LOOKING AT ART (paintings)
Paint is paint is paint.
It’s been said by many over the years, with variations on the theme: Paint for paint’s sake. It’s all about the paint.
It has a language of it’s own. (Yes I’m aware of ‘Art for Art’s sake’ – different subject)
Take the time and just look at any painting. Explore the surface and find each nuance of the interlocking elements.
Regardless of the painting’s genre – just look at the texture, pattern, tones, shapes, lines, colours, tints, marks, harmonies, space, lines, composition, values, etc. and sense if it balances and presents itself as a pleasing and successful whole.
Notice how ‘peculiar’ some of the marks are, having been made in the ‘heat of battle’ perhaps, see how one section butts up against another, how one way of looking contradicts another, how incomplete certain lines are, when they could have been extended further, how the choice of one colour to appear opposite another would normally jar on the eyes, except for the counter-balance of the large area ‘to the right’, and so on and so on, – as you explore.
There will be times when you are too busy to do this. I too am guilty. Guilty of seeing, but not exploring.
Expressed as ‘just give me a photographic image – instantly recognisable, creating an ‘Ah!’ or an ‘Oh!’ – no need to discuss the painting – just what it is representing.
Responding to it’s ‘message’, rather than the conjoined elements in it’s production. Responding to the ‘subject’ rather than the paint.
Responding with the ‘we spent some nice holidays there’ kind of conversation, where the painting is only a means of reminiscing, the place depicted (as in a landscape painting) becomes more important than the elements of the painting itself. Thus it’s no longer about the painting.
But try a different approach if the above is the only one you automatically lapse into, when viewing.
I have never been able to get the ‘sum’ part in Aristotle’s saying: “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
If I might plagiarise and ‘reconstruct’ the saying to mean, perhaps in contradistinction – Get to enjoy both the overall effect and the individual parts – both are for your enjoyment.
But again see them as components before you concern yourself with narrative, likeness, the deception of three dimensional reality on a flat surface.
Forget linear perspective (although it cannot really be lost, it will always be a monkey on your back. Best just
to embrace it).
Now of course after a while – the paradox of doing this will kick in. You will grow to enjoy more the elements in the surface of a given painting, but also you will wander back to your internal need for depiction of the real world.
It’s a case of “what do I require from you today – image makers of the world?”
“I want to see what the Sydney Opera House looks like exactly – let me see a photograph or a video”.
“Let me see a painting that has a life of it’s own, but just happens to reference the Opera House – let me see a Ken Done”, (Australian painter).
So let’s take these thoughts and apply them to the artist rather than the viewer. The enjoyment of working with paint or whatever media/medium for me – partially dictates my production of art.
I have on another occasion suggested that I am a ‘one trick pony’, I enjoy the unpredictability of spontaneous intuitive art production.
I will never be able to pass my entrance exams to the academic schools of traditional art, that involves endless drawing, and mastery of technique. Naturalistic perfectionism, will always elude me.
Many of these craft-like qualities I realise have been lost over the years, and have given way to indiscipline. And much as I admire those who have ‘served their time’ and done the ‘exercises’ with hard graft, I’m afraid it’s too late for me.
None of this discourages or deters me from making my mark on the flat surface, and making it with great enjoyment, void of pretentious aspirations to greatness.
Yes ‘paint for paint’s sake’ pretty much sums it up.
Think, look, stroke, internally scrutinise what I have done and add some more. Great fun!