Books for Nature Lovers
The Art Game
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Review By: Marian van Wyk - July 2015

Elizabeth Riding attempts to bring light and understanding into the age old question of: What is art?


Pre empting to answering this question she states:
'My rebellion is aimed at the mediocrity of this art faith, which has been driving the art status quo for a full century. ….. Modern art is a mendacious mediocrity, arrogantly deluded, decadent and stagnant.  I believe real art to be the exact opposite of what 20th century 'modern art’ and some of its contemporary derivatives represent.’


A possible answer to the question that art only exist within the old masters?

In Chapter 11. Collection IV: The art game at the crossroads, Elizabeth Riding has the following deductions to make:
'The painted surface is the result of a process.   The procedure followed by the artists, whether in traditional art or modern art, depended on utilising the painter’s equipment and tools, namely paint and brushes.  Therefore, the public admired the skill with which the traditional craftsman used his equipment, as skill is ability, and not a character trait.  The new artists use … direct expression of feeling … to make the new art. This implies that either they use their paint and brushes with direct expression of feeling, or that direct expression of feeling is a character trait of the new artists…..’ Here she reasons about Rogers Fry’s intellectual manipulations of the appreciation or new art, 'Skill is therefore inferior to direct expression of feeling.’


This made me wonder of the old master’s produced master pieces without feeling but only concentrating on skill.  VERMEER’S GIRL WITH ONE PEARL EARRING comes to mind.


What comes forth most strongly in The Art Game is the pre empted statement about revolution.  Riding describes a number of revolutions;

  1. Skill versus feeling
  2. Fashionable versus old fashioned
  3. Lucrative business practises versus artists poverty
  4. Bias opinions versus informed intellectual opinions


All the above are covered in a long winded argument, repeated several times in different words. After turning the last page, I was stupefied at not finding a story.  It felt as though I read the academic analysis of the literary play that was never written. There are no reproductions of her attempt at art in Part 1.  Art is visual and the book lacks pictures to compare the different genres. 


The Art Game makes for interesting reading.  Opening debate on what is art and what not.  This little book, if understood correctly, has the potent ability to polarise the likes and dislikes of old and modern art lovers.

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