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What makes art remarkable?

Updated: Jun 7, 2020

The making of masterpieces

I am currently attending a weekly class on Art History and Art Appreciation led by Caroline Bacon. Entitled, "In Focus - the making of Masterpieces", we take a famous work of art or architecture each week and look at how and why it was created while placing it in it's artistic and historical context.

While some of the works are incredible for their technical or artistic merit, others have a massive reputation in spite of this - but all of the works have, without doubt, changed the world and are seen as "important".

The art of small differences

I'm interested in the everyday. Just as well, you might say - Ha! But there's a tremendous personal satisfaction that comes from making an art work that resonates on some level with someone. Perhaps its a joyful piece that just lifts the spirit on lonesome afternoon? Or maybe the work has a back-story with a simple truth or emotion that conjures up a memory or shared experience?

I once heard a humble artist say that he wanted to make "remarkable" art. I know what you are thinking: it's a surprisingly ambitious statement (Well, we don't all want to be plumbers - see my post on Duchamp to follow). But he didn't mean in some grand sense, and neither was he being pretentious. He just hoped that the people who liked his work would want to talk about it with their friends.

Why they had chosen that piece? What had they liked about it? How it made them feel each day when they looked at it? Perhaps they'd reminisce or learn something new and surprising about each other?

It which case it would be both remarkable and indeed, "remarkable".

In the business of butterfly wing flapping

Imagine the meaningful conversations that might take place in the presence of a painting. What emotions had it sparked, and what had directly or indirectly resulted from those shared moments? What if you could capture and document such impacts? (I'm is no way advocating a Big Brother / Alexa-style nightmare, but it's a thought).

Could a meaningful conversation about our feelings at a precise moment change our relationships and lives for the better? Am I in the butterfly wing-flapping business?


*The Butterfly Effect grants the power to cause a hurricane in China to a butterfly flapping its wings in New Mexico. It may take a very long time, but the connection is real. If the butterfly had not flapped its wings at just the right point in space/time, the hurricane would not have happened.

Our lives are an ongoing demonstration of this principle that small changes in the initial conditions lead to drastic changes in the results..


I began my website with a quote: "that there's never been a better time to be an artist, because technology now makes it possible to find your audience, connect and share".

It's the process by which even a lowly artist, a cotton canvas and some pigments that pretty much come out of the earth - with a bit of skill but mostly an idea, and some endeavour - might just connect with someone and ultimately make a small difference in their life.

Now, that's pretty remarkable.


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