Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I Heart Art

Over the weekend, the husband and I went to the Affordable Art Fair at Battersea Park.

Yes, that's what it's called, "The Affordable Art Fair".  Not a very snazzy or creative title, considering it's for an event to do with creativity and the appreciation of it.  But, hey, at least we all get the picture. :)

All works were priced between GBP40-4000.  All you have to do is set your budget and take your pick.  It cost GBP15 to enter the giant marquee, and it was an eye-opener to see people seriously shopping for art, walking away happily with bulky, brown-paper packages tied up in strings.  (And all together now: "These are a few of my favourite things!"  Sorry, I digress.)

So inside the giant marquee is a slew of art galleries setting up temporary shop, flaunting their best and favourite pieces, as well as a small exhibition of recent art graduates' work.  Original paintings, sculptures, photography, prints... we had a field day.  It was enjoyable just to see what's out there.

Vanessa Cooper.  Sun Bowl.  Oil on board.  60X60cm. 

Trevor Price.  Noah's Ark.  Etching with chine colle.  Edition of 100.  30X36cm. 

The atmosphere of the entire affair was so relaxed, so casual, which made appreciating art refreshingly accessible.  And I was thinking to myself, what is the Singapore  leg of this event like (where art is a bit of a conundrum/struggle for the government to develop/non-existent phenomena.)?

In Singapore, I find art appreciation seems to be somewhat confined to 1. those who can afford it (which gives it  a factor of snootery), and 2. those who have some far-out new-fangled concept/medium (art is not art if it's not hyper-creative).  Basically, with reference to the term "arty-farty", it takes a lot of fart to make it Art.  The more inaccessible it is, the more artistic it is, and that's what makes it Art. Which probably explains why the government is having such a hard time convincing people to appreciate the Arts.  Simply because no one has a goddamned clue of what Art is.  Plus, few people find it not-very-profitable most-of-the-time.

Kheng Li-Wee.  Bamboo Grove.  Archival digital print.  Edition of 35.  61X77cm. 

Ron Lawson.  Struan Cottage.  Watercolour and gouache.  13X20 inches.

There always seems to be this need for "success", and by "success" I mean financial gain, be it in terms of making a living as an artist, or buying art as an investment.  It's this obsession with monetary gain that is the bane of art in Singapore.  Which probably explains why everyone (including the government) try too hard.  I mean, what good is it to say "Right, we're gonna get into art, and get people into art, and I'll give you the money for it.  Do it.  NOW.  And remember what you can say and cannot say." (I shall not elaborate on the last sentence, because the government is not very happy about any critical information concerning Them.)

Alice Sheppard Fidler.  Nasturtiums in a Small Bottle.  Oil on board.  13X18cm.

Work of recent graduate, Esmeralda Dominguez Pueyo

Whether it's big or small,  realist or abstract, paint or print, cheap or expensive, we all don't just like what we like, and make/paint/buy something just because we like it.  We are hardwired to calculating "What's in it for me? Ka-ching"/ "How can I make this worth more? Ka-ching"/ "Excuse me, exactly how many dollars??"/ "OMG, are you sure it's OK to say that???"

More importantly, I think the government has failed to realise that the Arts is more about self-expression than about having the funds to be creative. In an environment with as much censure as there is in Singapore, Art basically has a snowball's chance in Hell.  I'm not saying that we all become libertines and dance around stark naked with body paint tomorrow.  But if you're constantly being checked and guided, guided and checked, there is no way a people is going to be truly creative, and/or learn how to be appreciative of creativity.

Honestly, there should be a less stolid perspective towards Art, and simply more of a "hey, I really love how this looks!" and "ooh, I like the way you think!"  After all, Art is, well, just Art. (The word is looking a bit weird now, isn't it? Hehe.)

No, I haven't said anything substantial about what art is.  And the fact that art in Singapore is a tad too strangled, and too attached to being "successful" isn't really new.  But, hey, at least I got it off my chest. ;)

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