Art­smith:

Sounds like a big ques­tion – but is the answer sim­ple?

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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

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