Dialogue with an Art Historian: Is Art Always Useful?

I am quite interested in voicing my opinions, in my art and literature, and also about art and literature. One of my regular discussion partners is an art historian (Ricardo). We approach many topics and themes and enjoy our “popcorn for the brain”-banter. Here is a short extract from a recent discussion that began with attribution of style definition and concepts by museum curators, art critics, and artists … and proceeded to historical perspectives regarding valuation, commercialization, and politicization of Art throughout the ages, and especially in the present. I will — for the sake of simplicity and for practical purposes — subtitle this extract “Is Art Always Useful?”

Adam:

I would love to read an art history piece addressing the question of when an idea in artwork becomes monotonous (same repeated image, same colors, same image in fourteen color variations, etc.), and why (eg. commercialization, over-exposure of the artist or style or theme, weak ideas and images that are not deserving of repetition, etc.). Works by many artists — living and not — and in all styles and periods could be examined here, Klein, Warhol, Rothko, Pollock, Basquiat, Munch, iconography, many medieval paintings, as well as impressionistic ones. And a curated exhibition exploring this topic would be excellent: whose work survives the test of several hundred years, and whose will not? What are the expectations and needs today as opposed to previously? How do attention spans compare among audiences? And finally a study of how long people spend gazing at various artworks, and which exhibitions are done within a very short amount of time? Does cramming art spaces with too much art have a negative viewing effect? Could art museums improve upon their presentations by having simultaneous online and in-museum exhibitions, whereby curator questions are drafted online and the same concurrent museum exhibitions provide a more limited visual experience of selected works?

And regarding the question of museums’ search for relevance:

Museums are struggling for relevance, are desperate to meet the younger generation’s interest, and to compete with speculations of art galleries and Internet trends. But they now risk making themselves even more redundant than before. All major art museums have huge inventories of works that are rarely shown. Surely showing these works is more interesting than beating a dead horse by trying to capitalize on fads. Moreover, the attempts to give more relevance and significance than is deserved to certain fads and trends are tiring for audiences. How many retrospectives and themed exhibitions of the works of Mapplethorpe, Basquiat, Warhol, Rothko, Picasso, Pollock, Banksy, etc. do we need? The same is true of art galleries that show an artist collection of the same image in a series of multiple colors. Once you have seen one work there is no need to see several more of the same. This is laziness on the part of the artist, and a case of promoting “the emperor’s new clothes” on the part of the galleries. Also, many museum presentations are a far stretch in regards to their political agendas. There is so much more and better that could be done. I have seen much graffiti art — on the streets, in art galleries, in curated museum exhibitions, on the Internet, etc. Is the reputed relevance not now rather overstated?

Less is often better. And not all “art” deserves a constant promotion. Every museum must have and show its Picasso works, but not all of the acquisitions are first-rate, significant, or even well-made. Like Warhol, fame, and money led him and many other artists to become “hacks”, to repeat themselves, and to sell things they were less proud of. And newer generations strive to copy their styles and make “knock-offs” of their signature works as short-cuts to creative expression and to pay their bills. True enough, many famous artists are propelled rather unnaturally and undeservedly, while some others’ hard work goes largely unnoticed. “When you are hot you are hot, and when your period of popularity is over and the crowd is pushed on further you are no longer hot.” The Internet exacerbates this problem.

I have many questions and ideas.

 

Ricardo the Art Historian:

All very good questions and ideas.

 

Well, now we are having fun! I pride myself on all art and objects in my home being functional and utilitarian, due to limited space. The implication is that all objects are also chosen for their esthetic and artistic qualities, and the ways they can complement one another.

 

Ricardo:

I guess I didn’t mean to suggest that what we call “art” has to be utilitarian. I suppose an economist might take the position that anything someone spends money on or otherwise acts to acquire and which gives them pleasure — esthetic, intellectual, “I can afford this and you can’t”-satisfaction, etc.) is, from an economic standpoint, utilitarian….it keeps the wheels of commerce churning. And certainly, there are and should be all types of “art” — confrontational, challenging, mysterious, didactic, tendentious — as many types as there are tastes in the consumers and other “receptors”. And I’m reminded of the debate about Matisse’s declaration that he made art to “soothe” those viewing it**…..and so in the ’20s, his art seemed to become “decorative”…..both developments (his statement, his colorful, soothing paintings and, eventually, cut-outs) raising some minor storms from critics. By the way, I meant to mention a wonderful observation by the critic Clement Greenberg sometime in the early or mid-1950s to the effect that he almost regretted that the Renaissance had put so much emphasis on perspective and the idea of looking through a window onto the scene depicted…..half-musing what the development of art might have been without that kind of focus and objective.

** The Matisse quote: What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter – a soothing, calming influence on the mind, rather like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue.

 

Adam:

I must admit that the Andy Warhol and Basquiat period confounds me now that it is at a distance. I was — like you — in Manhattan during their time, and also during the time of many other now-famous artists of that era. In Manhattan and in Los Angeles it was common to see these persons, to cross their paths on the streets, at parties, at restaurants, etc. and there was a sense of respect for their personal space and experience. I never idolized them as persons or as artists, and their work was for me just one of their many expressions; and not unlike the clothing they preferred to wear, the night clubs and discos I saw them at, and so on. Everyone was “an artist” back then; and a few “made it” (i.e. made most of their income from their art). It seemed almost coincidental oftentimes, dependent upon who you knew who knew someone, being in the right place at the right moment in Time, etc. rather than one particular person’s art being greater or better than that of all others. I could not — and did not even think about trying to — compare one artist with another. Personal expression and uniqueness were paramount; and one’s artistic personality was a large part of one’s art. Graffiti was everywhere back then. I did not evaluate if it was “Art” or “Vandalism”. It was just part of the background to the constant Entertainment Show going on all around us, and which we were a part of — regardless of whether we considered ourselves as artists, or not. When Basquiat teamed up with Warhol the social protest/vandalism (reminiscent of Michael West’s “Blinding Light” painting which pre-dates Basquiat) made its way into the prestigious art galleries and art museums. While graffiti was by no means “new” or revolutionary art, the concept of taking it inside was novel. Warhol was a businessman who knew how to make lots of money, and who loved doing that. I will always wonder what Warhol and Basquiat had within them beyond the commercialized expressions of protest (Basquiat) and everyday iconography (Warhol). What would they produce today? I suspect that Warhol would have long since moved on to video/film, photography, and computer art. I suspect that perhaps Basquiat did not have so many more ideas beyond what made him famous. That is all well and good. Everything in its time. It is increasingly difficult to compare art — not only in the same few decades but also over centuries. It is perhaps akin to trying to decide who is the G.O.A.T. (the greatest of all Time) in any discipline, sport, or art form. But comparing artists working within the same basic styles and within the same time periods is rather possible. Perhaps that is the foundation of comparative Art for art historians? But, back to Basquiat. After his fame, many other artists moved from the streets and walls inside of galleries and museums. And as they did so their graffiti art became more and more stylized and commercial. Graphic representations with accompanying tagging dumbed down the previous abstractions so that every Tom, Dick, and Harriet had mental and financial access to these politically-correct posters that were mass-produced. Now, the trend is again returning to selling original works at art auctions and museums. But I question whether such art is really a significant style in the greater context of art history. Graffiti in prehistoric caves, in ancient Italy and Greece … and even in dilapidated neighborhoods in Paris, Berlin, Rome, Amsterdam, NYC, etc. can often be much more “primal” and evocative than many of the works commanding exorbitant prices at Sotheby’s and museums. Michael West’s paintings are powerful because she speaks to herself — about her experience of her existence and environment — rather than making her art into a speakeasy. It is that introspection that makes her own “rage” a different kind of abstract protestation. Perhaps a more powerful and primal expression than that of Basquiat and those who have followed him. Her work — like the early, pre-splatter works by Jackson Pollock — has a vibrant primal quality that is, to me, closer to being an original style — even though she was greatly influenced by a few of her close artist friends’ styles. Today it is common for contemporary artists to name their styles (which is perhaps often preferable to being pigeonholed and typecast by art historians and gallery owners). We can be quite creative at putting together hyphenated known style categories in questionable combinations. Just as vague and intentionally meaningless as much gallery show bullshit written in invitations to vernissages. Or artwork titles. My question is more and more, does any clean style exist today? Is it desirable to have only one style anymore? I dunno. But I think more and more that historical social and political context is equally important (if not more so) than style classifications. Most art is situation-inspired and thereby specific to an Era, rebellions, or promotions of then-current modes of expression and themes. Perhaps that is equally interesting to talk about rather than merely style and technique? I note that modern art museums are moving increasingly in that direction in curating their exhibitions. Historical and sociopolitical context is now allowing art museums to be social learning institutions, and thus more relevant for today’s audiences.

 

Ricardo:

Yes, to all you brilliantly have written. I find some contemporary curating a little too “politically correct”-intended as they pair works from different eras or centuries in one space. Implying what? That artists respond similarly in different times (to what, tho?) as evidenced by a similar style or subject matter or use of materials? So what, I say? What’s your point, dear curator. Or maybe a curator is using artworks like a poet uses words, to express herself/himself? I don’t think they’d ever admit that, but choice, by its very nature, involves the curator’s thought, emotion, outlook, intention. On balance, I think we’re in an age of cultural confusion and drift. New means of expression, like iPad art, may yet come to dominate the “art scene”.

 

Adam:

Exactly my point. Let contemporary artists talk about their art and process, and let the public decide if it achieves its goals — if there are any beyond mere pleasure. But here art critics are equally to blame.

 

 

Revisiting Jean Cocteau’s ballet libretto “Le jeune homme et la mort”.

“Le jeune homme et La Mort”, 65×90 cm., installation de peinture: huile sur toile et filet de camouflage, Adam Donaldson Powell, 2017.

L’histoire chorégraphique :

THE YOUNG MAN AND DEATH.

Redefining Cocteau’s interpretation of “The young man and death”:
My painting — entitled “The young man and death” – represents a violent and hazardous order; whitewashed mental chaos with the conviction of purification and with cutting knife marks of self-harm … and swirling depression; and with so many overwhelming rhythmic atonalites that the blue electricity of pulses and currents are stifled by a huge blanketing whiteness that gives a general impression of calm and control – as long as we follow each breath religiously. It is an atmosphere of violent beauty; the inner environment which cleanses and consumes all the perceptions of the outside world that drive us to the ultimate act of correction and glory: suicide. The whiteness of depression is the light at the end of the tunnel of death – promise of rebirth, new virginity and ultimate seduction. The thick slabs of paint represent the mud walls we erect to keep ourselves safe inside our cocoons – in our fortress. Depression does not concern sadness, but rather the construction of our castle in heaven, where our indifference to success and failure can finally flourish. Nirvana. Here, death is not a woman, but the young man’s own psyche. The misogynistic vision of Cocteau will be whitewashed and exposed as a void that disguises itself as male self-victimization. Once the many layers of oil paint were completely dry, I then covered the minimalist painting with camouflage netting, this in order to force the viewer to want to look at the discomfort in the pictures … to encourage the Viewer to look under the veil, and then to identify oneself sufficiently in the Mind … Yes, to be able to look for the veil of Emptiness that is under the veil. Of course, no one really wants to know about another person’s depression – especially if they are suicidal. We are all fighting the same depression and nothingness. It’s only a thought away. The result is a two-dimensional sculpture painting.

Jean Maurice Eugene Clement Cocteau was very talented, very brave, very “gay”, very famous … and very misogynistic. Only the unfortunate (or idiots) would be stupid enough to try to make him angry.

“The young man and death In a workshop, a young man alone is waiting. In comes the girl who was the cause of his distress. He rushes towards her, she pushes him away, he begs her, she insults him, scoffs at him and tells him to go hang himself. He hangs himself. Only the body of the hanged man remains. Through the roofs, death then returns in a prom dress. She takes off her mask: it’s the girl. So she puts her mask on the face of her victim. Together, they go through the roofs.
— Jean Cocteau”

More than seventy years have passed since this work had its world premiere. And the idea still haunts me. The story is too thin … a cheap shot designed to shock. The cheating woman has the coldness of a man, and the desperate man (the cuckold) hangs himself as the woman demands. The irony is that a number of men today commit suicide after their wife’s infidelity or divorce. But what else is behind this suicide? Surely, there are problems of depression and relationship within man before this development? Was the woman really responsible for his death? Is the infidelity of another person really the cause of suicide – or is it just a symptom, the result of a long-standing illusion that can no longer be denied? Is not this another expression of misogyny in the age of Romanticism? And how can I recreate this story / painting – penetrating more into the young man’s psyche – far beyond this woman representing death, who can so easily be blamed?

It’s the same for both or all genders (there are more than two now). Because depression and suicide are taboo subjects, I want to force the public to commit to watching and walking inside the painting. These problems need to be normalized – like cancer and other syndromes and lifestyle diseases.

“It is important to understand and simply accept that all our past experiences, whether joyful or sad, continue to accompany us throughout our lives and greatly affect the way we feel today. Problems can only trigger feelings of insecurity, shame, envy or revenge if we deny that they are part of us. To be overwhelmed by such feelings in the most difficult situations requires us to recognize them and consciously integrate them as natural parts of our psyche. Only then will we be able to develop a loving acceptance of ourselves with all our flaws and shortcomings.” — from www. astro.com

As I always say, a lot of fiction is more factual than readers realize. Cocteau was very misogynistic and obsessed with wanting a son, and had great anger when the woman of his choice (Princess Natalie Paley) rejected him: he said that women were “the killers of poets’ children”, there had been many suicides in his life, and so on – all of which indicate psychological problems at work in this story.

With Nureyev in the title role:

Read about Gustave Moreau’s painting “The Young Man and Death” HERE!

2389ECFE-7F46-4E2D-BD0E-23B579D37284

LE JEUNE HOMME ET LA MORT.

Redéfinir l’interprétation de Cocteau de «Le jeune homme et la mort»:
«Le jeune homme et la mort» – il représente un ordre violent et hasardeux; chaos mental blanchi à la chaux avec la conviction de purification et avec des marques d’automutilation … la dépression tourbillonnant avec des atonalites rythmiques tellement écrasante que l’électricité bleue des impulsions et des courants est étouffée par un énorme oreiller blanc qui donne une impression générale de calme et contrôle – tant que l’on suit religieusement chaque respiration. C’est une atmosphère de beauté violente; l’environnement intérieur qui lave et consume toutes les perceptions du monde extérieur, nous pousse à l’ultime acte de correction et de gloire: le suicide. La blancheur de la dépression est la lumière au bout du tunnel de la mort – promesse de renaissance, nouvelle virginité et ultime séduction. Les dalles épaisses de peinture représentent les murs de boue que nous érigeons pour nous garder en sécurité dans nos cocons – notre forteresse. La dépression ne concerne pas la tristesse, mais plutôt la construction de notre château dans les cieux, où notre indifférence au succès et à l’échec peut enfin s’épanouir. Nirvana. Ici, la mort n’est pas une femme, mais la propre psyché du jeune homme. La vision misogyne de Cocteau sera blanchie au néant, et exposée comme un vide qui se déguiserait en auto-victimisation masculine.

Une fois que les nombreuses couches de peinture à l’huile sont complètement sèches, je vais couvrir la peinture minimaliste avec filet de camouflage ; qui forceront le spectateur à vouloir regarder les désagréments dans les images. Regarder sous le voile et ensuite s’identifier suffisamment dans le Mental pour pouvoir chercher le voile de Vide qui est sous le voile. Bien sûr, personne ne veut vraiment connaître la dépression d’une autre personne – surtout s’il est suicidaire. Nous combattons tous la même dépression et le néant. C’est seulement une pensée loin. Le résultat sera une peinture de sculpture en deux dimensions.
Jean Maurice Eugène Clément Cocteau était très talentueux, très courageux, très “gay”, très célèbre … et très misogyne. Seuls les malheureux ou les idiots seraient heureux de le mettre en colère.

Le jeune homme et la mort

Dans un atelier, un jeune homme seul attend. Entre la jeune fille qui était cause de sa détresse. Il s’élance vers elle, elle le repousse, il la supplie, elle l’insulte, le bafoue et s’enfouit. Il se pend. La chambre s’envole. Ne reste que le corps du pendu. Par les toits, la mort arrive en robe de bal. Elle ôte son masque : c’est la jeune fille. Alors elle pose son masque sur le visage de sa victime. Ensemble, ils s’en vont par les toits.

— Jean Cocteau»

Plus de soixante-dix ans se sont écoulés depuis que ce travail a eu sa première mondiale. Et l’idée me hante toujours. L’histoire est trop mince … un cliché inverse conçu pour choquer. La femme qui triche a la froideur d’un homme, et l’homme désespéré (le cocu) se pendent comme la femme demande. L’ironie est qu’un certain nombre d’hommes aujourd’hui se suicident après l’infidélité ou le divorce de leur femme. Mais quoi d’autre est derrière ce suicide? Il y a sûrement des problèmes de dépression et de relation au sein de l’homme avant ce développement? La femme était-elle vraiment responsable de sa mort? L’infidélité d’une autre personne est-elle vraiment la cause du suicide – ou est-ce simplement un symptôme, le résultat d’une illusion de longue date qui ne peut plus être nié? N’est-ce pas une autre expression de la misogynie à l’époque du romantisme? Et comment puis-je recréer cette histoire / peinture – pénétrant davantage dans la psyché du jeune homme – bien au-delà de cette femme représentant la mort, qui peut si facilement être blâmée?

C’est la même chose pour les deux ou tous les sexes (il y en a plus de deux maintenant). Parce que la dépression et le suicide sont des sujets tabous, je veux forcer le public à s’engager à regarder et à marcher à l’intérieur du tableau. Ces problèmes doivent être normalisés – comme le cancer et d’autres syndromes et maladies de style de vie.

“Il est important de comprendre et d’accepter simplement que toutes nos expériences passées, qu’elles soient joyeuses ou tristes, continuent à nous accompagner tout au long de notre vie et affectent considérablement la façon dont nous nous sentons aujourd’hui. Les problèmes ne peuvent que déclencher des sentiments d’insécurité, de honte, d’envie ou de vengeance si nous nions qu’ils font partie de nous. Être submergé par de tels sentiments dans les situations les plus difficiles nous oblige à les reconnaître et à les intégrer consciemment en tant que parties naturelles de notre psyché. Ce n’est qu’alors que nous serons en mesure de développer une acceptation aimante de nous-mêmes avec tous nos défauts et insuffisances.”(astro.com)

Comme je le dis toujours, beaucoup de fiction est plus factuelle que ce que les lecteurs réalisent. Cocteau était très misogyne et sa fascination pour vouloir un fils, sa colère quand la femme de son choix (la princesse Natalie Paley) l’a rejeté: il a dit que les femmes étaient «les tueuses des enfants de poètes», les suicides dans sa vie, et ainsi de suite – indiquent ses problèmes psychologiques au travail dans cette histoire.

”COVID-19 — fini les bises à la pelle !”, oil on canvas, 60 x 50 cm., 2020, is a self-portrait of myself hesitating to kiss my own death skull, and is surrounded by a ring of blue roses. The blue roses symbolize the unattainable; here, an unfulfilled love-moment that is even too complicated to be described in words because our natural habit of performing the delicious bises à la pelle is abruptly stopped by the cold mental forewarning that “some doors should never be opened”. There is nothing to say, save perhaps “Oh, I almost forgot.” This is, indeed, a challenging conceptual and technical study and essay. The image of a person kissing a death skull is an age-old meme (if not a cliché). Here the twist is to play on the concept of The Picture of Dorian Gray, whereby the death skull is the mirrored image of my true Self — i.e. that part of me that always remains constant, regardless of the « accoutrements » of fashion, disposition, or aging. In the Age of COVID-19 a simple kiss on the cheek can become the shovel that digs our own grave… Indeed we must all face our own Death, with eyes open or shut. And yet Death finds meaning only against the background of Life, though measured in mere years or breaths. Just as Light has no significance without shadow or Darkness, we cannot live Life fully being afraid of Death. “On ne peut pas vivre en ayant peur de mourir … “
“La mort rappelle une vie passée”, 60 x 80 cm., huile sur toile, 2020.
«Eternal Sleep — Mors Vincit Omnia», oil on canvas, 80 x 60 cm., 2021.

Yet another rant, from an opinionated Artist.

Letter to an Art Historian, regarding an article he sent to me about
criticism of the art of Donald Judd:

I received the article in the post today. Thanks. Judd’s boxes are to me … just boxes. Like contemporary painters of photo-realistic  and some hyper-realistic portraits and still life who attempt to supersede photos but whose images are devoid of “soul”, I find this kind of Art to be “anti-Art”. One can delight in the technical prowess behind such works of Art, but the question remains as to whether they are in fact a “style” on the same definitive level as Realism or Surrealism, or a novelty which is a mere obscure footnote in the overall framework of Art History. To me, Art should speak to a purpose, i.e. an idea or an interpretation that needs to be expressed, to provoke a response … something that is in some way extraordinary, unexpected and insistent. The objects may very well be ordinary and mundane, but for me to become interested in artistic portrayals of them there must be an idea that suggests the artist’s standpoint or question; and an invitation for me to participate with the work of Art through my own reactions and proposed interpretational ideas. These anti-Art sculptures/installations remind me of others that repel me at museums and galleries. Repel me because they give me nothing … because my expectations are muffled by the Nothingness. Looking at paintings by artists from all eras and periods, I note that even classical painters were provocative in their time, due to aberrations from the defining art trends of the time, introduction of new techniques and materials, depictions of religious, social and political motives and ideas, which were often discordant in detail albeit seemingly typical otherwise.

The later successive periods entailed much experimentation with style and bore fruit to many “isms”, that opened up the field of Art immensely. Judd’s reaction to Minimalism in painting is not — in my eyes — a variation on a theme OR an alternative. The pieces are perhaps best as “one-offs”, rather than as a style. For that there is not enough substance — ideologically or technically, imho.

After struggling through Sartre’s “Being and Nothingness” I was subsequently appalled to read an article in a newspaper where he scoffed at and dismissed the massive work as inconsequential. In hindsight, it was indeed perhaps nothing more than a huge masturbation intended to massage freedom-seeking idle brains. Much like the creators of QAnon, which presents lots of bullshit conspiracy theories … just to see how far they can succeed in controlling the idle brains of the masses. It is — to me the same kind of anti-Art Project approach that many artists employ: presenting the emperor’s new clothes as a Reality that embarrasses all who do not see it because they feel dumb, uneducated, uncultured.

My own need to create and share my Art is different than these anti-Artists. My intention is to present ideas and images that entice the Viewer to become a creative participant in his/her own ever-changing thoughts and Life. My Art is based upon many ideas, feelings, questions etc. that I purposely make accessible in the Art and in my commentaries. And then — having given the Viewer the background for the work, and defined my intention — I leave it to the Viewer and critics to determine whether (or not) I have achieved my intentions technically and in my presentation of ideas.

I use textures, shadows and lights to approach the 3-dimensionality that Judd espouses. I have made a number of minimalistic paintings, but even in those I attempt to create a sense of space that leaves plenty of room for running — hot and cold. In Judd’s works I only get a feeling of coldness, and of contained order. I prefer Pollock’s endless dripping and Rothko’s monotonous colourfield variations on the same theme. The paint draws me in, electrifies me and gives me a sense of mental tactile exploration that is far greater than what I get from boxes, metal or wood structures reminiscent of everyday objects that are presented as objets d’Art without modification or inclusion in a greater context that gives meaning.

A box is still a box, a bare urinal placed in an art museum gallery is still a urinal … and a golden toilet is still a toilet. The urinal was an Art-political statement by the artist, relevant to that particular time in Art history and politics. But of the three the toilet is the most interesting and provoking because most people do not have toilets of gold, because it elevates the throne to really be A Throne, and because some wealthy persons actually do make ornaments of their toilets. Their shit and piss is thus of greater value and importance than that of most of us. And therein is the Art and the Statement and the Provocation. But even so, a pig wearing make-up is still “just a pig, wearing make-up”. One of the more interesting artists working with Minimalism and geometric design was Ellsworth Kelly. And of course, Calder.

Technique is very important, and I am forever exploring was to explore using and improving my technical skills. But technique without interpretational presentation is, to me, just a form of technical mastery. Unfortunately, many Viewers and artists are obsessed with the technical “wow-factor” in itself. Technique is one of many available tools that can be used to achieve artistic interpretation but is in itself merely a technical achievement. Realistic painters from the earlier periods eventually understood that what we actually see and interpret is subjectively different than the static mirrored and photographic realistic images; and thus began making surrealistic, abstract and semi-realistic portrayals that perhaps more correctly represent the many possible ways of seeing and interpreting images and objects. It is there that Art invites to Viewer participation in the artistic process and invitation to personal perceptual creativity — from Impressionism, to Cubism to Abstract Expressionism to Minimalism etc. Artists today have a wealth of styles, techniques, and art historical trends at our disposal. Our challenge is perhaps to re-interpret and modify/expand on these in order to make new statements and approaches to exploring perception of our World and existence. Many have always maintained throughout the ages that “all has been done and expressed before”. I agree and disagree. To me it is a question of constantly exploring which styles, techniques and materials work best to present my ideas and questions … in the context of where we are in today’s world, with today’s perceptions and realities, and in the ever-evolving context of a long history of Art/artistic development.

All previous artists who have established new styles and techniques have faced the same challenges and goals. We have not exhausted all possibilities in painting, drawing or sculpture. And it is important to know when to move on in our ideas, rather than repeating the same styles and techniques throughout an artistic career. That which was interesting and original in one work quickly becomes boring after having been repeated in all possible colours and combination ad nauseam. Viewers and Readers today will not tolerate such limitations. Get to the point, and continue to make new inroads in style and technical presentation.

There were notable differences in levels of technical mastery even amongst the most famous Artists in the past 500 years. And Van Gogh’s and Picasso’s paintings (of which I have seen hundreds of examples in my tours of art museums) vary in technical qualities, even within their own styles. But the most successful artists have managed to find the right combinations of technique, style and ideas in order to create “striking” interpretational images/works. Sometimes technical “perfection” is subservient to interpretational skills.

Creating “magic” in Art requires that kind of decision-making. Even in hard-edge Art and geometric Art the question of exactness of lines, brush strokes used and solid (flat, opaque) versus non-solid (cloudy, murky, muddy, or even translucent or vibrating) colour fields arise. I constantly make decisions regarding lines being technically straight and not, because a technically razor-edge straight line does not always appear so to the Viewer, and because too much rigidity is not always interpretatively beneficial to the ideas of the artwork in question. I wish that more Viewers and critics of Art would begin to focus more on how well the artist’s technical decisions and stylistic choices work, why and why not, rather than upon prowess of technical detail alone … and adherence to old rules regarding styles established previously. The aims and standards of earlier eras (especially the pre-photography Era of Realism) can perhaps be different than those of today.

But this is just another rant, from an opinionated artist. Keep making, viewing and purchasing the Art that gives you personal joy. That is all that matters.