Richard Oliff: Learning to break the rules of art

What's your idea of good art, asks Richard
What's your idea of good art, asks Richard
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The definition of “art” is tantamount to impossible. How does one define art?

Surely it’s a given that all things artistic are a personal experience both for the creator and the viewer, listener or reader.

Whether it is the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel or a pile of bricks in a gallery. One person’s perception of art may leave another cold.

Paintings by Matisse or Constable should never be compared, much in the same way that the music of Rachmaninoff and Stockhausen would be impossible to contrast, yet, to different people, each are superlative.

The English language is no exception. There are books, styles and authors for everyone – a million shades of taste.

Many years ago I sat in an A-Level English lecture listening to the voice of Dylan Thomas reading one of his own lengthy poems.

His words broke through the crackles of an old LP and I remember being struck by his monotone delivery that appeared to ignore any punctuation: that’s because there wasn’t any, apart from the odd full stop.

This for me was a revelation. Something from the past which flew in the face of everything I’d been taught: it was telling me that the rules can and should be broken to achieve a desired effect.

That single experience inspired me to attempt my own version of a linguistic “Henry Moore” by writing a book that would endeavour to be humorous yet, at the same time, mean different things to every reader.

It went under the rather grandiose title of Thruxmaviour II – Volume 9 – English – The First Language on the Moon.

Today people of all backgrounds send millions of text messages every day using often abbreviated, unpunctuated yet simple decipherable notes.

Although the world has changed in so many ways in such a short period of time, publishers remain reluctant to consider most works that vary from a standard approach.