VIVE LE FRENCH ARTIST
January 12, 2011 2 Comments
I have had two unusual encounters recently that have left me wondering about at which point someone crosses from being an artisan to being an artist, and whether making this distinction is enough if it is just in the mind of the individual, as I had always assumed that the mantle of artistry needed public rather than just personal acclaim.
I had some friends visit recently, and although we had had a large lunch, decided that it would be fun to go and get some pizza in the evening from a local vendor. This is by no means an establishment that could be called a “pizza restaurant”, as it is a small wooden shack located in the car park of our local supermarket.
We drove down there and started looking at their menu board. The proprietor/pizza maker rushed over to the counter from his pizza oven and started to berate us in an angry voice. “If we thought for a moment that we could wander down at 7.30pm on a Friday and expect to get a Pizza that evening we were obviously idiots, as he already had orders to take him through to at least 9.30pm, and that making pizza was an art form that could not be rushed. The next time, if we had any sense at all, we would call and place our orders well ahead of time in the afternoon”.
I have been coming to France for over 40 years, and whilst the French can be very “direct”, I had never had anyone be quite this rude. My German friends were shocked by the tone, even though they didn’t speak the language fluently, and still mention it today many weeks after.
He seemed quite peeved when I told him that he was the idiot if he thought that there would ever be a next time.
Even though I was impressed with his seriousness about his job (he was actually wearing a chef’s outfit), I was amazed at his level of rudeness, until I zeroed in on his phrase that “… making pizza was an art …”, and that he was justifying his anger as I was obviously a “Pizza art philistine” and therefore not worthy of any respect at all in the presence of his greatness.
I accept that a good pizza is a thing of beauty and delight, but unless it has been made by someone like Tracey Emin, has been laminated, and is lying on her unmade bed, how could it be classified as an art form?
My second experience was with a local hairdresser who left me sitting there for an hour reading a Paris Match from 1998 (the last time France won the FIFA World Cup). After an hour I was moved from the waiting area to a chair by a mirror and then suitably robed, where I was left to sit for another 30 minutes (I have become more tolerant since retirement), before standing up and announcing that I was leaving. I then got a lecture about the “art of coiffeur” and that, being an art form, it could not be time bound nor subject to the vagaries of normal life. Now this was not the salon of Jacques Dessange in Paris, but was in a small salon in a village of about 500 people, 40 kilometres from Bordeaux deep in the French countryside.
When I responded with this fact, and that it just was not polite to keep people waiting this long, I got a round of applause from the women in the room, who had obviously suffered in the same way that I had, under the treatment meted out by this Tintoretto of the tresses.
The dictionary definition is “An artist is a person engaged in some type of fine art such as painting or sculpture, whereas an artisan is engaged in a craft”.
I have therefore come to the conclusion that an artist-artisan is just an artisan who uses the term artist to justify being rude to everyone he meets.
My question is “Why would anyone put up with it for more than the one bad experience?”
Why do so many people accord levels of importance to those who use rudeness as a way of elevating their own status beyond their due, being self-created legends in their own lunch times?
The word for a “dick-head” in French is “con” … must be where the term “con-artist” comes from.
I wonder if there is a similar word for “con-artisan” ?