A friend has had her work rejected by a gallery on the grounds that it is too stylised and tending towards ‘affectation’. All said in the politest way possible of course.
Apparently (allegedly this is news) there are degrees of affectation in art; and also, so it seems, there are limits on its acceptability in the eyes and minds of the particularly critically astute viewers.
Those artists who insist on continuing to plough the obviously decrepit and irrelevant furrow of expressive figurative painting are accused (with a patronising and authoritative nod) of ‘affectation’; as if there were a higher form of culturally accepted art that did not rely on affectation.
It reminded me of the story of the philosopher Diogenes, whilst he was at the Athenian theatre one day (I’m assuming it was Diogenes of Sinope but I can’t seem to track down the story online).
A group of youths from the wealthy city of Sybaris entered; all decked out in the finest clothes, jewellery and make up, striding through with the confidence that they were as natural as water or air. Diogenes, a confirmed critic of all excess (and Cynic of course), stands up and shouts at them “Affectation, affectation.”
A little later another group walk in; this time it’s the residents of Croton, known for their more ascetic style of dress and life, who also walk with the confidence of supposed authenticity. Once again Diogenes stands up and shouts “Affectation, more affectation.”
To the gallerist: It’s art… the cultural apex of conspicuous artificiality. Show me please, what in your mind, passes for an ‘authentic’, artifice-free, piece of art.
Do you purists not think there may be an etymological link between the words ‘art’ and ‘artifice’?
“Royal wedding” 2011