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August, 2009

Elegance and its relevance to the painter

August 24th, 2009

Okay, I admit to being evasive in my post “Artistic Awakening”. I believe that painters learn this so well that traditionally they have been considered well, a little slow at the switch.

There are some ideas that we just need to get our mental teeth into and chew just like a dog does on a bone with a great deal of patience and diligence. At the end of the day no other way will be found when it comes to these subtle issues. There is no free lunch. Patience, persistence and so until the bigger piece begin to click into place.

I heard some interesting monologue on a movie the other day. It was a speech about success and competition. The character was saying that there is something about competition that is ferocious and carnal. He then made his principle point; the importance of finding the balance between human intelligence and animal diligence. Bingo. In the author’s view finding the balance was the key. Defining the term was also important. Absolutely nothing was said about understanding the relationship between our intellect and our passionate self.

We see clearly when we get the relationship in correct perspective. A painter does not paint things. The painter paints relationships, even if he is a non-representational painter. There is no other way short of following someone else with their formula. And, as Picasso pointed out, if we plagiarise ourselves that is the worse form of plagiarism.

The idea of elegance that Galileo spoke of, as I understand it, was a quality arrived as a consequence of understanding the relationship between the natural world and our experience of it. Order and simplicity are found there. The understanding of painting or any area of creativity is closely connected to all this.

Enjoy chewing on big ideas before you “twitter” it all away.

Published in french as Élégance


Artistic Awakening

August 18th, 2009

Each individual artistic path is not a linear affair, likewise with humanity. In the bigger scheme of things, our collective intellectual awakening was like a snap of the finger ago. Previous to this, “Truth” dictated all creative pursuit, likewise with scientific thought. Law and religious authority were the controlling factors in every facet of our lives. It is not even 400 years since Galileo dared question Earth’s role at the center of the universe. His argument for the theory of Copernicus earned him house arrest for the last 10 years of his life. He had said of the current doctrine: “Yes, but it is not elegant.” In the defence of elegance he paid a high price.

I believe that our creative and intellectual efforts have today reached a similar crossroad. Collectively, humanity has a choice to make. It is quite similar to conditions in Europe 400 years ago but in a very subtle way. Once again it is a question of elegance of thought.

A man before Galileo, William of Occam, succinctly put it this way: “The best model is the simplest one – the one requiring the fewest assumptions and modifications in order to fit the observations”. Do we still need today pundits who write and argue convoluted ideas about art and science? Why is it that so many of us are unable to tell the difference between a common criminal and a potential Nobel prize winner? Such questions beg for answers.

Published in french as Èveil artistique


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