Whilst at university studying Fine Art, I encountered a lot of hatred for a certain word. Not a rude word (those were often encouraged as expressions of creativity or intense emotion) nor a particularly unusual one, but a very unassuming, everyday word. Here it comes… ‘nice’. Yep. One of my tutors even referred to it as “the ‘n’ word” …awkward.
This attitude did not sit well with me. I understood the reasoning behind the hatred; as a tutor of art they wanted to encourage us to be more descriptive, aim for something more emotive and meaningful. But I still felt it a little unfair to demonise such a well-meaning word. They often threw the word ‘pretty’ into the same category of loathing. Again, I get it; both words suggest a surface level appreciation for what you’re describing. But my response then (and now): SO WHAT?!
OK, fine, I’ll fill a sketchbook with in-depth analysis of various artworks, and you won’t see either forbidden word once. But boy was it a relief when I graduated and was able to go to an art gallery, or come across a piece of art, and just say “that’s nice”… “That’s pretty”… “I like that”… “I don’t like that”. No justification, no descriptors found in the depths of a thesaurus. Just surface-level appreciation.
Because nice-ness is underrated. I don’t buy into the idea that all art must make you feel something above a certain level on a scale of emotional response in order to have succeeded in being Art. Sometimes it’s just pretty, and that’s OK. Pretty things make people smile. Pretty things are what people decorate their homes with and why offices pick certain prints to dot around the walls to raise workers’ morale. Prettiness creates contentment; a baseline level of happiness, an at-peace attitude to life. Now doesn’t that sound nice?