Sunday, August 30, 2009

Why Canvas Prints are the Epitome in Bad Taste

I’ve loathed canvas prints for a long, long time, and for someone who is so openly opinionated on anything from politics to standard roses, it seems strange even to me that I’ve kept this loathing a secret for so long.


I think I was secretly afraid that it was some kind of art snob bias; however, I now realise that that’s more to do with my living too long in Australia, where any mention of arts funding results in the standard letters to the newspapers, accusing the government of catering to ‘latte-sipping, opera-watching elitists.’ Oh, if only they knew what us ‘elitists’ got up to in the local Artist Run Initiative…

Anyway, back to canvas prints. So why are they so offensive?

  1. The most obvious first reason is that they are spruiked in home improvement magazines as a quick and ‘tasteful’ wall accessory that will complement any house colour scheme of your choice. Examples printed on their glossy pages often include the ubiquitous oversized sunflower or frangipani image (sometimes with a suicidal looking dew drop on a petal’s edge), shells on the beach, or a desert landscape. It’s one thing that these magazines call them ‘tasteful’, but they also frequently call these ‘free computer desktop’-like images ‘art’.
  2. An oversized flower is one thing, but in practice, many ‘homemakers’ end up getting an oversized portrait of their kids printed on these canvases. Oh, but wait there’s more…. not before converting the digi file into an ‘arty’ black and white. What is wrong with regular photographic paper? Yes, I know that the neighbour has photographs of his kids printed on photographic paper, but hey, his is printed in gloss, you could always try matt… or a better frame…?
  3. Shops selling these canvas prints market them as ‘instant art’, and eBay is littered with canvas prints of giraffes and inoffensive ‘abstracts’. Art is rarely ‘instant’, and while I’m not necessarily equating time or labour with good art, it is offensive to artists everywhere that these banal objects are being bought and sold under the banner of ‘art’.
  4. Canvases are not an ideal printing material for photographic images. The only reason why canvas is being used is because of the material’s connotations with the fine arts. Yet, taking a photo of your small child with a bucket and spade in its hand and slapping it on a canvas will never turn a family happy snap into a work of fine art, no matter how many pixels your new digital SLR, with optimum zoom and five different coloured flashing LEDs, has. If you want art on your wall, employ an artist. Hell, there are heaps of artists out there that would love to earn a bit of money doing what they love and are good at, rather than stocking shelves of the local Kmart with the latest canvas prints from China. If you ask them nicely enough and promise not to tell anyone, they might even be able to use colours that fit in with your interior design. Yes, it will cost more money than a canvas print, but at least you won’t have something on the wall that is akin in taste to serving cocktail frankfurts at a wedding.

That’s my rant. I probably could come up with many more reasons than the four listed above for why canvas prints are the spawn of the devil, but I’d like to hear other people’s opinions too. Please leave your thoughts.


Anonymous said...

I agree. Down with canvas prints. Part of the general laziness and blandness of middle-class Australian culture. Boooooo.

Then on the other hand, I am the owner of some rather attractive snake prints...

Bingo said...

ha that's great, good job!. I agree a thousand times over. I particularly like the suicidal dew drop! Very true - if you listen closely you can hear them whimpering as they edge closer to the petal's precipice. A thousand drops die every day in the name of frangipani art.

Benjamin Ryan said...

I'm not sure buying the work of an emerging artist would be more costly than the printed canvas. While getting some printing done at officeworks the other day I noticed they were offering this service at ridiculous prices.

I guess it's all down to education. The education system created the printed canvas.

Lucy said...

Benjamin, I had a quick look at the officeworks website after your comment and you're right, they're really expensive! $59-200. I've never really looked at the price, and assumed that the house and garden magazines were all telling the truth when they said 'cheap' (maybe it's all relative). Even more reason to buy an actual artwork.