Writing About The Painting vs. Writing in The Painting

Writing About The Painting vs. Writing in The Painting

Many art collectors and viewers are quite familiar with the concept of writing about a painting in terms of analysis, and fitting a certain painting into an art historical context. Writing in the painting is an entirely different modality and not often fully appreciated outside art circles, poets and writers in general, and those who are text heavy in their overall thinking. The use of writing or text in painting goes back to at least Egyptian and Sumerian and Greek works of 5,000 years ago and those writings were often used to help tell the story of a particular battle, to praise a fallen leader…or discuss the death of a dynasty. Picasso began to pick up on text and the use of words in his paintings in the early part of the twentieth century as a way to bring the outside world inside to the world of art making. In truth, there really is no Inside and Outside. There is only continuously flowing space. This space is separated through architecture and engineering into seeming “inside and outside“ spaces but space is continuous. You only need to leave our little blue spinning planet for a few minutes to realize this. Space goes on forever and then some. When Picasso introduced words into his paintings, often through clipping sections of French journals and periodicals and pasting them into his early cubist works, he was quite physically bringing the outside world into his work, shocking the viewer into an awareness of the connectedness between inside and outside. Picasso used the text in a nearly abstract fashion. The content of the words introduced was of less importance than the visual cacophony...
Painting on the Edge vs Edges of the Painting

Painting on the Edge vs Edges of the Painting

For a Painter — whether abstract or figurative or somewhere in between — the edges of the painting are a very important thing. The average viewer may not consider the edges of the painting, may never think at all in fact about the edges of the painting as they are primarily concerned with what is going on inside the painting. Before the 20th century most paintings in the West provided a picture window through which one looked into the painting to see the unfolding drama, whether figures acting out some sort of scene on the battlefield or an interior drama in a Venetian ballroom. The point is that one looked into the picture and did not consider the physicality of the canvas or the nature of the edges of the painting. A viewer of an 18th century Dutch landscape painting with cows grazing on rolling green hills and a hawk flying above a dark and cloudy sky would scarcely be aware of the edges of that painting. In contrast, if someone were to graze that viewer with the edges of a sharp knife they would very quickly be aware of the edges of that knife. The point being that when working on a rectangular canvas, which was the accepted structure and format in western painting for hundreds of years, the painter had to be concerned with the edges of the painting as paint was certainly applied to those four edges but also because the edges of the painting helped to define and focus on the drama occurring in the rest of the canvas. In other words, the subject of...

Sex Sells and Sex Sells in Contemporary Art

It is no great secret that sex sells in advertising and has been doing this quite well for some time now.  A great many products from cars to clothing to perfumes to hair conditioners and even to food products — where sauces are slowly dripped into place and icings on cakes are licked with eager tongues — all use sex to help sell the product at hand. Sex also sells in Contemporary Art. Not only Contemporary Art, but art of the past several thousand years. Certainly images of loosely clad women in the Japanese and Indian and Chinese Silk drawings engaging in sexual acts illustrates that sex was on the mind of our ancient forebears perhaps as much if not more than in the present time frame. African sculpture, which is tribal and primitive and quite beautiful in its elemental simplicity, done since the time of Christ (and made for ceremonial  and tribal reasons and not for the art market which did not exist at that time), is chock full of phallic attachments. It is often humorous to me in its directness and simplicity. A standing figure will have a phallus longer than the individual is tall. Sex sells is evident in contemporary art More recently Courbet, the great French painter of the 19th century, created an infamous portrait of a woman who is nearly without clothes lounging on a divan, to the delight of the onlookers and the collector who finally bought the piece. It was exhibited privately for a number of years because of its saucy nature. De Kooning, the great Dutch painter of the last century, became...
Cake Paintings Tickle Your Fancy: The Curious Parallels Between Cakes and Hats

Cake Paintings Tickle Your Fancy: The Curious Parallels Between Cakes and Hats

There is a curious relationship in the history of human development between cakes and hats. On a formal level, cakes and hats can look quite alike. Both often have a cylindrical shape, a flat top or bottom, and they stand in similar fashion on a flat plane. Cakes and hats both function on many levels Humans began to wear hats throughout recorded and pre-recorded time for warmth, for tribal and ceremonial events, and to make a variety of fashion statements. A hat can be plain and simple or festooned with feathers and lace and an endless variety of adornments. It can allow a short person to feel tall and a tall person to feel yet taller. Similarly cakes have been made to appease hunger, were used for tribal events and celebratory moments,  and have moved into fashion as well. A cake–like a hat–can function on a great many levels and depending on color, size, and contents, can serve many purposes. A cake can be a simple dessert. For example, a sponge cake sitting alone on a white plate needs nothing else to really sing. Have you seen cake paintings that mimic elaborately decorated cakes? A cake can be highly elaborate, stacked in many layers, rich with frosting and creme and fruits and nuts of all types. At times one cannot put too much into or onto a cake. Cakes are used to celebrate weddings and birthdays, the arrival of a new baby or the arrival of a new job. There are cake paintings that capture this elaborate, decorative flair. At certain parties, a barely clad young woman has been known to...
Levels of Abstraction

Levels of Abstraction

All art is abstract. It is a matter of degree, not a question of either or. Whether one is looking at Cave Painting, Early Italian Painting, the paintings of small children, the paintings of a developed Realist or a hard edged Minimalist; abstraction is the common chord that runs through all paintings, as well as music, film, poetry, the novel, the short story and life itself. Constructs such as realism, new realism, painterly realism, cubism, futurism, and minimalism are all attempts by humans to categorize and contain that which resists categorization and containment. When a caveman went into the back of a cave to draw on a craggy and broken surface the image of a bison that he might meet later that day, his concern was to render that image with as much feeling and simplicity and accuracy as he could muster. Working from memory, the image that he painted on the cave wall would invariably have been a reduction, a simplification, an abstraction of the more complicated visual dynamics that are involved with replicating the image of a bison in a pre-photographic age. The caveman, like the child, is working abstractly without realizing that he is doing so. When Vermeer painted a maiden pouring milk into a bowl amidst sunlight pouring through a dutch window, he is of necessity simplifying and abstracting forms in order to both tell his story and to reduce and simplify forms in space in a very complicated visual world.  If you hold a Vermeer painting upside down and concentrate on the space between things or the space between objects — under tables, for...