Tuesday, August 4, 2009

'A stripe painter may not wear stripes'


When criticising a mutual acquaintance's art practice, an artist friend of mine once said in all seriousness: 'I always knew his work wouldn't be up to much when I called round once and saw how he'd decorated his house. No decent artist could have lived with those kitchen cupboards, let alone painted them that colour. I won't even begin to describe the lounge suite.'

I've thought about this a lot over the years when visiting artists of all stripes at home; and actually, it's proved infallible.

I think it's a point of view of which Roger White, author of the best thing I've read for some time, a treatise on 'How Artists Must Dress', would approve.

Here's some of White's utterly indispensable advice:

'The relationship between an artist's work and attire should not take the form of a direct visual analogy. A stripe painter may not wear stripes.'

'Whereas a dealer must signal, in wardrobe, a sympathy to the tastes and tendencies of the collector class, an artist is under no obligation to endorse these.'

'An artist compensates for a limited wardrobe budget by making creative and entertaining clothing choices, much in the way that a dog compensates for a lack of speech through vigorous barking.'

'An artist may dress like a member of the proletariat, but shouldn't imagine he's fooling anyone.'

I am very very tempted indeed to align these sartorial homilies with various members of the New Zealand art world by means of the judicious placement of photographs, but unusually I have restrained myself and you must just imagine to whom they could be applied. However, I very much like White's idea that an artist's 'sartorial choices are subject to the same hermeneutic operations as are his work', and his recommendation that artists should bear in mind while dressing the possibility of a five-paragraph review of his or her outfit 'written by a critic he detests'.

As chance would have it, I once canvassed the idea of writing quite cutting reviews of art critics' clothes which could be published alongside their own reviews, thus enabling everyone else to see whether or not their aesthetic opinions were worth listening to, but it would have been a lot of work and I didn't get round to it.

Click through for White's article: it's completely brilliant.

1 comment:

..... said...

An apocryphal comment on TJ MacNamaras'dress by Pat Hanly was that his cane should have been painted white.