I was having a discussion via Twitter the other night, well as much as you can in 140 characters, about art with a fellow Tweeter, photographer Chris Reed.
We talked about the work of Matthew Neidbal, whom I featured the other day, and how we both liked art that was on the darker side, that unnerved you slightly and makes your brain feel something deeper than happy happy, smile smile. Those are wonderful things to feel when looking at art, of course, and I enjoy looking at art that evokes those very simple reactions and emotions, but I feel more connected to art that makes me feel something a little more profound, something like disquiet or discomfort. I want to look into a painting, a collage, a drawing and see detail and wonder what it symbolises, if anything. I want to see meanings and messages and evidence of what the artist was thinking or feeling. Often it's the negative feelings of an artist that produces the best art. The 'tortured artist' may be a cliche, but some of the best work has undoubtedly been created by artists, in all genres, who were not entirely of a sunny disposition.
Happiness is simple. Unhappiness is complicated.
When all that's said and done, I really admire a gorgeous landscape and the technical abilities that have gone into rendering that tree, that blade of grass, that river. My eyes widen when I see a still life where the apple looks like it could be picked right out of the painting. Art like this, for me, is calming and soothing. I love challenge, yes, but sometimes I do like the simple reaction of happy happy, smile smile.
There are different degrees of this reaction. When it comes to art which isn't going to make me go off and ponder the world, I still like to see enough detail to allow me to really get involved in the work. I want to go up close and see millions of tiny pen lines or paint strokes. The end reaction may be a simple smile, but I want to smile knowing the artist considered every mark with care and delicacy, knowing it would create that smile.
When I saw these illustrations by Danielle Reck, my reaction was initially the simple smile, but when I looked closer I saw tiny elements of the slightly 'off' I crave. Pretty, wide eyed and delicate doll-like characters take a slightly more sinister turn when you see her little dress adorned with ornate skulls. Some are straight up pretty, but there is still a hint of veiled meanness in the little faces. Maybe it's just me seeing this, but those tiny mouths look like they are keeping in a thousand expletives and a tirade of naughy thoughts...