Sunday, 10 August 2014

Ways to Frame

I’m currently staying at my grandma’s, meaning full access to her voluminous shelves. There are tomes on photography, art, sculpture… You name the form, she’ll have several publications on it. When I was younger I’d spend hours flicking through the heavy texts devoted to Surrealism and Art Deco – primarily attracted because I found the creations intriguing or, quite a lot of the time, beautiful.

I was reminded of this a few days ago when reading this fabulous Guardian column by Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett taking issue with Jake Chapman’s comments that children shouldn’t be taken to galleries because they can’t understand what they are seeing. She finished with this resounding statement:

“Art teaches us what it means to be human, and children should be allowed to get in on that, lest they end up a generation of robotic culture secretaries who believe that art is a luxury for the chattering classes, not, in fact, for everyone. And, above all: a necessity.”

She also made the point that an interest in art is seen in various circles as something pretentious within Britain – a meaningless preserve of the privileged few, rather than something that should be accessible (and hopefully enriching) to all.

I’ve been interested for a long time in what is framed as ‘elite’, and think it’s an incredibly complex thing requiring rigorous analysis of everything from cultural values to class stereotypes to educational opportunities to the realities of and privileges (or lack thereof) accorded by one’s socio-economic background.

But beneath all that, there’s a rather simple notion I hold on to (and one Cosslett touches on). Art enhances the way you see the world, regardless of how much you know or can contextualize it. Any learning on top of that is a bonus, a means of adding layers to that first gut response.

Galleries and museums, like libraries, are vital, and should be doing more to get young people from all backgrounds to experience the reward of connecting with and responding to someone else’s work – be it a photo, a sketch, a poem, a book. These are the creations that challenge us, that entertain, amuse, inspire, provoke thought…

I’m aware that I’m immensely fortunate to have been brought up in a family where creativity was, and is, a constant – both in consuming the work of others, and in being encouraged in our own imaginative endeavours. I spent large parts of childhood constructing junk sculptures from the box of ‘making things’ kept under the stairs (think egg boxes, pipe-cleaners and broken CDs), splodging paint around, scribbling stories, making clothes for my Barbies from fabric scraps (you can see the result, rediscovered recently, here). I was also taken to exhibitions and National Trust properties and had more ‘Art Attack’ books than strictly necessary. 

I will always be grateful for the joy all of that gave me. I now love nothing better than an afternoon collaging, or spent wandering around marveling at the glitz and craft in The Wallace Collection, or – as in the case of the last few days – exploring my grandma’s shelves.

The reason for the expanse of her collection is an Open University degree she completed later in life. Having finished formal education in her teens when her family fled Czechoslovakia, but retaining a love of learning throughout her adult years, she went on to study Art History in her fifties. The books on Egon Schiele, Paul Klee, David Hockney, Rembrandt, Miro, Picasso, The Pre-Raphaelites, Matisse and many others are testament to her continual drive to be expanding and thinking and responding.

A particular favourite I’ve located this time is Josef Sudek – a Czech photographer with an intense style both melancholy and dreamy. By turns menacing and fantastical, his monochrome still-lifes, portraits and cityscapes are somehow hard to shake from the head. The outlines, the light, the textures - they tend to linger after snapping shut the cover.

I want to do what my grandma still does – to never get stale, or stop caring or stop learning. The acquisition of knowledge is such an exciting prospect. I want to keep the curiosity that first stirred five year old me – the sometimes inexplicable ‘feeling’ provoked – whilst also sharpening up my thinking, adding in those extra layers of understanding, discovering new ways to frame what I see. 

I love the Mondrian-esque design of the top, bought in a charity shop. The lace skirt is also second hand charity shopped. The velvet DM's were second hand from eBay and the books were pulled from my own shelves. 


Rick Forrestal said...

Great post.

Primrose Bigwood said...

Love this post! Beautiful outfit too! xx

daisychain said...

You belong on the pages of vogue x

Closet Fashionista said...

I really wish I was more into learning. There are so many things I want to know about but I lack the motivation to actually get out there and read something or make myself learn.
But I do agree, art needs to be made more accessible. At least in Britain your museums are free, a lot of ours in the US are not....yuck!

Na z said...

Your posts are always so inspirational keep it up!Love your top so beautiful!

Ivana Split said...

I recently got to spend some time with my grandmother...only a few days, though. How I wish I could spend my entire summer there on the island with her!

My grandmother's house is a source of inspiration in itself...and having cleaned the closets with her last year means that there isn't that much to dig into as far as clothes go but there is always fascinating things to admire...and a wonderful childhood to remember!

I strongly believe children should be exposed to art in some way. Naturally there are things that are not meant to be seen by them but a parent could judge that...we would be depriving them of many thing if we deprive them of art...and who says art is for a privilege few? Children teach us a lesson about creativity with their mere existence...the games they play, the questions they is very important we let them express their creativity.

You do look lovely! I especially like the velvet shoes. I really enjoyed this post, I'm sure your granny is a fabulous lady:)to be interested in everything is perhaps the only real anti-age mechanism available...mental anti-age:)


Melanie said...

When children make art they understand perfectly well what they are seeing; the adults are the idiots. And in a gallery context we praise adults who have tapped into child-like art-making. It's all wonky. Art is a necessity, not an accessory - although I've seen some great artistic accessories! Great post. Your Mondrian-esque top is wow.

Ayantika said...

this top is so versatile!!!


Bong's Belleza

Anova said...

Really lovely outfit! I love the top xo Really beautiful photos!

Anova said...

Really lovely outfit! I love the top xo Really beautiful photos!

Vix said...

I love following children around our art gallery and listening to their observations, they are way more in tune than most adults. xxx

Lola Byatt said...

I hardly ever seem to start a comment with "i just discovered your blog today..." because it does seem that the great ones are ones that I read on a regular basis so I am surprised that your blog hasn't previously been brought to my attention as it's so god damn good. Your pictures alone are enough to spend hours scrolling through your archives but it's your writing that's really captured my heart xxx


Matisse, and Joan Miró are a couple of my favourite artists. I come from a family of painters and architects, so I am thankful to have grown up in a family that appreciates the art world, both literary and perfoming arts as well.
Striking colours in your outfit, I particularly love the velvet shoes, and the mondrian-esque top, almost reminds me slightly of Bauhaus too. Have a great week!

Alex B said...

You are looking as lovely as ever! Never read that silly article now I will and will write my own response. What a bizarre notion! Children should be taken to galleries more often.

Krista Gassib said...

Beautiful writing! I think just as important as exposure to art is why is it that most adults think they are not creative? It's like they let their hyper critical self take over and all creativity stops. Screw perfection just create, appreciate and share. I would die without art or at least wish I was dead.

OrigamiGirl said...

The idea that children shouldn't go to galleries is just such utter crap that I feel fairly convinced that he said it for attention, after all now people are even talking about it in blogs. It is just such an obvious truth that art stimulates, and that it comes naturally to us. Why else do little kids love crayons so much? The question is usually, how do we get more kids into galleries? not, how can we get less? Maybe even, how can we tackle the lack of diversity in attendance and on display. Like you, my parents very much encouraged art. For wedding presents my Dad gave us a painting he'd done and my mum a quilt, and I hope to bring up kids of my own one day with similar artistic freedom and encouragement. I love the way you write about your family with such love and admiration. It's really beautiful, and I'm glad you treasure it.

Cameron Adams said...

What delight to recognize Family Of Man in the second and third images, then to see how well its cover worked your in Mondrianesque scheme.

The Foolish Aesthete said...

Your grandma is an incredible woman, and she must be so proud of you! I count myself extremely fortunate to have grown up in a similar environment, where developing the analytical and the creative were strongly encouraged!

This post resonates so deeply with me. It shaped one of our decisions to move back East to Washington DC. Now, I am engulfed by the arts, by music, by literature, by dance and theater, with all the diversity of its underlying viewpoints ... (I've often discussed with a good friend how homogeneity is akin to death.) Before, as lovely as it all was, I had to make a conscious effort to pursue it - in the face of being (secretly) accused of elitism and snobbery. Now why would people vocally admire the study of wine and gourmet food yet disparage the understanding of art and philosophy? No matter, it has been a wonderful welcome in the East Coast. I have been meeting up with friends and family in art galleries, the opera (where I was so happy to discover that an old friend from my teenage years was the lead tenor!), book & coffee shops or have musical evenings at home. And it's so exciting to explore and discover ballet studios, literary groups, art discussions, and all those amazing details that make life so rich.

I have no doubt you will continue your grandma's example! And I love Piet Mondrian!

- Jenny

Izzy DM said...

1. I love the top, too. And it's a perfect complement to your take on (mostly) modern art.

2. You raise such interesting questions, always. I have several friends who are professional opera singers, and it maddens them that only the old attend their performances, that opera is dying therefore. I know I feel that way about poetry.

3. Which brings me to, I very much agree with the passion and perspective of that article. Art should be for everyone. There must be a space for the divine and the sacred within our lives, so that we may move away from the chatter of High Street in England or Broadway in New York or Main Street in my new small town life and find a greater space within to contemplate all those things which unite us and make us unique, too.

4. I do feel fortunate that as a (half) French citizen, I've never felt pretentious about my love of the arts. I started to experience that perspective as I befriended some wealthier more privileged people at my university first and then in New York, so that disdain for anything viewed as "pretentious" is perniciously present in the States, too, unfortunately.

Great post, Roz! Keep 'em coming :).
Much love,

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