Painting our preferences

February 28, 2009 at 5:44 am 1 comment

I ran across something the other day on Cognitive Daily that I’d really love to see as an exam question in the Higher School Certificate – are surveys art?  Further, when is art “art”? And what is “art”?

So 1001 Americans (not sure why the number) were asked about their art preferences. Along the lines of “what is your favourite colour?”; “do you prefer wild animals or domestic?”; “do you prefer sharp angles or soft curves”; “do you prefer indoor or outdoor scenes?”.  You can see all the questions here. The same set of questions were asked around the world – China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Netherlands, Iceland, Italy, Kenya, Portugal, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine and on the internet. What? no Australia!!

Two artists then tried to incorporate as many of the survey responses into a painting and come up with a universal image that portrays the common preferences of a particular country. This is what the Americans seemed to want:

It’s an outdoor scene reminiscent of hundreds of years ago: wild animals still wild and free; a family; and an all-American hero, George Washington. It reminds me of one of those horrid mass-produced paintings you find in shopping malls that people buy for their living room walls.

Let’s see if other countries are similar. Here’s China: Mystical look? tick. Rice paddy? tick. A cow? tick. Can’t clearly see who the painting is of but there is no happy family evident.

I find Iceland’s intriguing:

Here’s Denmark:

And Portugal:

Not sure what’s going on with the Dutch, the Italians or the Germans:

Now, because Australia wasn’t surveyed, I don’t know what we’d come up with but I reckon the electric blues would be ditched in favour of deep ochres, fiery orange, russets, eucalyptus greens.  Mmmm….think I just described Pro Hart’s work. And if blue was evident, it wouldn’t be an electric blue – more a turquoise green-blue. Like this great Pro Hart painting:

Go and check all the paintings here. Then come back and tell me:

  • what’s the commonality?
  • why the commonality?
  • what does it say about our preferences?
  • what do the paintings say about the countries, about us?



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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Paris  |  March 3, 2009 at 8:48 am

    It’s interesting that people seem to want a picture of their country’s landscape, somewherewhere they might be spending holidays or weekends…


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