Artist and prize-winning potter, Grayson Perry, has been busy during the lock-down. A social butterfly by nature, oft-spotted at Royal Academy parties sporting a little girl Alice in Wonderland look, last night he and his wife hosted an hour-long TV programme on Channel 4 encouraging us to take up portrait painting and drawing. Yes, really, and comedian Joe Lycett (briefly called Hugo Boss) quickly produced a very convincing one of the UK’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty.
Earlier this month on BBC Radio 4 I caught a repeat of a Reith Lecture Mr Perry gave in Liverpool in 2013. Chaired by Sue Lawley, its title was ‘Beating the Bounds’ where they were to discuss what the boundaries of art are, and can it be anything we like from a pile of sweets to a soundscape?. Interestingly, he disagrees saying, ‘’we’re in a state now where anything goes. But the thing is, I think there are boundaries still about what can and cannot be art, but the limits are softer – they’re fuzzier. And I think they’re not formal – any thing can be art, I’m quite happy to engage with that intellectual idea – but I think the boundaries are sociological, tribal, philosophical, and maybe even financial.’’
This then set me thinking about other multi-purpose media and whether they too can be classed as art. Here I’m thinking of technical analysis, a subject where clear rules exist, the purpose to make profitable investments, and an exciting jigsaw puzzle to boot. Some exponents adhere rigidly to computer generated models and Artificial Intelligence, other to rules based on famous names like Dow, Elliott and Gann. I and many others operate with a mish-mash of tools, usually based on previous experience.
Which reminded me of a fantastic exhibition of Australian aboriginal art I’d seen years ago. So inspired was I that I bought a glossy book with the title ‘Mr Sandman Bring Me a Dream’ published by Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd, Alice Springs. In his foreword Clifton Pugh expresses his excitement of seeing a 5’ by 5’ canvas in ‘the Government Aboriginal settlement, a litter of broken-windowed houses’. They ‘produce a living art; teaching panels of their country; the effects of drought, rain, where food grows at certain times of year, the sacred areas, the places where permanent water can be found, the history of their own individual tribes; they are the first painters of abstract art’.
There are many ways of expressing ourselves – many languages really – where some are more elegant and attractive than others. I’d put my charts and skill at reading them right up there in the pantheon of these.
The book jacket painting is by Turkey Tolson Tjupurrula of the Pintupi tribe.
The circular one by Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri of the Anmatjera.