The art of making « boring art » …

  • « I will not make any boring art! » — John Baldessari.

Great short film on John Baldessari.

“Most of the interesting art of our time is boring.” – Susan Sontag …

A great article about the art of making « boring art »:

Some of my own “boring art”:


While I would agree that Rothko’s style is perhaps both too frequently and too directly copied — without much individual variation, I do not find his style “boring”. Two of my paintings that are inspired by Rothko: Wrist-cutter’s Glow, 50×50 cm, oil on canvas; and Love Illusion, 65×90 cm, oil on canvas:

A Wrist-cutter’s Glow, 50×50 cm., oil on canvas, 50×50 cm.
Love Illusion, 65×90 cm., oil on canvas.

Rothko quote: “I do not believe that there was ever a question of being abstract or representational. It is really a matter of ending this silence and solitude, of breathing, and stretching one’s arms again transcendental experiences became possible.” – Mark Rothko, 1947

And while I am addressing the topic of audience perception of and reactions to art being subjective, personal and sometimes even illogical/ignorant, let me comment on the phrases “I could have done that!” or “My five-year-old could have done that!” Several years ago I created a series of large seascape minimalist paintings, using only three colours: white, black and blue — this in order to explore the presence of subliminal colours that are not there but which appear due to perceptual association. I did not explain or comment on this idea when presenting the paintings. An elderly professional artist told me that she did not like the paintings, explaining “I could do that myself!” I was flabbergasted that my intended concepts of minimalism, modernism and the complexity of simplicity did not occur to or appeal to her. My only reaction was to smile and retort: “Possibly, but you did not make this particular art — I did. Much of ‘art’ is in the idea and the concept.” Another time I exhibited 12 large scale art photographs of images I had taken in Kathmandu, Nepal at a gallery show here in Oslo. One day a middle-aged man professing to be a wealthy art collector strolled into the gallery and commented that the exhibition would probably be best suited for “an immigrant home” — revealing his distaste for both immigrants and art depicting cultures other than his own. The gallery owner was furious, but I merely smiled and thought that my photos had done their job in undressing this man for the world. It was — after all — nothing compared to the censorship I had previously suffered for my art and writing on Facebook. This was — of course — not the first nor the last time my art has been criticised and dismissed by other artists or “would-be lay art experts” and connoisseurs. Last year I received many compliments on my art from a woman who told me: “I know good art. Good art is that which I could not have done myself, and I could not have done this!” Hmm. Now, my most cherished praises have come from persons who have told me that my writing and my paintings have inspired them to explore their own creativity. That is a wonderful compliment, and it is a big incentive for me as a creative person and communicator. However, there have also been a few persons whose dissatisfaction with my writing and my art (or whose personal need to compete with me) has led them to try to paint their own paintings or to write a book themselves. Again, personal creativity is a good thing — regardless of the inspiration. Unfortunately, not one of these persons has succeeded beyond a few months of attempts. The unforeseen technical and idea difficulties of painting for amateurs and the inexperienced are understandable. However, I must admit that many of the excuses and explanations of why painting or writing are not possible, e.g. “I don’t have time with my day job”, “I need to take off six months from work in order to get into writing” etc. confound me as much as those of some seasoned artists who cannot make art because they cannot afford the best art materials available or because they have no gallery show in sight. Art and literature are not luxury hobbies for The Artist and The Writer. They are a necessity, alongside food, air, water and shelter. The subjective appeals of art and literature are potentially both positive and expanding, as well as limiting/blinding, if not personally confusing. Perhaps a work of art or literature should rather be judged by its ability to create a reaction in the audience, rather than merely to please and entertain in a non-provocative way? My published books have sometimes been both praised and hated by the same fellow authors and critics, who admitted that my unconventional approach “did the job” but provoked his/her sense of stylistic tradition. Similarly, I remember feeling myself a degree of dissatisfaction over a compliment I received many years ago after a performance on the piano. When I asked what specifically the compliment addressed the reply was “Oh, I just LOVE that composer!” I have (myself) reviewed published literature, painting exhibitions and art photography. I try to make comprehensive analyses qualifying my judgments and reactions to what I have been presented, but always maintain that “it is largely subjective, and one man’s opinion”. Perception and criticism of art and everything else is — by definition — largely subjective, personal and often of questionable relevance for the wider public. And sometimes critics just do not feel as adventurous as we do, and have a need to defend their own artistic techniques, values, messages and styles at the expense of all others. That is okay. Just consider the source. Remember that political, personal and ideological differences can influence art and literary criticism — as do competition, jealousy and other emotions.




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