I’ve become quite addicted to my Netflix subscription. I have always had the most obscure taste in films at the oddest moments in my life. Netflix has a fantastic selection, I go online, put in my request and a day or two later, there it is… much cheaper than buying a DVD for that once every-five year film urge and good luck finding classics like “Metropolis” or “Nosferatu” at the local Movie Gallery store.
Typically, at this time of year the popular choice is one of the fifty versions of Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol”, for me however, this season is different. Yesterday, with the last museum opening of the year now past (though the show is still up through December 30th); I was feeling a bit of the fatalist sneak upon me and sat down to watch Ingmar Bergman’s “Wild Strawberries”. Although they are very similar films, I always find Bergman is (depressingly) more fulfilling.
I spent much of Sunday browsing the most authoritative portrait painters’ web sites that I could find. I can’t give much reason why, except that the first work I started when I returned home from Saturday’s opening was a life-size figure painting on rice paper. Literally, I walked in the front door at 10:30pm on Saturday, took off my jacket and walked out the back door towards the studio.
… but back to those portrait painters… I was unimpressed, which I realize isn’t necessarily saying much, because so little that people do artistically does “wow” me. Maybe it comes from knowing when I’m seeing a trick, looking directly at a painting that only seems to work because of a slight of the brush to shortcut to a cliché. After all these years, I’ve seen and reproduced all the deceptions that “make” a painting easily popular… and 99% of the deceit revolves around ultra-realism. The most common point of repeated pride on these portrait painters’ web sites was the acceptance of a gold medal from one society or another that in-turn recognized them as a master of their craft. Here were artists that had mastered technique to a mind-numbing consistency and all they had left at the end of a career was… consistency… and a gold medal.
I love realism when it is mixed with a healthy dose of contour line and loose full-body painterly motions – what some refer to as an abstraction of the form. In the end my relationship with realism is not unlike the difference between how Dickens and Bergman approached the presentation of moral lessons. A Christmas Carol slaps you in the face and says, “hey, change your ways or your gonna die and no one will miss you”. Wild Strawberries looks around at the life so far completed and says, “ya know… you only have a little while left wouldn’t everything be a bit more enjoyable if you forgave and asked for forgiveness”.
Life is the reward itself, what comes after is for something else. The same goes for painting. The act of creation is the carrot. If you can’t explore and have a little fun stepping outside the lines, why make art? There is no better compensation, and certainly not something as insignificant as a gold medal can replace the rush of painting when utilizing the motion and extent of one’s full-body. – DN