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Archive for June, 2012

Gosh. It’s been ages since I last sat in the Howgills to write a blog post.

It’s a beautiful day and it looks like we’ve got a little spell of days like this ahead this week. Time to get out and get some images done that I’ve been waiting to do for a while now.

The other week someone asked me what I thought was ugly. That’s an interesting one I thought. I know what I consider to be beautiful and by definition the opposite of beautiful must be ugly. The dictionary defines beauty as “A combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic,┬áintellect or moral senses”. Ugly is similarly defined, but is unpleasant to the senses.

Most of my work on one level is about beauty. I know it’s not fashionable to make art just because it looks nice, but I make no excuses. I’m happy doing that. I’m a bit of a beauty addict. It’s the force which moves me the most emotionally. I’m always looking for it. Hunting it out in all it’s forms. If I’m having a bad day nothing lifts the spirit than finding something beautiful.

It’s not just a visual thing either. It can be a sound, music, a smell, a taste, a touch. It’s there to be found in all the senses.

But what is beauty?

It’s in the eye of the beholder as they say. It’s true that every one of us has our own individual tastes and these too are shaped by our cultural norms. The idea of beauty has changed throughout civilisation too. There’s a wonderful book on the History of Beauty by Umberto Eco (whose writing is a thing of beauty in itself).

It’s all subjective. Aesthetics are subjective and relative too.

Even colour is subjective. There are many cultures in which the concept of green as a colour doesn’t exist. In some cases it’s seen as a shade of blue. In other cultures blue is just a shade of red. Even in Welsh there is no word for brown. In fact, the only universally accepted colours across all cultures and languages are black, white and red.

But back to beauty. What do I love?

Here’s a tiny selection:

starlings over Stainmore. 2012

Hylas and the Nymphs by JWWaterhouse at Manchester Art Gallery

‘Hylas and the Nymphs’ (detail) – J W Waterhouse – Manchester Art Gallery

peacock

shanghai view

Lost by Klas Eriksson

‘Lost’ – Klas Eriksson 2012

But what about ugly? I’m not entirely sure it exists. If there’s a common ideal of what is pleasant to look at, then there’s a consensus of what is not so pleasant, or unpleasant. But even that’s not so straightforward.

Joseph Merrick

Joseph Merrick (the ‘Elephant Man’) photographed in 1889

Beauty can be unconventional. Take the work of Diane Arbus.

Twins by Diane Arbus

‘Twins’ – Diane Arbus

Or medical specimens

hand

pickled six-finger infant’s hand – 1999

Or wind turbines

So maybe ugly is just a form of beauty? It’s still about triggering an emotional response.

What then is the opposite of beauty? Maybe it’s mediocrity. Something devoid of emotional stimulation.

windows

Which is why I’m on a grass bank beside a babbling stream in the Howgills in the sunshne and not sat at a desk somewhere.

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