In which Dan tries to stop dismissing so much art

I spent yesterday evening walking up and down Brunnenstrasse, the street that many of Berlin’s tiny one-room art galleries have collectively settled on as home. Every Friday evening they simultaneously open their doors, bring out the booze, shove a DJ in the corner (optional), and show off their latest display for the wandering crowds. It’s a perfect example of culture being dictated by economics: none of the galleries are large enough to justify a visit in themselves – but darting between a dozen of them there’s certain to be something worthwhile.

So some Fridays I trot down there with the rest [*]. And…I spend a lot of the time trying to figure out why so much of the art leaves me cold. Partly, yes, it’s Sturgeon’s Law. But much of it is due to my own horribly narrow taste in art – and that’s something I can probably change, or at least understand. So I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what that taste is, and what scope there is to squeeze it out into other areas.

There’s one class of art that almost always appeals to me. I guess I take my art as I take my politics: gradually built up from the details, the overall interpretations multiple and provisional, rough guides to a landscape just this side of chaos. That means I’m a sucker for a certain subset of surrealism, and that among the Old Masters I go for the paintings full of convoluted, ambiguous classical and religious symbolism. Above all it means I love complex drawings, projections of multi-dimensional mental fantasies that don’t fit neatly onto paper. Better still when they’re in colourful paint. Then seeing the painting becomes something close my stereotype of an acid trip [**]: filling my mind with more fantasies and more layers of meaning than it can cope with [***]

I’ve mentioned before my love of Alexander Rodin, who is a perfect example of this: he seems to have some kind of synaesthesic SF epic trapped within his head. More mundane is Norman Sandler, whose latest work I saw yesterday: fragments of cityscapes and household objects, layered over each other, full of rubbish and cryptic text and what look like tea-stains (was this planned, or did he just knock over a cup? We may never know: the drawings are none the worse for their brown stains, but nor are they noticeably improved by them). It doesn’t have visual impact or the imaginative complexity of Rodin, but there’s enough in it to set me dreaming.

Stuff I dislike is more predictable, so deserves to go under a cut

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