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.

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