21 August 2014

On Discrimination in Art

As we all know art is meant to inspire thought. Negative, positive or sublime thoughts. Art is an antique looking glass - what you see is a mirror of what you think, or the way you choose to view the world. Noone knows the artist's intent behind a work.

Either one is drawn to a work of art or one is not. I wonder if there's such a thing as "good" or "bad" art? All seeing is relative. A work of art might be poorly executed but does that make the work "Bad?" - Art is an expression of feeling however imperfect it may be, and might I remind you all that we live in an imperfect world. Now: unto another topic: Discrimination in Art.

We were at an exhibit last month. Works of a German female painter, whose art depicts black women in hats and other such fancies. Naturally we were keen on knowing more about the artist behind the brush. As it turns out the artist has no connection at all with the black culture. She doesn't even have one black/asian/ethnic friend.

In conversation Barbara von Enger said to her "I adore the African/Caribbean influence in your art" - Her response was "It's just a trend, darling. I add a bit of African/Caribbean elements to rev up my art when things are dead, like Picasso did."

The way she said this was so dis-respectful. It saddened us but not for too long. Barbara von Enger, the brave soul that she is, said to her: "One ought to respect cultures. Without them one wouldn't have anything to "rev up" one's art." Had you seen her face - I thought she had swallowed a fly!

Yes, Picasso did have his African period. In fact he was introduced to African art/ masks by Matisse. Take a good look at Picasso's work and you'll see a huge difference in his work prior to his African period. What I find most disturbing is this: When a black/ethnic artist paints his or her own culture the caucasian art world immediately deem this work as being "Too ethnic" or simply "Bad" or too "Urban" or "primitive".
Indeed there are good examples where this is not the case, however, it is so in the majority of cases. When an ethnic person re-creates his/her culture it's deemed as "primitive", "overly colourful", "raw" or "unsophisticated".

Take this example by Barbara von Enger, the German/Caribbean painter: All female figures in my art have long, graceful necks, like my mother, my granny, and my great-grandmother, and naturally this shows up in my art. One day, at an art exhibition, private viewing of my works, a well-known German art critic told me that I stole the long neck idea from Picasso. I told her NO. Picasso was the one who was inspired by African masks - and almost all African masks have long necks, and that I am of Caribbean/African origin. My history has a great influence on my art. I paint only that which is in me. Naturally she was taken aback. A month later I did indeed send her a book on the history of Africa and its art. This is what I call a delicate form of discrimination, my lovelies. Not to worry, we are here to raise the banner and break down the walls of prejudice.

1 comment:

  1. I doff my hat once again to Barbara von Enger for remaining so unflappably calm in the face of such a @#%*+. I would not have been able to be so eloquent.

    I hope that she learned something from you. I hope that her soul will grow from it.