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 (as they truly are) and presents to the rest of us such a translation in an equally unique vision.  This is the artist’s ground, the raison d’etre of the artist.

Artists work toward communicating thoughts and ideas, and yet, it is not about the artist at all.  It is not how the artist thinks the work reads, but how it will be read by the society observing concurrently, and, which the artist is equally a part of.  Communication’s the thing, and the language used to translate needs to meet up with the audience that views it.

Art is not made with “Art” in mind, but rather, an artwork.  Yet the artwork itself doesn’t operate as art until we have the reception of the viewer.  The artist throughout, is always viewing, for the image has been continually viewed upon its initial inception.  It then becomes a matter of continued revelation (for the artist) as one works.  All of this, again, is not static, but moving, active.  And, once the act of making the work is long over, the revelatory act of looking is all that is left.

 

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 world.  Larger thoughts are prompted by recognizing 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 bumps into 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 being bumped into, looked at, 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 or Don Quixote’s Chivalric-Lens, 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

 

 

 

 

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 in the face of true 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

modernist technique as a way to self?

 

Maybe another question we might ask would be – “Why are we artists painting in a manner (loosely termed abstraction) which seems to say ‘I’m abstract’ more than it advances any other sort of dialogue or reading?  Why are we still choosing a language that is more subjective than objective in an age of where the issues we face in our current politics, (those that rely upon objective fact and science to discuss ) are now requiring a social-activism of sorts, a championing of, serving as topics of social justice and taking to the political streets in protest?  In an age where we are having to defend science and truth and facts (an inversion of Renaissance thinking) how does painting something that looks like yet another abstract painting relate to our demand for objective analysis at such a dire point in our political landscape?  There must be something that this approach is providing us with in the face of our current reality.

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Looking at the history of abstraction in Western Art painting, we see the approach tackled in its infancy with an Arthur Dove foghorn through the Josef Albers square to the eulogizing canvases of Ryman and Martin.  Painting moved from objects recognizable to those no longer until we met our final fringe of the material canvas itself.   

 

And, now, here we are, in the 21st century still tackling the canvas but with our intentions very different.  We’re no longer advancing a theory, but are engaged in the act of painting in an emotive sense, as therapeutic release, where the artist chooses “inner journey” over outer reality.  The common theme is one’s interest in taking that ‘inner journey’ in a self-conscious remove from the outside world, away from the fragmented commercial CMYK landscape and indulge in a “meditative, intimate, individual, excavating of self.”   

 

With our current surroundings being filled 24/7 with images on screens, fashion and advertising in HD, moving billboards as we drive, television screens everywhere and in every direction we look, abbreviated symbols, emojis, and thumbs up or thumbs down, the fact that artists working today are choosing to use a non-image approach, a nonobjective one in order to ‘say something’ with their paintings is symptomatic maybe, of the current flux mentioned by one of the artists here —- and that is, in an effort to survive it.   

Maybe we are still painting in the abstract manner to comment upon our current world of image-saturation.  Maybe making and then looking at nonobjective swirls of paint are what we need to survive as our current image-making landscape becomes sharper and sharper and more inclined to dictate our behavior (lead us away from our meditative self) rather than supply us with something supplementary to look at on any given day.

 

 

May  2017