On Time: Ali Smith’s Artful

artful 1artful 3artful 2artfulI am currently reading Ali Smith’s highly acclaimed Artful, and so far, it is proving to live very much up to its praise. What makes this little book particularly appealing though is the selection of accompanying illustrations and images at the back just waiting to be discovered.

And here’s an especially pleasing snippet on why books need more of our time and what precisely makes ‘good’ art:

“Books themselves take time, more time than most of us are used to giving them…We do treat books surprisingly lightly in contemporary culture. We’d never expect to understand a piece of music on one listen, but we tend to believe we’ve read a book after reading it once. Books and music share more in terms of resonance than just a presence-tense correlation of heard note to read word. Books need time to dawn on us, it takes time to understand what makes them, structurally, in thematic resonance, in afterthought, and always in correspondence with the books which came before them, because books are produced by books more than by writers; they’re a result of all the books that came before them. Great books are adaptable; they alter with us as we alter in life, they renew themselves as we change and re-read them at different times in our lives. You can’t step into the same story twice – or maybe it’s that stories, books, art can’t step into the same person twice, maybe it’s that they allow for our mutability, are ready for us at all times, and maybe it’s that adaptability, regardless of time, that makes them art, because real art (as opposed to more transient art, which is real too, just for less time) will hold us at all our different ages like it held all the people before us and will hold all the people after us, in an elasticity and with a generosity that allow for all our comings and goings. Because come then go we will, and in that order”. [30-32]

I feel like this idea of slowness, appreciation, thought-process and a sense of wonder is what is missing from our day to day lives in general. Smiths’ point here is so valid and can be applied to all ‘art’ forms: literature, visual art, cinema, even TV. It’s like if you give anything your time it becomes important, and personally, I believe in that sentiment a lot. There is so much to be learned from everything if we are willing to just think about it further, and let our imaginations explode in wild and furious colour. It is all a matter of time, as Smith proposes, and what can be gained from giving time to something as opposed to just skimming the surface.



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