Language brings art alive

It has become apparent to me that regularly language used to analysis art is in fact a form of personification of art. A collection of sculptures I saw this weekend in ‘Sculpture Promenade 2010’ were said to ‘interact’, ‘offer’, ‘articulate[s] itself’, ‘reek[s]’, ‘allude[s] to’, ‘examine’, and ‘dialogue.’ This isn’t a wholly new concept – to use language to give art a life. This metaphorical analysis of art goes way back- as I referred to in the blog Beauty is a Woman. Allegorical uses to describe the character of art have been common throughout art history. It seems logical when we consider that all it is, is relating our human selves to a practice, to which we have made more human. Nick Turvey, a sculptor featured in ‘Sculpture Promenade’ said that art “reveal[s] the overwhelming nature of our desire to see ourselves reflected in the world around us.” Are we relying on language to make art alive? And for people to engage in modern art?

Let me exemplify with Two, currently exhibited outside the Fitzwilliam museum in Cambridge, as part of ‘Sculpture Promenade.’ Stood in front of it, I discussed with two others the possible meanings of it, possible intentions of it, and possible reactions it is aiming to provoke. Two, much like a lot of contemporary public sculptors such as that by Anish Kapoor, “are conceived and fashioned in ways that respond to changes in light, weather and the seasons; here the effects of exposure to the elements are welcomed as part of the works’ dynamic and evolving character.” This sculpture’s surface is mirror-polished stainless steel and so its effect is reflective. Physically and otherwise. And here we go again – I have birthed out of a dead sculpture a life – a talking, thinking being – through imaginative use of language.

Stood there, we were discussing ambiguity – a topic inescapable in the discourse of modern art. I think ambiguity, often created through language, is the double-edged sword of contemporary art. Firstly there is the fun of it is in the audience’s ability to interpret freely (sometimes to the extent that the piece is ignored on occasions). But then, as I recently I heard a critic say: our generation is in fact scared of modern art due to its often endless possibilities, and its over-complication of things. Maybe it is language that wards people off, as they seek a word-by-word translation. I know that primarily what I have learnt at art school is how not necessarily to be, but to sound like an artist.

Therefore the question is, is language of benefit, because it, like art, creatively explores the visual. Or does it explore beyond the intended visual exploration (as I proposed in ‘How It Is’ – The Black Box by Miroslaw Balka)? Is language praise-worthy because it brings art alive; or through its jargon and ponse does it hamper the audience from engaging fully with this weird and multi-dimensional character – Art.

So, Rob Ward’s humanized Two, has the physical appearance a silver lollipop and an inverted lollipop that invites us to dine with it, chew on some ideas of the relationship between yourself and it, between the 2D and the 3D, the actual and the metaphysical and which will accordingly leave you feeling the tension of your surreal environment.

It’s quite a lot of fun talking out of your bottom…!

‘Sculpture Promenade 2010’ in displayed in the grounds fronting the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge from 23 March 2010 until January 2011.


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