Saturday, July 21, 2007
Quick and Simple Modern Art
Last week I dropped in to take a look at the art being shown at a local gallery. On the walls, there were a number of large and colorful but rather simple abstract paintings somewhat reminiscent of the image displayed here. In fact, if anything, I'd say that the image shown here is more complex (and more interesting) than the images I saw at that gallery. The main difference is that the images I saw at the gallery were actually created with real paint (whereas this was created totally within the digital realm), and of course, the scale was much different. (This was originally created at a resolution of 650 x 650 pixels and then scaled down for display in this blog post.)
Oh, yeah, there was one other difference, too. Those paintings were being sold for thousands of dollars. This one hasn't earned me a dime, and probably won't make me any money at all.
Now, I must admit that it was rather fun to create the image shown here, using a combination of Microsoft Paint and Microsoft PictureIt! software. (I used Paint primarily, but the rough painterly effects were added in PictureIt!, since Paint, which is the free software which came with Windows XP, doesn't have any filters.)
But is it great art? If I were to transfer the image to a large piece of canvas and then paint it with real paint, would it become great art? Would the resulting painting be worth thousands of dollars? I must confess that I question that premise. The work involved in creating the image was minimal. I basically just drew in some geometric shapes which intersected with each other and I then filled in various areas with various colors, using the "paint bucket" tool in MS Paint. I experimented with different colors until I got a combination I liked. I had certain loose criteria in term of which colors were applied where, but a lot of the process involved just playing around with the colors.
If people want to pay thousands of dollars for such images, hey, I'll be happy to accommodate them, because I could certainly use the money. It wouldn't be hard at all to turn designs such as this into full-blown paintings.
Even so, I can't help thinking that the amount of money people pay for art ought to be somewhat proportional to the amount of work and skill that went into the creation of the art. There are a lot of gullible people out there who place value on particular works of art, not so much because there's any relationship between the work and skill it took to produce those works and the asking price for those works, but more on account of the fact that those particular works of art are highly praised by the elitists who dominate the world of modern fine art. I wouldn't mind that so much if it weren't for the fact that it sometimes means that people who are only moderately talented receive high praise and big bucks, while people who are far more talented get passed over like yesterday's garbage because their art isn't as trendy.
I also can't help but think that truly great art ought to have meaningful content, and that content ought to exhibit some measure of profundity or insight. When we look at the realistic paintings created by the "great masters" of art, those paintings educate and illuminate our minds. We are transported back in time, and we better understand the worlds in which those painters lived. We see the full gamut of human experiences, from tragedy to comedy. Such paintings tell rich stories.
Modern art pieces such as the one shown here do not do that. If one were to sum up the message of the above image, it would be, "I like bright colors." And that's pretty much it. It's not utterly worthless, since any short-term pleasure which comes from seeing bright and cheerful colors has the capacity to raise one's spirits. But profound it is not.
I think that the world of modern art often mirrors the world of philosophy. Most of our philosophers these days are bereft of any really profound ideas, having abandoned belief in biblical Christianity and the values which are derived from faith in God. Such people have nothing meaningful to say, so the art which they inspire says nothing meaningful.
When it comes to fine art, we need to learn to be more discerning, and to trust our own instincts rather than listening to the self-appointed arbiters of taste, whose alleged qualifications are mainly derived from the fact that they happen to have a lot of money and they happen to live in disproportionately influential places such as New York City.
If a piece of art looks as if it would be easy for a novice to create, it's probably because that is in fact the case. Such art should be priced accordingly. By all means, pay the painter enough to compensate for the time and materials which were necessary in order to create the painting, but reserve the really big bucks for those whose skills and vision deserve to be described as extraordinary.
Note: The following is a Flash-based slide show featuring the above image plus 3 others. The timing may be slightly off if you're playing it for the first time and you have a dialup connection, but playing it a second time should fix that problem.
Click here to see the original album.
Note to Self: I had to adjust the size of the player to 400 x 361 pixels in order to fit the entire player into this portion of the web page.