Thursday, January 18, 2007

Workmanship

A new exhibit at a Massachusetts gallery purports to show that Monet was not "the anti-draftsman he led the public to believe, and that he relied on drawing both to prepare for his paintings and as an independent form of expression... Although Monet helped perpetrate the myth that he did not, and maybe even could not, draw, nearly 500 of more than 2,500 works mentioned in his catalogue raisonné are sketchbooks, drawings and pastels. Yet, until now, few scholars have paid much attention to them." The New York Times 01/17/07

I have trouble believing that skill is accidental. There is certainly an innate amount of inborn talent with the majority of working artists; but fine tuning the talent to produce an actual skill is the key to long-term success. The above article stating that Monet was an accomplished draftsman is hardly a revolutionary concept. Monet’s natural ability to frame a composition while remaining a plein-air painter, always held secret references to time spent in the studio. Particularly during his later works of water lilies created during the onset of waning vision loss.

Picasso was a young god of natural artistic skill and precision at an early age. Many of his most masterful realist works were completed in his teens while studying old masters’ paintings; having stated that he was born with talent – it must also be noted that he studied. Charles Thomson, co-founder of Stuckism mentioned in a previous comment to this blog – the importance of vision. While I agree with the undeniable attraction to the moment of the actual conception of an idea (no proponent of the artistic process can deny this fact); I continue to find the lesser importance delegated to actual technical prowess as troubling. It seems to me that the dominance of a “vision over skill” mantra as promoted by the Stuckists is very similar to the generalized complaints many have towards concepts of conceptual art. Conceptual art as a whole is completely about reinforcing the “idea” over all other aesthetic details. Many viewers become unnerved when they find this forwarding of ideas to be at the detriment of traditional skill. Although, I continuously attempt to remain open-minded to the statement of the work, I admit that I too am often turned-off by the loss of technique in the process of the artwork establishing voice. That is the major issue I have with the Stuckism “movement”. This forwarding of “vision over technique” does little to prove itself separate from the world of conceptual art it desires to overthrow. The major difference I see between conceptual art and Stuckism - is the limiting of medium by the painting-only philosophy of the Stuckists. – DN

2 comments:

Charles Thomson said...

Technique is there to communicate vision. It is not an end in itself, and when it is made to be so, the result is deadly dull. That is by no means a denial of technique - quite the opposite - but it does determine exactly what technique is required, which is not necessarily "traditional skill", a term which is usually applied in a knee-jerk way to mean the methods of the High Renaissance. Those methods were developed to portray a particular vision of reality which we no longer inhabit. The Stuckist artists I exhibit work to achieve the right technique for what they want to say. There is certainly skill, but it may in some cases not be apparent to all, just as many people think that Picasso's work could be done by a 6 year old, which is nonsense to anyone with more than a superficial appraisal.

Conte di Rosaspada said...

If the vision is there from the beginning, technique will inevitably develop. It is the presence of vision which spurs it!
Whenever the vision goes spent or thwarted and the technique remains alone, all ends-up in the oeuvre's fossilization, in a perpetual, uninspired, repetition of some stylistic formula and some limited collection of themes. Our artscape in Greece presents several such a case.
The parallelism with conceptualism is rather unfortunate, as this last appears not to be even concerned with technique, since it effectually cancels the entire creative process. The mere assemblage of ready-made objects hardly requires the development of any skill worth talking about.