Wednesday 6 June 2018

What is art?

A story sponsored by Hasselblad popped up in my LinkedIn feed about Brook Elbank. In case you don't know here is a link to the Guardian article. They are extremely excited about the pictures and exhibition. I have form for expressing my views on art. This again taps in to my misgivings. The pictures are close ups of people from around the world, who have freckles. The only remarkable thing about them is the intensity of the subject's stare and the obvious processing. Another article I read about this project says Brook spends six hours working on each picture. It would be great to see the original images. Are the freckles that pronounced? They look almost like those pictures used to emphasis damage done to skin by too much exposure the the sun. What has he been doing for six hours? Thousands of people applied to be photographed, others were nominated. They and he travelled all over the world to shoot them.

The reason for the project was to highlight the bullying people with freckles suffer. A worthy cause, and these pictures may get people talking. But to call them incredible pictures is going way too far. Especially taking into account the apparent manipulation involved.

He had a beards exhibition which got rave reviews from the Guardian back in 2015. Again it's the same format, many are at extreme close up with obvious over processing. With poor white balance consistency between pictures this time. They were shot in a studio so why? Or was it intentional? You take a look and let me know what you think.

Brook Elbank has managed to become a celebrity photographer. Famed for his discussion pieces as much as his skill. Does that sound too harsh? I'm not saying he isn't talented, and it does ensure he is in magazine editors minds by producing this kind of work. So I guess he is no fool.

I just don't get what he is trying to say, looking at the pictures just doesn't give much of a clue about his message.

An example of a series of pictures that show imagination is a set celebrating redheads by Keith Barraclough. I know it was a marketing project for him, but it does show what could have been done. 

I googled "what is art".

And I found what I expected to find. Modern art is for clever people, if you don't like or understand it. Then you just aren't intelligent enough. It all strikes me as elitist, a club were you believe what you are told you are seeing, emperors' new clothes syndrome you might say. Do that and you are in. Even better if you have vast sums of money to lavish on the artists, the studios and auction houses to keep the circus going.

Or am I just not clever enough?

This article is one I found. The early art, I get. It is a picture or sculpture of a subject, even the early impressionists trying to portray emotion and thought I can understand. It says the invention of the camera caused people to not want traditional art. Taking a picture of someone is quicker than painting or sculpting them. But there is still a place for this style of art. The artist spends time with the subject, connects with them. Hopefully that connection is evident in the finished work of art. It's what I try to achieve with my portraits.

But piles of bricks, a canvases painted in one colour, an unmade bed, I could go on; check out the Tate Modern for more examples. The article says you need to know how the art was made, what was happening at the time, what the artist was trying to say. To me, if I can't understand the meaning by looking at the piece, then whatever the artist was trying to say, isn't clear enough.

I don't want to come across as bitter, if you are successful, good luck to you. I don't mean to pick on just one person either. It just happens this article appeared in the feed and it got me thinking.

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