Friday, December 17, 2010

More About Painting

Painting is the concern of this blog though admittedly I do stray often. My readers will discover, if they haven’t already, that there are certain themes I will go back to and never finish with. Aging is one of those and that will continue to be of interest to me until I croak, assuming that I remain in writing fitness until my day comes. Art in general is another; today, it will be the visual, two-dimensional variety that inspires the words.

Abstract expressionist painter Robert Motherwell said: “Painting consists of pieces of cloth tacked to some boards and then defaced by means of colored grease applied with a stick with hairs tied to its end”. Wikipedia is more respectful and less narrow of definition: “Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface.”

An article in a recent Art in America stated:  “Many contemporary artists are more interested in making arguments than delighting the eye.” That is not what I’m talking about here as that is not my cup of tea. The article goes on to say: “Visual attributes aren’t intended to be the works’ prime considerations, let alone their exclusive reason for being”. Well, I don’t know about the exclusive part, but remove the negatives and you will have my bias. I would leave the arguments to those who use words. Nevertheless, I have to acknowledge that there are some works engraved in my memory cells that are spirited statements about our human history. But the paintings I have in mind, Goya’s Tres de Mayo, for example, are so well painted that they could be about birthday parties and still be great. Well, okay, maybe not so memorable. 

Some painters pursue a vision, others let their process lead the way. The artist’s “style” will develop as he/she struggles with the intent or the medium. We’re different from each other; a painting by one person’s hand can usually be distinguished from that of another (unless we are consciously imitating or copying). Just as we can recognize composers by their sound. Amazing isn’t it? So many unique looks and sounds? Humans are like snowflakes, no two alike. And if you ask a dog, we don’t smell alike either.

What heightens these differences for painters are the choices they make. Some of the non-tangible tools the artist might employ to project her vision onto a surface are line or drawing and color, which may or may not be an important factor. Then there is the composition which, when I was at school, was about having a “center of interest” and being sure to repeat certain elements and absolutely avoiding tangential lines or shapes that just touch at their edges. I hope that sort of teaching is passé now. The painter might also use texture, as did Van Gogh, or pattern, as did Bonnard and Matisse. There’s a lot to choose from. And now there is the advent of technology in art which has me hooked.

I could go on. And on. And I will. I have been told that you, dear reader, will balk at a long essay. My friend Richard said something like “We spend our time alone making marks on canvas or paper. What nonsense.”  I too have some doubts. Life is short. And now I’m spending some of it at writing this blog. 

The image above is Eden, 2009,  50 x 38" Acrylic & Mixed Media Collage on Etching Paper. For information about any of the paintings seen on this site please email Joan

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