I’ll be frank about this… I’m not an art lover. Sure, I can appreciate a nice photograph from time to time – especially if it’s of me, and even more so if I’m doing something really cool and dangerous, like riding a motorcycle or picking my nose.

But when it comes to understanding art, I’m hopeless. So in an attempt to get my head around it, I’ve been thinking about it more and more – how does it work? Why do people spend their entire lives beavering away like morons and drones on a single canvas that they’ll probably cut to pieces in a drunken rage at four in the morning in the middle of winter because they’ve broken up with their partner and she’s taken the cat and moved interstate and she was the only one who understood me and I don’t think I can keep living without her. Or something…

So let’s work through this together, shall we? Let’s explore the world of ‘art’ and see if we can’t piece together the greatest puzzle of them all… what the fuck is art? And, more importantly, what the fuck has it got to do with me?

I can answer the first question right away: If you see an object, and you don’t know what it is or why it’s there, it’s probably art. But the second question… that’s the clincher, and it’s a question that anyone who has ever been subjected to art should ask themselves.

I’ll admit to having loved it as a child, but painting these days leaves me cold. I struggle to apply a single block of colour to a household wall, let alone forge any meaningful, or even discernible, images in a mish-mash of flesh tones and bright primary pigments upon a canvas stretched as tightly as my nerves.

So I’m at a loss to understand even the basics of it. Sure, if the artist is going for that whole hyper-realism thing, then it’s easy to figure out what they’re saying with their work: “I have too much time on my hands and I’m too fucking cheap to buy a camera…”

But when it comes to abstract stuff – you know, those crazed impressionists or expressionists or whatever the hell they were calling themselves… I just don’t get it. I’ve had someone try to explain it to me in the past. “Look at the intensity of the brush strokes in this work,” they said. It was a large canvas, and I’m not sure which of the brush strokes they were specifically referring to, but having been left behind – hopelessly left behind, at that – within the first 20 seconds of the lesson, I let my mind wander.

As my eyes happened upon a rather portly gentleman who was ‘admiring’ a painting a few feet away, I decided that by imitating him – adopting his poses and mannerisms – I might at least look like I was appreciating the paintings in the proper way. Thus, after ten minutes of almost imperceptible frowning and some fairly serious beard-stroking, my teacher proclaimed “That’s it! You really look like you’re understanding this! Excellent! Let’s move on to the really abstract stuff now…” I nearly died.

I did get to see one thing that amazed me, though – a painting called Blue Poles, by some jerk with the amusing name of Pollock. Apparently the Australian National Gallery forked out the GDP of Kenya for this painting, and as far as I could tell, it looks like some madman has thrown paint on a canvas, attached a ridiculous price tag and waited for an over-zealous public servant with the keys to the treasury and severe myopia to wander in and buy it. It sums up the world of painting for me – overpriced, and overburdened by sympathetic souls. If ever people were making millions doing something that I can look at and say, “Jesus, even I can do that…” it’s painting.

But it’s not just the fact that Pollock’s Blue Poles leaves me none the wiser about art - the idea of a government shelling out millions of dollars for paint splashed randomly on a canvas makes me shudder like a shitting dog.

It was my dad who told me the secret to good sculpture – many years ago, I told him that I wanted to carve myself a large elephant, but that I needed his help. His advice was invaluable…he told me that if I wanted to carve an elephant, I should get myself a lump of concrete, making sure that the concrete is slightly larger than the elephant I want to create. Then, I was to get myself a hammer and chisel, assess the block of stone, and then simply knock off the bits that didn’t look like an elephant.

He’s lucky I didn’t start knocking off all the bits of him that did look like an elephant. That task I left to my mother. Hence, my dad is still a ‘work in progress’.

But I digress… I can see the benefit of some sculpture. It can be, and frequently is, quite rude. Some of the most famous sculptures of all time are pretty much just giant marble naked guys, or large marble women with ample, dimpled buttocks and vacant expressions on their faces. It’s interesting – given the oeuvre of the predominant artists of the day, we now expect that most art containing largish women or men with tiny penises will arrive in the form of sculpted marble.

These days, with the penchant of artists to use hyper-skinny crack-whore models, it would make better economic sense to use marble now – after all, there’s a lot less of the model to carve, keeping the raw material costs at a reasonable level. But no – they burnt money carving fat chicks out of beautiful stone 300 years ago, and these days they prefer to photograph the skinny ones. Sometimes humans confuse me.

Now this one I can nearly understand – except that most of the photography exhibitions I’ve ever been to have been catastrophically boring. Yes, I have a working knowledge of taking pictures – no journalist worth his salt doesn’t know how to take a half-decent photo from time to time – but when it comes to photography as ‘art’ rather than photography as ‘work’, I’m stumped.

Having been to see quite a few galleries whose walls were lined with photos, I can say this – if I see one more “single tree in an otherwise empty field with storm clouds gathered ominously behind it” photo, I’ll find the photographer and give him a Canon Colonoscopy. With the number of digital cameras being sold every day around the world, I reckon it’s a fair bet that there isn’t a single thing on the planet that hasn’t been photographed.

And so we’re left with another branch of photography that I truly despise – photos that rely on the inherent incongruent nature of their subjects. The whole ‘Oh look! It’s a woman wearing an octopus as hair!” or “Check it out! It’s an old man taking a shit in the middle of a freeway!” is more annoying than confronting, more patronising than educational, and ultimately entirely fruitless. Surely we have better things to do with our time than dress people in seafood or watch old people crap. If I’d wanted to do either of those things, I’d go back to work in a nursing home.

I’m absolutely sure that whoever it was that decided to market filmmaking as an art form was attempting an early form of eugenics. “Let’s gather all of the world’s insufferable wankers into one place – with a bit of luck, the building they’re in will collapse and we can all be happy…”

I’ve met a few filmmakers in my time. Hell, I’ve been a filmmaker. It’s fucked. How people can make a living out of it, I don’t know – anything that’s utterly unenjoyable as a hobby has simply got to be the worst job in the world.

See, filmmaking is a horrifyingly vampiric art form. Once a movie is made, it’s there forever. Artists, prior to film, used to produce several versions of the same piece, each time improving upon it. Quite the reverse is the case with film – remakes are invariably shit, and sequels (and to an even greater extent, prequels) are universally banal and awful.

If it were up to me, I think that filmmakers should be licensed, like dogs. There would be a fairly strenuous initial period of testing and retesting, and anyone who falls back on the excuse that their film is ‘a metaphor’ should immediately be banned from ever making one again. Films are not metaphors. Films are a series of still pictures shown in rapid succession to give the impression of movement. Yes, they tell stories. Sometimes those stories are even entertaining. But most of the time they’re just self-indulgent whining about appallingly boring subjects.

Except when they’re blowing up entire buildings – that’s pretty cool.

Digital Art
It’s a fact of life that when a new technology or medium is invented, someone somewhere will look at it and think to themselves “wow… I can make some serious art with that.” In that sense, most artists are akin to the more prolific stoners in society – you know the type. They can be heard uttering phrases like “That television would make an excellent bong” from the depths of the couch, the morning after the welfare cheque has cleared.

And that’s why, all of a sudden, there’s been an explosion of electronic art. A number of reasonably intelligent nerdlings discovered that computers can be used to alter photographs, and the world was beset by Digital Art.

These electron jockeys, like all ‘New Artists’, consider themselves to be cutting edge – at the forefront of the collective psyche, producing tantalising works of art that end up on T-Shirts, or as Desktops. In terms of audience reach, they’re probably on the right track – but it’s highly unlikely that critical acclaim is around the corner.

You see, the invention of the internet has drastically reduced one famous artist’s prediction of fifteen minutes of fame to somewhere between two and three minutes – in essence, the lifespan of a digital artist at the top of his game could quite easily be slotted into the space between the sport and the weather on the nightly news.

Performance Art
There’s a special place in Hell reserved for all performance artists. I will spare you the brutally obvious diatribe on the topic of mimes… it’s so fucking fashionable to hate them these days that they’re in danger of becoming popular again with the avant garde, and we could yet see a revival. But that’s nothing a large, deep hole and a sign reading ‘Free Mime Food’ won’t fix.

The performance arts I particularly loathe are the ones where people intentionally hurt themselves to make a point – protest art, like protest music, is usually extremely tedious, insufferable for any onlooker and, for the most part, a colossal waste of everyone’s time. I cannot see a single redeeming feature in any activity that sets out to fix any of the world’s numerous ills, and usually ends with the sounds of sirens and the scampering footsteps of frightened co-conspirators as they flee into the night.

The problem with performance art is that, in these modern times, it has to be extreme to be noticed. Life was easier for artists in the 1960s – all they needed to do was take their clothes off and they’d be famous. But if Yoko Ono’s caterwauling and public nudity were thought-provoking and daring back then, today they’re limitlessly passé – performance artists have evolved.

The best example I know of is a chap called Mike Parr, who insists on inflicting prodigious amounts of pain on himself to make ‘statements’ about ‘issues’, thus forming ‘art’ that makes people ‘think’. Having seen him do his thing – I watched him having his face stitched up and then wire himself up to a potent source of electricity, inviting people to visit his website and press a button that would deliver a shock to his already brutalised form – I have to say that I applaud the man’s stamina. But that’s about it.

I’m sorry to say that it’s my dim opinion that this man, and anyone like him, is a 24-carat gold-plated fool. I refuse to be impressed by people hurting themselves to make a point. I can see no difference between them and people like Steve O and the lads from Jackass… except at least the guys from Jackass aren’t pretending to save the world.

All writers are fools. It’s a simple, inalienable fact. I know, because I am one. We sit down and pen missives on whatever topic strikes us (if we’re lucky) or whatever we’re told to write (if we work for someone else), and all that matters is making sure that each piece, or chapter, has a beginning, a middle and an end.

It’s actually debatable, in my opinion, that writing is not an art – it’s more of a craft. Although to me, the word ‘craft’ brings to mind small tubs of paste, ice cream sticks, tiny tubes of glitter with lids that won’t come off and a box of 64 brightly coloured Derwent pencils, the more popular colours being immediately apparent because the pencil is only half as long as its less-potent neighbour. Plus, the ends of the popular colours are chewed more.

But it’s not hard to string words together – everyone can do it in some form or another. Even the basics, like learning to ask for a bagel or asking someone where the toilets are in a pub are a form of wordsmithing – the only difference being that some of us possess the manual dexterity to type the words as fast as we can think them, and thus the published sentences appear a tad more coherent.

I dislike most writers. But, like all writers, I like my own work. I like to think that I write more for myself than for others – and for that reason, I can generally be assured that if I feel like making myself laugh, I can simply re-read some of the moronic things I’ve written over the years.

It’s the beauty of being a simpleton – repetitive things can often be amusing.

Wrapping Up
And so, you now know how I feel about art. I know that some of you will be shocked, and others outraged – but I can assure you that I have, by no means, set out to offend. Except filmmakers – you can all go to hell.

But everyone else should not be upset by what I’ve written - if imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, a spite born of envy must surely run a close second.

What do you think, did we get it right? Comment here...