Monday, June 2, 2008
Flowers in Hours / Soapbox
Tulip Vignette - oil on linen panel, 8"x10"
Apropos considering springtime, no? I painted this in a couple of hours in the backyard. The can was orange, too, but I decided that a complimentary color would be more interesting. This switch also served as an exercise in maintaining correct values while swapping color even though the color was distractingly saturated.
On a different note, I want to clarify my previous post, knowing that it contains strong sentiments about today's art world. Remember that I've spent all my life to this point (and will continue to do so) honing what I believe is a noble craft - a trade skill, if you will. I've worked hard to maintain a degree of facility in order to represent a drawing or a painting in such a way that it is pleasing to the eye, perhaps even beautiful, if I get everything working right. Now, I am just talking of surface, here - not the ideas or sentiments or allegories that may or may not be present within this sort of work. Beautiful surfaces and painted objects are pleasant enough: unassuming, appealing to a broad scope of people, and decorative. But, couple that with an interesting idea - well! Now you've got something. This is fine art for me. I will not say that I can hit this mark every time I put a brush in my hand, but I try and aim for it.
But, what of skill today? "Facility" is always a pejorative in contemporary art reviews. I have no problem accusing the top 100 most critically acclaimed artists alive and working today(I suspect it runs deeper than this number) of having little to no skill when it comes to being able to draw or paint. Okay, there may be one or two exceptions (I should HOPE), but, honestly - look at the stuff that's out there. It actually rails against art. Duchamp did this ages ago, and he did it as a kind of bravura joke. His joke continues, but it morphed into something absurdly earnest. Well, it is believed to be earnest, but it's really just fancy marketing with a packaging that says: Important Art.
Obviously, this bothers me. The definition of an artist has changed from someone with a skill to someone ballsy enough to do something provocative/shocking/idiotic for a well-heeled audience. Well, to be fair, I suppose it encompasses both - but which one is critically received as a practitioner of High Art and which one is castigated as a purveyor of Kitsch? You know the answer to that one. And I (along with not a few others) resent that portrayal. I've worked too hard to deserve that.
My only solution to turning things away from the tired, old Dadaists (because no matter how you label contemporary art, it is, by definition, still reflecting Dada) is to refuse to play the game. I will paint what I deem to be beautiful, and will laud those who do the same. That puts me in an unpopular group, but then, think of the Impressionists with their Salon des Refusés in response to the tired, old men of the Salon. They were eventually able to defeat the ailing status quo. That said, I will always champion the tenets of the 19th Century Ateliers of France and Italy, but I am not so daft as to be unable to see their refusal to change and grow as ultimately self-defeating. And that's exactly what happened. I pray that it happens again.