Blank canvases and brick piles

Modern art and contemporary art has taken the hearts of many culture-seekers and many artists across the world. Some of the pioneers were Picasso (although I probably would be proven otherwise by modern art connoisseurs) and later with guys like Warhol came pop-art, although this is probably arguable as well.

To say you love art is like saying you love food. Everybody probably loves it, so in order to really express your love for it you need to be a bit more specific because even food, at least in my book, can definitely be considered art.

For me art is anything from paintings to movies to sculptures to video games and even though I don’t appreciate all art I can still make out when something is art and when something is not. At least, most of the time.

I’ve visited a pop-art exhibition in Ottawa, Canada once and I must say I really enjoyed it. I like Andy Warhol, Takashi Murakami, some of the artists featured there. I like vinyl sculptures, I even have some of those at home. However, there were some parts of the exhibition that showed parts of downright pretentious bull crap art.

Honestly, I know it gets criticized a lot and I know art-loves get very defensive and usually say the people criticizing it to be misinterpreting the art but some art really is shit, whether you like it or not. If you want to get really pedantic you can say “there is no such thing as good art, it’s all subjective”. Even though I like to believe that, there is some art that is objectively shitty.

A chair hanging from a ceiling? A pile of bricks in the middle of the room? A white canvas with literally nothing on it or even a white canvas with just a dot or line in the middle of it? Yes, those are some of the things considered to be art in the world of modern art. And you can say, it’s not just about the piece itself, it’s about the artists’ thought process and about the artists’ emotions that he or she was feeling when making it. EVEN THOUGH those things matter, in some pieces of art like the ones I listed above, have zero effort put into them. They do not require a complex thought-process, they do not require creativity and you’re not going to tell me the artists have gone through an emotional journey creating it.

You might be thinking: this guy has no idea what he is talking about, he just doesn’t understand it.
No, I don’t understand why a painting with a couple of paint-specks is original or even good. “I could do that” is something a lot of people say when talking about modern art. Then the modern-art lovers usually respond with something like: “So why don’t you?”

I don’t feel like challenged by that. I am convinced that I could not paint anything on a canvas and hang it on a wall, I am convinced I can stack a pile of bricks in a room and I am convinced I can hang a chair from the ceiling. “But what about the emotional process behind it?” Sure, I’ll tell you I was dealing with an identity crisis in a society that constantly asks us to wear a mask poisoned by the corporate beast. Sounds pretty pretentious huh?

Before this turns into a rant blasting the modern-art industry, I’d like to say that, as with everything, it’s great if you can enjoy these forms of art. If it’s a hobby or even a passion of yours, that’s awesome. To me however, it feels like an industry built on pretentiousness and possibly even dishonesty.

I visited a modern-art gallery specializing in jewelry recently to make a story on it for a magazine. I was quite appalled by what I saw. Yeah, appalled might be a big word but it really felt pretty shitty. The fact that somebody can make a necklace from a string and a toy car and ask 2500 dollars (this was actually a thing they were selling) for it seems very shitty to me and that’s also where my concerns of dishonesty come from.

If somebody buys materials for a couple of dollars, puts is together in an hour tops (or at least would be able to) and basically puts in zero effort but does ask thousands for it, that feels dishonest to me. It feels like they’re ripping off people, taking advantage of the consumers that want to seem culurally schooled. The problem is that the people consuming it eat that shit up.

This comes from a fear of not seeming like an expert. Being afraid to admit that they have no idea what it means and that it’s basically shit. But no, the story is that it was made by a Polynesian artist that has secluded himself from the rest of society to reach enlightenment and to escape the poison of the corporate beast. Oh and when they hear something like that, they lose their shit. Is the story true? Maybe but even if it is, does that make the piece itself any more special? It might, but it really doesn’t matter if it’s true or not as long as people believe it. Then, it’s not so much about selling a piece of art but more about selling an idea.

Sometimes it’s okay to just not know, like we discussed before. It’s okay to say: this is just a coffee table, not a reflection of society that has been poisoned by the corporate beast (see how this kind of always works?). It’s okay to say: this is not worth thousands of dollars, it’s just a blank canvas I can get at a DIY store for a couple of bucks.

That’s my problem with this industry. It’s not original and complex, it’s not worth the money and it’s just downright pretentious.

There were a couple of Dutch guys that went to a modern-art expo and brought a print on canvas from Ikea. They asked people’s opinions and well, it shows the pretentiousness of modern art, it shows that people are afraid to admit that they don’t know what they’re talking about and it shows that they will literally eat anything up without seeing a difference. Check out the video below, and no the people in the video might not actually be experts and it might not be an in-depth research into the world of modern-art but it shows just enough to convey some of my thoughts on the subject.

I guess I’m more of a traditional art guy. I love paintings like the ones that were spawned during the Renaissance and some modern artist like Shephard Fairey or Mike Ryden make really cool stuff in my opinion. Movies, music, video games, books you name it, are all forms of art that I respect and appreciate. People that put passion and effort into something creating a beautiful piece of art to me is amazing. The only artist whose art is borderline-pretentious but whose work I can appreciate sometimes is Ai Wei Wei’s work. But that’s because I think it’s aestatically pleasing.

Look at animation studios for example. They basically make a beautiful painting for each frame, each frame requires much more talent, effort, passion and emotion than most pieces of modern art do. Just look at Hayao Miyazaki’s movies, or studio Ghibli movies in general. Every frame of their movies deserves a spot in a museum much more than any pretentious piece of contemporary art ever will in my opinion. I mean just look at this:

Courtesy of Studio Ghibli
A scene from Miyazaki’s ‘Spirited Away’ – Courtesy of Studio Ghibli

What about all those freelance artists making beautiful paintings or sculptures that will probably never see the light of day? No, instead of hanging those beautiful paintings in a museum we’ll hang a blank canvas with a couple of lines on them instead.

It just feels a bit unfair to me. A large part of the industry in general feels somewhat dishonest to me and I feel like this dishonesty is being transferred to those who consume it. The ones claiming to understand it, coming off as pretentious.

Art is of course very subjective but I genuinely believe a lot of modern art today, is not art. That being said, I don’t believe everybody consuming this modern art is pretentious and if you enjoy it what does my opinion matter. In the end, if you do have a passion all I can do is appreciate the fact that you do. Don’t forget that sometimes its OKAY to say you don’t know, honesty is important.

We don’t all have to love the same things. I mean, where’s the fun in that?

Artistically yours


Header image made by A-Typical which is not impressive seeing as it’s just a blank image. See what I mean? I made this in less than a minute. Not showing off, you can make it in less than a minute as well.



4 thoughts on “Blank canvases and brick piles

  1. Now you say, “The fact that somebody can make a necklace from a string and a toy car and ask 2500 dollars (this was actually a thing they were selling) for it seems very shitty to me and that’s also where my concerns of dishonesty come from.”

    What do they say about the buyers of such trash? You can only defraud someone who wants to be defrauded.

    If you are in Canada, when you have time, visit the Tom Thomson gallery in Ottawa. If you haven’t already, that is! When I saw his work in Groningen (Netherlands) it blew me away. A three hour train journey not withstanding, I went to see that exhibition three times and I didn’t tire of its liveliness.

    Those paintings had the quality that if you opened yourself to them, you could hear the birds sing and smell the thawing snow.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That looks great! That’s art I can appreciate. Art can conjure up great feeling, emotions and can create a certain ambiance. That’s why I get so frustrated at garbage being labeled as art (I believe some art is literally from an “artists” trash can).

      True, in the end the people buying the crappy art are doing it to themselves. I just believe it’s never right to be dishonest to somebody. If you’re selling garbage at least have the decency to be honest about what it is. Some of the crappy modern art is more about the idea behind it than the piece itself. So, if the idea behind it is nothing but a lie, that takes away the entire “artistic” value it’s inteded to have.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You have opened several strands, as it were. My friend Hendrik in Utrecht has a cousin who lost his business, now he didn’t know he was lying to those who invested in him – indeed he would take umbridge were anybody to suggest this! The truth, however, was that he was embezzling their money. Yet he believed in his product, believed what he told his investors… and still cannot accept it was his fault that the business failed and he lost his house. And all their money too.

        There is much, much more to telling a lie than simply being aware of it. Modern artists genuinely believe they are artists, through and through. Yet they couldn’t be more wrong! Now: if you try to see the world through their eyes, you might just get an idea of where their thinking has gone astray.

        What did Paul Klee say? “The more horrifying the world, the more abstract becomes the art. A happy world, on the other hand, brings forth an art of the here and now.”

        Abstract art, abstract thinking, abstract everything… art is – or should be – an expression of the truth. The here and now. If it isn’t, the artist is depicting their own shortcomings! Malevich, to name but one. Gainsborough, on the other hand knew what art was about, he knew how to speak to us across the centuries.

        I visited that exhibition four times 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      2. When you look beyond the art you can always tell something about the artist, even if that something is greed. Art, like many things that really shouldn’t, gets exploited. Exploited for money and fame. It’s sad, but when there’s money and/or inflluence to be won, there will be people that will do everything in their power to gain those things.

        Art is a very broad term of course. Yet, I think that art in all its forms should be handled with passion and love. If an artist is not passionate about what he’s doing, it will show so in his work. Sure, he might claim to be passionate but a lot of times that passion is more pretentiousness than anything else.

        Looks like a very interesting exhibition you visited! Thanks for sharing.


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