Kevin Buckle: Snobbery is stifling art we can all enjoy

I was chatting to some of my artist friends based at the Tron market who are still not sure whether they will homeless after Christmas and they brought up again the problems they have as 'normal' artists. Normal may not be the best description but I knew exactly what they meant.

Saturday, 25th November 2017, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 6th December 2017, 11:50 am
The normal artists based at the Tron still dont know if they will be homeless after Christmas, Picture: Neil Hanna

The problem these artists have is that their work is popular. Not, unfortunately, so popular that they can sell enough to make a good living but they scrape by supplementing their income either selling other things or having second jobs.

They make jewellery, reasonably priced, that people actually want to buy. They paint and draw pictures that folk actually recognise and would hang on their wall. They generally don’t claim there is any deep meaning in their work but then again they don’t need to explain what it is they have created.

Now when I was in infant school and you had finished your sums or reading, they would give you pencils and crayons and let you draw as a treat. I never understood how this was a treat. I wanted more sums to do and more books to read. I couldn’t draw at all and was allowed to read the encyclopedias instead.

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So yes, I admit, I am easily impressed and marvel at the work of illustrators in particular, but then again when confronted by some everyday objects cobbled together and told it’s art I don’t feel the need to just nod and agree. Sometimes there is a fine line between what I’m told is art and Spirograph. On one occasion, it turned out it was Spirograph and what made it art was the artist saying so.

Model-making has the same problem and when artists start dressing up in costumes and filming themselves to create work, I really do give up. I have friends who have tried to explain and seemingly what makes something art can be the statement it is making. Fair enough if that statement is clear, but if it has to be explained then again I fail to see the art in it.

Other times the statement might be quite clear but the message so facile that it would be embarrassing in a junior school art competition. I understand how messages and feelings can be conveyed by art, and music is a perfect medium for that and yet it often seems to be looked down upon by the art intelligentsia.

Of course, a good photograph can also get over a message or stir feelings in people. Unfortunately in these days of cameras on phones the art of photography has also lost importance.

I’m certainly not saying that all contemporary art galleries should close tomorrow. What I’m saying is maybe other art forms should get a fair crack of the whip. The reason so many of these artists are able to produce work and then exhibit it is because of the many grants that are received and you will see them proudly acknowledging all the various artistic bodies that have contributed.

Therein lies the clue. Mostly they are producing work that few will appreciate and even less will see. I understand the enjoyment people get from creating art in any form and that certainly is to be encouraged. In this case the same principles apply to music. Many folk can write and perform songs but they have no right to expect people to want to hear those songs or pay for them.

Music is currently faced with a situation in which even those artists worthy of your pennies are denied them because everything is easily accessible for free. Now it is so easy to make music available to a wider audience.

As has happened with classical music and opera, there is an unreasonable bias with art towards something enjoyed by a tiny minority of the public. Maybe it is about time that all artists were given an equal platform to exhibit. Those who currently out of the fold may well have work that people might actually want to buy take home and enjoy.