Wednesday, 9 January 2013

What is Art?

By: James Kyle

A question: is the spray painting, stencil using, graffiti artist know as Banksy a great artist or just a grarffiti encouraging vandal whose chief ability is to be offensive to the ethos of the "Keep Britain Tidy" campaign? Does it matter if people are willing to spend tens if not hundreds of thousands of pounds on his work? Is it time once more to ask the question, what is art?

What better way could there be to further investigate this issue than a quick visit to the Tate Modern in London. I do very much emphasise quick. Perhaps you are already picking up some vibes that I didn’t expect to be too impressed with the cream of modern art displayed within. So quickly let me confirm your expectations – in my short visit my worst fears were over fulfilled many times over. I am sorry, but what kind of artistic statement is a common or garden fluorescent light placed diagonally on a wall? The artist in question did show some flexibility I grant you – his other work on display was 4 fluorescent lights stuck together to form a rectangle. For that matter how many people would really see a large open rectangular copper box as having intrinsic merit? I did wonder if either artist sued the other for infringing on his artistic insight of using a rectangle as an art form. And don’t get me started on huge painted canvases that are entirely black.

So what is art? Personally I believe that art can be defined as a work that when encountered by an individual changes that individual’s world perception in some way. The more profound the shift, the greater the work of art.

Now I grant you we can allow the artistic community the latitude of a seminal work in the shape of a pile of bricks that states ‘this is art’ and asks us thus to consider what art is. Yes, we can allow that. However, only one time please. I’m sorry, but my heartfelt request is this: do not burden us with a whole building full of such abysmal pretentiousness.

Let me try to make this as simple as possible. If a ten year old can replicate it in his spare time – it is NOT art. (Any ten year olds reading this please do be aware that electricity is dangerous – entirely black canvasses would be a better place to start).

So again, what is art? Vanity publishing hanging on the walls of contemporary art galleries or thoughtful spray painted wall graffiti? I know my choice – and you?


  1. Art for art's sake... ��I just ride the wave of creative expression

    1. Does "Art for art's sake" actually mean anything? Which leads me to my qualified agreement with the second part of your comment. I am all for creative expression - as long as it is meaningful creative expression and not delusional self indulgence. When we have piece of blu-tack stuck to the wall as "art" where is the meaning in that?

  2. Judge AND Jury for what is "meaningful creative expression"... MMMmmm

    1. "If a ten year old can replicate it in his spare time – it is NOT art." - is that not a reasonable and defendable concept?