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About Me:18-year-old sixth form student, studying English Literature, History and Government and Politics. My articles will broadly cover topics from the current affairs of politics to reviews of books and albums, as well as adding my own creative pieces, whether it be short fiction or general opinion.
‘What’s the point of a bloody art competition? It’s all subjective, right!?’
I have been asked this so many times that my bodily response to the stimulus of ‘art competition’ is an immediate sigh and shooing away with my hand. They’re not to blame, though; in every English or art lesson we are taught that ‘there is no right or wrong answer’, and yet in that same paradoxical classroom are the different tables of ability. I remember one English lesson on creative writing someone wittingly asked (or, as is more probable, curiously asked – this guy had an odd predilection for picking his nose and spasmodically making farm animal noises), ‘if I wrote something as good as a famous author, you still wouldn’t find it as good as that author, just because I’m a student – why?’ It was a good question. But such was the scale of her competence and enthusiasm as a teacher that she replied, ‘well, you’re not published, are you?’ Secondary school was a dire and laborious time for me.
The question was one that deserved far more attention. What makes some art completely worthy of praise, and some art bad? Well, the beginning of this article does have some element of truth to it, in some sense. There does involve a degree of taste, that’s the beauty of art: it doesn’t have any strict parameters on it (even if this article does endeavour to do just that). For some people, aesthetic beauty is what they mainly look for in art – the sheer brilliance of a hyper realistic painting, or the intoxicating lyricism of a Romantic poet. For others it might be the use of humour, how tension is built and released, the use of colour, the cinematography, the experimentalism. All of this is good enough, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that because of the brevity of tastes, that no art can be deemed ‘bad’. Because in each taste there is a degree to which something achieves its aim, how accurately it hits the target.
Another argument that artists have long lulled over (and so have I, incidentally), is the question of originality. Some say that great art is always original; but then original to what degree? – it’s quite hard to define. In a sense, we have certain intuitions, and these perhaps become more astute the more accustomed to art you are. This is why, for example, many art critics consistently complain of clichés whereas a simple bystander would be completely oblivious of its unoriginality. My suggestion would be to make yourself fully immersed in art, to seek out new and different things – only then will you be able to fully grasp the extent to which something may become a cliché or not.
What is salient to point out, though, that just because someone is not clued up on a cliché that they have no grounds for a decent opinion on art. Many clichés are such because the formula for them work. Art can be brilliant, it can be mesmerising, hilarious, spine-tingling; but it can be wince-inducing, unoriginal and bland.
Image Credits: Electric Literature