Friday, August 3, 2012

Good Art/ Bad Art

"Matters of Security." Oil, graphite and envelope on canvas. 18 x 24 inches. ©Karine M Swenson 2012

I can't take it any more. I won't sit back and read this crap about how realism is the only GOOD art, and modernism (in any form) is BAD art. Because you know what? It is crap. People who write that are stating an opinion and they must think there is only one correct opinion in the whole world. Those kind of judgments should be made only in one's own mind, in regard to reinforcing one's own taste; they have no place in real dialogue about art.

If I said to you "the only good music is classical music," would you suddenly stop buying or listening to jazz, reggae, rock n roll, country, bluegrass, hip hop, Hawaiian, or ....whatever? No. And musicians aren't going to stop playing the music that is in their hearts, any more than I will stop painting the paintings that are in my heart. If you don't like "modernism" or "abstraction" or whatever, I really don't care. I truly don't. There are plenty of us out there who do like it. In fact, as far as I'm concerned, I can say a lot more painting without recognizable imagery than I ever could with it. And no matter how much might be written about how Picasso, Warhol, and Rothko made "bad" art, I will never agree. There is an infinite variety in the world of taste. Just as there is infinite variety in nature. We are part of nature. We are as individual and unique as snowflakes. Art and tastes in art reflect that variety.

Art isn't just about conveying ideas. It is also about conveying emotion. It is also a way to understand the world. A place to explore ideas. Sometimes, exploration takes us into places we've not seen before. For me, that is what abstraction* is: Exploration. Imagining things beyond the physical, beyond what we can see, touch, feel, and even understand. The notion that human beings understand everything about this world is a fallacy. We most certainly do not understand everything about the world, and at times, we don't even understand everything about each other or even ourselves. Assumptions have been made that art with recognizable imagery ("good" art) is more easily interpreted than "modern" art ("bad" art). I don't believe that is true. Plenty of paintings with recognizable images have been painted with an intended meaning that was misinterpreted. I have studied art my whole life and I have seen it happen again and again.

Like the kind of art you like. Paint the way you want. Listen to the music you want to listen to. But please don't sit up on some high horse and bash what others do just because you don't like it. There is merit in the work of others, even if it is different from one's own. I know how to draw, and I can paint a portrait. I have explored both painting with recognizable images and abstraction, and I can tell you with all honesty that abstraction is challenging. It involves not only a mastery of the medium, but also the courage to strike out on your own into uncharted territory of form, line, composition and color. It doesn't come with a set of formulas or rules. Often, it is about questioning rules, or long-held beliefs. Perhaps that is what bothers some. I don't really know.

I could write more, but I don't really plan to change any minds. I just couldn't sit here anymore, saying nothing to those who, for years, have been criticizing the art I most love. All of this leads me to ask, if we can't agree to disagree about art, what hope is there for acceptance in other aspects of life? Why are we so incapable of loving or even accepting that which is different?

*I use the term "abstraction" loosely here. I am referring to art without recognizable imagery. If you are more comfortable replacing the word "abstraction" with "non-representational," then do so.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you!
What caused you to write about this?

Anonymous said...

Amen sister!

Deb Ammerman said...

Very well put Karine, I've never understood why people feel the need to say negative things about art. I guess their Mother never taught them about the "Golden Rule", or sang the song to them that goes... "if you can't say something nice, shhhhh, say nothing...". My son listens to hard rock music, and it's really not my cup of tea, but that doesn't mean it is crap. There might be something wonderful in the lyrics, or the beat of the drum, or the way it makes the listener feel, I just have to be willing to open my mind and look for that special something. Keep painting what you love Karine, there are people out here that love your work... me for one!

Annie said...

I totally agree, don't get me started LOL. I can say that with work most people can draw or paint an image that looks like something, but to do good abstract work is much harder, though it is easy to do bad LOL. We all have our unique history that causes us to like this and not that, we are not all the same. There is bad art and it comes in all forms and even some of the greats did some bad paintings. I also think that it takes years and a trained eye to appreciate abstraction, it is not for everyone, but those that bash it should keep their mouths shut about things they know nothing about :-). If I hear one more time that their child could do that, I will scream! Okay, I will stop now :-). xoxo

Marjorie said...

This needed to be said. Thank you for saying it! I love the painting too. It's a visual representation of your words.

Nicole Hyde said...

Brava! I hate that junk argument too. And it makes no difference to me whether it's realists bagging on modern art or contemporary artists turning their nose up at realism. I think it comes from a place of territorialism and insecurity, as well as a primal human desire for "safety in numbers."

As a person who seems innately primed to rebel against following the herd or be content with other's placing artificial boxes or boundaries around me, the notion that I have to join a side, be a partisan for someone else's opinion or construct - I reject.

Ultimately an artist makes art. All the words around it don't amount to a hill of beans. The effort is better spent in just making art.

Some people seem wired to want to group together and throw rocks at others that are different - what a waste of time and effort - especially for artists.

So my thoughts are: we have a short time on this earth. Make art and be kind to others. It's okay to do things differently. We aren't all the same - thank goodness. And while the debate rages on, I'll be over at my easel doing what I love.

/Off my soapbox LOL

Shena Meadowcroft said...

I really appreciated you addressing this issue and was very interested in your interpretation of abstraction as being a means of exploration, as that is how I have always seen it for myself, but you have put it in far better words that I have been able to express to date. I recently went out with a plein air group of highly well known artists in Victoria, BC and the sheer joy of seeing not only the choice of subject matter but the various interpretations that were made of the same subject matter was such a release for me and has spurned me on to discovering more about myself and the landscapes that I love through my art, whatever way I chose to work.