Monday, February 16, 2009

Art and White Horses

Every now and six months I like to chuck my huge personal ignorance into the art world. The discussion about Mark Wallinger's white horse seems as good a time as any.

Opinion seems to be divided on the matter. On the one hand white horses have been the preferred hill-marking of south-easterners over the years with the occasional break to draw men with big willies. A huge, 3D white horse will be in keeping with the past yet brash, bold and visible from the motorway. It couldn't be a black horse. May as well be a burning ten pound note as that.

On the other, of all the things to choose, isn't a horse (in the age of the petrolhead) looking backwards not forwards? Compared to the stylised Angel of the North and the south-west's dancing wicker man isn't a big horse a bit, well, dull?

Most new, iconic artwork receives its fair share of criticism before being accepted and loved. The Angel of the North didn't have a good start. Any piece of art that receives general and immediate public acceptance will probably be something we fall out of love with equally quickly. Or, in the case of Manchester's B of the Bang, will fall apart. Forgetting all other considerations a piece must be well constructed and not a danger to the casual observer. Art that kills people soon loses its popularity. The horse shouldn't be inflatable. Best not to topple either.

What will they say about our generation when they are looking at our surviving art in 500 years time? One Guardian columnist recently noted that this age would be known as that of the people who put dog poo in plastic bags and buried it. What could the folk who did that possibly have to say to their descendants?

On balance I'd trust Wallinger. He knows what he's doing, has a track record and if the horse is huge it will be eye-catching. We were the people who made big art, they'll say. Why not?

1 comment:

Mr Gnome said...

Yoo hoo.

I so want to be thrilled by the big horse.

But can't help feeling a wee bit disappointed.

The two big works you mention (The Angel and the wicker Strider) intrigue my eye and mind - must be something to do with the fact that both are intensely ambiguous, teasing images. Both seem to have appeared in their particular landscapes, mysterious, weird, suggestive.

But there's nothing teasing or ambiguous about the horse, at least not from the computer-generated images I've seen so far.

It's so literal - a gigantic, naturalistic horse. Maybe the monumumentality will supply the mystery and drama. I hope so!