Tuesday, 28 April 2015

I Like A Bit Of Rough (Art)

I love a bit of rough. Don't you? Whilst I understand the desire for clean smooth lines in a collage, too much polish can dehumanise a piece of work. OK, I'm talking about digital art which is already 'mechanical', I know. Call me crazy, but I still like to sense the human touch in art that I see and Photoshop (or other software) expertise can rob a work of that element.

The appeal, in part, of classic collages by the likes of Hannah Höch is that they're blatantly handmade. Yes, we knew that anyway, but much of her work, aside from the more complex pieces, is joyously Rough.

Many digital collage artists love the Vintage look, myself included to some extent. You will have seen many sepia-tinted pieces packed with old images. That's all well and good, but it can all start to look like it was made by the same machine. The supposedly infinite variety which The Machine is capable of does not automatically lead to individuality in the making of an image, just as music-making software doesn't make the user a distinctive musician.

I doubt the validity of the great quest for Originality, having seen too many efforts which look like a desperate attempt to be New (the post-modern malaise?), but any art worth a jot should reveal something of the maker, if only their spectacular failure to be any good. I'd rather look at a gallery of 'failures' than one filled with ultra-professional pieces which appear to have been made from the same mechanical mould.

Some people who profess to love art swoon at the sight of technical ability and the content almost seems irrelevant. "Look at the patterns!" "That's cosmic!" "It must have taken ages!". They're transfixed as if staring at a Magic Eye image. Yes, technical skill is a great thing, but only in the service of creating something interesting. Digital art so often becomes a feat of mere image engineering, as if the nerds have taken over and revel in being told that they're 'artists' all of a sudden.

The jagged edge, the 'rough' and the 'crude' say 'Here is life', or 'Here is the mess of life'. They also suggest a kind of humility or honesty, a willingness to accept that all is not perfect in art or life. Let's face it, the Perfect (what's commonly perceived as such, technically) in art is what puts off a lot of would-be artists. Far from inspiring them, the Perfect can smack down wannabees who weaken at the knees, saying "I'll never be as good as that". So the art in many is lost before it's given the chance to bloom.

For that reason alone I'm advocating the Rough. Crude, wonky, imperfect as it is, because it defies the dictatorship of perfection the Rough symbolises freedom of expression that belongs to everyone if they only dared to claim ownership.

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