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Cheap Original Hand Painted Oils

Originally posted on April, 30, 2008

In booksellers booths along the Seine quays in Paris you may purchase “Original Hand Painted Oils? (the sign is in English). The paintings are hand painted (not reproductions), they are done in oil, but original, they are not. Most certainly, mass produced in Chinese Art Factories (see article). The vender is evasive when questioned about where the paintings come from. No telling what they say the tourists? Prices I saw started at 15 euros and went to 85 euros for the largest sizes. They were around 50 cm x 65 cm. Copies of Van Gogh subjects are a favourite it seems.

What happened to the booksellers that previously had these spaces? It had been a while since I had been along the Seine on the left bank. In fact, it has been a while since I’ve spent any time in Paris at all.

Another change I noticed was the lack of the charcoal portrait painters by Notre Dame: On nice days in April? Well, nothing last forever. Maybe the fact that almost every tourist is carrying a digital camera has something to do with this.

I believe technology and the internet have a lot to do with the changes we are seeing. One thing, younger people have grown up pirating music and images. Many of them would not think of purchasing original software: Money for original artwork? It had better be cheap.

I use the word cheap because it seems to me we are losing the cultural elegance to use more delicate descriptions for shlock. As well also not to glorify something demonstrating bad taste: Chinese shlock art on the quays in Paris?

In my mind, there is one and only one valid justification for purchasing a work of art: If it gives you pleasure. A stimulating painting can give you, your children and their children pleasure into the distant future. If the painting is not up to this measure anything spent on it is probably too much.

Galleries and painters are not having an easy time of it at the moment. As always, there remains many committed to high standards of excellence. It will, however, require a lot of courage and perseverance to ride out this tide of …? : What is the word? : May be artistic deprivation. Deprivation both of on the part of many would be artists as well as their public.

Published in french as Huiles originales et pour pas cher

Honest Audacious Humility

Originally posted on March, 30, 2008

I spent the last month along the Mediterranean away from my computer. I was also removed from the normal run of activity that parallels my painting. During this month I went for walks and painted. It is during times like this that I get outside my box (see outside the box thinking).

None of us easily admit to having been wrong. It is much easier to turn the spotlight on others: the injustices and mistakes of our society for example. While we are doing this we are not examining closely our complicity.

Throughout the twentieth century we have artists and critics making depreciating statements about the value of aesthetics in painting. Ugliness and magical qualities were cited as the justification. What utter hogwash. Somewhere along the line artists have lost the ability to honestly question their work.

Objectivity, for obvious reasons, is not an activity that artists easily enter into. Too much objectivity and you no longer have the audaciousness necessary to creativity. Artists allowed writers and critics to do their thinking for them. These critics became for artists what opinion pools have become for voters.

Most painters can look at a painting and tell you if it is an honest work. But they forget that great work results when we turn the spotlight on ourselves. Only by doing this is the basic ingredient of humility produced. Honest, audacious, humility.


Published in french as Humilité, honnêteté et audace

Impressionism was the Day before Yesterday

Originally posted on February, 18, 2008

I believe that most people who read are aware of the anti-intellectual bias. That was written about periodically throughout the twentieth century. Recently, it was written about one more time by an American author, Susan Jacoby. Her decision to write this book was based on a real life experience that took place, I believe, in a New York bar on the day of 11 September 2001. She overheard a conversation between two young men. One of them said to the other that it was like Pearl Harbor. The other asked: “what is Pearl Harbor?? The response was that it was when the Vietnamese dropped bombs on a harbor and started the Vietnam War. Overhearing this conversation was the jolt that prompted her to write yet another book about the intellectual health of our culture. A major book on this subject had already been written. Richard Hostadter covered this theme with his Pulitzer Prize-winning 1963 book, “Anti-Intellectualism in American Life?. We are today being informed that in the US two out of three students in their last year of high school cannot read beyond a remedial level. While Europe is in much better shape, the trend is not good.

What does this have to do with art and painting? To adequately address this question would require a much longer article than I have the time to write. Nonetheless, I will continue.

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More Freedom from Content

Originally posted on January, 24, 2008

My previous article, Freedom from Content, as well as an article posted June 15, 2007, Big Answers, approach the same problem from different directions. At the risk of being repetitious I will broach the subject yet again. Hopefully my attempts to get my mental teeth into this problem will be of interest.

Goethe asserted, “All that we perceive is simply raw material.? This short statement not only answers a basic philosophical question, it also states clearly a basic reality of life. There is an important and significant time lag which normally people ignore. Immediately following our perception of something a number of things happen at such a subtle level and so quickly we jump at the thoughts which come to mind. We all do it. It’s easy and comfortable. But it is these missed sensations, internal body processes, perceptions, etc., which make up the palette of life, the building blocks of experience. The artist is the person who intervenes in this sub-thinking process. The sensations of Cezanne and Matisse can be understood in this context.

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