Monday, October 04, 2004

Overheard: on a late night conversation

People talking loudly in a gallery is annoying. It goes whenever it is said. Either it's pretentious knowingness about some painter or indignant incomprehension. But at least one can walk away. Last night, trying to sleep, I could hear two people – a man and a woman – outside the shop next door that has "traditional" paintings on display (it likes to promote that word: traditional). That is, 19th century figurative kitsch evoking childhood innocence or colonial scenes with happy kaffirs dancing after a day down the diamond mine. Occasionally a print from the 20th century appears, usually art nouveau or "humourous" portraits in the style of Beryl Cook. The woman’s voice, almost tremulous as it struggled to find words, dominated:

They've forgotten the art in art, she said. I don't know who she meant. Take that that picture there, she went on. There's something about it. I don't know.

A car drove by drowning her words in engine noise, then quickly faded.

The hand looks like a sausage. I don't know. It looks like a sausage.

That is all I heard. This time passersby - chavs leaving the pub bawling loving obscenities at each other - made the conversation unintelligible.

I strained to hear more but I also wished they'd walk away so I could lose consciousness. There is always discomfort in discussions about art. This one kept me awake.

Recent posts here were meant to be about trying to approach the real experience of art; to isolate it and – finally – to annul the patronage of philistine misrepresentation and the pleasant distraction of chatter. So, where is the art in art?

That comes next. I hope.

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