Early on in this project I posed the question What is art? And one year on, I was wondering if I’m any closer to an answer.
Looking for a second time at some of the books I own, there was one that drew me in more than the others – Freud’s paintings in the National Portrait Gallery catalogue of his exhibition in 2012.
It may be that this is one of the few books that is not photographic based and in my initial review of it, I think I may have undersold it. Yes, the use of light in his works is something to be admired. But – something I missed first time – I have now begun to question what my idea of perfection is.
A lot of what is called photographic art aims to create the perfect image. If it cannot be done in camera, it is completed in post-production. The result is a fantasy world, in which what you are seeing is the figment of the photographer’s imagination.
That is fine if you like fiction. I much prefer non-fiction, in which the world is less than perfect, and I find it a hell of a lot more interesting living in an imperfect world.
In my original post on this subject, I wrote that consistent high quality is what separates professionals from someone who has just come back from the camera shop. The best artists however have the ability to make the viewer create their own story from the piece of artwork in front of them.
Freud does this really well by the expressions on the faces of his subjects and, especially as some of his works have neutral titles, the viewer is forced to complete the story.
Probably the most famous portrait ever is the Mona Lisa and her enigmatic smile. We all have different interpretations of the woman behind that smile. There is no right or wrong answer to what that is. Your imagination can never be wrong.
Is it art? I still have no idea if what I’m producing here is art. Defining and refining the ideas for this project has been a really refreshing experience. Trying to tell a story through the images I’m creating is more important than placing the work into a category.