Art today is driven more by money and exposure, than by genius and the quality of the work. So many of the artists, whose paintings are now so in demand as investments, were quite often very poor. In the earlier centuries they had to depend upon patronage or commission. At the time of the Impressionists they were mainly dependent, as it is today day, on agents. Agents tend to set trends which suits their clientele rather than the artist. If there is collusion between the agents and the critics, especially in this age of sound bites, then the artist will suffer. Success in submitting material for exhibition, in any of the fields of art, will be dependent upon the taste of the judges. You can offer, say two paintings, for submission, one because you have great faith in it, and it has attracted respect and praise. However, judges could easily prefer another painting, submitted by the same artist, who feels that it contains errors and in consequence is nowhere near the quality of the other, yet is hung. This experience says something about selection, which is a form of criticism and possibly fashion. Criticism applies to a great extent in amateur circles, where people’s sensitivities are more vulnerable, and hurt is not uncommon. Teaching, explanation, example should be the tools of instruction by experts, not random criticism. Criticism is a blunt tool easily misunderstood.
The appreciation of art: might be learned from explanation and presentation, but it will also always be subjective, that is obvious, but what is not obvious to me at least, is the spate of presentations in national and private galleries of what amounts to little more than everyday experience. This is then further stretched to represent conditions that may occur, as demonstrated in a website entitled, Channel 4, Anatomy Of Disgust, which demonstrates art that wishes to portray openly to the viewer, domestic conditions they consider hold a special message. The purpose of art is to provide not so much a palliative, but stimulation of a positive kind to the mind, through vision, and I fail to see how various versions of an unkempt bedroom of the worst kind could be a positive stimulation.
I accept that once students have seen illustrations of, or visited the sites of the incredible work, as paintings and sculptures, that have been executed over hundreds of years, it is hard to believe that there is room to better them. It would seem, therefore, that they must find another way of self-expression. In many fields today advancers have almost reached saturation point and innovation has become considerably more difficult. What the new breed of artists do, and how they do it, is their business. The responsibility for maintaining the standards rests solely with the exhibitors, some private, some nationally funded. It is they and the media who hold sway, broadcast their opinions, while the man in the street is sceptical, unable to understand how a set of bricks that he sees daily as he drives past a builder’s yard, can ever be, art when set out in a rectangle. When you see the better work of regional artists in all the different media, they raise the spirits in many cases, because they see a landscape, a situation or a portrait, with different eyes, and the next time you see anything similar, perhaps your own appreciation will be modified. Looking at my own bedroom when I get up in the morning is depressing enough, God knows, I have no wish to look at someone else’s clutter.