Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Waste Wealth and Art

I read an interesting article in the Weekend Australian last weekend about wealth and art. It argued that collecting art has, for some people, become a substitute for spirituality; swapping mere money for something on a higher plane.

The poor, he argued, buy things they need; the rich pay large sums of money for things they don't need. He argued that the spiritual conversion rate was higher when the work purchased is intrinsically worthless: "Spending on nothing is the ultimate demonstration of wealth". He refers to the work of Michael Landy shown here on the left, "No Frills Drawing", as a good example of paying a lot for nothing. I can't see this piece surviving the test of time myself.

Why do people buy art? Why do I buy art?

Well it does mean I have disposable income beyond my basic needs. It might indicate that I am seeking some deeper connection with meanings beyond the immediate and the everyday.

I recently bought two small pieces by an artist friend, Tony Rice. Tony has been an artist all his life, beginning as a potter then drawing and painting and then, over the past twenty years, making kites as artworks. Now he has become absorbed in the detritis of the beach. That and the impact of our waste on the wildlife on our doorstep.

Tony makes art because he has to. He's obsessed. He sees everything as colour and form. He has spent the past twelve months collecting rubbish from beaches and has studied the impact of these discards from our material lives on marine life.He has combined his kite-making talents with his sculpting skills and created a series of large pieces - dolphins, manta rays and dugong using cane and wire - and then threaded a tube of rubbish through the guts of the each piece. The result is quite evocative.

What did I buy? Well I couldn't afford these beautiful pieces so I bought a set of sun bleached cigarette lighters arranged to follow a rainbow sequence. That, and an abstract piece made of string and foam and a cigarette lighter and plastic.
Why? My search for beauty perhaps? The excitement of seeing one man's imagination caught in a moment of time.? Some sense of finding meaning in nothing? And a desire to support Tony and make some recompence for the works he had given me in previous years for nothing.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

Yeah, all those things. And I'm not just being flip. I think an artist's (or an art lover's) preoccupation with beauty has everything to do with meaning, our need to find meaning in the world. I don't think it's merely swapping money for something on a higher plane, it's showing faith in somebody who's got the guts to explore something many of us are afraid to. Art is the exploration of meaning and beauty independently and with authenticity. Well one hopes anyway. Buying a person's art is showing faith in their authenticity.

I could just write myself into a circle, here, but I won't!