in the scene.
Everyone has photographs at home, often hidden away. They may not be of far-away or exotic places, yet they have meaning and/or an emotional link. Some of these photos may be of travels back in the 1960s or later and when one looks at them, they are quite historic and captivating.
Also, I have seen some fabulous large-scale works done by young children, say four or five-yearolds. The works I saw reminded me so much of Basquiat that I was quite taken aback with regards to their simplicity coupled with their complexity. Sounds contradictory, but its not.
To see these hanging on a wall was a breath of fresh air. Some were just great fun, too.
I have also seen a number of knitted wall hangings, or brass rubbings done 20 or more years ago – I realised too that you couldn’t actually do these today. Framed up on a wall, they looked great. I also saw a Japanese wedding dress in a home that took pride of place in their family room. The family weren’t Japanese, nor did they have links to Japan, they just saw this in an antique market and thought it would look good framed up on a wall. It did.
So really, we can describe almost anything hanging in our homes as art as long as it touches us in some way. Sometimes its good to look outside the square and be a bit adventurous!
Mandell’s has an interesting exhibition of Ian Houston’s works running June 8 to 22.
ABOVE: Photography can be great art
LEFT: Children can also produce art