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Art is much more than just a stitch in time

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Lay out a row of chipped bricks or nail a cracked urinal to a plank and you can claim it’s packed with all sorts of deep social significance

Picture: Thembinkosi Hlatshwayo

MANY years ago I attended a series of lectures on art and heard several famous artists explain their views on what is “good” art and what is “bad” art and, indeed, what is art anyway.

The world of art has become a mish-mash of mediocrity and trendy fakery and the confused public is led to believe that if they don’t understand a piece of art, it’s their own stupidity that’s at fault.

Lay out a row of chipped bricks or nail a cracked urinal to a plank and you can claim it’s packed with all sorts of deep social significance.

As far as I can see, the only deep message it conveys is that people will fall for almost anything. (Just look at the world’s leaders, if you have any doubts.)

One of the memorable lessons I learned in my series of art lectures was that real art consists of 50 percent inspiration and 50 percent perspiration.

You may have the most astonishingly dramatic and original ideas, but unless you work with skill and ability, you will not be able to translate those ideas into art.

Too much of today’s art consists of 99 percent inspiration and a mere one percent of perspiration.

In the days of the great masters, aspiring artists spent a long apprenticeship learning the trade.

They were taught to mix paints, prepare canvases and do all the mundane, but necessary work that goes into great art. After a while the youngsters were allowed to fill in a bit of background or add a cloud to the sky. Plenty of perspiration.

For centuries, women were not admitted into the snooty ranks of the masters. (Women in polite society do not perspire. They only glow.)

Women, however, are devious creatures, and developed their artistic talents through their skills with needles.

While the men were the kings of the brush and chisel, the women were creating exquisite art in the form of tapestries and embroidered pictures.

I consider this as great an art form as painting or sculpture. Imagine being able to patiently create a beautiful picture one tiny stitch at a time.

This wonderful art form is kept alive by embroiderers’ guilds around the world passing on the ancient skills and stitches from one generation to the next.

The Cape Embroiderers’ Guild will be holding an open day and mini-market on Saturday, and you’ll be able to see some of their incredibly fine work in the

St Thomas Church hall in Camp-ground Road in Rondebosch from 10.30am until 4pm.

Members of the guild will offer demonstrations of their skills, and books and materials will be available for those who would like to try their hand. There will be an entry fee of R30 for adults and children will get in free.

This is where you can see for yourself how much perspiration goes into creating good art.

Last Laugh

The history teacher asked one of her pupils: “Have you heard of Julius Caesar?”

“Yes mam,” the boy replied.

“Well, if he were alive today what do you think he’d be doing?”

The lad thought for a moment and then said: “Probably drawing an old-age pension, mam.”