Monday, 7 June 2004

...But I know it when I see it

At the spring exhibition of a local art group the other day I heard that some artists had cancelled their memberships because they felt that some of the paintings being hung were of such a low standard - "not art", in fact. Artists are an intolerant lot.

But certainly - as at any art exhibition - among the many pictures on the walls which demonstrated substantial talent there were a few ugly and unskilled daubs.

I spoke to the painter of several of the former kind and we tried to work out how one could define art, or at least recognise it. We agreed that it was unlikely that we could find an answer since greater experts have spent a lifetime trying to do so, and failed.

Afterwards it occurred to me that the answer is really much the same as the one given by A.E.Housman when asked for a definition of poetry. He replied that he could no more define poetry than a terrier could define a rat, but that he thought that both he and the terrier recognised the object by the symptoms it provoked in them.


Rethabile said...

I think most poets do in fact define poetry by means of what it does to them. 'What's poetry? It's something that does this and that and those to me,' and not, 'Poetry is this and that and those.'

"A poem begins with a lump in the throat; a home-sickness or a love-sickness. It is a reaching-out toward expression; an effort to find fulfillment. A complete poem is one where an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found the words." [ Robert Frost ]Thanks for visiting On English.
I'll be back.

Tony said...

Well, maybe. But all that could apply equally to art, prose, music, or even claret. It doesn't help someone like me who is not much moved by poetry but loves verse: what's the difference?
I look forward to hearing more from you, though perhaps not on this topic.

Rethabile said...

I look forward to hearing more from you, though perhaps not on this topic.Surprise me. On which topic would you like us to exchange?

Tony said...

Well, I dunno. It's just that you said I'll be back which I took to mean that you had further tidings to impart, and as you're a poet and I'm not much interested in poetry I hoped you would not pursue that line.
Anything about words, of course. You've looked at Other Men's Flowers so you'll have seen the sort of thing that turns me on (now there's a vulgar expression). But don't worry about writing to me - I'm following On English and will put my two penn'orth in whenever it seems appropriate.

Rethabile said...

Oh, I do love poetry, as well as many other things. Art in general, politics, sport, languages in general.