I Don’t “Get” Art


I’ve been meaning to blog about this for a few days, but wanted to give it the proper time and attention it needed, so it is a few days late. I read an article on Vice titled I’m Sick of Pretending: I Don’t “Get” Art. An interesting article about Glen Coco’s experience when attending the opening of the new Tracey Emin retrospective at the Hayward Gallery. He finally states that he just doesn’t “get” art. An interesting article, with a lot of good points, people seem to finally be able to say they don’t get art, but are missing a big point. More than anything, Art is a conversation.

I’ve spoken to a lot of people who say that they could do the same thing when looking at pieces of art. I’ve heard people say they can paint a canvas blue, and call it art. Or create a pile of dirt and call it art. They could, it’s possible of course, but they hadn’t. That’s the point. Art isn’t about putting junk together and calling it that, while there is a ton of people who do that, and I wouldn’t call them artists, there also are others who create such pieces with a meaning behind it, trying to communicate something. Through out the years art has been revolving and pushing the boundaries. Back in the day no one was allowed to paint anything but images of baby Jesus and Mary. Artists pushed beyond that and started painting landscapes, and paintings of other people, and it continued on throughout all art movements.

A good friend of mine explained it when I posted this same article onto my Facebook page by saying:

“There was an article I read about an artist a long time ago, and for the life of me I can’t remember the guy’s name or even anything about his work. He did however, say one thing in the article that has stuck with me to this day, and I’ll take it with me to my grave. It is “The reason people don’t understand modern art, is because they’re walking into the tail end of a 30,000 year old conversation.” I read that, and my brain just… fell into place.
I am not surprised that most people don’t understand it, because to take away something other than pure aesthetic value requires a lot of research, a lot of knowledge, a lot of understanding, that most people simply don’t have the time for. Most folks’ perception of what “art” is limited to a picture or a painting hanging on a wall, or a sculpture sitting on a pedestal. That’s what people understand, and that’s how they’ve understood it for… probably centuries.
There’s SO MUCH that has happened though, in this century (estimating 1910 to present day) that has served to shape, and re-shape and restructure the art world, to the point where it’s completely unrecognizable to a good 99% of the present day enthusiasts.
Many will pretend to have caught on, for fear of looking dumb in front of their friends who are also just pretending to have caught on. Many will reject the recent changes outright and cling fast onto the classical model, touting an elitist model of what art is or what they think it should be, at least.
Then there are those who are striving and struggling hard to make all of this make sense in context, and building a real, genuine appreciation for art as it exists now, and art history. Then there’s people like me, who understand that I don’t have the time to spend on understanding EVERYTHING. If I can just create art my way in a way I connect with, and hope that others connect to as well, then I can sleep soundly, knowing my tangent conversation has some participants.”

I will have to agree with my friend. Not all art is pretty, nor is it easy to understand. To me, art mostly opens doors for communication. You don’t like a piece, then try to understand why. Why does it disturb you, scare you, or make you feel uncomfortable. If you don’t get what the piece is, then talk to someone about it. Read the description, ask questions and don’t be scared to not “get” it. Not all art is supposed to be gotten by you alone. Art can’t communicate the same thing to each person. It’s a personal experience you have with each art piece that makes art so special. Enjoy it for what it is, and what it gives you, and stop trying to simply get it, to get it. Art is too magical for that.

And maybe Tracey Emin did what she was intending to do. To get you to finally talk about art.


6 responses »

  1. I don’t call myself an artist, and I do not pretend I understand modern art (I am an elitist classicist).

    Because of my education in fashion design, beauty therapy, art therapy and my general interest in sculpting,silks-creening, and many more things added to that I do feel I can criticise and analyse the “Art” of today, but I try and refrain from abstract art as that is truly something I do not and do not want to understand.

    I try and explain to people that not all art is pretty, but the thing that gets me the most, are people standing in front of a canvas filled with blobs and spatters and actually having the gall to tell me that it’s an emotion. I just say I don’t think so, but functionally it would translate well to a silk scarf, and ashtray and so on, that said I can appreciate the skill and colour renditions.
    But to actually sit and debate that blobby art is an emotion, well, I can tell you it indicates a very disturbed mind.

    But that is just my humble opinion.

    I know we say we should live and let live but in this town (Amman) where copyists have run amok and they pretend to be the literati and the gurus of art, while producing a lot of dross and crap which they try and masquerade as art… Well, there you have the reason why I do not understand “art” and will not call myself an “Artist”….

    • I completely agree with you to a point. I work a lot with abstract art, and to me my work is about emotion, yet its my emotion more than anything. I like the idea of making a person feel something because I believe we walk through life without really feeling or seeing anything but what is shoved in front of our view. What gets me is when people look at abstract art and try figure it out. Asking “what is it?” or trying to guess what it is, when in fact, it could be simply nothing but a blob of paint on canvas.

      I just dont like the idea of people trying to judge a piece without knowing anything about it, or reading what the piece is about.

      I do agree about a lot of art in Amman, many generic art, but then there are many artists here that are talented, and have a say. I guess you sift through all the junk to find the treasure! 🙂

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