My cousin is married to an exceptional artist. A man that can sit at an easel and paint or draw what he sees in front of him. Another old acquaintance prefers to work in water colours and is also an accomplished and highly regarded sculptor in precious metals and is an honourable member of goldsmiths.
These are what most people’s perception or description of an artist may be. During a recent edition of the radio programme Desert Island Discs a musician of renown was described by the presenter as an ‘artist’. Her guest took mild issue with this description of himself saying that he’d always thought that an artist is someone who only draws or paints, not someone who makes music. President Kennedy once stated, during his famous ‘moon’ speech that whatever the mind can conceive man will achieve. Based on this and my own humble opinion on the definition of art, anyone who imagines anything that they then make manifest from nothing is an artist, be it music, painting or any creative activity. John Lennon and Yoko Ono were once in negotiation with the powers that be at Coventry Cathedral to plant acorns in the Cathedral grounds as an ‘art-piece’ testifying to the ‘conceptual’ growth of peace. At first there had been somewhat heated discussions as to the artistic merits of such an ‘event’. Eventually, following Ono’s insistence that the Cathedral authorities contact the artist Henry Moore as reference to her artistic credentials they relented and allowed the ‘happening’ to take place. Incidentally, some would argue that even Moore’s sculptures have no artistic value, and that many modern successful artists are cheating by employing others in a workshop environment to produce their work on their behalf. Yet on another level this is only akin to a composer using a 40 piece orchestra to bring their work to life. Tracey Emin made many people cringe with her ‘Unmade Bed’ and Damien Hirst astounded the world with his animals in formaldehyde. In my view neither of these are works of art as they are merely the rearrangement of things that already exist, ‘works’ not too dissimilar to the ‘Pile of Bricks’. Some will naturally disagree with this view, and so they should: that is the beauty of the perception of all art. Music still suffers from catergorisation mainly to suit the output and prejudice of all forms of media: in particular radio. Imagine tuning into a radio station that played Led Zeppelin, Rachmaninoff, Miles Davis, The Who, Prokofieff and The Wanted. For me that would be radio heaven: all the genres simply recognized as ‘noises’ that please. Yet this would be no different from displaying Emin alongside Constable, Warhol, and Monet. But would it work? Above all, who’s to say that it would or wouldn’t work? No individual or organisation should have the right to dictate taste in any form to any audience without treading on dangerous ground. Perhaps its time to merge the Tate with the National: it might work.