The short article below is written by James, an S4 pupil at a school in East Lothian, whom I met when I did a debating workshop there. He is now 15 and in S4, and he asked me to provide him with work experience, in the form of helping him with the writing of a piece which I would then put on my blog, which he follows. Actually, I didn’t have to do much! I’m grateful to Ian Johnston at “The Scotsman” and his colleagues for giving up their time to see James. I hope you enjoy it.
Orange Peel inside a Square
I often wonder if the arts these days are more about the artist, or the piece of work they have produced. Of course, the two are often cut from the same cloth, although some do argue that we place too much importance on the artist’s personal character.
Take pop stars for instance. Picture this: a popular singer, with that swagger and typically edgy persona, is revealed as a secret high-class suburbanite. Their fans would probably jilt them in a runner’s breath, feeling betrayed by their idol’s made-up backstory of deprivation. But would this really make their work any worse?
Or imagine that a celebrity artist, Peter Howson, for example, was in fact a happily married pensioner living in Surrey, as opposed to a free spirit with a colourful backstory? Would his art suffer in appeal or popularity? I reckon it would.
Art in this case, seems reliant on the artist’s reputation, perhaps a side effect of our celebrity-obsessed culture, where talent show sob stories reap support. We seem to only connect with music created by social rejects, or accompanied by a good backstory; often the old ‘from rags to riches’ tale.
Providing this is all fair, then being a ‘social reject’ or the kind of person who’s been pulled through the mill a few times does offer rather an advantage in the field. Any form of art which can be seen as breaking through some sort of glass ceiling is given a pedestal advantage when it comes to criticism, and since only music or art created by those who society considers interesting can do that, it leaves the more ordinary artists at a loss as to how they’re supposed to make their mark.
All pretty sceptical, you might be thinking, but it’s not without evidence. Admittedly when it comes to modern art most people have yet to be convinced. I myself have still to reach the enlightened view where I can see the supposed artistic genius in, say, a broken chair, an orange peel inside a square, or in most of the ‘masterful’ creations that take their spot inside the Tate Modern.
To be fair, however, in comparison to some folk these days, I am unlikely to be considered a culture vulture. Aside from reading a bit, and my ongoing stab at a National 5 Art qualification, I’m afraid that would be about it. My taste, or indeed knowledge of music, is well… hardly refined. I even struggle to remember who won The X Factor much beyond 2016. Although, rest assured, I do plan to visit more modern art museums until I have acquired the kind of cultural wisdom that is able to appreciate an orange peel inside a square!
By James Knox.