Wednesday, 2 December 2009

A is for Art

guernica, originally uploaded by leonardo.bonanni.

What is Art? Throughout the ages, Art has been differentiated into various categories – caricature, cubism, chiaroscuro…the list goes on. There are ongoing debates of what constitutes as art. A pickled shark - is this Art? An unmade bed - is this Art? Some may argue that these examples aren't, but I believe that Art is very much a concept that can only be appreciated on a personal level. As with many things in life, "one man's food is another man's poison".

A few years ago, I visited the Tate Modern for the first time. I had never been to a gallery of this size before, and was completely overwhelmed – I’ll go as far as to say that I did, in fact, shed a single tear (good thing my friend didn’t see this!). Over the years, I had gained the illusion that galleries were quiet places, where you could probably hear a pin drop. On this day, it was the contrary – at one point I was nearly mowed down by a group of Spanish exchange students who clearly had a very busy schedule for the day, which obviously included asking locals “do you know where the station is?” in their best simulated English accent. I enjoyed the experience but had one regret – we seemed to have sped past a few key paintings that I had wanted to see.

From a very young age, I became interested in Art. The moment of realisation came when I was in Year 4 in school (ie. around 8/9 years old). In my lower school, we would have a different theme each academic year. That year, that theme was Artists - this meant that every class in the entire school was named after an artist and had to learn about them. The accumulated knowledge on the chosen artist would be illustrated by creating various displays for the rest of the school to see. This year, my class was called Picasso. As a class, we had to recreate a large version of the painting Guernica (as seen above). A copy of the mostly monochrome painting was printed onto an A3-sized sheet of paper, and subsequently divided into numerous equal segments. Each pupil was given one of the segments, and was told to copy what we saw onto a sheet of A4-sized paper, whilst comparing with the pupils whose segments "joined" theirs, to make sure the picture didn't seem too fragmented.

The piece I had received was of a woman facing upwards, seemingly writhing in pain due to the loss of her child; it was distorted and quite complex (well, for a child at least). My teacher had told me to wait for a little while, so that she may give everyone their painting segments and then help me draw it. Ten, seemingly long, minutes had elapsed during which my teacher gave out all the segments, as well as paper, pencils, rubbers, rulers, chalk and charcoal, whilst simultaneously answering questions as rapidly as she could. When she finally reached me, I had already finished the drawing. I can still picture the surprise on her face as her eyes scanned both the little segment and my drawing. It was this moment when I, and my teacher, discovered that I was quite good at observational drawing.

I swiftly finished "colouring-in" the drawing, shading and blending the charcoal and chalk. There was still over an hour left until home-time. I was bored. My teacher could see this, and asked me to help some of my fellow pupils who were struggling. I helped with a foot, a sword, a hoof, and part of a bull's head. A few days went by, and each of our drawings were carefully placed together to make one big display in one of the corridors. Being children, none of us really thought of "the big picture", as we were all concerned with completing our own little parts.

It wasn't the prettiest pieces of artwork; some of my peers commented that it looked ugly. I, on the other hand, found it moving. After everyone had left to go to the playground, I was left standing, gazing at it - even at the age of nine, the painting spoke to me. I didn't really know anything about wars at this age, except for when "Poppy Day" came along, but this painting taught me things that a textbook couldn't. It taught me about the pain and suffering of war. It taught me that different people in different countries experience very different lives. It taught me that we take things for granted in everyday life. These were concepts that I had never previously encountered during my infancy.

Ever since that day, I would throw myself into any piece of artwork that I could get my hands on. Paint, graphite, oil pastels, chalk, charcoal…my hands would constantly be covered and stained with these substances. Unfortunately, this came to an abrupt stop in my very late teens, due to a very heavy load of schoolwork. I was unable to spend my free time with this hobby =(

It was only recently when I decided that enough was enough – I promised myself that I would dedicate at least an hour a week to do some drawing. Here is my first attempt, which took quite a few hours (I probably spent more time on the hair that anything else!). Hopefully, this will be a weekly occurrence, where I’ll be gradually building a collection.

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