I realised last night that I was using two words interchangeably to describe the sort of art that I think sells: ‘interesting’ and ‘pretty’.
I think there is an important difference between the two which I now need to make. The adjective ‘interesting’ is what I want my art to be described as, not ‘pretty’. I am not against pretty art. It is just that I’m not good at creating pretty art. However, I would very much like to create interesting art.
However, there is still a lot of pessimism in what I am thinking here. My impression from what I’ve learnt about art history and contemporary art in the last 12 months or so is that to be appreciated for creating interesting art, and ultimately to make money from interesting art, you need to be known. I could produce what might be regarded as ‘interesting’ art yet chances are it will pass people by unnoticed and unwanted. If you are unknown, you can still make a living out of pretty art. People will stop and look and coo as they pass you by. But if you are unknown it is almost impossible to make a living out of interesting art.
I debated this issue last night with someone who likes to provoke an argument and he asked me: who do you want to please? Do you want to please the masses or a certain sector of society? Who are you aiming your art at? All good questions. My answer was that I would like to appeal to the masses rather than a ‘certain sector’. I want anybody who sees my art to stop and think. I want them to like it for what it is, not for who made it. I want to give them something to ponder. I want them to go away and notice the odd and unusual in their world and see things they previously haven’t noticed (through Proustian eyes). I hope this is a good aim to have. I’m never going to be able to make a living out of it though but I guess that is ok so long as I’ve made someone think, and I will always have my day job to fall back on.
I don’t know who this person was that you were discussing it with, but they’re spot on. If you want mass market appeal, start taking photos of cats in cute poses and add whimsical captions (http://xkcd.com/262/). Producing art that makes people stop and think is laudable, but not everyone wants to stop and think about art. So if you want to have mass appeal and make people stop and think, you’re probably talking about converting the masses, which is ambitious indeed!