One of my other hobbies is oil painting. I create landscapes and abstracts in oils purely for my own pleasure. I was talking with a friend at an art exhibition just last month and she said half jokingly that I should put my art in for the Turner prize (a prestigious art prize in the UK that can catapult the winner into art superstardom.) I said don’t be silly, my paintings are nowhere near good enough. No she replied, not your paintings… your Christmas lights.
That got me thinking. We spend lots of time and effort on our displays. But is it art?
The first question of course is What Is Art?
The very last essay of Paul Gauguin was on the importance of the question ‘What is art?’ A trip to the dictionary suggests that ‘art’ refers to something skillfully constructed by human artists. However, the artists themselves have been pushing the boundaries of any such definition, challenging our preconceptions, and leaving most philosophers, psychologists and critics well behind — to say nothing of the general public. My personal definition is that art is something that stirs an emotional response.
The classic painters such as Rembrandt, da Vinci, Vanmeer, etc. used their skills to represent the world, modern masters such as van Gogh, Picasso, Renoir gave us impressions, whilst people like Warhol and Dali moved us both totally away from and back towards art as pop (or pop as art?)
Does it take skill to put up a display? Yes it does. Just as anyone can throw paint onto a canvas, anyone can plug in a string of lights. But to do it with aplomb and give a pleasing result at the end requires a degree of technical skill and an artistic flair.
Does it push the boundaries? Absolutely- new techniques are being used every year. New designs, new methods of entertaining the viewers.
Does it stir the viewer’s emotions? There seems to be two emotions. Joy and anger. For the vast majority there is joy at seeing the lights. A smile on their faces indicates a little bit of happiness on a dark cold night. A very small minority of people get angry. If it’s through jealousy, envy or their own rage at their incompetence, I don’t know, but people certainly do get themselves worked up.
So let’s get back to the original question. Is it art? It requires skill, it pushes the boundaries of what is considered art and it stirs emotions. Therefore the answer is yes – our Christmas decorating is art.
Now where is that application form for next year’s Turner Prize???
This article was included in the December 2010 issue of PlanetChristmas Magazine.
By David Grant