What do you think of contemporary art?
How often I am asked this question! I am not sure why I should be asked for an opinion about Art forms, which quite clearly have little or no relevance to my own working practices or beliefs, but I am. As the references to specific artists or recent art council acquisitions follow, I usually begin to detect hostility in the voice, not directed at me personally but I often feel as though I am in the firing line finding myself an unenthusiastic defender of Art in all its various guises. These conversations, which although quite edifying, inevitably steer recklessly into that cul-de-sac question - What is Art?
Well you may as well ask me, - What is God?
Many have opinions, some think they know the answer, - I, for one, certainly don’t!
It seems to me that the quest both in terms of religion and art is for truth and the practices used to realise that truth are inconsequential and only a matter of personal preference. It is a shame that there is and always has been so much intolerance of ideas outside of our own practices but maybe this is because, in order to stay focussed, it is necessary to narrow our field of vision.
It is only natural when dealing with these huge questions to develop certain theories and “isms” which represent the methods and devices that we can use to focus on and test our beliefs.
My belief is that Art is not exclusive and should attempt to approach all. It should never be regarded as a subject suited only to Intellectual conversation, infected with jargon to confuse and bemuse the less articulate. Art is the expression of our senses and therefore is relevant to all who share these senses.
As a landscape painter my senses are stirred by the landscape I am in or travelling through. It is the light and shadow, the sun or the cloud patterns the shimmer of light on water or the shade of a tree-lined avenue. My concern is to express impressions from all my senses, sight, sound, smell etc and to try to give form to them in purely visual terms, using paint and within the confines of the framed picture. Although I may feel that I am having some success in this, it is only truly tested and realised when the painting is exhibited and someone else feels the same impression that I sensed when I painted it.
Paintings require an attentive audience, they contain more than their apparent dimensions may suggest. Unlike a symphony, novel or film, which unfold their themes in a pre-determined sequence, the painting says everything at once and its content needs to be adsorbed over time. I have been told more than a few times by clients who have bought paintings how a picture that they had purchased continues to reveal itself as they discover different things within the composition or that the light in the painting appears to change dependent on the time of day. I have certainly found this to be true in the paintings of other artists that I have spent time studying.
Art grows out of art and the artist needs to immerse himself in, not only the activity of his own painting, but to look for lessons and clues through a comprehensive knowledge of the art of the past.
It is necessary to strive continually and not to become complacent in one’s quest for truth. The artist’s life should be a journey and the point of this journey is not to arrive. It is this striving for an apparent progression with no end in sight that feeds the artistic addiction.
Matthew Alexander 2005