Is it art?

Went to see a great play the other day, Pitmen Painters, at the tiny little Duchess Theatre hiding behind the skirts of Covent Garden, just off the Strand. I’m ashamed to say I had never heard of this group of painters before, who all came from the same colliery and took up art almost on a whim, to become the darlings of the art establishment.

The play managed to be both moving and funny, with some great impassioned performances, and said a lot about why people produce art in the first place, and what it means to the onlooker. The main thrust seems to be that the point of art is to generate emotion in its viewer, which makes me feel guilty, as ever, that I just don’t ‘get’ some artists, particularly Rothko. I wish I did. I feel as though I’m tone deaf when I stand in front of his canvases. I know there’s a lot going on there, but all I see is a dingy bit of paint which would take the average toddler five seconds to complete. I read recently of his first exhibition in the UK in the 1950s, when viewers stumbled around the gallery, dazed by his enormous canvases, some moved to tears. I’m sure if I’d been there I’d have done a quick in and out, and popped round the corner for coffee. Ah well. Maybe one day.

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