The Artist’s Bagpipe

November 26, 2012 on 6:49 pm by Michael Grey | In Humour, Photographs, Random Thoughts, Stories | Comments Off on The Artist’s Bagpipe

I don’t know if it’s due to its many appendages (all projecting from its grand inflated centre) or if it’s just plain unobservant carelessness but it seems to me the bagpipe in the context of art is much maligned.

When it comes to art – think painting, sculpture, new media – the Great Highland Bagpipe surely ranks among the most inaccurately represented things in the world. We have countless renditions of fiddles with bows, cars with four wheels, zebras with stripes and bicycles with wheels – all mostly accurately portrayed. The bagpipe? It’s all bag, projecting sticks, crazed arms and fingers randomly askew.

It’s the rare artist who accurately represents the bagpipe, especially one in full performance flight. With the exception of The Simpson’s Groundskeeper Willie few sets of pipes and their piper come off as near-accurate representations of the real thing. I know, I hear you: its art, it’s interpretative, suck it up.

The bagpipe in its many forms has been around for eons and it’s found everywhere. The pipes the world over are touchstones of great tradition. And not just that, have been the apple of many an artist’s eye. Maybe the many different incarnations of the instrument might account for the oddly – and consistently – inaccurate representation of the instrument.

Whatever it is I know that there’s something about the instrument that prevents artists from taking the thing in. There’s maybe a crazy blurry force field that blinds the artist’s eye, that twists drones over chanter over bag over shoulder. A spooky thought, however unlikely.

I also know this odd phenomenon starts at the very beginning of an artist’s career. Exhibit A: my near five-year-old niece, Lexie. Here we have a strapping piper (hello) and a seemingly mildly interpretative, ever-so-slightly upside-down pipe.

I wonder what she saw in me and my pipes – and what she took in, and remembered. I assure you I did not sit/play for this portrait.

Still. I see this as hugely promising work. Damned fine, in fact. And that has nothing to do with the artist’s tagline.


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