Everybody questions art. You would think art is merely created for admiration, but its not. The average person would describe art as a drawing on a piece of paper, and this quote by Clement Greenberg (1909-1991) suggests why:
“The task of self-criticism became to eliminate from the effects of each art, any and every effect that might conceivably be borrowed from or by the medium of any other art. Thereby, each art would be rendered ‘pure’…”
“Painting is not sculpture – it is two-dimensional;Order now
Painting is not photography – it should not reproduce appearance;
Painting is not literature – it should not tell stories;
Painting is not music – it is silent.”
But if we did believe that art was purely a drawing created by the markings of an ordinary medium (such as a pencil, paint, etc) on a piece of paper, then that would be ignorant. Times have evolved, and everything is becoming more modern, from the way we think, to the things we do, to the things that are being made/designed/thought of, etc. Art is now a much broader term and a lot of the time does not even result in the use of a pencil and paper. Art can comprise of architecture, music, sculpture, magazines, films, and fashion, and those are only a few examples.
On a recent excursion to the Tate Modern, I came across two pieces of art which left me baffled. The first was half a glass of water on a stand, and the second was a large canvas painted completely in grey, which was actually titled ‘Grey’ by Gerhard Richter.
I looked at both and could not understand why anyone would consider this to be art. It just seemed so simple and effortless, and as though anybody could accomplish an exact replica. What exactly is the meaning and the concept behind something so ludicrous? What could have possibly triggered a person to think ‘I will paint a canvas grey and claim it to be a piece of artwork’. Where has the passion and thought gone? The ideas, the detail, and the complexity that we crave to marvel at?
During a lecture a few months back, we were informed of artist Paul Klee’s description of art, which is that it begins with the foundation of a single point. It is where all pictorial form begins, with the point that sets itself in motion. The point then leads to a line, then the two-dimensional plane, followed by the three-dimensional.
“Vertical and horizontal lines are the expression of two opposing forces; these exist everywhere and dominate everything” – Piet Mondrian, 1921.
And if we reminisce back to the times of the Pre-homosapians, they made images on surfaces that mean something, like on caves – the meanings of these images were unknown. We are unsure as to whether they were for any specific purpose, for admiration, for communication, or any other reason. But it is interesting that art goes back all those centuries ago, and that it was possible to create without the use of a pencil and a piece of paper.
In my experience and opinion, art is anything. It can be created to cause controversy, to view, to sell, to buy, to create, to design, to question, to interpret, to admire, to disapprove, or to judge. It can be displayed for personal use or for society’s use.
So to conclude from this information, art really is anything and everything. If it is correct that it all begins with the point, then paintings, sculptures, architecture, and fashion should all be considered art. A painting has to begin with the point of a medium on a canvas, a sculpture and architecture has to begin with the point of a material, and fashion has to begin with the point of a stitch onto a piece of fabric.
Which leads me on to my next question, is fashion art?
“Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening” Coco Chanel.
In my opinion yes, fashion is art. But who decides? Fashion is not usually put in a gallery – although a notable exception is the Victoria and Albert Museum, with an excellent costume gallery.
But then is fashion simply just what we wear? Fashion is usually trends which have been disseminated from the catwalks to the high street, rather than cutting-edge couture that is beyond most budgets. But then again, is that Monet poster on your wall not art? It may be a reproduction of the painting, but it is still art, isn’t it? And what about your Topshop dress. Is that art? Well, perhaps a reproduction of it. After all, clothes are designed, created, and displayed on the catwalk in a series of stages comparable to that of the production of a work of art.
What about Tracy Emin’s ‘My Bed’, is it art? Is Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain (a urinal which he signed with a pseudonym) art? Well if you disagree then you may have to reconsider your decision as it was voted the most influential 20th century artwork in 2004. These works are both acclaimed and slated, and yet there is probably less actual artistic work in them than in a Stella McCartney outfit. Perhaps fashion is just craftsmanship? But then, surely so is painting, sculpture and architecture, requiring specific skills to produce, and yet few people would argue that they do not constitute an artistic endeavour.
Fortuny’s tiny pleats of the 1920s (practically unwearable but certainly beautiful) were like Grecian sculptures: detailed, handmade pieces that represented a life’s work. In the 1970s, Jean Muir’s flowing silk jersey dresses gave women the chance to look like Pre-Raphaelite heroines. The eclecticism of Biba’s lifestyle/fashion emporium gave the women of the 60s and 70s the chance to dress up in bohemian exotic clothes. So perhaps fashion imitates art? After all, it uses similar processes – in thought, as well as in the design, and the actual making. It takes years to build a structure in architecture, and it can also take years to create a piece of clothing worthy for the catwalk.
“Art is what you can get away with” – Andy Warhol.
This is exactly what fashion is too. Coco Chanel said that fashion “is a matter of proportions”, which is one of the significant rules of art: architecture, painting, sculpture, and no doubt other arts too, such as music and poetry. In fact, catwalk reports often describe sartorial embellishments as “architectural”, shoes as “towering”, colours as “rich and textured” – art critics and fashion critics use the same language. For example, Vogue reporting on the Miu Miu Spring/Summer catwalk talks of jewelled palettes and clean lines, while the Galliano report talks of Faberge eggs, gold leaf and vibrant primaries.
Art is something we can admire, argue about, love or hate – but we cannot take it home with us except as a postcard. Fashion is something we can have the same kind of relationship with, but on an even more personal level, because wearable art, art we can actually wrap around us and go out in, actually becomes us.
So in a sense, fashion is all around us. Compared to actual art, as in paintings, (which you usually have to view in a gallery) we see fashion everyday, it is everywhere. The complete picture is what makes it art – not just the label, but the handbag, the hair, the makeup, the shoes, as well as the dress. These are the tiny dots of paint that make up the overall work of art, and as depicted from my lecture, all art begins with a point on a surface.
But because we see it everyday, does that make it less valuable, or less inclined to be considered as art? I would say the answer to that is no. Architecture and sculptures are seen everyday, and these are considered as a major part of the artistic world.
Fashion is very much of its time. It is always about the current season, and what is coming next. It is an ever-changing industry, and even though certain attire does go out of fashion, something from the past always comes back. For example; Leg Warmers are back on the market, from the 80s to the 21st Century. There are so many possibilities, and there are no rules and regulations to fashion, which in that sense compares it to art (particularly in terms of paintings).