Saturday, November 2, 2013


Grayson Perry: The Rosetta Vase, 2011

Ok, that's probably quite a pretentious title, and no I don't pretend to have all the answers to it. However, I will present a few thoughts that arose when I listened to Grayson Perry on the radio. If you have access to BBC Iplayer, please do listen to his four lectures! I think he says what a lot of people are thinking, and that may very well be the secret to his popularity. He's very succinct, honest and unpretentious, but also funny and hugely entertaining. I remember seeing a book with his pottery in the Hayward Gallery art shop when we visited Tracey Emin's retrospective two years ago. The way he had analysed his own work seemed unusually down to earth, but also perceptive. I was very surprised to find out that this guy, whose visual storytelling is so representational, is in fact really famous!

At the end of the third lecture Grayson concludes that art can no longer shock and surprise. While the "real" art world is still quite small, there are more and more amateur artists. The idea that anyone can be an artist could indeed find us drowning in a sea of mediocrity. He's talking about the gentrification of art, how being arty and bohemian has become commonplace. Whatever is democratic, tends to become conventional and boring. I've no doubt that if everyone starts believing they can be an artist, the trade will lose its lustre and "real" artists with the intention of imparting some real meaning through their art work will lose the audience's respect. That's a bit of a bleak prospect. 

Grayson also says that you can choose what kind of artist you want to be. I guess what he means is that you can decide for yourself whether you want to be politically orientated, low brow, high brow, conceptual, modernist and so on. In an informed society, its educated members will know how to categorise themselves. It's more and more rare to find artists who aren't self-conscious. As we speak, outsider art is becoming increasingly sought after because it often has that quality of spontaneity and at least a certain lack of self-awareness. Yet even they have to find the environment that fits their art. Of course, in some cases it's the carers who do this for them. Most of them, however, are aware that they fit the outsider category of artists. I myself am already "ruined" by cultural sophistication and therefore don't fit that category all that well, however at the moment there are only few other peer groups that suit my needs. I'm guessing that identifying your peer group might become increasingly important in a world where art is an increasingly integrated part of daily life. In the past, society reacted to art (a lot of the time because it was perceived as unconventional and shocking) and so the categorisation often happened inspite of the artist. A lot of the time, it was impinged on the artist. If that is no longer the case, then it's up to the artists themselves to label their art and seek out the right kind of environment. I can imagine that most people would do that for convenience's sake, because navigation in an increasingly complex society calls for simplification. This way, you're also more likely to reach the right kind of audience. 

Of course, many artists will rebel against the idea of being put in a category. Many will be engaging in many different kinds of media and artistic expressions. However, perhaps there will be a category for various forms of eclectisism too!

All in all, people will have more and more choice... it's difficult to orientate when you do, and the results aren't guaranteed to be any good. In fact, artists often get to engrossed in all the technical possibilities while forgetting the real point with making art. Art is about communicating something meaningful about life in the present time. Often, this happens through exemplifying stories (cf. Grayson's vases). Otherwise it's just a sollipsist practice, one that you might as well call a hobby. That's just my opinion!

Are we living in the end-times of art? Please read my husband Martin's erudite discussion on Grayson's opinion that art has come to an end... here on his blog Artedstates.

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