Messy Lines: Why I Write
Why should we care about art? To us readers of and contributors to an art magazine, the answer to that may seem so obvious that it barely seems worth asking the question. But what about if you’re not so invested in creative culture, if going to a gallery is not a regular experience for you? In much of the public imagination the art world has an image of being rarefied, the distant bubble that gets on the news when painting sells for hundreds of millions, or a gallery charges £20+ for a single exhibition ticket. So it was out of a desire to contribute to showing how all of us can connect from art, from a personal perspective, that Messy Lines was born.
Fans can sometimes make bad writers; there’s a fine line between writing a positive critique, and with an attitude of sheer enthusiasm. But if the objective of a writing is to help readers decide whether they want to go and see an exhibition or not, there must be room for emotion. Is it not our emotional reactions which ultimately define how we perceive art? To start answering my initial question, I think art’s about ideas, and successful art is that which gets us thinking about these ideas – and it’s an emotional response which creates this connection and inspires our minds. So the tagline for Messy Lines – “I love art, maybe you will too” – was chosen to try and capture a sense of my writing being unapologetically based on emotions. With that in mind, I’m uncomfortable when people call what I do “criticism”. To me that word carries connotations of judgement from some kind of ‘on high’, which is simply not a place I occupy. Instead, I write because I like the chance to share my thoughts with other people. If you agree with my words, then that’s great. If you don’t, then let’s have a different – and equally valuable – conversation.
While the bread-and-butter of what I do is reviews, I often think about arts access and education, too. When the news tells you about schools cutting arts from their curriculum, it’s not hyperbole – there’s something very rotten in the system. Lack of funding, lack of time and lack of knowledge of how to apply the arts are all parts of a huge, complex jigsaw, but it’s one which it’s vital that we solve. Who will be bringing ideas into future generations if we don’t? To deprive young people of creative knowledge is to deprive them of a whole way of thinking, and they deserve better than that.
Over the last two years Messy Lines has become a bigger commitment than I ever expected it to – but for all the right reasons. One of the best things about the blog, and the other writing projects it has led me to, is constantly discovering new artists and organisations which play a part in what might broadly be termed the Merseyside art world. It seems that every time I look around, something or somebody new comes to my attention, a feeling which has been a real joy. And joy is always better shared.