I visited the Whitechapel at the beginning of my course and did an experiment. I went into an exhibit and didn’t read up on what the artist concerned was trying to ‘say’ with her work. I made my own interpretation which, perhaps inevitably, was wrong. A question that has stuck with me is whether that detracts in anyway from my own enjoyment (it didn’t in that case) of the work and what the artist is trying to achieve (I’d say it does). In the commercial sense, as long as it is a positive reaction then does it matter?
I repeated a variation on this experiment on Facebook last week. I asked any friends who were willing to comment on what they saw and thought my Trip Tych three pastel drawings.
As an example, this drawing to me was about parenthood and the risk it can go so wrong when a parent with an undeveloped sense of self sees a child as an extension of themselves on which they project all their hopes and fears, through which they live vicariously – the extreme of which is actually a disorder called narcissistic personality disorder. The comments I received from friends included:
- Two strangers meeting for the first time
- Reminds me of a flower in the rain on a summers day
- Seedlings just starting to grow
- A woman’s belly and legs
Initially sunsets then the more I looked I saw flowers and fire, they’re very relaxing
Although some of the comments are kind of related to what I was thinking about when I drew this, none are spot on. Does it matter? I had some lovely compliments. It’s a bit like my reflections about there not being any new ideas. Does it matter? If I put them on Etsy or some other platform and they started selling like prints, or even if I drew for pleasure and didn’t attempt any commercial success, if what I had in mind is completely different to what people see then as long as either (a) they’re buying and/or (b) I’m enjoying myself and they’re enjoying looking at them then who cares? Their reaction is in no way less valid because they (to borrow from social constructivist theory) bring their own lens to what they see which is unique to them.
Perhaps this is the difference between artists who want to exhibit and say something about the world and hobbyists or those who just want to sell a few bits on craft websites. I don’t know. Would I enjoy it more if people did see what I was trying to say? Again I don’t know. When I think about the surrealist artists I love, they deliberately engaged in producing art the elite would not understand, with all the Freudian symbolism and focus on the sub conscious. It builds on the old question “but is it art?” to say “well if it is, why can there not be multiple possibilities of what xyz piece is about that are all valid”.