Art Works versus Works of Art

Art Work versus Work of Art

I have an unhealthy addiction to house make-overs on TV - perhaps the state of our own house explains this! I think it's also slightly masochistic - I wait for the assemblage of an 'Art Work' from scraps of coloured fabric or splashes of paint to complete the furnishing of a room. I then shout angrily at the television or at any unfortunate person who happens to be in the room. I have recently encountered this dreadful phrase in serious contexts, especially on line. I am, however, pleased that Sue Perkins (despite her programme being titled 'The Art on Your Wall', does refer frequently to 'art works ' when describing the soulless patterns and facile images around which the programme revolves.

The difference between the two phrases and their meanings seems crystal clear to me. An 'Art Work' is a furnishing picture, chosen to complement the furnishings and colour schemes of a room which has had its elements assembled for decorative effect. It does not belong in a room where the overall design has evolved to incorporate cherished belongings. An Art Work can also be an idea (concept) shown in a visual way but with no evidence of skill, technique or ability on the part of the artist and not so much as a passing nod to aesthetics. It has to have the addition of a verbal explanation to inform the viewer of the concept concept. It is usually assembles from non-durable materials making it an impossible long term investmen - a perfect example of the Emperor's New Clothes syndrome!

Fortunately I don't possess an Art Work to illustrate what I'm trying to say, but please take some time to examine this work of art by Frank Wasley, feel his involvement in all aspects of the storm he depicts, explore its composition, tonal qualities, surface texture, any feelings it evokes, and, love it or loathe it, ask yourself if it really matters where it is hung. Looking at a work of art for its inherent qualities is what I believe to be important.

See if you agree with my comments on the two terms and look at my section on Conceptual Art if you're interested in my arguments.. I believe the distiction between terms discussed above is similar to the distinction between 'ornaments' and 'objects d'art'.

A 'Work of Art' , however, is just that: in the case of a picture it has been painted (or drawn, etched, collaged etc.) with skill, talent and emotional involvement and strives to satisfy the drive to create. It is something to be valued and appreciated for its own intrinsic worth, regardless of where it is hung. It should communicate directly with the viewer on a variety of levels. It should be bought because it evokes an emotional response in the buyer, not to complete the furnishing of a room. A colourful and attractive Art Work will do that very cheaply and very well - if you are happy with a superficial effect.

© Rosamund Jordan 2007

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