Friday, January 16, 2009


III : Frames

In truth, as will be seen, not nearly as bold or preposterous a claim as my rampantly iconoclastic ego would like to enjoy.

Go and ask a random adult to draw you a picture of their pet cat or sister or their house (or favourite sexual position) or something, and they're going to say, 'I can't draw'. Hang on a second, what the hell was that? Can't draw?? Can't draw after a decade and a half in schools doing art classes, years in college and university, all that nurturing and tutoring from family and friends?! Of course, my fake indignation is as unnecessary as the answer is predictable. Because yes, most human adults cannot draw, let alone paint with a brush in oils, or sculpt from blocks of marble. (Well, I know there are some people who can do these things, but we'll come to them later.) You know, it's as if there were powerful forces preventing it, which is especially curious because everyone, as a young child, used to be able to draw until those obstructions appeared.

If I was tutoring a group of art undergraduates (and they should praise their respective deities that I'm not), as an instructive cognitive learning experiment, I'd get them to spend time in different painting classes. Firstly, with a group of 7-8 year olds, and then with a group of beginner adults, the task being simply to compare and contrast.

Speaking generally, it's amazing how passionately children care about painting, just like dear Congo: the degree of kinesthetic creative absorption in their activity is quite extraordinary, and a joy to be part of. And one small detail that I'd hope at least one of these recalcitrant undergrads would spot is how kids use the whole paper to paint on, whereas adults won't. The oldies feel some unconscious urge to incorporate frames of blank space around their work - it's the same phenomenon in amateur photography, where the subjects are small, engulfed in frames which reduce emotional impact (arbitrary examples).

The notion of frames might seem trivial. However, since I intend to propose that the factors that make for special art are almost entirely invisible, it's significant. Extremely significant.

continue to part 4

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