London art lecturer and freelance critic Estelle Lovatt posted her son’s abstracts on Saatchi Art, wondering if the art world would encourage an unknown artist. On the site, she described him as a person devoted to art, who frequented major exhibitions and who’d steadily progressed in his influences and techniques, including drawing from nature, plein air, mid-century American Abstract Expressionism and Japanese calligraphy. She also mentioned that her son’s paintings had evolved to employ more archival materials, like acrylic, following a period where he’d worked almost exclusively in tomato ketchup.
The celebrated artist is Freddie Linsky, and soon after his mother’s posting, one of Freddie’s more experimental works, The Best Loved Elephant, sold to a collector in Manchester, who liked the painting’s flow and energy. Then, an invitation came to show in Berlin. Estelle thanked the gallery and asked to be kept informed of their progress. Later, when interviewed by the Daily Mail about the remarkable discovery of Freddie, she said, “They still don’t know he’s only two.”
A few years later, a couple of psychologists at Boston College conducted a study comparing the artworks of toddlers and primates to those of world-famous Expressionists like Hans Hofmann, Joan Mitchell and Cy Twombly. They wondered if art students and regular undergrads could pick out professional scribbles over toddler and animals ones, even when the labels were swapped. It turned out the art students were unaffected by fake labels. Most of the time — more than chance — they evaluated the artists’ work as better. The regular undergrads, unschooled in art, felt much the same way — except sometimes when asked which works they simply preferred.
For Freddie, it’s enough to be an arty kid. When tested blind and choosing the paintings of children and animals, the students at Boston College justified their preference by praising colour and brushwork. When artist’s paintings were selected, they turned to more sophisticated aspects –intuition, feel, meaning, intention, planning and mindfulness. “People are so difficult. Give me an elephant any day.” (Mark Shand)
PS: “I’m not a genius. I’m just a tremendous bundle of experience.” (Buckminster Fuller)
Esoterica: When teaching at Art Center School, automobile design legend Strother McMinn would chide his students with a favourite euphemism, which later, through my dad, transmogrified into a regular proclamation around our family dining table: “There’s no such thing as an undiscovered genius.” If not for the exquisite pain in acquiescence, McMinn’s theory could sustain significant unpleasantness for anyone in search of making good art. Meanwhile, 120,000 people in 100 countries belong to Mensa, the global society for those with IQs in the top 2% of the world’s population. But the variable measurements of “genius” defy a precise definition, and many can’t or won’t have their IQs tested. Do we need verification of extraordinary ability, a special quality of mind, or a lightning-clear voice for abstraction? Instead, we might strive for the invisible and ignore the labels. “Talent hits a target no one else can hit. Genius hits a target no one else can see.” (Arthur Schopenhauer)
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“A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.” (James Joyce)