Writings / Essay: Miklos Legrady

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The original meaning of art as in “the culinary arts” meant more than just a stir-fry. It meant a experienced, skilled, dedicated master making extraordinary work. This elitism offended many who considered leveling art to something done without effort, in fact by hiring technicians to do the dirty deed. One might as well hire an Olympic athlete to win a gold medal in your name. In 1617, Sir Dudley Carleton, for instance, protested to Rubens that paintings offered to him as by the hand of the artist himself were in fact largely the work of his studio. Rubens was quick to replace them with works he could vouch for as being entirely his own — it would not do to acquire a reputation for passing off inferior work as original. In 1652, Peter van Halen, painter and Master of the Guild of Saint Luke in Antwerp purchased Brueghel’s painting Cattle Market for 204 guilders. On closer examination, Van Halen decided it was not an original but a copy. After three years of lawsuits, van Halen managed to establish that the painting was indeed a studio copy made by Brueghel’s assistants and was awarded damages.

Possibly the most important observation of creativity came to me at the age of 17, as I got lost in a drawing where I followed my feelings by adding color here and shading there. A few hours later I had an amazing image and understood that something had worked through me, something had risen from darkness impenetrable just as Emily Carr had described:

Oh, God, what have I seen? Where have I been? Something has spoken to the very soul of me, wonderful, mighty, not of this world. Chords way down in my being have been touched. Dumb notes have struck chords of wonderful tone. Something has called out of somewhere. Something in me is trying to answer. It is surging through my whole being, the wonder of it all, like a great river rushing on, dark and turbulent, and rushing and unresisting, carrying me away on it’s wild swirl like a helpless bundle of wreckage.

 

It seems that aesthetics, beauty, and sensory artifacts are never neutral, they always carry unconscious content reflecting the great cultural currents and conflicts of our times. In nature a bee’s dance informs the hive of the location of a field of flowers, including sun-oriented hourly-based data and the caloric value of that patch. All without any consciousness that a human can discern. This leads to far reaching speculation on unconscious content in the artwork of the naked ape!

In closing we need to ask whodunit, whatsitfor, whodat up in the sky? Who was that masked man? Art fell to a sorry disgraced status and no one noticed yet the public often thinks art sucks, they’re asking why can’t we have children’s drawings in museums instead? Art itself takes revenge on us in the form of a Richard Stella steel plate that fell and killed a workman. How obvious can it get before we sit up and take notice? One of Canada’s most esteemed curators was disturbed when I let slip that perhaps artists like General Idea appropriated the credibility of scientists because of insecurity about art in an age of science certitude. This really meant lesser artists failing to find meaning in their field. This fissure once took place in religion and gave us Christian Scientists. Artists are now social scientists, ethical moralists, lab coated physicists or semiotically dressed mechanics. For most this is gratifying but the rest of us would ask for more. If art is boring it ain’t art … which means we need howl for amazing work and when that is lacking we should not hesitate to byte. Just sayin… criticism on a bed of witticism.

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3 Responses to “Writings / Essay: Miklos Legrady”

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  1. Jesse Alling says:

    Well, here I go again, this is the second comment I have entered and lost, because I did not push the submit button d’oh. Anyhew, I thought that you (Miklos) wrote a very critical essay on the state of visual arts today. You pulled out those subjects, of where art should come from and not “the Starving Artists Sales” , in hotel rooms and cruises. You placed “true” on its own pedestal and told challengers “bring it”, when it came to your personal observations and you challenged all to refute them. this is a truly heart-felt and soul full essay, well written and concise. Bravo.
    P.S. I am flattered to know such an insightful and honest “true artist…” I enjoyed your comparison to “Culinary Artistry” and hopefully I am not that arrogant, when it comes to my skills…
    Thank you, once again…x0x0x0x0

  2. I sent Jerry Saltz a link 4 days ago and today he wrote; “In the art world… generations of critics… the subjectivity and original opinion scared out of them… refrain from writing clearly, with voice, judgment, something personal. That’s changing. Fast now. I see a whole new generation of younger critics unafraid of all those things. A homegrown, unafraid criticism is springing up in the wreckage…” could be just luck but nice to think it’s fitting.

  3. KateBrown says:

    As there is no art market per se in this country, we, as artists have nothing to lose by being confident in our intelligence and brave enough to create whatever it is that engages us. We do not have to be bound by the constrictions of verbose pundits who have nothing on the line, so to speak. The first rule of making art is that it must exist.

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