23 December 2007

Is blogging art?

Yesterday I received a catalogue Kathleen posted from a Margaret Olley exhibition being held in Brisbane. Margaret Olley is one of our greatest artists. She’s 84 now but still lives in her amazing home in Sydney's Paddington. It used to be a hat factory but Margaret has lived and worked there for more years than I can remember. Unfortunately the exhibition ends today.

I love Margaret’s paintings. She usually paints interiors, often with a window looking outside. I have a print of one of her paintings in the room I’m sitting in right now. It’s of cornflowers, tea cups, fruit, and, of course, a window with a view beyond. I fell in love with this print the second I saw it and bought the framed print about 11 years ago.

Looking through the catalogue at the 40 paintings made me realise that Margaret and I have more than our love of polka dots in common. If you took a cursory glance at the catalogue you would think that these painting are all of the same, or similar things. They’re mostly interiors with baskets or vases of flowers set on tables, with the common implements of everyday life near them. There is an apple with a knife on a plate, tea cups, jugs of flowers - all but one with the handle on the right, a lemon juicer, an empty glass, a peeled mandarin. There are several tea pots, all but one of them have woven cane handles. But I think there is more; a deeper meaning.

It has been written of her: “The art of Margaret Olley is the art of deliberate choices. The same could be said of Olley herself, who dispels all theories of Australia's isolation, repression of women and fashion following. (…)she persists in painting that which is around her; one reason for this is loathing of pretence, of adopting ways of thinking that are not true to the reality of self.”

I think Margaret is doing what we all do. She is showing us her world – the everyday common world of her home. She is telling us: this is the most important thing to me, this is what I experience every day and this is what I'll paint. Much like we do when we’re blogging. We identify what is important to us, we take photos of the rooms in our homes, we scatter about the implements of our homemaking, we show our kitchens and sitting rooms and we record them with our cameras, just as she does with her brushes.

This representation of our common day-to-day world is seen as art when its on canvass but when it’s via a computer screen, diluted many millions of times over, it’s called blogging. I like to think Margaret would fit in well here.

I love the authenticity of Margaret’s art. I love that the ordinary interior of a home is a valid subject for “high art” and is hung in galleries around the world. I doubt Margaret uses a computer but I’m sure she’d love blogs because many of us are doing what she does. I’m interpreting my world, my home, the things I use every day, the food I cook, our drinks, the ways I make my home comfortable, the hows and whys of the way we live, and presenting it to the world. Showing the daily harvest one day and how to make soap the next, is essentially my art. I formulate an idea, think about how I can present it so that it’s understood, and I take my photos. The words and photos are the simple bits and pieces of my life. It’s not pretence. Much like Margaret, I have a horror of presenting what I do here with frills and ribbons. I want you all to see the bare bones of it, I want you to associate with what I do and to understand that this is basic living. It’s tough sometimes, it’s hard work, sometimes it’s mundane, but it’s real life, and it’s not being disguised by brand names or hidden by the sad and hollow yearning for more.

Our lives, as we live them and present them on our blogs each day, are our works in progress. Each day a different scene is presented and over time you build up an idea of what that life is like. Eventually you see a work of art emerge. And here that's nothing fancy, no pretence, we are just living what we hope is a decent life, with all the pitfalls, dents and scratches that time and life afford. And the true beauty of it is not just in the living of it, but also in the bare bones sharing of it.



  1. Rhonda Jean, what a beautiful post!

    I hope that blogging is like art in that it makes us reconsider our surroundings, to see the everyday in a new light.

    I certainly appreciate finding little bits of beauty in my day and it's even better to share these bits with kindred spirits.

    Even if they're on the other side of the world!

  2. I think we can all find beauty and art in our everyday lives. With modern art today as I understand it, saying something is art is good enough for it to be art..blogging is a way of expressing ourselves, our feelings, our emotions and a part of all our lives. Just beacuse we don't present it in a gallery and labbel it doesn't mean it isn't art ... good blogging really is an art :)

  3. Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing your look at life in its every day form.

  4. Rhonda, your blog is the joy of sharing your life with those from all over the world. It is an art and it teaches those who read the blog that there is joy all around us-all we have to do is slow down, live simply, and we will find not only joy but also new friends! I hope you and your family and all your readers have a peaceful and joyful Christmas!

  5. Wholeheartedly yes, I think it is! I have a BFA and an MFA in art, and I have chosen to express myself through blogging and documentary filmmaking. (I feel that my blogging is a part of my career as a documentarian.)

    Bloggers make graphic design choices (colors, typefaces, photographs), and we make many artistic and conceptual choices when we create and represent our worlds. I lay out my photos and re-do the look of each post until it's 'just so' - I'm sure I'm not the only one who does that! It's a beautiful, wonderful art.

    What I like about the blogging medium more than any other, is that we can interact with our readers - no other medium has that ability in such an instantaneous way.

  6. Hi Rhonda Jean :) A lovely post, this! I think it is a gift to be able to look around at our everydays and see the beauty and joy in them. Simple, true hearts loving and living and working and sharing. Love, Q

    By the way - I love your new look :)

  7. Oh I do love Margaret Olley! I remember seeing a photo of her in the newspaper and her beautifully wrinkled face showed a well-lived life and wished that we had more respect and recognition of the wisdom in those wrinkles. Instead, we seem to idolise youth, botox and cosmetic surgery. Gee, the paintings in the catalogue were absolutely beautiful.

  8. addit, I too love polka dots!! And I love the mix-match fashion style of Margaret too

  9. I love Margaret Olley - and don't you just love the way she is like Berger Paint - she just keeps on keeping on. I love her living room. It is much photographed and she, herself, paints it over and over again. Those who are true artists do such wonderful things with their surroundings and - I must say - I am just so envious. One thing it proves is how important our surroundings are to us - emotionally, physically, psychologically, spiritually - and how much our surroundings say about ourselves. I feel that Margaret's place and space is an exemplar for us all. Thank you for posting about such a wonderful and talented woman.

    Blessings, bliss, and may Christmas and the New Year be a fruitful season for you and yours

  10. I've never commented, but I do enjoy your blog, and your authenticity!

    Would you mind explaining what this means..."adopting ways of thinking that are not true to the reality of self."

    I'm having serious issues with self image (at 27 years of age!), after having my fourth child, being shunned from a church due to different doctrinal beliefs, and trying to fit into a new church as over-weight and pimply faced. Before I reach too far into this quote, could you expound a bit?

    Thanks ahead of time,

    lost in the desert

    (anonymous to your dear readers for now!)

  11. Hmm... like Bella and you, I have a fondness for polka dots too! (Though in real life [off blog], it might be the last thing what anyone would expect of me! I am a bit of a plain Jane...)

    Been asking myself if I mind that my blog is mostly done in little snippets, becoming more like one big over-sentimentally crafted greeting card of late?! But no, because it is serving it's purpose of moving happily through the dark season, I don't take it too seriously, and it can't become my life. The private one I live offline is more important.

    But now that soltice has passed, and with the ringing in of the new year, the days will become longer and new happenings will begin to choose to share or not share.

    For everything there is a time, a season, but then, is there time enough? Never quite enough, it seems. (Someday, I'd like to have enough to dive more into my secret fetish of polka dots! And believe me, I will!)

    Which makes the time and effort you put into making your blog a useful one all the more amazing.

    Time to end the rambling of words this AM!

    Happy holidays to you, Rhonda Jean, and best wishes for many good things to come your way in the new year ahead.

  12. Hi Rhonda Jean,
    I enjoy your blog so much, has a Treasure if info and teaching. Thanks for all the time and thought you put into each post.
    I hope you and yours has a Merry Christmas and a Blessed new yr.
    Blessins', Lib

  13. Lovely thoughts!
    I was at an artists' retreat years ago and was asked many times what my medium was. I now have the simple confidence to say-my life is my medium. I live as an artist throughout my days of homemaking. Through the little details of the day I am able to create beauty. Whether anyone else sees it, or appreciates it matters not. (Luckily, my family does!)

  14. Thank you for the Margaret Olley catalogue link. I enjoyed the warmth and vibrancy of her paintings and her use of light. I am not the greatest knitter in the world, but I am going to have a go at making my own cotton dishcloths, as your aticle made so much sense.


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