Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fifty/fifty Racket

Long before the relativism obscured the obvious there were art guilds guarding against any shoddy practice and lowering of very high standards. As the results artists of the guilds left us some of the best made art objects ever created. Their colors are the most brilliant, glowing like jewels after 500 years. The quality of their drawings is nonpareil. Their compositions are always intricate and very tight .Then, their passion for rich, narrative realism keeps the mind of the viewer curious, intrigued. Wherever eye gazes it takes in the painter’s message: the world is marvelous, magnificent and how glorious it is to see it. Nothing in a painting like that is neglected, left unfinished, half-baked. To paint with such extreme dedication, reaching toward absolute perfection through art required big internal changes in characters of those artists. Normal amounts of patience, concentration, dedication would not do at all. One had to build a new person on top of the one that would gladly settle for “pretty darn good”.
Now, let us quickly move 500 years still inside of the same civilization, the same culture of the same race of people.
  Once I joined a small gathering of artists at the house of a woman who told about her method of painting. She would buy a dozen of pre-stretched canvases and dip one in water. Then she would lay it flat and squeeze a squirt of acrylic paint down, then another color and again. On the wet surface the splats would bleed toward each other and after few minutes the entire surface was covered. Nice frame was added and painting would be sold at a local gallery. The gallery would take its “customary” 50 % and the artist would pocket her share, minus the cost of framing and the negligible cost of materials. It is not much, but considering the amount of time spent, assessing the amount of effort put into making the piece it would seem like a satisfactory transaction all around. The framer stays busy; the gallery made another quick profit and the artist had some income. No wonder than that the artist felt rather satisfied about the arrangement.
And yet, something is wrong there. The “paintings” she is selling are crap, the gallery is touting it as “very charming” and happy to make quick buck on stupidity of the public.
Now comes  relativism and in its fog it is supposedly hard to be sure what is crap and what is , perhaps not certainly so. After all very similar “paintings” are in the major museums everywhere and no doubt acquired for some hefty prices. The museums are not going to admit they are buying and exhibiting garbage. Their effete curators can nearly swoon with emotion in front of any of those garbage-works.
It would have to be checked in the history but my provisional understanding of the matter is that the usurious, outrageous arrangement of the fifty/fifty split of profits came about between art-dealers and modern artist sometime in the first decades of last century. Right at the time when hasty smearing became such a “rage” and the bad art needed unscrupulous sellers to convince the collectors to invest in it. Such works needed a lot of additional phoney commentary, creation of taste for “the newest” and right press to explain how shoddy is actually “great”. For that effort 50/50 split seemed the very least the authors of the art market for modern art felt entitled to and gotten.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Drawing like a thoughtful prayer

At the beginning let us state some obvious truths and keep them in mind as if holding a light as we traverse a
confusing refuse dump at night. When someone decided to draw a tree in front of him he would see that this
complex object consist of parts: roots, trunk and a branching limbs forming a crown of foliage. It is [not
“seems” but is] right to reflect that in the drawing. As the drawing progresses more observable elements are
 drawn. The form of each limb grows out of the trunk in such way that there is a thickening at its base and
that should be noted in the picture. Drawing which ignores it betrays disregard of what was clearly in view.
What would be a reason for this disregard? Inattentiveness for one and unwillingness to accept that in
drawing a tree morphologic truth of facts given in view are absolutely obliging. Once we peer down the
 darkness of that refusal nothing commendable sits there. The truth of what the eyes observed is almost
instantly disregarded for one of available “styles” replacing further observations with arbitrary, lame     oversimplifications, cheap decorative stylizations.

                                                                      Piet Mondrian

This is most significant point: when artist makes the decision to turn away from reality and reaches for stylistic
 devices. Somehow the miraculous, infinitely complex mystery of reality was judged here to be insufficient,
spent and lacking newness. That point has to be pounded and pounded again because it is like a pivotal shaft
on which the whole circus-tent of modern art is hinged. After the whole history of observing reality and
depicting it with passionate enamoration a small horde of amateurish barbarians defeated our arts and pitched
 their tawdry tent of modern gimmicks.”Anything but Reality” is the essential guiding slogan of modern art. It
invites everybody who does not know how to draw, has no patience to learn it and is ready to start smearing
and gluing and “collaging” and “having fun”. But the quality of the “fun” is low, no more than child’s satisfaction
at chess where it is agreed he always wins. No matter how silly the elements of the art-piece how are we to
judge it to be trash or masterwork of genius?
Below is a small sample of drawings and engravings showing trees seen with loving eyes, with dedication to
 the truth that traces the unfathomable wisdom which governs their triumphal being.

                                                                       Lucas van Leyden

                                                                    Albrecht Durer

                                                                          Henry Wallis

                                                                    Frederick Leighton

                                                                     Rex Vicat Cole

And a hundred years after Cole drew the tree above we have this most astonishing portrait of live Oak ,called
"Angel Oak" by North Carolina artist Jean LeCluyse.

                                                                          Jean LeCluyse [click the image for an enlargement]