Birmingham Museum and Art gallery
I visited Birmingham’s Museum/Art Gallery yesterday and really enjoyed myself. Some of the paintings were breathtaking, painted hundreds of years ago with (what I would class as) inferior materials which often were partly to blame for the untimely demise of the artist. I guess at least their work went up in value though… Little compensation I imagine. There was a sculptural figure of the Angel Lucifer (pictured) which I can only describe as freaky, no other word quite conveys my feelings appropriately. The body was sculpted with a male model as the reference and the head was sculpted using a female as reference, this added to its grotesque quality as the eyes were odd and hugely disproportionate which I assume was intentional. Considering Lucifer was described as “the most beautiful of all the angels” in the statement accompanying the piece, the sculptor obviously had very different perceptions of beauty to my own but maybe that is just because we were born in different eras. Then my peace, tranquillity and quiet pondering was ruined by several small children entering the room going “Ewww, you can see his bum and willy”. Ah the wonders of childhood… I do not get on well with the teacup humans.
Anyway to give you fair warning this is about to turn in to a rant, a rant about some of the differences between then and now. (Not a rant about children, tempting though that may be at this point.)
Artists were only considered artists if they had talent; an artisan was a master of his trade and it was almost exclusively “his” trade. (That part I’m not so keen on, women have as much right to do everything as men do, we have just been rather controlling in the weird little power-game that is history to feel superior to women even though we clearly are not.) He had skill; he had to have skill to make a living trading in his artwork. He couldn’t just splash some paint on to a canvas and say it was abstract. I feel old starting a rant like this but; “these days” you don’t have to actually have ANY skill whatsoever, you just have to pay people to make the art for you then claim it as yours because you thought of it. It has been called “the art of not making” along with some much less flattering names. You may have gleaned with your heightened sense of perception that I am against this general state of affairs. You would be absolutely correct.
I get angry about this, I also feel jealousy bubbling away below the surface as these people who are often considered “great artists of our time” and their art is seen by millions of people whilst truly skilled people get overlooked. It is unfair but that is life. I wonder what the history books will say about this era concerning the artistic movement. You can’t really call it the “Untalented Movement” or the “I wanted to be an artist so that is what I will do regardless of my actual ability to draw or sculpt or do anything useful movement”… that last one isn’t particularly catchy.
I feel torn asunder in my own argument sometimes because I believe such things as ‘found objects’ can be art if placed in the right context or if you are made to perceive them in a different way. The artist never claims those pieces as his/her own work or idea, they did not commission that piece to be made for their cause. In my head I suppose this is the difference between people of no talent who claim the right as artist to something someone else makes whereas the artist who can cause you to perceive something ordinary as extraordinary has a talent in their ability to change your perception.
So yes, the gallery. (This will not be the most linear thing you will read in your life, but you’re not my English Teacher and hopefully you actually want to be reading this so in theory you shouldn’t give a damn.) They had some beautiful examples of Japanese belt adornments, yes they have a proper name but I have a terrible memory which is why I took notes!
I have had a fascination with the English variety of these things which don’t appear to have a collective name but tended to be highly decorated perfume bottles or tobacco pouches. To see the same things but from a different culture was of particular interest to me, they had a name for each piece of it, the clasp at the top which attached it to the belt was intricately carved, the bead separating the clasp from the box or bottle had its own story and the boxes themselves were awe inspiringly beautiful. The concept of spending so much time, care and money on something so small and functional is almost alien to me coming from the mass-production era and the throw-away society in which we now live.