Art for Dummies?
My father was an accountant by profession and had a passion for numbers.His disappointment was evident when I decided to study fine arts; I had to promise that my intention was to pursue a teaching career of which he approved.Light-hearted dabbling in the arts was acceptable.Painting and interest in art had only hobby status. The anti-establishment psychedelic sixties probably had something to do with his opinions and perhaps he feared that I would adopt a hippie lifestyle.A few decades since and we look upon a different world.
But I suspect that some of us still view art with ’tongue in cheek’ and dismiss it as being merely pretty pictures to adorn one’s home with.
The 19th and 20th centuries saw art evolving at a rapid and drastic pace. The introduction of Utilitarian theories, the Industrial Revolution and the horrors of witnessing the world at war enforced a dramatic change in society’s outlook. Our rosy-hued spectacles had become smudged and tainted. In the aftermath of war, so much of our beautiful world was destroyed that it must have been a struggle to find new meaning in life.It was perhaps an attempt to come to terms with the turmoil that some artists chose to express angst and suffering in their work.
Times were tough, and the arts suffered as aesthetics took a back seat. Few of the great artists of the 20th century achieved fame in their lifetime.
The shocking horrors of war in ‘Guernica’ by Pablo Picasso
The Naked Truth and Artistic Licence
The earliest known photograph dates back to 1826, but it was toward the end of the 19th century that the photographer and the painter became strong rivals. Why paint a landscape when a photograph was so accurate? Fortunately, for artists tube paint and industrially created pigments had been invented by the mid 19th century so artists could leave the confines of the studio and paint ‘en Plein Air’.My favourite art movement blossomed, Impressionism.
Bright And Beautiful
In contrast to the stark often bleak realism of the early black and white photographs the Impressionists painted in bold strokes and used bright colours to paint their surroundings in natural sunlight. They could capture moods and emotions in their paintings, and unlike photographs that left little to the imagination often left suggestively soft or unfinished edges. The ‘Painters of Light’ created beautiful art and dull black and white photographic images could not compete.Their paintings are uplifting and continue to inspire artists.
‘Woman in the Garden’ by Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Photography was here to stay and grew in popularity throughout the 20th century because of its immediacy and accuracy. My generation can surely recall their ‘Kodak moments’. Cinema brought us a welcome distraction.It was the golden age of MGM, moving pictures and the Big Screen, while television brought the world and all its wonders into our living rooms. The age of ‘arm-chair travel’ had begun.It is no surprise that the demand for realistic landscape art declined for a while.
Art continued to fight bravely for the spotlight and evolved feverishly through a string of ‘isms’. ‘Avant Garde’ became a buzzword as the pressure on artists increased to think of new ideas and ways of producing art.
Today we choose art for diverse and personal reasons. Whereas a photograph, digitally enhanced or not, of a landscape can be stunningly beautiful, the painter has ‘artistic licence’ at his fingertips. His landscape can be whatever he wishes it to be Realistic, Surrealistic, Impressionistic or Abstract.
Finally, the painting and the photo achieved equal status and now hang side by side in the finest art galleries. Both venerated art forms in their right. I have great respect for photographers and their art, but my choice would always be the painting.
Art is Alive and Well
Today art is thriving, and I see galleries cashing in as they proudly exhibit the work of established and emerging artists alike.The competition among fine artists has never been stronger, and I am happy to say that art is back on its rightful pedestal. With the advancement of technology and the rapid growth of the internet, it appears as if the world now turns on an axis of art.
There are so many and varied career opportunities for creative people while thirty years ago aspiring artists had limited choices. My daughter who is currently studying graphic design never stops babbling on about the importance of art and innovation. Another daughter is in the business of on-line media and marketing. Successful business enterprise not only needs sound strategic planning and good management, but talented Left-brainers are essential for the introduction of new ideas and designs in advertising to keep it on the cutting edge.
A Picture Paints a Thousand Words
Capturing the attention of a public that carries out its life on the very visual internet is vital. We do nearly everything with our eyes first, and art has inextricably woven its way into our lives. Branding, logos and the use of colour are of all importance.Have you noticed how the green of Coca Cola’s new Stevia Coke is the exact complementary to the brands’ well recognised patented red? I bet it has caught your eye without you having given it much thought. Advertising gurus are aware that colour attracts attention and of the influence it has on your judgement of a product. The brightness of a colour becomes so enhanced when placed directly next to its complementary that ignoring it is impossible.
Technology, architecture and art have merged and paintings are now not only confined to the canvas but also painted on city walls and in public spaces, digital art has become a favourite in galleries.The latter does not appeal to me much as I want to see the paint and brushstrokes.
“A true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination” Albert Einstein.
Art is smart, and painting is not for pansies. He who snubs art is the dummy.
Get it, got it? Good.