Sketch pad

Sketch pad

Sketches, works and thoughts


ArchivePosted by Frederico Penteado Sun, October 27, 2013 10:46:27
It has been a while since I touched consistently my blog and there are reasons for this, if anyone bothers. When I started this blog a few years ago, my intent was to post sketches, paintings and drawings, and also, write down my thoughts about, not only my artistic attempts but furthermore into other's works that I find inspiring (or not at all).

However since I have started, this blog, as it is natural my mind has shifted, so to speak, or better saying, my focus has shifted. When I started, shortly after my Master degree in Fine Art, my main focus was Painting, two dimensional representation using colour and shape. But step by step I grew increasingly disappointed with this particular medium or art form. I shall detail:

In my judgement the art of Painting has in its very essential nature a uniqueness that I find, as it stands now, inadequate for my aims. By uniqueness, I mean the "uniqueness" of an object of painting, the painting itself: as any painter knows, a painting is impossible to repeat and also impossible to copy or reproduce. Any copy or reproduction of a painting will be, obviously, a much lesser object. So paintings are unique objects, that happen only once in time, forever. Now this makes paintings similar to rare jewels and exquisite signatures: they are unrepeatable and not susceptible of being multiplied. This very nature of this art object shocks frontally with the my idea of art has something that should be easily accessible to a great number of people. This horrid "uniqueness" of the painting digs even deeper if we compare it to other art forms such as literature, music or film. Take for example two unquestionable masters of these arts, such as Dante or Tarkovsky. It is not the actual paper where Dante wrote the Divine Comedy that matters but the verses and the ideas they express: it doesn't really matter the book where his words are printed, but the words themselves and what they mean. Same with Tarkovsky: it doesn't really matter the original film stock which he recorded "Stalker" but the movie itself, the images, story and concept behind it, it does not matter if it's printed in a CD or DVD or in a file in your computer, what matters is the intangible quality of it. Now take the example of a painting by Van Gogh or Picasso: the object and the intangible quality of it is confused. If you had to choose between a printed copy of "The sunflowers" or "Guernica" and the original paintings you would not even think twice because, taking their monetary value apart, the actual paintings will be always ever much more full than any possible reproduction. So Painting is trapped in its own "uniqueness". To add to this,everybody can afford a copy of Dante's book or Tarkvosky film without losing the essential, intangible quality of them whereas the vast majority of people can only acquire cheap copies of Van Gogh or Picasso paintings and hope that the wealthy of this planet lend the masterworks they have on their walls or safes to public museums.

And this takes to another crucial point surrounding Painting, or broadly speaking, Fine Art, and what is called "the art world" or the market of art. Since art objects have this intrinsic unique nature to them, it is obvious that those objects that are sought after can fetch very high prices. In fact, some prices are so excruciatingly high that they only be compared to the pure speculation of sharky financiers or the high betters in a Las Vegas casino. This makes fine art a gamble of the rich (or the ubber rich even), in what once critic Robert Hughes called "a game between the rich and the ignorant, a bare but useful business". In a tendency that contradicts, again, what I think art should be, easily accessible to a great number of people, it closes itself within a circle of golden, inexpugnable walls. And of course almost every fine artist aspires to get into this golden circle, and the best they could wish is that their paintings are bought for high prices by rich snobs so they have them in their safes. Master Paul Klee once warned that "modern artist were not just curiosities of rich snobs" but his warning proved useless and his portent true. This has created such a stifling environment that fine art is almost at the risk of extinction as a significant cultural form: closed in profitable trends, driven by markets, the criteria of the auction and trend degraded it to the point of, maybe, no return.
Which leads me to the final point of my dissertation. Fine art and specially painting was in my opinion the most exciting and experimental art, the cutting edge of all the arts, by the beginning of the 20th century. Painting was the ultimate laboratory for artistic experiments, that would then influence all other art forms, from architecture to poetry, from music to film. Expressionism, surrealism, abstractionism, the first half of the 20th century, painters paved the way to almost every other artist in a raging fury of creativity and imagination. However on the second half of the past century, it lost its spearhead, its steam and became more and more a mere continuation of the past breakthroughs in repetitive formulas. With the appearance of Pop Art it degraded further and descended into more repetitious and soulless formulas. Pop Art was a direct negation of two of the most revolutionary aspects of modern art: abstraction and surrealism and vulgarized visual language with imagery borrowed from mass media. Conceptually shallow Pop art found it's biggest ally in the anti-art rants of Duchamp and so did many subsequent contemporary artists to hide their incompetence. As the old modern masters died of age, so it became more the scenario we have today: in most part nothing that is aesthetically satisfactory let alone a breakthrough. This gap left by painting, from the middle of the century on, was filled in my opinion by Music and Film, which then assumed fully many ground breaking forms and experiments. There is also a technological elemental to this: it is poignant that visual artists have come late to the digital age. While in Music, for example, there has been composers working with electronics since the late 40's but only in the 80's some artists shyly attempted to use a computer. Musicians have long use synthetisers, samplers and other machinery but if we look for an equivalent in Painting, which is software like Photoshop or CorelPainter it can only be found in the form of printmaking/illustration. This again is due to the "unique" nature of the object of painting. In my view, the art of Painting survives best in the form of Illustration or Printmaking (in which we need to include Photography), not only as experimental form due the new digital tools we have available but because the art of Illustration/Printmaking is now susceptible to be multiplied, infinitely without loss of its intrinsic, intangible quality because there is no distinction between the "original" and its "multiple". Of course, many painters will then look down on "Illustration" as a craft not a fine art, as if Caravaggio or Rembrandt for example did nothing but to illustrate passages of the Bible, but I shall not deter myself for now with narrow academical conventions.

I finish my short essay by saying that there are contemporary painters that I do appreciate, but taken as an art form it gradually imposed itself on me as being limited and somehow contrary to my current aims and visions. In the end all art forms derive from the same source, that is "Poetry or "Poesy"(to mean the essential drive of creation, not the activity of making verses or art with words) and in that sense I see myself as essentially as a "poet"to which a certain medium may serve or not.
With this I close one chapter, and move on to the next whatever it might bring.

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