The Beauty of Imperfection. I learnt something today. Every day is a school day, but suddenly it made sense - of what I try to do. It is something that gets lost in the glossy slick of cool art that spreads like a contagion: photo-based, photo-shopped, photo-realist, minimalism, film/video, conceptual and/or installations, not excluding all that relies on novelty. It might or might not be art, but is it enough just to say ‘contemporary’ or ‘original’? as justification; art with a shiny face, which values presentation and technique more than substance; or just a show that relies on cleverness and trumpets this.
There is so much trickery, and, yes, it is often very good (all the best tricks are of course or they wouldn’t be tricks) - it is how tricksy folk manipulate us.
I saw the French film about Pierre-Auguste Renoir last night, and although I thought it lost its way and got stuck with his son Jean's love affair with the old painter's model, Renoir said a thing which stuck with me: "Art is about making something with your hands that lasts for ever."
So, what was it that made such sublime sense...
...The Japanese art of repairing broken pots, and thereby making them even more alluring by a process called Kintsugi (‘golden joinery’, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kintsugi). It develops the beauty of flaws and scars and the tale they tell. [Samurai would display their battle wounds for much the same reason]
Nothing can be perfect or even aspire to it. Least of all in art and science, because it's a never-ending story. Science and art are merely a stage we are at any one time, but if one thing doesn't connect to another there is no continuity and things exist in isolation.
All the while I was doing science, I was fascinated and intrigued by Fine Art, especially painting. In science you create a hypothesis, and then try to disprove it. If you fail, the hypothesis can be accepted. It is how good research science proceeds. In art I was also unwittingly following the trail of imperfection. Finding beauty in the faults – since they lead to truth. I didn’t know why but I wanted to shout “You are fooling yourself!” at those who preferred the slick and the unctuous, the easy answer; at those who were trying to prove their hypothesis rather than disprove it.
How much better a title “The Beauty of Imperfection” would be for my exhibition (“The Constructed Female”) at The Plough Arts Centre in November, because that is exactly what it’s about: our attempt to assuage imperfection (as we perceive it) that influences the quest for self-improvement. It is a futile but wonderful quest.
Painting is the ancient medium and the modern message. No matter the reward, I won’t produce slick and tidy work that tries to trick the eye (trompe l’oeil) and/or be something it isn’t. Nice and shiny and smooth things are often deceptive. For me real visual art is about messy thick smelly textural oil paint on good wholesome organic canvas, old doors, wood or cardboard. I glory in a sequence that dates back 35,000 years. Frank Auerbach said “There are too many pictures in the world”. He is right; there are too many pictures, but not enough, it seems to me, paintings.
My 'ambition', if such it is, is to encourage those who cannot or will not get beyond a surface into seeing and feeling much more.
Some might regard my work as traditional (in a bad way) or non-contemporary. So be it. But I will protest, for my method is truly contemporary; developed over 30 years of empiricism, of trial and error, often with homemade tools, with edges left unpainted and raw - the work’s own signature. Framed, if at all, in simple non-expensive wood, or frames rescued from god know where but always essentially unpretentious. So, let’s exchange work, sell it cheaply, and give it away to anyone who appreciates The Beauty of the Imperfect. Thereby it lives.
Above all, let life not defeat us, that is the job of death.