I have very clear memories of my ten-year-old self being immensely, deeply unimpressed by Rothko and Mondrian. I was very angry about why this constituted "art"; my definition of art explicitly excluded square canvases painted a single colour.
My ten-year-old self is gently unimpressed every time I stop dead in front of a six-foot-square matte black canvas in an art gallery, wonderstruck, and go "hmm, yes, isn't it fascinating
what's being done here, isn't this good
I am nursing a theory that the main differences between me-then and me-now are:
- I'm no longer in a situation where my autism is actively decried, and have internalised that it's okay for particular colours or shapes to make me happy, just because, and (as a superset, really)
- I've started believing that it's okay for me to have and experience emotions full stop (and am sufficiently well medicated that I can and do).
Which means that, over the past few years, I've stopped interpreting modern and especially abstract art as, fundamentally, threats: I've stopped responding automatically with defensive suspicion and fury to forms of art that (crudely!) exist to make me feel things.
There is nuance to this, of course. Seeing the Barbara Hepworth exhibit at the Tate Britain, the (possible? probable?) reasons for my emotional response clicked into place when I read that a lot of her more abstract work was in response to or in dialogue with her feelings of being cradled by landscape, and particularly by the Lake District and by Cornwall; all of a sudden it was obvious to me that the sense of home-and-safety-and-familiarity I get off those sculptures is, in fact, the same sense of awe and belonging and recognition I get staring out to sea or feeling dwarfed on valley floors or what-have-you.
That was followed up by another visit to the Tate Britain
, one day I wound up in the right area of London with some time to kill, where what I'd intended to do was poke my nose into some of the public galleries. I saw War Damaged Musical Instruments
advertised on the website and ignored it -- and then stopped dead in the middle of the hall it occupied, the moment I got there, and spent twenty minutes sat there crying.
One of the things I've been gently sad about for quite a long time is that I'm a classically-trained musician who is mostly very, very bad at listening to classical music unless it's something I've played or am preparing to play, such that I'm listening as a technical study. (I think I've talked before about mostly relating to music as either a technical study or a vehicle for lyrics, but if not I can give it a go.) I'm starting to think it might be time to have another go.