Can collecting art change your life?
If we had the resources, I guess most of us would happily hang a Picasso on our living room wall. Or a Freida Kahlo, a David Hockney. Or, since you’re on my site, a photographic print: an original Ansel Adams landscape, or an edgy Diane Arbus portrait?
All dreams aside, most thoughts about choosing photographs as art revolve around a simple (but really not so simple) question: do I want what's on my walls to express 'creative' abstractions or to reflect the human condition (as in ‘life out there’). Thoughts around which print to purchase, which prints to mount on the walls we see every day, are driven, often subconsciously, around these two concepts.
Art versus life. Opposing elements?
Not really, since in the strongest art these two elements exist in harmony. A powerful 1950s Cartier-Bresson street scene in Paris, displaying all the joy or complexity of life, is deeply informed by the purity of its composition, its play of light and shade - just as a classic Edward Weston still life of a curvaceous sea shell or a bell pepper tells us much about our responses to our bodies, to eroticism, to the very idea of human life itself.
Art and life, together.
Ultimately, it boils down to how we see ourselves. If the art in our homes doesn’t reflect who we are, what’s it doing there? Because it matches the furniture? (Décorism, 1980s.) Because we imagine our friends will like it? (The safe bet - not about who I am, more about who they are.) Because it cost a week's salary? Oh, really?
Art is personal. Not everyone will agree, support, approve your creative decisions, and that’s as it should be. When you choose this painting over that, this photograph over that one, you’re expressing something unique, the visual expression of who you are - beyond the influences and pressures of everyday life. We accept this is the sensibility that great artists have, it’s the source of their creativity and really what makes them individual artists, but it’s something all serious art lovers and collectors and critics have too.
Your art, the art you live with, should be about the world as you see it and want to experience it, about what you believe in. What it shouldn’t reflect is the world as decided by others - a world driven by magazines, videos and social media. I think we’d all agree we already have plenty, even too much, of that.
Art is the last bastion we have when the world is losing its head, which in 2022 increasingly seems the case! It either talks to that chaos or offers retreat from it. In a world where increasing conformity, homogenisation, globalisation are driving our daily lives, art is our private space, where we can be free and think and reflect, and still be ourselves. It is quietly powerful, alone.
I hope you can see where I’m going with this. Whatever objects, paintings, photo prints, sculptures and furniture you decide to have in your life, it really should express who you are, and expose those who enter your private space to understand who you are, and reflect your persona. Choosing art is one of the few truly independent decisions we can still make in this crazy world. A new car? Even cars these days all tend to look the same. What’s left?
Explore the photographs on the StudioTettix site and see how you connect emotionally with them, then ask yourself why. Trust your instincts, try not to introduce external factors; explore and think about the work and see if it makes you happy. Or angry. Or sad, or reflective. Decide what you really want from the art you live with. Not 'comfort', I hope, or simply ‘decoration.’ Don’t choose images because they go with the colour of your walls, match the furniture, or because they’re safe. That's not the reason I take photographs. Always I’d rather be challenged by an image, confronted by it, or fall in love with it…
The key to honest collecting? Ask yourself: what do I feel when I look at this work. Does it 'recognise' me, the person I am, how will it support or shake my everyday perceptions to live with it? Given the right responses, an art work will come alive every day and will partner you through life. It's a touchstone for how you're feeling, up and down. And if you find yourself talking about a work of art, thinking about it when you're not there, not as an object but as a kind of being, a soul with its own reasons for being, then surely it’s done its job...
The pleasures of art therapy, on a small but eternal scale.
Tony Maniaty, Sydney, January 2022
Photo: Succulents, Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney © Tony Maniaty 2021