Traipsing around the Tate..(Pt 1)

Juan Usle – Bilingual. NB: This was before I realised the Tate doesn’t allow photos. Oops.

Had a very interesting day last week; met up with Lauren (sheseered)at the Tate Modern. A good time was had by all – I recommend the cafe at the Tate Modern, even if it IS a mite pricey and chock full of ‘art’ food; it was tasty, and just enough for a light lunch.

Anyway, I had a few observations about the Tate Modern, seeing as it was my first time round the place, and how they tie into communications. Lots of these are highly tenuous, but hey….just bear with me.

Now, bear in mind that before going round the Tate, I was someone who regarded much modern art as…well…. not really art, to be honest. Happily, that’s changed – some of the pieces really struck me. Usle, Bacon and Giacometti in particular.

It is such that the thing which really, really struck me (and why I’m happy I was able to take that photo of Juan Usle’s ‘Bilingual’) was the need to be intuitive and to be true to yourself.

Usle’s painting is all about the balance between two differing languages, expressed visually. It’s the thing which unites the two. Everyone, regardless of language, can judge it – and have an inkling into how Usle thinks.

Creatives (and increasingly planners and account handlers), are being called upon to ‘know what’s right’; what constitutes good creative work. It has never been more important in this age of information in tap, where everyone’s opinion can be just as valid as the other. No more top down messages. It’s far more circular now.

As Cynical Rob rightly points out in his APSOTW assignment, there is no wrong answer; just different ways of doing things.

Yet you try quantifying intuition. Can’t be done.. but the best account men/planners/creatives have always been able to sell magic. There’s some truism that suggests magic should just be shown, and not sold. Bollocks. Selling is the name of the game, and selling brilliance can be just as hard as mediocrity, if not moreso; you have to get people to understand someone’s intuition, which (frequently) has never been seen before.

Claude Monet – Waterlillies. The last naughty pic.

Consider Monet’s painting. It’s now considered a stone cold classic by all. But in its day, it was radical. How has this shift occurred? Well, history moves on, and people react to the paintings in different ways, and things get reappraised. This has happened because Monet had the balls to continue ploughing his furrow. Though he may never have directly sold his work, he knew that what he was doing was right.

Quoting that Wiki entry:

“The critical response was mixed, with Monet and Cézanne bearing the harshest attacks. Critic and humorist Louis Leroy wrote a scathing review in the Le Charivari newspaper in which, making wordplay with the title of Claude Monet’s Impression, Sunrise (Impression, soleil levant), he gave the artists the name by which they would become known. Derisively titling his article The Exhibition of the Impressionists, Leroy declared that Monet’s painting was at most, a sketch, and could hardly be termed a finished work.”

God knows what would have happened if ol’ Claude had just listened to the critics.

These artistic pioneers helped to reawaken the debate about high and low culture in my mind. Who says what’s brilliant, and what’s crap?

Personally, I think it’s down to individual intuition.

Take David Patton being appointed as Chief Exec of Grey, for example – he’s clearly someone who has a great deal of intuition, given his commission of award winning Playstation and Bravia spots. He just ‘gets it’. That can’t be taught, but knowing a brand inside out certainly helps. Knowing what’s art and what’ll sell x number of televisions is clearly immeasurably important in this business.

Indeed, it poses the question: Before you slag off that ad you’ve seen in Campaign, who is to say whether you fully understand it? Have you lived the brand in the same way?

Yet, even to that, there is a counter argument… if you are too attached to a brand, it can often lead to people not being able to see the wood for the trees. Sometimes thin-slicery DOES work very well, and is just so.

It’s what I think Jon Steel was driving at in his talk about chucking your Blackberry away. Taking time away from the daily grind of living the brand clears your head, and gets you thinking away from the conventional.

There is a very palpable lesson to be learned from the Tate Modern’s art. Keep your objectivity and subjectivity (so often Yin and Yang to each other) balanced. It’s crucially important.

I think everyone involved in communications would benefit (if they haven’t already) from a jaunt around the Tate Modern. It certainly led to me reappraising my thoughts about a lot of modern art.