Contemporary Photography’s Response to Digital

cmyk

Forget the illusions of Surrealism and Realism and History Painting and Portrait Painting and Religious Painting and the Still-life.  There is nothing but the process here, the process of painting.

 

Like American painting of the 1940’s, Photography opens itself up to the gesture and visceral connections we (once) had with paint.  No illusion suffices when the darkroom magic no longer means anything, just as the representational after WWII proved meaningless.

When the photographer’s eye loses out to digital photography’s own technological magic, when any image, all images, made, taken, shown can be easily edited, cropped, and placed into any context, when this is the new norm, Photography readjusts.

 

The “eye” of the photographer – the ability to capture something from nature ‘as is’ – print full-frame – is no longer viable.  The prestige we once placed on the skill of the photographer’s eye has been replaced with the egalitarian ‘so can I’.  Photoshop toolbars are the new darkroom and access to it all exists no matter what level or claim.

 

The Everyman’s camera with digital grip on capturing every moment before us – because we can — must somehow be distanced from the art photographer working diligently at his/her craft.  Rather than a World War to diminish the significance of painting things from nature ……we have the ubiquity of Digital diluting the democratized pool of images we now all make with abandon.

 

It is no wonder that new work in Contemporary Photography is found returning to that of origin, and, with it, possibly, an aim for the retrieval of aura in the literally-pulled-from-the-negative; a move to discussing the process of Photography itself. The subject matter contemporary artists photograph now is imbued with the process of making one.  And, the subject matter photographed is likewise ensured of greater meaning because it is indeed, a (true) photo.  Artists photograph Photography now, leaving the task of recording sunsets and snapping in successive impulse the documenting of the everyday to the now incurable digital.

 

 

In the late 19th Century, Painting went through its own self-evaluative phase with the advent of the camera –its arrival on the scene challenging artists re-presenting likenesses on canvas.  If the camera can reproduce nature as it is, (and, much more directly) we painters must give the Nature we aim to imitate with our brushes and canvas another angle, another view.  Realistic portrayal is no longer the painter’s aim, but one of creating more of an impression of what we see (one which examines the Science of light and the study of refraction, saturation and hue) rather than what the artist has worked at for centuries to achieve.  The camera changes everything.

 

Today, Photography has been taken over by the dpi pixelation of image —  computer-generated and electronically processed without any gestural, personal touch or hand in the making other than the holding-at-arm’s-length distance (no longer eye pressed tightly peering through the closeness of the camera’s lens) one of the many electronic devices we carry around without distinction, and then, the tapping of a few remote keys on a keyboard while awaiting the contrast-adjusted screen resolution’s response.

 

With digital technology we can paint photos, make photos look like paintings, scan photos and print them as if paintings, photos, or, maybe, if we wish, both.  (There is even an app that can make an image photographed look as though a painting by Thomas Hart Benton!) The origin of source is rejected for the contrivance of cut and paste and digital manipulation.  The advantage of the eye in seeing something unique in the real world is overwhelmed by the savvy nature of the digital screen’s editing options offered at the touch of a distanced keystroke.  Darkroom pools of chemicals and physical film emulsions dipped and swirled and submerged and pulled are all part of the mystical past printed in sepia-toned nostalgia.  The capturing of the observable taken by our clunky cameras and then preserved in a photograph has been replaced by the ease and facility and access and uniformity of technology’s latest picture-taking app.

 

What then, can the artist who works in Photography do to maintain a level of artistic creation, freshness, scholarship, expertise, and, add to the discipline by contributing to the evolution of Photography in offering commentary on this phenomenon through one’s art, one’s own photographic work?  How does the artist comment upon this digital world and its competing role?  Where are the Impressionists of today and what are they doing to unite past history and our current ‘taking of pictures’?

 

The photographer’s image will now, always be measured against the new paradigm, the digital world’s offering — (in both quantity and kind); the photograph no longer able to carry itself just by virtue of “its being”.  “Is that digitally created?” is the context all photography now faces.  It no longer matters if it looks one way or another.  It is now about the viewing of such a thing amidst – and, how it reads now that technology has diluted [in its own nonchemical solution] Photography’s very origin, process and meaning.

 

 

2017

 

art vs an artwork:  aka – the thought’s the thing

 

 

Don Quixote

 

The artist thrives in the unique state of being able to see things beyond surface appearance, and presents to the rest of us such a translation in an equally unique vision.

 

Art is both verb and noun.  It is an act of thinking and receiving.  It is a sinking-in of information which prompts us to consider our place in the much larger world.  Art prompts us to recognize meaning in an artist’s object, a playwright’s dialogue, an actor’s performance, a novelist’s writing, a poet’s verse.

 

Art is not something which one can visit without having some sort of thought-process, some act of thinking immediately following.  This is where the art happens; with the thought—the thinking-about – usually in response to [the] contradictory nature of what is observed.  A contrast in size, shape, material within an environment prompts us to think in symbolic terms, and, here, we begin to venture into the realm of Art.

All of this makes me consider Melville’s description of art in his poem of the same name, for he posits just this with his lines: “A wind to melt, a flame to freeze, sad patience, joyous energies – such unlike things must meet and mate” and, also, Wilde’s “Art can make an almond tree blossom in winter, or make snow fall upon the ripe cornfield”; …. or Blake’s “Joy and woe are woven fine, a clothing for the soul divine” or, in Berger’s sharper prose “the wooden bird is wafted by the warm air rising from the stove in the kitchen while the real birds are outside freezing to death!”

These are all effective definitions of what art is – for they all contain within them an engagement of opposites, an irony, a new angle in the way things are seen.  This is art.  Art jolts us out of our accepted narrative, and makes us consider the veracity of that narrative, and, then, has us question our nominal acceptance before we came to our newest point of questioning.

This is why we need the art, artists = to keep us from slipping into a world where there is no contrast, no quest, no questioning, no new view presented to us, no way to really see our world and our place within it.

Whether through Alice’s Looking-Glass prompting us to look at the society of Victorian England or Don Quixote’s Chivalric-Lens in realizing Spain’s place in the advancing modern world, both of these works, (especially) and, all works of literary fiction, works of successful art lead us to a significant and greatly-appreciated truth.

 

July  2019

 

 

 

 

Ctrl Alt Del: Why Contemporary Visual Artists Need To Reboot

 

I know I have been considering for my own work

,reboot

the teaching of art in today’s art schools and its necessary adopting of the computer/Internet as communication as a means of creating not only relevant work, (commenting upon this technology and its impact on social change) but work which simultaneously commands an almost green existence by its primarily ? electronic existence.  The immediacy of a social media post far outweighs in successful communication the making of an arcane art object to struggle on a wall or gallery floor – trying to say something.  The material waste runoff and using of new resources to create objects for social commentary is also, part of the debate.

Also, at its heart, is the issue of relevance and with regard to real-life issues, that of economic diversity.  I would like to think that the barriers between the real world out there and the artist’s “secret-language” studio have lessened, become weakened by mass accessibility and familiarity with the art world through the digital age conveyor belt of images, and, the artist’s very own participation in it, and, that art instruction at higher levels of academic learning are addressing this phenomenon.  If our entire political debate structure has discovered the power of the Internet and its immediacy, the power of the ability to tap into the very-present and utilize the medium to its advantage and, by doing so, connect with people on a much broader level, why not have our teaching venues (galleries/undergraduate art classes) teach visual art (the making of images, objects) through the lens of media influence and its relevance?

The idea that the one area in a visual artist’s life which can be completely controlled, [that is, in one’s very own art-making] lies in contrast with that of the graphic designer, or, maker of images for commercial use.  In order to succeed in the commercial field, one must follow conventions and, in order to succeed, compromise in order to remain a vital player.

Does the artist working quietly in his studio trump the designer who must exist within convention and forgo that sanctioned state of true freedom, complete control?  If so, what is the result of this arrangement?  How effective is the designer’s art in constituting societal enrichment (making us see something) and change as opposed to the studio artist?

It is here, ironically, in the design world (and, not in the artist’s studio) where the artist needs to be in control.  The visual artist needs to take control somehow, here, where it matters.  The world of design and fashion and style is where the cultural images [we] create affect how our society operates.  Advertising imagery gives us our template of cultural prescription.  The images created for mass media advertising are those which have brought us to where we are now; one of embracing corporate enterprise, making conspicuous consumption a virtue, and promoting wastefulness as a staple of our supposed spiritual-societal needs with the resulting influence leaving us a consumer-based spirit whose only lasting ritual is that of commodity-gathering to feed-the-family status.  Community, truth, change are not marketable products for a successful capitalism.

We artists, those in our studios closed out and in complete control of things end up commenting upon this in our art…..maybe?  We make these tangible works of art to show the very same society how out-of-control it truly is.  But to what effect?  Implement for change?  Not really.  The system’s too closed-looped.  Economic and social diversity end at the high-priced art-showing door.

In order to really effect change, comment upon society, make our art objects matter, one must seemingly have to work from within.  Break the paradigm.  Push the studio clock to “present” and consider where the past decades have left us.

This is the one role we artists should assume, in attempting to work from within.  And, the only way to do this with any success is to have the artist, [the thinker, the seer, the one who does not play by the rules of conformity and allegiance] apply them to the real world teaching available to us out there, maybe in the direct field of graphic design, advertising, the opening up of the contemporary gallery space for real-life discussion and debate, or, in newly-formed academic study.

[We] should be the ones  sacrificing our freedom (in the quiet calm of our cozy well-lit studios) for the chance to upend the entire structure.

 

March  2019

the potential for Art: where dialogue and emphasis seem to matter

 

 

The Wrestler:  An Unrealized Potential; (at least from where I was sitting)

 

 

“The Wrestler,” directed by Darren Aronofsky was one film I had always wanted to see.  This was mainly due to the much-hyped screen “debut” of a long-lost Mickey Rourke.  I was even willing to stomach the idea of watching professional wrestling in order to witness something extraordinary…

 

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To begin, it is a given that the story line of this film almost demands sentimentality.  This is not a problem.  We think of the quintessential sentimental film “Rocky” * and its improbable story line, but somehow it renders our sentimental hearts moved.  We are moved by a well-written script (Stallone), its rough-edged camera work and editing, good direction (Stallone) and supporting role performances in Shire and Meredith.  It need not court a realistic turning of events, nor contain the acting performance [a] Rourke can give, but rather, in its honest dialogue and warmth in originality – it has no problem at all reeling the viewer in.

 

*In revisiting (viewing on my tiny television screen over a holiday weekend) the original “Rocky”, I came to appreciate the skating-rink scene, and this, far more than I recall the first time viewing it over 30 years ago.  Why was this?  I remarked upon the dialogue in each scene, how refreshing and original it was (despite its out-dated-ness).  For a full five minutes we watch Stallone woo Shire as he stomps around the ice rink mumbling things about what it means to be a southpaw.  Was it the cold outside in contrast with the warm couch and wood stove filling my need for a nice holiday weekend escape?  Or, was I displacing the disappointment I have in current films that had me slipping into a mythical “new remembering” of this film?  Was it desperation at trying to consider anything I see these days as wonderfully written that had me adopting such nostalgia?

 

 

 

In “The Wrestler”, Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson, played by Mickey Rourke is shown to us from the very start of the film, from the back – not through a subjective camera point of view, (as if seeing things through his eyes) but an objective one – he is our object given —  to watch, to look at, to get to know.  Aronofsky uses this technique over and over, creating for us a nice figurative motif.   It us up to the director, (the painter of the canvas) to have us meet metaphor with motif and realize what is offered here (given the story line) as a possible redemption, real-life resurrection or return.

 

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“Since an ineluctable part of being a human self is suffering, part of what we humans come to art for is an experience of suffering, necessarily a vicarious experience . . . We all suffer alone in the real world; true empathy’s impossible.”  DFW

 

It is of no coincidence that Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” is mentioned in this film.  Though briefly, and, only once, it is purposeful in that the director of this film hopes to have the suffering of Randy realized by the moviegoer.  It is here, with the idea of sympathy from the viewer, [a pathos realized for the story to succeed in its telling] where the dilemma for Aronofsky exists, and where the reference to Gibson’s “Passion” is ironically relevant.

 

Gibson’s film, in giving to us his story of Christ’s suffering, concentrates on the ‘how’ of his protagonist’s suffering. The film spends its time showing us the actual graphic depiction of a crucifixion.  For art, this approach becomes flawed, for part of what we humans come to art for is an experience of suffering, necessarily a vicarious experience.  If all we are given are images composing [a] crucifixion, what would cause us to feel anything for the specific person suffering if we are not given his story?

 

For Gibson’s approach to work — the story must already be known; the audience already having a knowledge of the ‘story’ before even entering the theatre.  With the person of Christ, this is possible.  We care despite not being given the story of Christ’s life here, by the director, in this film being shown before us only because we are inclined to “already know the story”.   The director knows this, and, is thus afforded this “luxury of neglected story line”—– for we are able to tap into an already-existing (however fraught with controversy) story line template.  The director then, can concentrate on giving us the far-easier-to-produce shock-value graphic tale.

 

All of this leads to the showing of suffering, or, its counterpart, the conveyance of an inner suffering with which an audience can identify.  The former relies upon the literal; and for the two films involved here, is destined to be graphic, violent, bloody.  The latter relies upon storytelling and metaphor, allusion and symbol.  The endgame for the director of a film is to make his audience care.  It is easy to show blood pour; it is difficult to make an audience care that it’s pouring.

 

The potential of “The Wrestler” resides in this very distinction made between the two methods of depicting suffering (literal graphic vs metaphorical symbolic) and the two types of audiences (collective crowd vs sympathetic moviegoer) involved.  Here is where the film succeeds in one respect, and yet, overall, where an otherwise surefire motif loses its potential power in metaphor.

 

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With the world of professional wrestling, we have the boundary well-secured between detached viewer and spectacle:  the viewing is of a collective nature, where the event watched is encouraged by [an] audience kept at a sympathetic distance.  The collective viewing of pain and suffering as object, and not as subject, precludes sympathy while preserving spectacle.

To watch Randy suffering in the ring is simply abiding by professional wrestling’s intended design, where each blow has no consequence, each spill of blood only serving to further the distancing and preserve the lack of any emotive connection with the person(s) in the ring.  The wrestler knows this; the audience knows this. The audience will never understand what it is like up there in the ring if kept at its required distance.  This is deliberate on the part of the spectacle itself; the act is understood by both those in the ring, and, those not.  And, furthermore, the audience not only need not understand, but cannot know anything about the real-life person in the ring in order to successfully complete its role as spectator.

There is this nice boundary maintained – and, one which must be for it all to work.  It is the same boundary created for the mob-like crowd who gathers at the foot of the platform upon which Hawthorne places Hester Prynne amidst 17th century Boston Puritanism.  With boundary maintained, no sympathy is possible.  The collective crowd no more wishes to know Hester Prynne and “follow her to” her story than do the crowds who gather along the road to Calvary.

But, as spectator of this film, (a film where I will no doubt be asked to watch some violence, blood, depictions of physical and graphically-portrayed suffering) I must know the story for me to complete my role as satisfied (sympathetic) moviegoer.  My role is as subjective viewer, not objective.  I cannot survive “outside the ring”.  I need to know why this specific person’s blood pours, not see blood pouring in an overall general and distanced way for “an experience of suffering, necessarily a vicarious experience”– to be realized. 

 

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The essence of art, be it film, literature, visual art, etc. is to “make us see”.  If we are prevented from seeing, from identifying with, from knowing, no amount of clever motif will get us there, bring us in the locker room, so to speak, up on the platform with Hester, or knowing the historical figure in Christ.  And to find a given motif symbolically powerful, we must appreciate its context – its surrounding story.

 

A way in which this can happen, [and, to Aronofsky’s credit, does] is in the staple-gun wrestling match scene.  By employing the use of flashback, (a film tool which disturbs the real-time sequencing of narration) – showing both the blood inside the ring, and then, outside it, afterward, in the locker room – the crucial distinction between the two audiences, objective and subjective is made.  Yes, blood flows in both scenes, [and the graphic nature is equal in intensity in each] but the pain in the latter, we now realize, is far greater.  Why?  Because we’ve been allowed a glimpse into this person’s pain, the pain outside the spectacle with which we, as sympathetic human beings must identify.  We never need to have been punctured with staples and razors and glass in order to realize that the pain Randy suffers is not to be found in the ring, but rather, outside of it, fumbling with his hearing aid, begging for more work hours, seeking reparation, reflecting upon his life, enduring his self.

 

…its rough-edged camera work and editing, good direction (Stallone) and supporting role performances in Shire and Meredith. 

 

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Given the powerful performance of Mickey Rourke, the symbolic ‘motif to metaphor’ potential set up by Aronofsky in direction, and the multi-level story line of resurrection and return, one would think this film to be able to succeed beyond expectation.  But, why didn’t it?  What was lacking in the film?  Why didn’t the showing of Randy from the back throughout the entire film materialize into something more?

 

This motif found itself in Randy’s searching for his own front door, the door to his daughter’s apartment, his boss’s office door begging for more hours, and ultimately, his entering the ring.  It was so intentional an attempt by the director to show this hulking tattered outdated down-jacket in front of us throughout the entire film, moving away from us while confronting symbolic thresholds in the form of literal doorways which either open or reject.  Rourke’s character is shown continually walking away from the movie-going audience and toward those things he was in search of; a faceless large figure shown from the back in continual pursuit of something, and, for added allusion for Rourke himself, something other than that of the movie-viewing audience

 

This is the closest thing we get to art in this movie, and yet, it never really makes it to this realm.  The outdated down jacket walking away from us is the perfect symbol of the actor himself, — as equal to, or, maybe even more, the character he plays.  Rourke the actor snubbed his audience years ago, and his real-life search for reparation and return could not be better portrayed.  But, why didn’t it work?

 

One has to again, look at the scenes in which this motif has been placed, and consider the time we spend as “distanced spectator” versus “sympathetic viewer”.  The supporting performances (by E. Rachel Wood and Marissa Tomei) seemed to never get past cliché.  The father-daughter template is the centerpiece, and yet there was nothing offered to make one want the two to reunite, make reparation.  Their story, their narrative, is never tapped into nearly enough, nor, without stereotypical image, so we are left at a distance unable to sympathize.  Without the narration, we are stuck with appearances, and can only respond to the character as something to look at, and not someone to know.  The dialogue contributes greatly to this in its substance and delivery; neither Wood nor Tomei able to do much with the script given them and the lack of their story.

 

Tomei’s character is given to us primarily as spectacle; a strip-club act her version of the wrestling ring where we cannot see who she really is.  Why did the director choose to exhaust so much film time with the audience kept at the collective-crowd level and not that of the sympathetic viewer?  One scene in a clothing shop ‘outside the ring,’ and, without much more than this was not enough to make us care about her character.   The lengthy pockets of pulp-fiction-viewing give us nothing [except maybe some ratings issues] and – what does this all serve other than to keep the viewer at a distance watching her “act”?  Maybe this is the parallel intended by the director – to show us the parallel lives of empty spectacle.  But, to do this, one must counter it with the sympathetic.

 

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If anything, this film offers tons of irony.  My whole worried-over wariness in having to watch a film about professional wrestling ends up being completely misguided.  The wrestling scenes were probably the strongest ones Aronofsky offers, the ones I most enjoyed, (and, yes, from my sympathetic role as moviegoer); the most real and the least spectator-like despite their heavy doses of Passion-ate bleeding.  It is ironically the storytelling aspect (the part which should reel me in and make me care about all that blood) which leaves me unnerved and detached.  Stomaching the stuff in the wrestling ring was nothing compared to the dialogue, the non-dimensionality of the characters.

 

 

If a film’s dialogue is weak, the created characters one-dimensional, and the emphasis placed on the “how” rather than the “why” we end up with a well-devised metaphor with no narrative in which to place it.  We then have a great performance given by an actor whose own offering of self (Christ figure complete) is there to save the film from its unfortunate mediocre reception.  Rourke as ‘Saviour’ – again, is maybe the best metaphor yet – (to be realized here) – though, one devised not by the director, but by the viewing audience.

 

 

In an ironic way, Aronofsky’s passionate portrayal of his Christ figure in Rourke need not be realized through the Gibson spectacle but rather, through the slowly-before-our-very-eyes painful realization that Rourke has found himself not in a realm of resurrection, (that which brought us to see the film in the first place) but in one having to carry the burden of trying to save yet another film.

 

 

This film gave me the actor Rourke in his other ring, the real-life ring of professional boxing, unleashing his own barrage of blows to the audience in the form of his acting genius, yet all we can do is wince and suffer with each glove to the face as we recognize [once again], the wasted talent before us.  Rourke’s performance as Randy rings true to life, true to form in the furthered echo of his own acting career, where his films (barring “Diner”, “Rumble Fish” and his part opposite William Hurt in “Body Heat”) have been just that; mediocre at best, artlessly awful at worst.  This is the real tragedy.  The more devastating destruction of Rourke doesn’t come from the receipt of blows he endures in the boxing ring all those years, but rather, from the landed gloves of suffering and loss recognized by the moviegoer.

 

The only thing holding anything together in this film is Rourke himself; his unique talent evident in even the worst of dialogue given him.  Loss is the theme here, as it is always in the examination of life; our loss as viewer unable to appreciate a gifted actor, and, Rourke’s, in plying his talent in a constant swill of bad films.  Just add “The Wrestler” (despite his outstanding performance) to the already-too-long list.

 

 

January 

 

 

 Addendum: 

One scene which may be on par with Stallone and his southpaw is the video game scene played in Ram’s trailer.  The outdated Nintendo game with images of wrestlers barely discernible, [stiff and obsolete in geometric form] are a perfect symbol for Randy as he sits in front of us now, worn out, out-of-fashion, tired.

He wins, but he wins at a game so far in the past that his “opponent” (an eight-year-old kid) has no interest in a re-match.  This is metaphor at its best.  Rourke’s minimized little victory on the video screen (in its equally sad and outdated state of technology) on par with the minimal and spare existence inside a trailer was perfect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

that venue for showing art

 

caa show announcement

 

Regarding the static painted visual art piece on a wall, or, the static sculpted object on a pedestal, what are we to read beyond the object’s own “art-object-ness” in a recycled environment of reference and quotation? Can the object we now make be successful at translating our meaning given its expected reception in a now seemingly all-too familiar field? Is the gallery context itself somehow inhibiting as it moves from exclusive space visited by students of art and other artists to the David Byrne familiar with Eric Fischl painting art’s own art-going morphology?

Is it like the phenomenon of digital accessibility —- with too much equaling too ordinary and expected for us to even blink an eye no matter the possible strength of the work residing? Can the static art object give us the reading it means to in its current context of “being art in a gallery”? or, have we become too savvy an audience, too familiar with how the system works for the art object itself to move beyond the space it relies upon for its translation?

Is Visual Art stuck in its own necessary replication, unable to move beyond the “look” of what we know art on a wall to be, to move beyond the entrenched orthodoxy of this look, this paradigm? Does the gallery space by default, due to our familiarity with it – create for the artist a space impossible for understanding the actual work?  Is our awareness of “looking at art” getting in the way?  Has our method of looking overwhelmed the actual art (if there is any) to be found?

Not unlike a Kafka character caught in dilemma, the balance for both lies between the method used (gallery space = traveling circus ) and, the very awareness of the method by both the artist (when placing work in such a prescribed space) and the viewer (upon experiencing that space).  Both require an isolation without self-awareness, and, given our method of viewing art – which includes taking along our image-conscious selves – neither of these seems possible.

 

Sept.  2018

today’s realism and bowls of fruit drawn, painted

 

Apples with PLU - entry 1

  • Apples [w/ PLU Sticker] in Pewter Bowl : ( w/r/t the history of Still Life painting)  37” x 46” – Digital – inkjet collage – 2016

 

A realistically drawn apple may be read as the mastering of a skill in the field of representational drawing.  There are endless ways in which the drawing can be done:  varying materials, altering the approach in tackling formal qualities, playing with scale to name but a few.

 

The subject of an apple, or, bowl of fruit, allows for a connection with 2-dimensional art’s tradition, its history in both the academic “learning how to draw” and the prominent genre works found in painting.  This connecting to the past empowers the apple, the fruit as subject matter, referencing a linear progression comprising any true discipline or study which, in turn, genially accounts for its validity and, yes, its relevance.

 

Depending upon how “good” the drawn fruit is (honoring the laws of realism) will determine the level of mastering.  The drawing becomes somewhat of a biographical sketch of where the artist is at the time in the advancement of a learned technical skill.  Like hitting the perfect note in music, the wows of the viewer are in response to the artist’s performance, the result of a practiced skill, the visual cue to an artist’s bettering this sought-after facility.  We are struck by the artist’s ongoing mastery of drawing something convincingly “real” on a 2-D surface.

 

In looking at a drawing of an apple or fruit Still-life made today, we might be asked to look at it not in terms of success or failure of a bench-marked realism, (our go-to assessment as viewers) but rather in terms of the choice of subject matter itself.  It is in the choosing to draw an apple, fruit bowl that is now our subject matter.  Not unlike our original choosing of the apple, the enactment, the act of drawing or painting is now our content.

 

The weight fruit carries today is not the same in origin, when introduced as subject as it was for Bruegel, Chardin, Courbet.  Our supermarket-stickered fruit reads far differently than the anonymous peasant apple-carting of a Bruegel, the bourgeoisie interior sitting-room of a Chardin, or the crumbling aristocracy of a Courbet.  Our fruit drawings or paintings hold all of these weighted meanings in reference and tribute which is now our subject.

 

In today’s world of the ease of digital rendering, and, an omnipresence of PLU- stickered fruit, the romantic notion of a fruit bowl set in golden-hued light on an elegantly arranged table seems foreign, out-of-date, remote, exotic.  The only connection to this is precedence, art’s own history’s role in continuity of subject for meaning.  We paint and draw fruit because we know painted and drawn fruit register as art.  Still-lifes are wonderful rendering workshops and tradition gives us the proverbial nod to go right ahead and draw the apple, so to speak.  Weight of subject matter is found with a nod from history and the enactment of the actual making.

 

The art part, if there is any to be found, might arise, for instance, from the enacted, the activity or ‘scene from a play’, [maybe Chekhov in spirit?] where the fruit bowl is set upon an old yet elegant gate-legged table, and a drawing is worked on by an actor on stage, the actual result never seen by the audience.

The fruit bowl need not be drawn or painted well, poorly, or … at all, even, for the visual prompt to our much larger subject matter is there, found in the reference to an acceptable academic art-making approach and made real by our artist’s set-up of easel and oils; and, our artist, maybe long-since disillusioned —- yet still searching for meaning in a palette of colors fully within physical reach, but, irretrievably lost to one’s failing eyesight or quickly closing memory.

 

May  2018