I, for one, am a pleased person. I’m not sure if you have noticed it yourself, but we are currently living in a figurative era. Paintings depict something. The abstract painter is, on the average, persona non grata for the time being. Of course, as always, there is a big difference between the large, international galleries in the cosmopolitan centers of the world and the smaller galleries in the faraway rural towns where the well meaning, moderately talented, paint dripper can still find clientèle. And there are still a couple of abstract painters that are simply good enough as an artist to still cut it, but over the whole: figuration is king. And I, for one, am absolutely thrilled.
Obviously, not all figurative painting is good. I have seen more less-than-mediocre paintings of cows, flowers, Tuscany hills and ocean sunsets than I can handle but still. If those painters would have been guilty of abstract paintings, matters would have been much worse. Three types of abstract painting I find particularly annoying and why they are so enormously outdated:
1. Paintings about painting
Marshall McLuhan may have said (in one of the most mis- and over-quoted phrases in history) that ‘the medium is the message’, over the whole I’d still say that the medium carries the message. Obviously, this whole thing about investigating ‘the medium of paint’ and ‘interactions between painting and audience’ is a phase we had to go through, after all; knowledge is power (another over-quoted phrase). All the research into to painting as a medium that needs to be done, will be conducted by the people at Talens and their competitors. Artists may move on to different pastures.
2. Painting your personal inner-life
Granted: most artist are selfish narcissists and believe that their deepest emotions and feelings are important and unique enough to be shared with the world. However, the more talented artists have discovered that they can take their art a bit further than by merely splattering a visualisation of their inner-life on a canvas (or chopping it out of a piece of lumber). It also gives people who don’t give a toss about your difficult childhood or pains of existence something nice to look at while you engage in your public self-help therapy. So it’s just a nice thing to do.
3. Painting the soul of things
Artists that make abstract works because they aim to paint the souls of their subjects should hand over their brush and go hug a tree somewhere. Furthermore: painting the soul of an onion is very, very rude towards the onion.
I know, there is still a lot more abstract painting going on out there, a lot which I have no appreciation for whatsoever either. But especially these three have lost their conceptual basis as well. There just not worth doing anymore since it has all been done many, many times.
Actually, this posting has not said much about why figurative painting is good and a lot about why (most) abstract paintings suck. I apologise. A painter communicates in a visual way and should use a language that the audience is used to. If a writer wants to get a message across, he/she doesn’t write in a made-up language (except for certain poets, but that kind of poetry has been sufficiently dealt with, sort of like abstract painting). Creating a scene in which your public can recognize something to make them perceive the world in a different manner, that’s what I consider a work of art.
About this unkind post. Should I have hurt your feelings, please feel free to make a sad painting. Should I have merely annoyed you and you feel I am a completely stuck up son of a something… you might be right. Feel free to leave a comment. I’ll approve it.