Thursday, February 25, 2010


I went to an opening at an art gallery recently. I didn’t stay long. The series of paintings on display were not to my liking – abstract expressionist, I think you might call them. On a background of very dark colors, the artist had tossed, splashed, squirted, squiggled or otherwise applied lines and blots of paint. And none of those bits in very appealing colors or in recognizable shapes.

I understand that so-called abstract expressionists want you to observe the results of their action; and because those results are so abstract, so lacking in meaning in themselves, the viewer has to supply his own meaning without assistance from the artist. Imagine holding a conversation with yourself without being aware of what you’re saying or what you might reply. No wonder the paintings remind me of Rorschach inkblots, except that no one calls them art.

What then is art if it doesn’t communicate? I believe art is a shared experience, one that affects both the artist and his audience. (I almost said the maker and the consumer!) If the link doesn’t exist, is it art? Paint on a canvas, matter in a space, words on a page.

Words on a page. I love what James Joyce did with words in Finnegan’s Wake. That doesn’t make it a novel. I’m intrigued by what Christian Bök did with Eunoia. But that doesn’t make it poetry for me.

For me poetry is communication, a sharing of experience and vision. And if doing that, for that purpose, doesn’t make me an artist …

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