Hello again dear readers,
For quite a while now I’ve read many articles with a common theme; painting is dead. The article content has ranged from painting greats like David Hockney discussing the changes he’s seen over the course of his career, new painting schools opening up to oppose conceptual art’s heyday, beloved art critics throwing in the towel, and finally people covering the angle of prestigious art universities who lack painting instruction. Despite the different angles, all the articles have one common battle cry. Artists should learn to draw.
I know how to draw, paint with various media, make prints, video, sculpt, and do assemblage but I don’t believe someone should learn to draw in order to be considered an artist. After all, in a traditional sense, Pollock was a horrible draftsman and so was Basquiat. On the flip side, both Picasso and Willem de Kooning were extremely gifted at drawing but chose to throw draftsmanship out the window. Andy Warhol wasn’t too bad with a pencil either but chose printmaking as his primary medium.
De Kooning drawing before abstract expressionism
De Kooning drawing after abstract expressionism
In A BBC documentary “Secret Knowledge” David Hockney even damn-near proved that Renaissance artists such as Lorenzo Lotto and Jan Van Eyck used a form light projection with sunlight and concave mirrors to copy their subjects to canvas. These works have been admired for ages in art history books. With this new knowledge that Hockney presented, should we now throw out our old ideas about these beloved Renaissance paintings and their importance? Does it matter if the underdrawings were traced?
Are the works not still beautiful?
Van Eyck’s The Arnolfini Portrait
Whether an artist can draw or not isn’t really relevant. It hasn’t been for a very long time and I don’t believe it should be now. The rise of iconoclasts and the art movements they championed in the 20th century should prove that point without a doubt.
Anyway, The alleged problem in this topic isn’t new. After all, conceptual art isn’t new and as we’ve just discussed above, neither is breaking the rules in art. Conceptual art is just believed to be dominating the high-end areas of the art world and it is. That being said, I have to say that I still see a lot of really great painting happening. I also know several painters who attend the Frieze Art Fair and Miami Art Basil. There are also still plenty of great galleries that continue to exhibit paintings. I don’t think Painting is dead at all. I’ve made way too much money off of painting for the skill to be deceased. I think we’ve just been witnessing resurgence of an old movement similar to that of cubism, abstract expressionism and pop art. Everything has it’s day in the sun but I’m sure something else will come along eventually to steal the spot light.
Considering the fact that history often repeats itself, that something may be a collective renewal of technique in painting but maybe not.
I think the trick is to try to stay positive, experiment and grow. I see how this could prove difficult if you’re a painter with the Popeye motto of, “I am’s what I am’s and that’s all that I am’s”. I think this is the Stuckist’s problem. I’ve visited their websites and read their articles. For the most part, all they seem to do is to pick things apart and complain. Their attempt to compare Damien Hirst’s work to some of his less successful contemporaries was laughable in most cases. There were certainly similarities and influences apparent, but most of Hirst’s work was more impressive and he greatly expanded on the idea. He made something new and unique out of it. He made the subject matter his own.
This is the type of mentality that insists that because someone else painted spots, no one else should be allowed to do so. Or because an artist used a goat in an assemblage, no one else can. Well, what about Raushenberg? As far as I know, he was the first to use a goat way back when. Does that mean the fellow Damien Hirst supposedly ripped off, first ripped off Raushenberg? Who cares? What’s the harm in building on something else? There’s an artist named Gavin Turk who has made a very successful career off of building upon existing works. Turk imitates legendary artists but he slightly modifies or adds to the famous works of art. He makes them his own.
It’s absolutely brilliant!
My point is, all this complaining and closed mindedness is something I’d like to call… shit in the pool mentality. Basically, someone isn’t allowed to swim anymore and they shit in the pool so no one else can swim either.
It doesn’t serve anybody and doesn’t change anything. It just makes you look like an asshole.
You could always try to think of the situation from the curators point of view as well. One possible view-point is, large sculpture that creates spectacle is making them huge amounts of money. Naturally, they will continue to exhibit and sell as much as they can while the work is lucrative. I mention the next possible view-point of the curator only after reiterating that I am among other things, a painter. Here it is. It could prove very difficult to find just the right paintings to hang in the vicinity of a giant, reflective balloon dog or large, ominous Tiger shark contained in a tank. The paintings would probably need to be very large and very stimulating in order to even attempt to hold their ground against sculptures of the above mentioned magnitude.
This post could go on and on but I’m not going to bother with much more typing. It’s possible plenty of folks who read this may pick the post apart and insist that my view-point is flawed. My view-point may be flawed. That’s entirely possible. I’m diplomatic about the topic, most likely because I work with many different mediums and have an eclectic tastes. There are lots of different types of work that I believe are beautiful. Even then the beauty of an art work depends on each viewers interpretation of beauty. Because of this simple fact, there can’t be an absolute in art; only personal opinions and preferences.
Art VS Reality
I have many different opinions on what good art is and occasionally, it’s rather bad art that I like. I enjoy painting, sculpture, installations, multimedia, even artists like Mike Kelly. I still admire Rembrandt. I even enjoyed the popular video series “Art VS Reality. I like to do different things and experiment with different media art. I love old traditions and techniques, but I’m kind of glad that Jeff Koons giant, reflective balloon animals exist in the world.
Life is absurd even when it’s tragic and as they say, “Art imitates Life,” so there you go.
Feel free to let me know what you think in the comment section.
Until next time,