Primer

There’ll be an ‘exhibition’ presentation of artwork manufactured during Working Title in the fortnight after the artists have done. It means a ‘framing’ of those artworks deemed successful, they’ll become distinct with space drawn about them. A ‘highlights’ show – like the post-match analysis on Match of the Day or the ‘do-you-recall’ episode of an American Sitcom. The unused scrap will be removed. Aborted works will be chucked. The gallery will be tidied, attention refocused on the product, no longer on its production and producers. The gallery will come to resemble a gallery again.

Some would say aspex‘s gallery resembles a gallery infrequently. And, even when there are images hung on its walls or sculpture mingling amid its columns, it’s nothing akin to The National Gallery, or Southampton City Art Gallery, or the galleries of the Portsmouth City Museum, or even that section of Ikea with its faux canvases. It’s never proper art that aspex shows. But what is proper art?

the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power: the art of the Renaissance | great art is concerned with moral imperfections | she studied art in Paris.works produced by such skill and imagination : his collection of modern art | an exhibition of Tibetan art | [as adj. ] an art critic.creative activity resulting in the production of paintings, drawings, or sculpture : she’s good at art.

It’s a cheap stunt, giving a dictionary definition, but, hey, I’m piloting these words, this post. Let’s look at Working Title in its workshop mode in the light of this OED definition of ‘art’. Nobody can argue that WT fails the initial criteria: it is an ‘expression [and] application of human creative skill and imagination in a visual form’. Really, you can’t argue the contrary without attempting to be contrary. It’s the ‘beauty and emotional power’  that becomes an issue. Or seems to.

Basics. A person uses their skill to shape something to a particular end. A comedian takes the stuff of life and re-engineers it into ‘funny’ – if the audience laughs, it’s a success. If you leave a theatre or cinema, or get off the sofa, entertained in anyway by what you’ve been presented, the production’s been a success. This applies to everything, not just ‘art’ – if a doctor diagnoses an illness an cures it, it’s a success. If a plumber refits a central heating system and it works, a success – if that new system saves you money, releases less toxins into the environment and looks after itself, it’s a great success.

What is the success of an artist? Even, say, Monet, Van Gogh or Picasso, what is their success? A mass of people might respond ‘the success of art is capturing a good likeness’ – it is, if that was the aim of your making, the application of your skill. But there are cameras,  anyone can capture an immense likeness with a shutter’s click. So, now, what is the success of an artist concerned with painting from life – what is the success of a photographer? There is no skill in capturing a likeness, so the success of these artist must be elsewhere. The masses might retort ‘the success is in capturing not just an immediate likeness but in showing the character of what’s depicted’. (There is often talk in art of the ‘thingness of a thing’ – so nebulous is discussion of art practice that it has begun to rely on the nuances of poetry.) But who is to say if the character portrayed is accurate? As all teenagers will state, at sometime, ‘you don’t know me!’. The success of the work lies in the coincidence of the artist’s perception and the viewers’. Even in this simplistic illustration, in two steps, the audience is divided – those who perceive the artwork as a success and those who don’t – and, always, those who don’t care. Now, there are myriad forms, modes and means of making art – they include all the tools, materials, sciences and philosophies that exist. Picasso painting an eye where an ear should be, well, that’s only step four – Picasso’s audience was divided every-which-way. Here and now, it’s so complex, so divided, art has become streamed – into movements firstly,then genres and sub-genres  – but now, really, it’s easier to go with the flow of what appeals to you. This especially applies to those who’ve not studied, attempted to map the constant kaleidoscopic shifting of the art world.

So, the artists involved in Working Title make art that appeals to their sensibilities, developing the skills to best express what they believe needs to be. And, for once, the audience gets to see and question the process. See, art has always to be made. It can be handmade or machined, but it has to become. The artist takes various stuff (anything from traditional materials – paint, canvas etc – to the bric-a-brac of WT) and binds them into something else, art. In this sense, we could apply another (archaic) definition of the word ‘art’

archaic or dialect 2nd person singular present of be .

The artists conjure something out of other things, they bring a newness into ‘being’. Art theory is chocker with debate of the ‘object’. There’s that phrase, ‘objet d’art’ – you might have one on your mantlepiece or sideboard. It means an object of art – where ‘art’ means something of no use beyond its own existence. And. yes, art can be that simple. Something that continues to exist as long as it pleases (itself and you).

I’m writing this, and I’m kind-of aiming at a non-art schooled audience – because, if you’re a practician or theorist or gallerist or, god forbid, critic, then you know all I’m saying (bent into a shape that best it suits you). What I’d like is for all of you out there to visit Working Title before it becomes an exhibition proper, and, then, revisit when it is a curated space. This might be the best documentary on the nature of art you’ll ever experience. Yes, it is a raw experience, it doesn’t look pretty, but it is ‘real’ – this isn’t a depiction of making, not a demonstration (okay, it’s mildly a depiction in the artifice of the environs). Working Title is art as it lives and breathes – it isn’t all art, it isn’t even the greatest art, it has very particular concerns, yes – but it is a fair model of the whole process of art. That is, until we can fluidly experience what someone else (the artist) is experiencing.

Seeing the artworks without the gubbins of their making, without their makers to hand, will I think illustrate a curious and primary phenomenon – how detached the exhibited work is from its maker. This is what becoming an object means in art, something existing on its own terms. It is a mirror of the distance between the disparate elements the artists selects and the play-alchemy that makes them art. It is easy to consider the artist a catalyst.

Like I said, in my previous post as an audience to aspex never expect to like what’s on show. Be prepared to engage with it. Now is a better time than ever.

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