Blackpaint 15


Why Paint?

So the big question.  The first painters, on cave walls, were supposed to have been engaged in some sort of attempt to gain a magical advantage over the animals which they hunted for food.  Or, perhaps they were done by a caste of artist/priests, as part of religous, or magical ceremonies.  Either way, they would have been part of a process of gaining some sort of control, or influence over, their environment.

For centuries, a major purpose of art was to relate or reinforce the narratives of the great religions, with the exception of Islam, where the prohibition on images of the prophet precluded this and stimulated abstract art.

Later, painting and sculpture served to provide a record of important individuals and families rich enough to pay for them.

Later still (but overlapping, of course) landscapes, still lifes, historical scenes, interiors, all evolved to supply a developing market for art, while helping to shape and extend it at the same time.

Marxists say that, like all forms of culture, it helps to reinforce the power of the status quo – or rarely, fleetingly, can help the forces that seek to overthrow it. 

Now of course, one reason for painting or sculpture or any form of artistic production is the fact that it is an established thing.  Like sex or cooking, people have been doing it one way or another since the beginning of society, so to use pigment or line to establish patterns and make a picture does not seem an odd thing to do.

 The sort of thing you hear artists and critics saying is art tells you things about the world you live in, or makes you see the world in a new way- or art is about emotion, it expresses what the artist feels.  I saw Louise Bourgeois on TV last night saying just that – art for her is never just about the materials, it is about emotion.  I suppose these are two poles of perception; one addresses the external world, the other expresses the internal.  But then there is a third position; those artists for whom it is exactly about the materials; what you can do with them, what their properties are, how far you can push them…

I don’t know, but I imagine most artists do all three to some degree.  Anyway, I paint with no preconceived philosophy, it’s a physical process that gives me pleasure and pain (in the form of irritation and disgust when it’s not going right), and the process is something that keeps me sane and gives me a reason for living, over and above the duties which I have.  It’s nothing to do with money – selling pictures is all about knowing that people are prepared to part with cash to put my stuff on the wall.

I was trained years ago at university (history, not art) to be dissatisfied with a theory that wasn’t properly unified – that is to say, it explained things one way for one epoch and another way for another.  So, if I paint because I need to, to express something or maybe just to do it, that should be true for the cave painters as well, and all the ones who have painted since.

Anyway, must stop now – to do some painting.

Listening to Mingus again today – Video of Stockholm concert with Dolphy, 1964.  Mellow, fantastic – my, my they cry (great line, Donovan, but Mingus was rarely mellow).

Blackpaint, drunk, 14.12.09

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