"It means making an artistic decision to be out of step.... See that through to its logical conclusion and provincialism becomes an artistic strategy: not a misfortune of birth or temperament, but a wilful rejection, not simply of metropolitan fashion and facility, but of the very idea of a gravitational centre. You haunt the margins because the margins are where independence and originality are to be found...
But there is a price to be paid for this particular ambivalence. Where you do not attach an unambiguously, not to say transparently high value to yourself and to your work, others will have difficulty locating it. It is a sad fact about readers and lookers that they need to be told what a thing is worth and will often take art at the artist's own valuation. Lowry did not hold his work in disesteem, but in its presentation, in its apparent subject matter, in the titles he gave it, in the contrary and sometimes dismissive narratives in which he obscured both his ambitions and his achievements, he not only refused all suggestions of the highest seriousness, not to say grandeur, but made it difficult for others to see or describe that grandeur for themselves.
Only think of the artistic strategy of the conceptualists - a Damien Hirst title, say: The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living - and compare it with Landscape in Wigan or Industrial Scene, Ashton Under Lyne. It's true that Hirst punctures his own inflated self-importance with irony, but in an age of irony that only adds to the self-importance. Just because conceptualism plays with portentousness, that doesn't mean it is not portentous. And because it says it is about ideas, it ipso facto IS about ideas.
Thus is seriousness in contemporary art, simply frivolity in another guise. Lowry was the polar opposite of this, making modest claims for what he did, presenting himself and his ambitions in a way that belied the real accomplishment of the art itself..."
I wrote all this a couple of days ago, and today read this on Mark Hobson's Landscapist about his loathing of the quest for the idealised form:
"...But, I have come to understand consciously what I have always understood intuitively - that what really gnawed at my craw was/is the fact that most of the pictures which pissed me off had nothing to do with 'real' life. Most of the pictures, in fact, stood/stand in direct contrast to 'real' life.
In wallowing in the fields of "idealized forms', they refute and devalue the realities of everyday life.
You know the life I mean. The one which you live each and every day. The one with the dust balls under the bed with the sagging mattress. The one with toil and trouble. But, it is also the one with joy and happiness which comes from 'some things money can't buy' - things that can be experienced only by looking life square in the eye and, for lack of a better term, embracing and dealing with it.
Now, when it comes to picture making and picture viewing, many seem to think that pictures which depict 'real' life are somehow 'ugly' and 'depressing'. They fail to make even the slightest effort to find the beauty in truth. Better to escape into the realm and easily grasped false hope of 'idealized forms' than to 'work' at finding true hope in all which surrounds one's self."