How many times have I asked myself:
WOULD THIS BE A BETTER PAINTING IF I PUT A BURNING PHONE BOOTH IN IT?
We have artists trying to give their work gravity by use of a device I shall call the" illusion of meaning". We have all seen it. The friend who writes poetry that is deliberately not understandable and full of bizarre combinations of words and fragments of unrelated thoughts. Their poems don't really have a meaning but are so opaque that we don't know what the hell they are talking about. We all have read Kant or some such really obtuse material and said, gee I don't know what this means. In the case of Kant, I am sure it has meaning, and my wife knows what that is.
But there are folks out there who would like to fool us with gibberish. They hope to get us to say, gee that's really hard to understand. I don't get it. They must be smart like Kant!
We encounter this often in art students, and those of us old enough to remember the sixties remember seeing Richard Harris singing "MacArthur Park" Someone left the cake out in the rain..... This ploy has become so common that we now accept it as legitimate and don't speak out for fear of being "not nice". This is a contemporary wardrobe of the kings new clothes. I suggest we strip em!
This gambit has become common in painting today. Now I will cut Rene Magritte a break. The first guy in, gets that for originality,and they are amusing paintings besides. But I think all of the pious explanations about how they make us look at the world, language or apples differently is hogwash. (gee, I think so)
There is a difference between meaning and the appearance of meaning. They are also not equal. Appearing smart is not the same as being smart either. Routinely we see young painters juxtaposing bizarre objects or dumping stinking offal on the floor of a gallery or mutilating various body parts attached to themselves or others in the hope of baffling us into thinking how cerebral they are.
Contemporary art criticism has taken this idea and enshrined it as the right way to speak about art too. How many absolutely impenetrable essays have I discarded half read because they were just slinging confusion in hopes I would mistake it for a conclusion. It is again time to point out that:
Now here comes a principle:
IT IS NOT WHAT THE ARTISTS FEELS, INTENDS OR EXPLAINS THAT IS IMPORTANT! WHAT IS IMPORTANT, IS WHAT THE ARTIST EXPRESSES.
Now it is possible to make a beautiful painting containing random or dadaist methods, but they alone won't make a painting beautiful, or meaningful. A painting, said Degas is an arrangement of lines and colors that set one another off. I will repeat my most important idea in this blog.
IT IS DIFFICULT TO PLACE TOO MUCH EMPHASIS ON WHAT THE PAINTING ACTUALLY LOOKS LIKE!
Pretending to be an unfathomable genius is, well, dumb.
Tomorrow I will begin a series of posts on traveling and painting.