Werner Popken on art and more

January 10, 2007

Male or Female?

Filed under: Art,Blogroll,Culture,Kultur,Kunst,Leben,Life,Personal,Thoughts — Werner Popken @ 6:53 pm

Cutout from No. › 292  (private property) · © Copyright Werner Popken · © Copyright Werner Stürenburg

Cutout from No.  292 (private property)

Don’t be mistaken by my post of yesterday — money isn’t really everything, and it definitely isn’t a valid measure for art unless you put time into the equation.

Again, proof is easy. Every now and then, we witness weird fashions. Everybody must have this or that, and this applies to art as well. People try to be different and alike at the same time.

They want to be different from everybody not of their kind, but alike to everybody they consider their peers. And they express their conformity through things and behavior.

Actually, fashion is just that: If you own this, then you belong to us. I don’t care for what you have, because I own different things, and by acting so I really mean: I don’t care for you.

Therefore, things adopt meanings and importance that is not inherent in them. And everything that might be used for that end will be used, art included. As an artist, to become famous, one of the ways always has been to cling to the wealthy and seemingly important people and to try to please them. And they used artists and their art to distinguish themselves from others. You can please snobs by offending them, no problem, maybe this is the only way. So scandalizing society has been a foolproof recipe for more than a century and maybe it still is.

This way art may be valued for wrong reasons, and as soon as the fashions change, the value of the art which has been used for wrong reasons wanes, and sometimes it wanes pretty fast. Examples for this phenomenon are known from many centuries and many societies. Hence the amount of money somebody has paid for a picture doesn’t prove its value, and the fact that nobody is interested to pay anything for a picture doesn’t prove that it isn’t of any value either. Again, there are plenty of examples, and some of them belong to the urban legend of the artist genius, poor and misunderstood and unknown until his death. This legend is so strong that most people believe that artists are poor by definition. They may believe, for example, that Picasso was poor until his high age, but actually it was only a few years that he was poor. He was very wealthy before 1910 already and never suffered from the lack of money ever since. In fact, all of the famous artists of our time are really, really rich, and most of the time most of the artists had the same fate.

This isn’t very surprising, because most people believe that they “cannot draw” just like most people believe that they “cannot compute”. Artistic and mathematical talent are thought to be inherited, something which sits in the genes. And if you have some rare gift you can impress others with, you can be pretty sure that they will reward you for that special ability.

If art is valued for something else, you have to wait until this something else is stripped off. And this is what time does invariably. When fashion has gone, all that is left is the work proper. And if nobody is interested in it any more, this may be forever. But if there is something that is really valuable, we believe that one day somebody will come who will see that value and tell the world about it. Again, examples are well-known.

To be able to see value you have to be educated. This sounds complicated, but it isn’t. Education is inevitable. If you are interested in something and care about it, you will gain knowledge. You will become a connoisseur pretty fast. And you will know. You might not be able to talk about it or justify your judgment, but you’re sure that there is no doubt about it. And this is why you will pay pretty much money if you can afford it. So here money comes into play. You pay the money not for wrong reasons, but for the work of art as such.

Okay, this was just an afterthought to my musings of yesterday. Another one must be added: The hero to the question “Who am I” was male. Is this politically correct? Of course not. Man is not male, man is not female either. Man is just male or female, at least in general. There are cases where you maybe in doubt, but these are really a minority. So the question still arises if artists are male, and if they are, if they should represent themselves as male or not.

Now there is little doubt these days that females are pretty much the same and pretty much different from males. This sounds contradictory, but it isn’t. Males and females are very different creatures, so different that you might ask how they manage to communicate at all. On the other hand, they’re capable of pretty much the same things. We had examples of artists or scientists of equal qualification. There are still many more male movers, but this is not so much a question of capabilities but rather opportunities and preferences.

Okay then, there are good and bad artists, and there are good and bad male and female artists. If an artist paints a picture that maybe comprehended as a statement about man — does that mean that the figure the artist is using has to be of the same sex? I don’t think so. Well, sex is an enigmatic quality anyway, and frankly, I don’t know how we recognize somebody as male or female. We do, and in most cases we don’t hesitate and in almost all cases we are correct. Imagine that! How do we do that?

Try to judge the sex of a horse just by looking at the overall picture, and you know what I mean. The differences of the sexes in humans are so obvious that we can find out at very far distances. The situation is even more complicated as we have any varying degree of maleness in females and vice versa. You most certainly know any number of examples. Also, we are not what we look like, but we rather are the persons we feel inside, some invisible quality, and this person has its own mixture of sexes as well.

Some psychologists believe that everybody is a mixture of female and male components, and some esoteric people believe that everybody has been reborn numerous times as man and woman, and although the do not know exactly, they basically know about the other side more or less. In my case, central figures are very often male, but not always. The above picture is one example of a person which is most definitely female. And again it is only a part of a painting (No.  292), comprising other persons as well and some other stuff in addition. So the question of “Who am I” is definitely not restricted to male people, and it is not the sex of the artist which defines the sex of the hero representing some kind of deeper meaning.

Meaning — this is a keyword. We have seen artists trying to produce art without meaning. That’s not easy, and maybe it was worthwhile to try it. But actually art is not about meaninglessness, rather the contrary. Art maybe comprehended as a means to understand our world and find meaning hitherto unknown and otherwise incomprehensible. This special kind of meaning is what people pay for. You rather feel this meaning than understand it.

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