Thursday, 19 March 2009

The Art of Painting – Johannes Vermeer (1665-67)


Vermeer painted light.  It’s sometimes hard to see in the stained old canvases on which his images are now seen, but that was Vermeer’s thing.  Light. 

A fascinating article by Fred Ross argues, convincingly, that Vermeer and artists of his calibre should also be considered as an abstract artist.  Not in the meaningless sense in which modern “abstract” non-artists present a series of stained blankets or a shark in formaldehyde on which they’ve bestowed the bogus accolade of art, but in another, truly meaningful sense:

    Folks, I want to point out that there is more than one meaning to "abstract". The modernists have tried to collapse two important senses of the term into one, to bolster their ludicrous claims. For modernists, "abstract" means "non-objective" or "non-representational" or "non-figurative". For them, abstract means that which does not have any meaning outside of itself. In a very real sense "abstract" modern art is actually meaningless. . .
    But truly, that is a fabricated meaning for the term “abstract.” The real meaning of that term, which modernist critics have systematically sought to distort, is where an abstraction stands in for something - in other words, where it represents something, as a form of communication.

Or as architect Claude Megson used to say: if it doesn’t have meaning, then you’re just wanking.

    The word "carnation" is an abstraction for a genus of botanical objects in the real world. Other words refer to places, persons, objects, colors, textures, feelings, and ideas. But no one thinks that the printed word "carnation" is the flower carnation; or the printed word "love" is the experience called love. It is an abstraction in words for those things or experiences in the real world. . .   In painting, real art is when a painter can take a flat canvas, and with paint and brushes create abstracted recreations of reality, shaped by consummate craftsmanship and a poetic soul. Real art communicates or expresses compelling stories about the odyssey of human life. .  .
    The chances of an artist forming a successful abstraction (or representation) are greatly improved if he has some knowledge and understanding of the things he turns his eye to. . . the imagination does not work ex nihilo, from nothing. Like our dreams, it is made on the stuff of life: our histories, our actions, our passions, treacheries, sacrifices, acts of love and acts of malice. Our imaginations are pregnant with abstractions - but these abstractions come from the real world, from humanity, from nature.
    Therefore, there are no more successful abstractions in art than those dreams on canvas conjured by Michelangelo, Botticelli, Titian, Rembrandt, Rubens, Vermeer, William Bouguereau, John William Waterhouse, or Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema.

Think about it while reading the whole article: Abstract Art is Not Abstract and Definitely Not Art.

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