Art bringing people together

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I’ve been to a couple of galleries recently, the British Art Show is in Leeds and my good mate Phil Dean continues to interpret the world around him through his delightful sketches.  It’s got me thinking a little bit about art and whether it brings people together.

My dad used to love to sketch and as his mobility declined liked nothing better than getting himself sat comfortably with a nice view where he’d either sketch or get the watercolours out.  When people saw him they would often drift over and have a look and my dad would invariably draw them into conversation.  I was really reminded of this when we were in Malaga recently watching the way Phil would quickly capture a scene wherever we happened to be.  He also does it in a way that does not distract from whatever else we are doing, happily chatting away enjoying some food and drink whilst at the same time sketching.  He will then often continue to work on and embellish the picture throughout the day, adding little flourishes and touches.

I’m no artist so resort like many of us to snapping a few photos on my phone but I think I have always struggled to adapt to the taking a photo of everyday things, is it intrusive ?  I feel uncomfortable with it lots of the time, there is sometimes an element of slyness,  furtiveness or voyeurism using a camera to capture an image that standing openly and drawing is the antithesis of, it’s transparent, people can come and look at what you are doing and in doing so give their approval (or otherwise of course).  What I noticed when Phil was doing this was how much people enjoyed it, someone taking the time to sketch their town, it didn’t matter what part of the town the sketch was in people wanted to have a look.

In looking it brought a smile to people and this was universal in whatever bar we happened to be in and on one occasion a waiter thrust a takeaway bag under Phil’s nose for him do draw something on.  We got chatting to numerous people, our lack of Spanish and their lack of English becoming irrelevant as the sketches of their town elicited a warmth that made us feel very welcome wherever we went, the art becoming a bridge between us.

This simple bringing of people together over someone’s drawings contrasts to the most part of my experience of galleries – they bring people in but do they bring people together ? Most galleries seem to actively discourage conversation you seem to have to look, contemplate internally and nod sagely.  I can’t imagine that this is what artists would have wanted when they were creating their art, surely they would have wanted interaction, comment, reaction and discussion not silence and sterility.  Maybe we are just scared of saying the wrong thing, of showing our ignorance in not ‘getting’ the work that we are looking at.

However even in galleries connections are sometimes made, while we were in the Centre of Contemporary art in Malaga looking at Ai WeiWei’s Zodiac Heads, Andrew got chatting to this elderly gentlemen who was staring in total wonder.  He was so awed by it he simply said I don’t want to leave this place.  A beautiful and powerful example of the transformative power of art.

Stephen Fry in a talk about art said the following:

Oscar Wilde quite rightly said, ‘All art is useless’. And that may sound as if that means it’s something not worth supporting. But if you actually think about it, the things that matter in life are useless. Love is useless. Wine is useless. Art is the love and wine of life. It is the extra, without which life is not worth living.

I love that sentiment and wholeheartedly believe it to be true, but in watching Phil sketch across the weekend it took on a different meaning, art is the extra, the addition to life and in creating it you can enhance people’s lives and bring people together, however fleetingly and put a smile on their face.

All the artwork on this page is from Phil Dean drawn on our recent Malaga trip.  Go check out his sketching site shoreditchsketcher

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Sketching

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The ubiquitousness of phones in pockets means that the places where we are get documented in a way that’s never happened before, quick snap, up on instagram move on.  The instantaneous nature of this raises question on what are you actually seeing and documenting, although for those of us with no artistic ability whatsoever perhaps we are aiming to capture the drawing of that moment in our minds eye.  I was down in London earlier this week and caught up with my good mate @phildean1963 and of course we headed to the pub for a few beers and a bite to eat.

Phil has started a new project this year where he is trying to sketch pubs and restaurants that he goes in so as we sipped our pints and chatted Phil got to work and without hardly making any effort, glided and swept his pen across the notebook and in 10 mins had sketched the pub we were in (The Peasant – above).  I was quite mesmerised watching him do this and seeing the sketch take shape, where he started on the page, which bit of the pub he drew first and how it all came together.  It captured things in a way that is so far removed from the phone shot and looking at it again now it brings back memories in a way that my photograph of the pub simply doesn’t.  Now I don’t suffer from jealousy but I tell you I hugely admire people with talent and I’d love to be able to do this.  My dad loved to sketch and paint watercolour and one of my kids is taking a real interest in art and will often doodle and draw when we are out and about.  Appears it missed a generation with me though which is a real shame.

I’ve seen a few of Phil’s drawings before and what he really likes is to put a bit of detail in which he didn’t really have time to do when we were out.  Yesterday though he was at it again.  Talented guy and an all round good egg to boot.

 

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