About Ideas

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OO/HO’ Model lamp-post MDF, acrylic, 2012. by Bedwyr Williams. Owned by The Collective

The last remaining days of 2017 and a good time to think about what lies ahead in 2018.

Reflecting on The Collective year that has seen studio visits, exhibitions and of course the Collective’s own showing at Work Place Gallery, Gateshead we continue to enjoy the concept and fruits of our efforts. At the same time we try to work on ideas of where we might go next on a journey that has already lasted more years than we ever thought possible.

Recently I happened to watch the BBC’s replay of the 2016 documentary “who’s afraid of Conceptual art ,presented by Dr James Fox.  As some (though not all) of the contemporary art the Collective has purchased is “conceptual” in nature, and much of the conversation from friends and family who see the art in our homes is on this subject, it was a topic I was keen to watch.  The often heard remark “I could have done that!” or “what a rip-off” when they learn the purchase price, generally points to the fact many people flounder when it comes to the idea of “conceptual” – what it means or a largely “why bother?” attitude as there is no understandable explanation for what they are viewing.

The documentary is well worth a watch. Moving in time from the innovator Marcel Duchamp to contemporary artist Katie Patterson the documentary captures the beginnings and much of the journey conceptual art has taken over the last 100 years. The interviews with some of the current artists are particularly illuminating.

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Work No.233 by Martin Creed. Owned by the Collective: Cubitt Collection

Martin Creed, for example, an artist whose work we have in our Collection. The discreet message (fuck off) of work No.233, written in the top corner of a plain piece of copy paper and given added weight from the blank space below it is typical of Creed’s ability to make “something out of nothing“. It was a work that caused consternation and discussion for six households with children – and often quoted as their favourite work if asked!  Making things that are humorously subversive and don’t please everyone holds appeal for all generations!

In the documentary Martin Creed’s comment when asked about his paper ball work sums up what many of us feel about any artwork, contemporary, conceptual or otherwise.

Who says what is bad or what is good?, if something is exciting or feels good that is the test”

It is subjective.  The real test for us in the Collective comes when we live with a work that we may not personally have been involved in purchasing but have then selected to have in our house until the next exchange.  Deciding whether it makes you feel good or excited can be a challenge but over time can result in a change in the way you feel or what you think when you see it.  It’s about ideas.

But it was artist Robert Montgomery who uses “language”  to create text works in different but often large bright neon lights, billboard poems and woodcuts in public spaces whose comments left a notable impression on me

the point of art is to touch the hearts of strangers without the trouble of ever having to meet them“..

Whilst this is true for the most part in that for the majority of viewers there is no engagement with the artists (nor is engagement desired), but instead our enjoyment is based on how it makes us “feel”, a gut reaction, it is a different concept to how the Collective decides to buy art.  Here we actively encourage engagement with the artist as part of the purchasing process. This enables an understanding of the artist as both ‘creator’ and ‘idea generator’ – a human engagement that connects strangers with artist.  It doesn’t happen on every occasion but wherever possible we strive to make it a trouble worth having!

As Dr James Fox points out “with conceptual art we shouldn’t worry about whether it is art or not but whether it makes us think or not

It’s about ideas.

Happy New year to all!

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