This week I saw more art. I visited the City Art Centre and The Fruitmarket gallery. The City Art Centre had a selection of works, comprised of some modern art and many historical paintings and drawing of places in Edinburgh. It is a nice art centre and it is housed in a beautiful building. I am looking forward to going back to see future exhibitions.
At the Fruitmarket I saw the works of Anna Barriball. I was excited to visit the Fruitmarket gallery as from outside the glass windows it is an impressive open space that would seem to have works that would appeal to me. As I walked inside I was instantly deflated. This was going to be one of "those" exhibitions. I consider myself an open minded individual, I know the modern art of yesterday is pushed into something new today and that change is needed and required in the art world to keep things fresh and new. But what I saw angered me. Yes, this art angered me. How can that be? I felt my body tense, with my arms crossed, I walked through from one piece to the next hoping to feel something, hoping to understand, hoping to get plugged in to the "concepts" on the wall before me. It didn't happen. The Fruitmarket gallery is a beautiful space, currently filled with art but remaining hollow. It is not so much the art itself that angered me it is what this kind of art does to the viewers that see it. Or maybe more importantly it is what this work doesn't do to the viewers.
If I was a first time art viewer and happened on Anna Barriball's graphite rubbings of doors and walls, copper pipes made of paper, obsessive pencil marks on the wall and her breathing fire place, I would think I had stepped into a heartless world devoid of feeling and meaning. It would leave me cold. And if I was encouraged to pick up a pamphlet explaining her exhibition and I actually read it, I would scratch my head wondering what the hell I just saw and how could these flowery words mean anything. However, as a first time viewer I would most likely stay quiet, perhaps feeling that I just didn't get it, that maybe I was too simple, or more likely that this art is not meant for me. I would feel like I accidentally was allowed in the velvet ropes only to be thrown out on my ass when I confessed I didn't know why this art was important enough to take up this entire gallery space, when many pieces of important and accessible art are just across the road packed like sardines this month at the Royal Scottish Academy.
As a first time art viewer of Barriball's work, I would probably make some quick assumptions about the art world. I would assume the art world is for pseudo intellectuals, elitist, and other artists of this ilk. Feeling defeated I might not go into another gallery for awhile or I might even write off modern art.
Back to being who I am, not a first time art viewer and someone who has seen enough art and talked with enough art lovers, buyers and gallery owners, I know it doesn't have to be this way. I am not an anti intellectual and I have read enough of art theory and rhetoric to know when I am being snowed and when the words are shallow and do nothing to serve the work or the viewer. The basic fact is it is hard to write about nothing and if the art isn't there, it just isn't.
I may be an idealist but I believe in art for all. I believe in art as an inclusive force that can be pivotal in connecting people together, giving voice to the unseen and unvoiced emotions and the thoughts of the many, not just the few. Art that can be a thing of beauty creating the perfect shape and form or capturing a moment of passion, sadness, and despair. I believe in that art, I seek that art. I want to belong to and share that art. I am not a member of this other world that seeks to confuse, divide, and poke fun at the uninitiated.