BUT IS IT ART?
One aftermath of the highly publicised London warehouse fire which destroyed so many modern British art works has been the re-opening in popular journalism of the debate about art. What is art, and what is good art? Was the fire, as Tracy Emin described it "The Great British Art Disaster"? Or was it, as some headlines cried, just the timely burning of a load of rubbish?
Is the quality of a work of art in the idea, or in the finished article? Can a brilliant creative idea be brilliant art if the finished result has no craft?
If the value is in the idea, why not just re-create works which have been destroyed? Is this not especially so if, as in the case of an artist like Damien Hirst, the finished piece is not actually made by the artist at all, but by technicians?
On the other hand, if the value resides in the finished article, and can therefore never be replaced, what does that say about an embroidered tent, or a decorated beach hut, or elephant dung, as valuable and collectable works of art?
What if the warehouse had contained Rembrants and Da Vincis? What if, as in another fire this week, a fireman had died?
Did Emin put it in perspective when she sent a text message saying, "I was OK now I'm HURT. BUT NO ONE DIED and IDEAS CONTINUE. The WAR in ARAQ is WRONG" (spelling was never her strong suit). Does art, and the destruction of art, really matter given everything else that is going on in the world?
In the end that depends on whether you think art has anything to say about what is going on in the world.
At least one exhibitor at the Hebden Bridge Arts Festival, Paula Rego, had work destroyed in the fire (though thankfully not the collection which is coming to the Festival).
Rego's art has much to say about the darker side of the human condition, and particularly the female condition. If you saw the image of the woman in the tub in her previous exhibition you will have been vividly reminded of this. It has been said that "every picture tells her story" Her "Jane Eyre" pictures, which will be on show at the Artsmill Gallery in Linden Mill, challenge us to think again about a familiar story, and things we take for granted. Just look at the stance of the woman in the publicity literature - who is she, and what is going on there?
Why not take time out of your comfort zone this year to see if you are challenged, and to make up your own mind about art, by checking out some of the exhibitions on offer in the Arts Festival? In addition to Paula Rego, there is an installation called "Sit, sit, standing" by local artist Alan Gummerson at the Hourglass Gallery (plus exhibits at Land farm Gallery and the New Delight pub, both in Colden) and collections of works by various local artists at studios, galleries and other venues throughout the area. Full details of dates and times are in the Festival programme or on the Festival website (www.hebdenbridge.co.uk/festival). Why not write to this paper with your views on "Is it art?"(after you have seen for yourself, of course)