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Social and Oil Painting Connection

November 30th, 2009

In these writings I have focused on the connections and relationships primarily between the artist and the visual experience, and as well on the cultural/social connection with painting given its place today in the arts. Historical and political influences have to a lesser degree been touched upon. Given today’s social/political climate these considerations become difficult to approach, added with the fact that later nineteenth century intellectuals bypassed an analysis of social history and its relevancy to art. With few exceptions they were content with offering an analysis of the “masterpiece” as social history. The context of social history itself was dismissed.

The slave to beauty artistic attitude developed in the void of this rather sterile social/political situation. Oops, I wrote a rather judgmental word here. My wish is to write clearly without any reactionary digressions. When we begin looking at stuff like this clarity must be maintained. Understanding can only come when we suspend judgements and wipe the words from our eyes so to speak. That said, we have to ask why it is that mankind has found it so difficult to peacefully co-exist with each other. Social history in this area is not a pretty picture.

The relationships we can observe in recorded history between ideologies, social groups, religions, prominent philosophical thought, and the creative individual becomes pertinent when clearly considered. In saying “creative individual”, let us remember that we did not have anything approaching what we know to day as art until a mere couple of hundred years ago. We need some understanding of what we have on record (the text) and what had preceded it (social history, i.e., the context) which will be pursued in subsequent articles. Hopefully this can be done in a straightforward fashion. Simple but not easy!

Published in french as Rapport entre le social et la peinture à l’huile

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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

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The Painters’ Desire

May 30th, 2009

"Spring Meadow", oil on mat board, 20cm x 16cm, 2009
"Spring Meadow", oil on mat board specifically prepared for oil, 20cm x 16cm, 2009

What are the effects of the painter’s desires? What about the motivations leading to the perceptions and execution of a particular work. At what point do conviction and a sense of purpose come into play?

In asking these sorts of questions we come to realize that we cannot separate the painter from life. The life of the painters, their thinking and ideas, what they eat for breakfast and so on come first. Technique and style we find to be of only secondary concern.

A painter arrives at the moment of making a brushstroke as a consequence of living. The past that constitutes that life invokes itself in the stroke. If the painter is of one piece each of these brushstrokes contribute to a painting that speaks to us as a complete statement. That is to say we have then something felt and seen as a unified whole.

It feels strange to write these words. Is it not self-evident, these things? Well, no. They are routinely overlooked and misunderstood even as they appear to have been questioned in depth.

Read the rest of "The Painters’ Desire"

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Rules for Painters

Originally posted on April, 17, 2009

"Ventoux Spring", oil on canvas, 30cm x 24cm, 2009
"Ventoux Spring", oil on canvas, 30cm x 24cm, 2009

The rule that there are no rules is the appeal of what some understand as the Zen approach: the anytime anything goes ethic, or non-ethic as it were. We get into difficulty, it seems to me as painters by applying this “beat? philosophy (i.e. this is not classic Zen) in a rigid manner. Properly understood the Zen perspective gives the latitude to “think? in terms of right and wrong in a limited domain such as painting; This, even though the world at large is seen to be beyond right and wrong when it is not put into a frame. But without some form of intellectualizing each painting’s outcome is as precarious as a throw of the dice.

“The superior man understands what is right, the inferior man understands what sells.? (Confucius)

In the changing conditions of today, there are certainly no silver bullets. Things have been difficult for painters for some time and will continue for the foreseeable future. All is not doom and gloom however. Think back to the adverse conditions which the impressionists faced: having to flee France for safety, the destruction of paintings, extreme financial conditions and so on.

Galleries in France seem to be threatened by the internet. I have not had this expressed directly by gallery owners. It is simply an observation of their reactions when I bang up the subject. As difficult survival has been for most of them recently this reaction is easy enough to understand.

I hold out hope that I’ll find that one gallery that I want to associate with. I believe it is best to work only with a single gallery. Also, it is important that the relationship is a good fit. It will not work otherwise.

Published in french as Règles pour les peintres

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