They teach you many a useless skill at management schools, but even they know better than to attempt teaching art. Art is like drooling, you know as much as you will need to know the very day you are born. From that point on, all knowledge that you acquire will only serve to educate you in the contrary.
One doesn’t mind paying, but the trouble is the more you learn about it, the less sure you are of things. I used to look at paintings, sculptures, installations and simply ask myself, do I like it or not. Once the appropriate mental box was ticked, I moved on. I didn’t care if the artist had used a mouse’s whiskers to draw the life-size portrait of a tank, or whether the metal in that giant tree structure had been stuck together using just the artist’s spit which had consequently dried up and now he couldn’t taste his chillies from his vanilla ice-cream. I simply didn’t care. I didn’t understand why one brush stroke made the painting more expensive, or what the hell was a man sleeping in a bed in a public lobby doing by calling it art?
Then, it happened. I possibly got cornered by some of these arty critic types, the ones who shun leather and harp vehemently against all things capitalist. They tried to break down the beauty of what appeared to me to be out of focus pictures of a garage sale trash and some still life that had most likely been drawn by someone with a mental age no more than five. They went on about the implied lighting mixes and the jarring strokes conveying angst. Once again, attic junk and a blotchy mountainside. If I didn’t like it earlier, now I loathed the smug artist for fooling so many with so little. What a tease, and not the good kind.
At some deep-rooted level, this is perhaps the best form of learning, one that opens you up to your innermost self, exploring layers within and such. But that’s the kind of crap you save up for when you meet a religious head and wait for your turn to be blessed. In real life, all you need to know about yourself, you learn by analysing the people who con you over and over again. Like art gallery owners.
When someone tells you art isn’t something that can be taught, they are absolutely right. Such a statement also makes apparent that they don’t run an art appreciation group, else, like Sotheby’s, they’d be hawking classes to teach you precisely that for a preposterous fee. Of course, there will be champagne during tea breaks.
Luckily for you, I will now dispel my extensive knowledge of art for your benefit, all pro bono. Learn these words: surrealist, impressionist, abstract, and Picasso. It you can add Dalí or Van Gogh, that’s already above average. Next time you’re in the presence of art or something similar, throw a permutation of these words loudly and often. Don’t shy away. Have an opinion and have the cojones to defend it. When all else fails, say how it’s all personal and relative. Or say it reminds you of your departed grandmother and hence is priceless. The parents of the five-year-old whose art you have just critiqued at the PTA will be surprised, but much elated.
Finally, and this is important, sashay away before anybody can counter with a question. If you can be understood or are self-explanatory, then you have a lot to learn about art. And, if you hate this piece thus far, you need to mend your uncultured ways.
This today isn’t just a column, it’s word art.