Art and painting.

- A personal view by Ron Lindeman -

   

I like art in all its variations.

I like sculptures as well as paintings.

I like western art as well as eastern art.

Just as with music I have a wide and broad interest in all types and styles of painting.

As with musicians I admire numerous different painters from all periods in art history.

From early Flemish to Italian renaissance to French baroque and rococo painters, to British Pre-Raphaelites, to French impressionists, to German Blaue Reiter painters, to American action-painters and so on.

In my early youth I learned to paint with oil-paint.

I remember that I had to master the techniques.

How to handle a painters stick.

Work with palette knives.

With all the different sorts of paint-brushes.

Pigskin-hair brushes, marten-hair brushes, artificial filament brushes, thin paint-brushes, thick paint-brushes, fan-shaped paint-brushes, and so on.

I had to master wet-in-wet painting technique and layer-over-layer painting technique.

I had to learn about the materials and how to use them.

The different painting-mediums such as linseed-oil and poppy-oil,  siccatives to shorten the drying time of oil-paint, using lead containing paints, covering colours, semi-transparent paints and transparent paints, different sorts of varnishes and a lot  more.


I remember, at a certain instance I thought painting with oil-paint took too long.

Always having to wait again and again till the layer was dry.

Every time that took several days.

And it didn't get on.

I admit, I was rather impatient.

Then I changed to acrylic paint, because that dries immediately, ha,ha,ha.

But using acrylic paint limits the possibilities.

You can do less with acrylic paint than with oil-paint.

So I prefer to use oil-paint.


I was taught to draw and that the drawing should be the basis for the painting.

So I sort of stuck to the illustrative and figurative painting.

First set up a drawing and only then start painting.

The composition must at first be in your mind as a sketch.

The colours arise inside of me as I paint.

Sheer process of creation.

Creating something, like a song, like a poem, like a painting, it is all the same creative process!

Painting "by feelings or intuition" I never did.


I must say that now I do think differently about art and specifically painting than I did when I was young.

I learned that art is something which springs from within the artist.

From the heart and soul.

You can learn to master all the painting-techniques in the world and still not be an artist.

You can learn to paint as the Italian Renaissance painters did or learn to copy a painting by Rembrandt.

Then you’re a good and excellent craftsman.

The mind can master the techniques or the theory but true art springs from a different well.

I learned to appreciate painters who paint by intuition and instinct.

Who use forms, colours and composition to create artworks that seem to spring from their inner well: human emotions.


But nevertheless there are some side remarks I have to pose here.

These are just my personal views on art and painting I ventilate here.

Not more than that.


My view on art has indeed always been rather pragmatic.

The problem with art and music is that it can easily get out of control if the philosophy becomes more important than the work of art itself.

What do I mean by that?


Desire to change and renew.


A painting consists of the material on which you paint, the material wherewith you paint it, the composition, the colours, the subject, etc

But during the history of painting one sees that painters always want to "renew" all yet to always again change something in the existing perception of what was the art of painting.

For example: the material on which you paint doesn't matter anymore; the material wherewith you paint doesn't matter anymore; the composition can be different; the colours can be different and so on.


The visible figurative concept disappears and the contours of people, animals and objects fade.

The once almost razor-sharp painted images changed into blurred images.


Compare a painting by Leonardo da Vinci with a painting by Claude Monet or Auguste Renoir.

You can actually see how the strictly and refined figurative changes into less refined and sometimes hazy or blurry figures.

You can see how the use of dark colours and “natural “colours used by the Italian renaissance painters is changed into pastel colours by the French impressionist painters.

The difference is even greater when the expressionist painters enter the scene.

The dark, brown colours change into bright primary colours.


Just compare a painting by the Dutch painter George Hendrik Breitner with a painting by Vincent van Gogh


The use of colours changes drastically in the course of the history of western painting.

From renaissance painters to impressionists.

From impressionists to expressionists.

From expressionists to abstract artists, etc.

From Botticelli to John Constable and Joseph Mallord William Turner.

From Turner and Vincent van Gogh to Auguste Renoir.

From Auguste Renoir to Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró .

From Joan Miró to Paul Klee and to Karel Appel .

It are all just examples


The different styles in painting and the different groups of artists formed increased drastically.

When it was accepted that one didn’t need to exactly and precisely “copy” human figures or didn’t need to exactly copy a vase with flowers or didn’t need to copy animals precisely or landscapes or buildings or whatever precisely anymore, the road to artistic freedom and free use of material, colours and artistic concepts was open.

I mean, why paint a woman like she is?

It’s nicer to paint her with fading contours in nice soft pastel colours with touches of primary colours added.

Or use dots like the French pointillist painters such as George Seurat did.

Or paint a vase with sunflowers with thick brushes and lots of paint in thick  layers making it look like a sort of bas-relief artwork and using bright primary colours like Van Gogh did.

I can imagine how painters must have felt in those days in the late 19th century and early 20th century when a lot of changes took place.

Maybe it also was because photography entered the scene and painters found that they didn’t need to “copy” anymore.

Photographers could do that!


So as a painter you could start painting in a different and more free fashion.

And once the first obstacles were taken the search and urge and desire to “be different” must have inspired and ignited the minds and hearts of those painters.

Painters who started using different techniques or change some of the standard academically determined rules and laws of painting soon got eager followers.

I can guess how some French painters must have felt when they saw the paintings of the British painter Joseph Mallord William Turner.

His paintings of ships on the sea or trains disappearing in the smoke or hazy vague landscapes and the like were so different.

No distinctive shape and figures anymore and the deviating different colour-palette he used.

It must have really impressed the French painters.

Personally I like the French impressionists because I like pastel colours.

I don’t use those colours myself so much but I really like them.

The French painter Auguste Renoir is my favourite impressionist painter because of his colour-palette.


I mean when a man like the Spanish painter Pablo Picasso started to introduce his concept of Cubism with strange looking figures and the French painter Fernand Leger started using other materials besides oil-paint to put on his canvasses it must have felt like the sky was the limit.

I am not so much into art history, but I have always been very interested in the different art directions and groups.

Expressionism, impressionism, Pre-Raphaelites, Art nouveau, Avant Garde, surrealism, primitive art,  cubism, Dada, Bauhaus, Cobra, action-painting, pop-art, conceptual art, digital art, etc, etc.

I can relate to most of them and what they did .

But that’s not my point.

   

Everything went on and on and on and on and there seemed to be no stop to it.

But at a certain instance there was just nothing left to change anymore.

You change the way you think about painting figuratively, you change the way you use the colours, you change the way you use the brushes and types of paint and mediums, you change the materials you paint on, you add new materials next to different types of paint, you start slinging or throwing the paint onto the canvas instead of using brushes, and at a certain instance it must stop.

Because there is simply nothing more to change .


But then artists started making the philosophy of art more important than the art itself.

And one gets crazy ideas about art.

An artist picks up a piece of wood and declares it is now  art  and calls it “objet trouvé ” ( found object) .

Then it is not  “the sky is the limit” anymore.

It then has become more of : “we’re totally lost in outer space”.

It becomes silly, ridiculous.

If not to say stupid.


The philosophy behind the art has become more important than the art itself.

I question that

Is it good, is it bad?

I have my doubts.


Recognizabillity.


Of some painters you will recognize their specific signature.

The "touch", thus the way in which they use the paint-brushes.

Frans Hals and Rembrandt had a recognizable paintbrush wielding.

So did Vincent van Gogh.

You recognize it.

It’s a painting by Frans Hals, it’s a painting by Rembrandt, it’s a painting by Van Gogh.


The use of light.


Rembrandt used the light in his own way.

I think his use of light is fantastic.

But his contemporaries didn’t think so at all.

The clients who commissioned him to paint the painting nowadays referred to as “the Nightwatch” found it a terrible painting.

The use of light in the painting was totally wrong as some of the figures were hardly to be seen and recognized while others were partly in bright light.

I think it is fantastic but it also shows that people don’t always recognize beauty in art.

People are often blinded by what they consider to be the ruling laws of what art must be.

And they don’t realize that there is no such thing.


There’s also a kind of hypocrisy .

I mean, Rembrandt died a poor man.

And only after his death the Dutch made him an icon in Dutch and world art history.

When he was alive they considered him to be a bad painter.

That’s hypocrite.

Or what to say about Vincent van Gogh.

He never sold a painting during his life.

People judged him to be a bad painter.

He made silly drawings and silly paintings and he was crazy.

Van Gogh never had an official education.

Two times he spent some time in the atelier of a painter, once in The Hague in The Netherlands and once in Paris in France.

When he was alive nobody took Van Gogh serious.

And maybe a century later the Dutch built a special museum: the Van Gogh museum.

They should have built him a museum when he was alive instead of considering him to be a lunatic when he was alive.

It’s hypocrite.

He died totally poor and a century or so later Japanese and Australian and other businessmen paid tens of millions of dollars for his paintings.



The use of colours.


Vincent van Gogh  used colours that are recognizable.

So did Auguste Renoir.

There are many painters who are recognizable by their specific colour-palette.

Like Austrian painter Gustav Klimt using gold paint.


The dynamics within the painting.


A painting by Van Gogh is bursting with dynamics

The strokes almost move on the canvas when you look at it.

I love paintings by Van Gogh.

I love to experience the movement when you stand in front of one of his paintings.

Everything in the painting seems to move.

When you’re in Amsterdam, visit the Van Gogh museum, ha,ha,ha!


Nothing more to change!


But what if there is simply nothing left anymore to change?

Then at a certain instance only the thought behind the artwork becomes important.

The philosophy of the artwork becomes more important than the artwork itself.


For example:

An artist finds a piece of wood out on the street and calls that: "Objet trouvée".

Only and alone because he is an artist and he names an ordinary piece of wood "Found Object", that stupid piece of wood suddenly is elevated to the status of "artwork".

Am I crazy or is this man crazy?


For example:

Somewhere in the seventies there was an Italian artist, who canned his shit and exhibited it as "Merde d'artiste" ( Shit from the artist).

"Shit from the artist" thus!

It's really true.

It really happened!

Am I crazy or is this man crazy?

Yes, that really happened!


For example:

The Dutch female artist Marte Röling ( whom I greatly admire!) had a boyfriend Henk Jürriaans, who some decades ago stood naked in the Boymans van Beuningen museum at Rotterdam!( or was it the Rijksmuseum at Amsterdam?)

As a living artwork.

I may be a simple soul but this is way above my head.

And I don’t mean to be offensive.


It are just examples of how  things can easily be lost in vagueness and fuzziness .


Wrapping of the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany by Christo.



The Bulgarian artist Christo (Christo Vladimirov Javacheff ) wrapped, among others,  the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany and the Pont-Neuf bridge in Paris, France and he claimed that what he did was art and he did it solely because of the aesthetics of his artworks and not to give his works a deeper underlying meaning.

He said it was to make people see landscapes in a different way.

Now you can question yourself whether it is the summum of how the philosophy of art has become more important than the work of art itself, or you can consider it to be a genuine work of art.

To actually do such things factually costs a fortune, only the materials alone cost tens of thousands or more dollars,  a fortune and the artwork itself doesn’t last very long .

Weather influences destroy it and it’s practically inconvenient to have a big building wrapped.

You can’t open the windows and doors don’t really open and close anymore.

So it’s not very functional.

The aesthetics are questionable .

I mean, not everyone would like to look at a big building wrapped and say : “Oh how beautiful!”

I reckon most people would say it’s stupid and crazy and a waste of money.

For the tens of thousands of dollars or more it costs to do such a thing you could save the lives of thousands of hungry children in Africa.

So, is it art or just a crazy idea of someone who likes to be in the spotlights?

Something like: “Huh, look at me: I wrap a building”.

I mean, if I were to dress up my grandmother as a Christmas-tree and hang her upside down from the Eiffel-tower in Paris, France, the police would most likely arrest me and the judge would send me to prison for molesting my grandmother.

I would probably be sent to a mental institution.

So it’s really who you are what seems to determine how far you can go.

Christo said that what he did was because of aesthetical reasons. He said it looked beautiful.

Well that’s open to discussion. I mean: if you say the Mona Lisa is beautiful, I agree. That it costs a lot is not open to discussion. That it is not very functional is not open to discussion. That it won’t last too long is not open to discussion. But its it art?

What do you think???? Is this art or lunacy?

I think that it’s more an idea, a concept. But like I said: if I hang my grandmother  upside down from the Eiffel-tower and wrap her up in a shiny piece of paper, I bet I get arrested!


So the question rises: what is art?


The answer is not easy.

Art is subjective and subject to the perception of individual people.

What one considers to be beautiful is ugly to another.

Art is subject to the personal taste of people.

Art history hasn’t made it easier too.

Art historians placed artists in different boxes, neatly organized and tagged.

Ah, you’re an Italian renaissance artist, and you an impressionist, and you are a cubist and you a fauvist and you an action-painter and you a member of the Cobra and you a member of Der Blauer Reiter and you a member of Das Bauhaus and you are  a member of Dada and you are a surrealist and you do pop-art and you, oh what are you?????

All the different styles, groups, directions, scenes, etc.

If the art historian hasn’t put you in one of the boxes, you can’t really be an artist!

     

So what if you like figurative paintings by Titian, Rembrandt, Velasquez, Gainsborough,  or David  to name a few, can you then appreciate paintings by non-figurative painters like Paul Klee, Willem de Kooning, Karel Appel or Piet Mondriaan to name a few examples?

The latter paint non-figurative, modern, abstract or however you might call it.

Did all of them produce “art”?


Size doesn’t really matter.

The Nightwatch by Rembrandt is a gigantic painting and so is the Guernica by Pablo Picasso but the Mona Lisa isn’t a really big sized painting.

But there all beautiful paintings.

At least that’s my personal opinion.


The techniques might matter.

Painters like Titian and Johannes Vermeer and the French painters Watteau or  David for example were specifically fine-painters who could really handle their brushes and knew how to apply and use the paints they used.

You have to be able to carefully wield the brush using a painter’s stick.

You have to have a steady hand and a lot of patience because it takes time.

You have to really know the effects of the different sorts of oil-paint.

You have to know  the results you get using different types of mediums.

You have to know the effects of the colours, transparent, semi-transparent or covering.


You have to know how you can build up a painting starting with a sketch and then applying dark colours to emphasize the shadows and let it dry and then work layer for layer applying lighter colours.

It’s a matter of know-how mixed with sheer experience that forms the master-painter and gives him his own recognizable style after years.

It’s like the cook creating his famous recipes to be able to make gourmets enjoy his dishes.

The cook will never reveal his true secrets.

The master-painter forms his own “recipes” in the course of his career which makes him able to create recognizable artworks.

You then will recognize his hand, style, touch, signature.

So you can admire that.

Nevertheless to develop a fabulous painting-technique doesn’t inherently mean that one makes aesthetically beautiful paintings.

It takes something else to do that.

You can paint a woman and call it Donna Lisa or you can paint a woman and call it Mona Lisa.

The first could be an average painting and the latter could become world-famous for its refined appearance and beauty.

Leonardo Da Vinci had such indefinable qualities which made him rise high above the average painter.

Like the exquisite cook.

There are cooks and cooks and there are painters and painters.

You can paint  a horse or a cow or a nude woman or a farm or a vase of flowers.

It must contain some hidden other quality which makes it much more than just again another painting of a horse, cow, naked woman, farm or bunch of flowers in a vase.

That certain hidden quality is what art is about.


But what to say about modern abstract painters?

Mondriaan used geometric forms like rectangles, triangles, squares, etc and black and white and primary colours red, blue and yellow.

He used pieces of plastic and paper, oil-paint and chalk on his paintings.

Karel Appel just slung the paint from a distance upon the canvas straight from pots and tubes .

Jackson Pollock did something similar with his action painting.

There is no refined painting technique with brushes and extensive knowledge of how paints, mediums or colours work .

I mean Pollock just used ordinary house paint.


So what is art and what are works of art?

The paintings of Vermeer, Rembrandt or Titian are by most people considered to be true works of art.

They appeal to people.

But works by Karel Appel or Piet Mondriaan are often questioned to be real works of art.

I mean: anybody could take a tube of paint and throw paint on a canvas is the thought.


In the museum for modern art in Amsterdam, the Stedelijk museum, hung a large painting in red and blue and yellow.

This painting was called “Who’s afraid of Red, Blue and Yellow III” and was “attacked” in 1986 by a 33 year old Dutch painter who slashed it with a Stanley-knife.

It was large, meters wide and high and rectangular.

One day an unknown Dutch painter put a Stanley-knife in the painting and cut it from side to side.

So the guy was arrested and later sentenced to an 8 month sentence and a 6 month prohibition to visit the museum

The museum hired an American restorer of paintings from New York who was to be paid 800,000 dollars to restore it.

The artist who made it claimed that he made the painting with a brush using oil-paint and applying red and blue and yellow dot by dot onto the canvas.

Judging by the size of it, it must have taken him years I guess, but who am I?

Now the restorer was accused to have simply used a paint roller instead of restoring it dot by dot with a brush and using acrylic house-paint instead of oil-paint.

The official forensic crime laboratory of the Dutch police and justice department was asked to check if the accusations were true.

So they found that the accusations were true and that the restorer had been lying: he had used a paint-roller and acrylic house-paint .

The museum refused to pay the money and both the restorer  as well as the museum filed damages suits against each other.

More than 10 years later in 1997 the law suits were settled and the restorer was paid  a hundred thousand dollar or so.

It caused a public row.

The guy who slashed the painting walked unnoticed into the Stedelijk museum, some months after he was released,  and slashed another painting with a Stanley-knife.

Altogether a very weird but nevertheless very true story!

But you could question yourself why a really gigantic meters long and high rectangular canvas in plain simple red and blue and yellow was considered to be art in the first place and must have been purchased by the museum for an enormous amount of money from an artist who claimed he  “painted “ the thing “dot by dot” , as if that would be an enormous artistic achievement and an enlightenment to art history and humankind!

And why the hell they bothered to pay a “restorer” another huge sum of money to “restore” it with a simple paint roller.

So is this what “art” is all about nowadays?


Or should we just get rid of these ridiculous notions that the philosophy of art should be more important than the art itself and that moreover the philosophy of art, the idea behind the artwork, the concept, the thought, has nowadays become the artwork itself?


Why not go back to the simple notion and concept of “beauty”?

That’s a term and definition that could reflect some undefinable inner property and quality of a work of art.


It’s like watching a soccer game on the field being played by two teams.

There are 22 men running around after a ball and between them there is one player who attracts attention.

Not because he runs so fast or kicks the ball so hard.

No, it’s just because of the way he moves and handles the ball, it’s the way he appears so graciously among the other players who, compared to him, look like fat immobile cows.

It’s an unexplainable quality, a certain “click”, a certain feeling of “wow” that spectators get when observing this one specific player on the field.

He stands out among all the others.

He’s the one drawing everyone’s attention.


Art should be like that.

As well as music should be like that.

When you watch an artwork or hear some music-piece and get that “wow-feeling” arising from within, from your heart and soul.

It’s the click you get.


Maybe art should be like that.


The relevance to music


In music the same happened.

Always wanting to renew till there is nothing anymore to renew and the philosophy becomes more important than the art of the music.

A different scale by Alban Berg.

Monotonous repeating music in the minimalistic music.

Here an unclear grasp at the snares, then a "ploiink-like-sound" from the double-bass, then a loud blare from a brass wind-instrument that scares the hell out of you, then again a total blaring cacophony of all sorts of instruments mixed up, then again dead silence, and all this together then also counts as a renewal in music.

I pose it all a bit simplistic perhaps but the idea is that the urge to renew and become one of the “renewers” on the frontline of art or music and become a historical figure in art history may sadly dominate their minds.


Conclusion


I still question myself until this day, what really is the definition of art.

And what really is and what isn't art.

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