« On Painting

Painting and seeing the big picture

Originally posted on November, 30, 2008

I had much to ponder during my yearly walks on the Normandy beaches. For a long time, I’ve closely observed the fabric of our cultural life. So, needless to say, there was much new in that regard. But autumn has for many years been, for me, a period of personal introspection. I have hope that this year’s effort will prove to be insightful and bring some much needed wisdom. Recognition of this need seems to come with age. Hopefully. On the practical side there is the continual need to redefine the search. It seems the creative voice must forever become more clear.

Joyce deals deeply with several aspects of creativity in “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”.Henry Thoreau repeatedly writes “Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify, simplify! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail.” The excess of details separates us from not only the world around us, but our personal understanding, and any creative efforts we subsequently make.

Back to the beach. This year, my difficulties with writing in general and the writing of this blog become more clear to me. For many years, I solved this problem of writing by simply not doing any. Problem solved. I had been determined to let my painting speak for me and I would keep my mouth shut. I sometimes wonder if I should not have continued to keep it shut. It was enough for me to have a few close friends with whom I could talk. Deeper, theoretical concerns have their own place and I long ago realized my limitations in adequately expressing them.

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Artistic Vision

Originally posted on October, 3, 2008

It no doubt sounds a bit mundane to talk today about artistic vision. World events dictate the need for something much more utilitarian. It seems, however, that for a good long while moralistic political economic concerns have contained the limits of dialogue. And within those limits we move from one crisis or war to the next. It has been said that without a vision people perish. How true. Moving through life from one goal to the next is in fact crisis management. It is not the full engagement of life.

Moralistic dribble? I think not. Ever since Louis Phillip’s “juste milieu”? the vast majority of the art community has moved from one zeitgeist to the next: a never ending parade of progress. The goal always remains the same: to find the next big improvement. Meanwhile artistic vision becomes dimmer and dimmer. It has become a faint flicker.

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Work, Consume and Shut-Up

Originally posted on September, 15, 2008

In the artistic realm of things we turn our gaze towards higher values. Or, so we tell ourselves. Humanity has for millennium turned towards the future for meaning and salvation. I mention this because I find myself endlessly amazed at how some things always remain the same in spite of all the professed advancement. Nowhere is this more evident these days than in the artistic domain.

To the casual observer there appears to have been a tremendous advance artistically speaking after the Reformation and the so called Renaissance. And there was in fact. But it had all been done before. Looking back to the Greeks for guidance and inspiration was not exactly a mark of originality. The period separating them are glibly call the “Dark Ages?. So, was this just another of humanities return to values movements? As in most cases, it seems to have been largely an exercise in the renaming of things. This time they coined the word culture. And with this word began the elite’s modern propaganda campaign which continues to this day.

Okay, the artist and those concerned with the artistic realm danced to the beat of a different drummer. Or at least they did until just recently. I am not so sure that this is not finished. It seems that all the pretension has run to out of steam. I, personally, do not for a second find sadness in all this. All is as it should be. Now the artist can go about his and her business. He can at least do for the moment. Soon, he will be told to work, consume and shut-up.

This rather bleak assessment of things is a small part of my personal attempts to put our current state of affairs in perspective. (Those who have not noticed changes in the weather patterns need to stick their heads out the window.) It is like when you do a painting. Frequently it is necessary to step back a certain distance in order to see it clearly. I hope this helps.

In truth and art,
Denis

Published in french as Travaille, consume et tais-toi

Artistic Ants

Originally posted on June, 27, 2008

If, what we are loosely calling contemporary art demands that the artist be free, can he arrive at some point to liberate himself? Today this painting animal is the most un-free of individuals. His only choice is to which of the latest zeitgeists he shall temporarily conform. Yes the artist painter is in most respects an animal like everyone else. But we must note that he (or she) is in contact with natural forces of a refined order. Society forgets this simple fact to their peril.

Most people I think agree that we are talking animals. Ask them what is the nature of this basic attribute and large differences of opinions emerge. Many, however, express that our intellectual capacity, the ability to reason is simply a refinement of the world habit. They also think that art is a bag of tricks that slick people manipulate. If they were to see reasoning as well as art as an inexplicable gift (from a God or otherwise) then art and reason would be seen to have value. It follows that if here you find no value then life itself has no value.

Art as well as life is, in my view, purely a game which we play well or poorly. And when we imply a progressive principle we invoke ethical standards. This often leads society to support tricksters and allow true artists to starve. The moralist is never universal enough in his thinking from my view. Questions about art are closely tied to the question of how man should live. And if the artist does not exercise a freedom to choose, the question of how man should live becomes as interesting or as uninteresting as how ants should live. At that point we would have a world inhabited with artistic ants.

Published in french as Fourmis artistes

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