slightly wonky

A little or a lot?
August 25, 2011, 8:54 am
Filed under: Fleeting thoughts..., painting

I’m excited to be meeting with two friends this morning.  Both are artists.  One is a very successful, established artist.  The other is someone who is also talented and accomplished.  I met them both in my art classes.  We’re meeting this morning to discuss what we’re working on.  I’m so excited to see what they are doing, and to get some thoughts and feedback on what I’ve been up to.

This week, I was experimenting with lots of different things, as per usual.  I made this sketch, which I had intended to be the start of something, but ended up feeling complete as is:

How minimal, right?  I like the look and feel of the marks, though.  In complete contrast, I was also playing with acrylic paints this week.  I did a small mixed media painting:

Could these two images be any different?  I really enjoyed doing both of them.  So, which do I prefer?  The first one (a little) or the second one (a lot)?  I don’t know.  I have to keep pondering this more.

As you may be aware, MOMA in NY is having a de Kooning retrospective, opening in September.  I’d love to go.  I love his work.  I generally like his genre of abstract expressionism.  I prefer his work and that of Franz Kline and Robert Motherwell over Jackson Pollock.  I like to see the brushstrokes, and Pollock (as we all know) didn’t use brushstrokes.

I also really love Cy Twombly.  I guess he’s not considered to be “abstract expressionist”, but someone who reacted to that kind of art.  I love that his paintings are a mix of painting and drawing.  I also love that you can see his gestures so clearly in his work.  I know that lots of people don’t like this kind of art.  I understand that.  Twombly’s work will just be scribbles to some people.  I LIKE scribbles, though.  This is a quote from Kirk Varnedoe (art historian) about Twombly:

One could say that any child could make a drawing like Twombly only in the sense that any fool with a hammer could fragment sculptures as Rodin did, or any house painter could spatter paint as well as Pollock.  In none of these cases would it be true.  In each case the art lies not so much in the finesse of the individual mark, but in the orchestration of a previously “uncodified” set of personal rules about where to act and where not, how far to go and when to stop, in such a way as the cumulative courtship of seeming chaos defines and original, hybrid kind of order, which in turn illuminates a complex sense of human experience not voiced or left marginal in previous art.

Why do I bring this all up?  I guess that it takes strength to step away from what lots of people like (paintings that look like something), and do move in a direction that is harder to grasp.  As I keep working, I’m trying to figure this out for myself.  I know that most people would say, “paint what you love”!  It takes a certain amount of gumption to do that when people see your work and say, “what’s THAT?”  Not that there is anything wrong or lesser about a painting of a vase of flowers, etc.  It’s just that representation art like that is more accessible.  It’s easier to judge on a very basic criterion: “does it look real?”.  If yes, then it’s good art.  If not, then the artist is unskilled.

None of this is meant as a kind of judgmental criticism of the general populace.  I think that it’s generally a human need to feel that one’s work is appreciated.  It’s hard to venture down a path where you may receive nothing but disdain…

Also, with practice…one can become more facile at representation.  If I practiced more, I know that my recent portrait of my son could get much better.  But becoming more facile at abstraction is harder, in some ways.  There is a world of difference between my little painting above and the work of de Kooning.  I know that.  But how does one traverse that distance?  THAT is the question…


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