patternsthatconnect

abstract art, a systems view

Posts Tagged ‘the-arts

Do the arts make us better?

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In the chapter entitled Do the Arts Make us Better? from John Carey’s book What Good are the Arts, he answers his own question with a resounding no. Apparently the arts do not make us better. “Better in comparison to what?” I hear you say. Well, here he has in mind mostly ‘moral betterment’. I am interested in the question with a therapeutic meaning: do the arts make us better i.e. heal us, or at least make us feel better (than we did before looking at the art)? More specifically I am interested in the ability (or otherwise) of visual art to do this.

I saw a blog post at air about an evaluation of their arts programme in Derby Hospitals carried out by the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at the University of Nottingham in 2010. It concluded that visual art in this environment implied, for many, a taking of pride in creating a high standard of care, that artworks also acted as a distraction from health issues and as a therapeutic aid to well-being as well as providing a practical means of “wayfinding” within the hospital.

I recall that about a year ago I was at Sandwell Hospital, accompanying my son who was having an operation, and what a stressful experience it was. The paintings on the wall (many really good ones) certainly acted as a distraction for me and as a kind of therapy. I wasn’t the patient but I was in need of cheering up and I got that from the paintings. Clearly, not everyone did, I was already interested in seeing paintings, and much of the ‘therapy’ may have been simply the pleasant surprise of seeing good art in this environment. I would much rather be in a gallery than a hospital after all! Nevertheless I have no doubt about the positive effect it had on me.

I am also connecting the qualitative study by the University of Nottingham, my experience of wellbeing, and an upcoming talk I am looking forward to hearing on 27 May 2012, at the Mostyn Gallery, Llandudno by Jane Raymond PhD, Professor of Visual Cognition Psychology, Bangor University and University of Birmingham, entitled From Seeing to Feeling: what does the human brain do when it looks at paintings? A gallery talk specifically with the paintings of Mali Morris in mind (and in view).

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Written by Andy Parkinson

May 19, 2012 at 8:00 am

Ikon Gallery (via The Cultural Bible Blog)

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I noticed someone else blogging about Ikon Gallery and it reminded me of the John Salt show

Ikon Gallery The Ikon is small but the exhibits it homes are something different, and it was definetly a huge contrast from the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Although we weren’t welcomed on arrival we were greeted by a girl in the Robert Orchardson exhibit “Endless façade”. This was an odd exhibit – very contemporary, but quite exciting to see. The way the space was utilised was interesting and was worth seeing. The other exhibition that was on was by Ma … Read More

via The Cultural Bible Blog

I visited wanting to see abstract art yet knowing I would be seeing photrealist paintings of cars, so I really wasn’t expecting to like what I saw. In an earlier blog I commented on this painting.

Tree 2001

Tree 2001, Casin on linen, 109 x 166 cm, Tellenbach Collection, Switzerland, Image courtesy of Ikon gallery

There are 18 paintings on view, shown more or less in chronological order, the first room with earlier work, paintings with images taken from catalogues, close-up cars, monochromes in red like Bride 1969, or grey like Sports Wagon 1969, the open door or window creating a frame through which to view the interior, and then the car wrecks of the early 70s: Falcon (Patchwork Surface) 1971, Desert Wreck, 1972; Pontiac with Tree Trunk, 1973. The second room has the more recent works, from the eighties to the present day, vehicles now more abandoned than wrecked, and shown in landscapes, usually a car or caravan, in its immediate surroundings.

At first I was frustrated at being unable to find much evidence of paint being worked or the artist’s touch. I thought I had found actual brush-strokes in Falcon (Patchwork Surface). Did I have the impression here that the artist actually enjoyed painting the surface? Then, I realised that the the surface being worked was the car body, with spray-painted graffiti. Those painted gestures looked like they had been enjoyed! And then photographed and then painted, or rather airbrushed. I attempted to inspect the canvas edges for evidence of painterliness, only to be thwarted by the aluminium frames, tight to the stretcher.

Then, once I  had resolved to stop messing about looking far what wasn’t there and to enjoy the work for what it was, the first thing I noticed was the calm. Galleries are not noisy places, but these works seemed to elicit a quietness that was more than gallery quiet alone. I think it was my emotional state, rather than the physical environment. The paintings are still, still lives in a way, yet they are also memento mori, or as Dieter Roelstraete says in the gallery booklet “that type of still life that is much more eloquently rendered as nature morte“. The Car not as status symbol,shiny and triumphant, but as wrecked, decaying, lonely or abandoned.

Although, according to the booklet, Salt claims not to be offering any social comment I agree with Roelstraete that it is difficult not to find here a comment on capitalism and its future. What I don’t find is anything about imagined alternatives. I think I read somewhere in Zizek the criticism that we find it easier to imagine the destruction of the planet than we do to imagine a future alternative to global capitalism.

(John Salt, curated by Jonathan Watkins and Diana Stevenson, is showing at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, UK, until 17 July 2011)