13 October, 2010

The Artist's Ideas

"Pittura est cousa mentale"
Painting is a thing of the mind.
Leonardo da Vinci

Imagine entering a beautifully appointed building, in which there are many rooms hung with original fine art. Some of the paintings are by masters, such as Rembrandt, Eugene Delacroix, Mary Cassatt and the like. Others are by unknown or little known but well respected artists from past eras. Still more are by contemporary artists in practice today.

at the art museum Pictures, Images and Photos

You are just one of a large crowd of viewers, pausing at one painting, then another and another. There are no docents chattering; no plaques or notes posted to annotate your visit. Somehow, as the throng proceeds, they note little of each image, and by the time they spill out of the exit, most even have trouble remembering the names of the creators of the paintings or the subjects painted. By the time he orders his latte at the cafe, one patron has no recollection at all of even one image seen in the exhibit, and that is a representative experience of the crowd as a whole. He flips open his cell phone, and starts to read his texts.

Nothing was gained
by this visit to the art exhibit; no memorable emotive experiences will be remembered. The coffee was good, but the viewers did not partake of any of the artist's meanings, and they go away with souls unfed.

Whose failure was this? Was it the lack of curatorial effort? Surely, but I lay the blame mostly upon the artists themselves.

Don't get me wrong. Rembrandt's meanings are readily available to his audience, as a painter of beauty in respect to all mankind and as an advocate of excellence in oil painting. Cassatt gave impressionism the delicacy of pastel's grace, and the charity of womankind exampled in the mother and child. But, in my imaginary tour (which idea I took from Kandinsky in his writings) the meanings of each artist, from the known and all others, is obscured by certain factors.

The hanging, although beautifully lit and nicely placed, contains artworks whose elements are so diverse, and confused in subject, type and style, that any hope of ascertaining a meaning is lost. Tragically, the majority of the works displayed do not have a foundation in ideas, but rather are pretty pictures set adrift in a sea of misspent intentions. It wouldn't hurt to have a patronage well schooled in visual basics, so that they may understand art's intent when they have the opportunity. But, we are taking up the question of The Artist's Ideas in this series of essays.

When you read my essay series on How to Paint for the Prize, posted last year, you may have noticed that I wrote a lot about content. Half of the posts described the artist's motivation through his ideas. Now that my exhibition season has, for the most part, ended this year, I am wanting to write more in-depth on this holy grail of the artist's true goals: The Artist's Ideas.

Now the prize is no longer my personal best, but I have resolved to triple the quality and the value of my art by next year. How will that be done? Mostly by resolving the core issues that exist for any fine art. I want to present my ideas in comprehensible ways through visual means. Read this series of essays on art content to see how core ideas can illuminate the visual artist's work.

"Never trust the artist. Trust the tale," D.H. Lawrence.

To really understand the foundation of this series, you ought to read again the series on How to Paint for the Prize. These are the posts:

How to Paint for the Prize
Looking for the Why
Quotes on Content
What Are Your Ideas?
Get There Quick!
Edit Your Own Work

Art museum photo: toni_janelle at photobucket


SamArtDog said...

Glad to hear that life goes on, and I'm so glad you're back to priming the thought pump. Steam is coming out of my ears as I percolate all that you have to say. You continue to generously contribute to us all, and I appreciate your effort. Fall is the best time to plant perennials.

Casey Klahn said...

My two human patients are on the mend, too. A burden lifts with the good news but these 2 are still in hospital.

Clear the steam soon, Sam, because it gets deeper. My challenge, as always, is to get it across clearly. I think you can see it is for my own benefit, too. This is one way I set up my annual goals.

Anonymous said...

I am thinking a lot about content and meaning too! Always hard for me, always a struggle. Let's hope for some focus on this as the fall season sets in! Looking forward to what you have to say,

Casey Klahn said...

I appreciate your comment and your reading, Mary. I don't want to tip my hand, but there is intriguing content coming up.

Jean Spitzer said...

Oh, no! Homework. But sounds worth the effort. Thanks for the distillation.

Casey Klahn said...

If reading is homework, then so be it, Jean.

Evil laugh...cue.

loriann signori said...

Excellent point Casey and you are SOOOO right. WE are at fault. Art is more than picture making. I read your post and had to take a walk to think about it. I am going to let it percolate some more to find words that make sense(more later). I am eager to read your next installment.

Casey Klahn said...

Loriann! Thanks for reading so closely. This post really sets up what I want to say about content/ideas in the next few posts. As you may already know, these ideas are going to be found within yourself.

Celeste Bergin said...

I will read these---next rainy day--! (the rainy days are coming, I know). I like how you set Goals....but I don't know how you can triple your quality (?) How can you measure that? Sales?

Unknown said...

Hi Casey - an interesting essay! I like to think that any exposure to art at all somehow gets into the psyche of each person. They may not be consciously aware of it, but it's there nonetheless. I've walked through so many large museums and galleries where only a small amount of the art caught my attention - made me stop and consider it. Other times, I force myself to make sense of each painting in the room. People like me keep going back; something's gotta sink in eventually! Thanks for a great post.

Jeanette Jobson said...

I love this post that makes me think hard. Thank you!

And I agree. Creating art is not about making pleasing images that sell. There has to be more. There has to be an emotional connection with the viewer.

I'll be interested in reading your next insight into this topic.

Casey Klahn said...

Celeste, Kathy and Jeanette. Thank you for the careful reading. This fictitious visit to the museum or gallery is just meant to imagine paintings devoid of meaning. I have some great analogies coming up, too.

Celeste, I don't know how to measure the quality, either. I wonder if I even should? I feel that I have some measurable indicators that there were improvements last year - maybe I could lean on those. It won't be the prize, and certainly not sales. I almost wonder if quality in art values is measurable, such as in the way of metrics? I try to keep the business goals separate.

bridget Hunter said...

I'm really interested in reading more of your prose. And look forward to catching up on previous posts listed. Quality - an interesting concept.

Casey Klahn said...

Great that you're reading, Bridget. That's why I link those older posts - I know I have plenty of new readers.

Brenda Boylan said...

Casey, I'm a simple minded person and think more about the "now" in my life (my many roles in life play into this). As I am reading through your posts on the "prize" I have been asking myself where I will go next with my work and just how I can apply this to my list of artistic goals and artmaking. Thanks so much for pouring everything out to all of us. It's a "river" of information and much to take in! I'll stop by to re-read this series often.

Casey Klahn said...

Brenda, great to remind me about the present in these things. I agree, and in my Kandinsky reading he is covering a lot about time and art. Very brainy, but I am trying to hit the emotional level with this series.

Cool comment!

Brian McGurgan said...

Thanks very much for a thought-provoking and stimulating new series, Casey. Your discussion of the art exhibit got me thinking about how much I like retrospective displays of an artist's work where you can see how their ideas and expression have evolved over time. It's especially exciting with the work of contemporary artists (and composers) where new developments and surprises await, which gives much to look forward to.

Kelly Borsheim Artist said...

great post, Casey. It is annoying to be told that I "make pretty pictures" (although I heard this in response to my expressing a political comment). Beauty certainly has its role in art, if for no other reason than being an expression of the human experience. However, when we reach for something higher, we realize that we are so much more complicated than only "beautiful pictures" can satisfy.
Yours in an interesting discussion topic. Now, back to work for me ... thanks !

Casey Klahn said...

Hey, Brian. Except that the retrospective can be hard to unify, and it takes interpretation. No wonder they are for the master artist - I shun many of my early works.

Hi, Kelly! I am rediscovering beauty as a topic. But, I take that it becomes shallow after the Romantic era. Still, I am of the opinion that the new doesn't have to replace the old, but it must respect it, at the least.

Fun stuff...working on the next post.

Abstract Expressionism, Art Criticism, Artists, Colorist Art, Drawing, History, Impressionism, Modern Art, Painting, Pastel, Post Impressionism