When I went around the sculpture in the garden exhibition, I went round with a colleague, his wife and the one I go round sculpture exhibitions with. Interestingly, they all claimed to have parents who were artists, but their approach to the exhibition was very different.
My approach to this sort of stuff is a rather breathy enthusiasm – “Oh, wow, doesn’t it look like a spaceship?” or “Oh, look, blown glass bubbles in a tree, how coo-oo-ool is that?” My valley-girl inarticulateness in the light of the candy battle of Helm’s Deep is a case in point. I get terribly excited about this sort of stuff and go off at a dozen or so tangents, like a pack of hounds in a fun-fair.
The one I go round exhibitions with engages at a more knowledgeable and academic level. This is a kid who was taken to the Tate before he could walk and who refers to holiday snaps as “images”. He talks intelligently about what he is seeing – perhaps he’ll comment on the references the artist is making to the work of other artists, perhaps he’ll think about the artist’s intentions. Not only does he ‘get’ art, he gets the context too.
But the other two were much more passive. “Oh, yes, it’s a garment made out of glass hanging on a steel coat-hanger in a tree – it’s very pretty”. MMmmmm. “Kingfishers above the water. That’s nice.” I was left gasping like a trout on a riverbank at their lack of engagement. Nothing touched them. They saw it, but only seemed to see what was in front of their eyes. I am not sure whether or not they were deliberately holding back. The exhibition was my idea, not theirs.
But how can anyone walk through a woodland glade where someone has planted hundreds of fabric flowers and have a reaction which is limited to “oh, look, hundreds of fabric flowers in a woodland glade”?
I may not know much about art, but it seems that I know even less about people.