Lane Relyea considers trends in contemporary painting in relation to "the talent economy."
Relyea addresses the tendency in painting towards "steady, routinized, repetitive labor and use of personal-scale, low-budget materials, and ... [an] overall sense of precariousness and impermanence." He argues that "it may be that what most recommends this kind of painting to a place of centrality in our D.I.Y. age is its superior associations with the studio, that artisanal site of making and doing, rather than in the power of painting to induce certain modes of reception like immersion or opticality or semiotic critique. This is especially true of such conspicuously made or crafted paintings, paintings worked on by a single pair of hands, with a plasticity both hard and yet malleable enough to withstand being heavily manipulated while still yielding form. Furthermore, what so enables such work to convey pure doing, to straddle both D.I.Y. and anonymity, to suggest an artisanal performing of subjectivity albeit in an impersonal mode, is precisely that they are paintings, rather than belonging to some other category of art. That is, rather than a special preserve of unique individuality, here painting stands as close as one can get to just doing stuff, purely making things. As Barry Schwabsky writes in the introduction to the recent Phaidon catalog Vitamin P2, 'The ordinariness of painting has become one of its most important characteristics. Painting is so familiar, so well-known that it’s become the default mode of art-making. The ordinary art made by the ordinary artist is likely to be painting.' "
An essay that proposes links between pop culture attitudes (music and dance in particular) and the "provisional" trend in contemporary painting.
"Dancing, at least as it might happen in a club to the tune of Kesha’s songs, is a kind of ecstatic yet responsive expression, the physical enactment of an internal reaction to an external stimulus. Something similar might be said of abstract painting, both in regard to the process of making it and to the process of viewing it, both of which can be emotional and even rapturous. In thinking about the relationship between pop music’s fascination with end times and life in post-crash America, I couldn’t help thinking about the a similar rise in visibility of abstract work concurrent with pop music’s 'apocalyptic abandon.' In the past two years, several critics attempted to theorize practices in this very broad vein, most prominently Raphael Rubinstein and Sharon Butler, whose respective terms of 'Provisional Painting' and 'The New Casualists' focus on the unfinished appearance of such work. Butler describes this tendency as 'calculated tentativeness,' but I would like to propose the opposite: what if we think of such work not as trying to look incomplete, but as rejecting completion as a contemporarily relevant state in a late capitalist society where instability and precariousness reign? Here, even perfection won’t help you get a job, and it certainly won’t save you from getting laid off. In this view, we might think of contemporary abstract painting more like music, and particularly dance music: remixed and faded into the tracks before and after it such that it never ends and becomes instead a perpetual experience of the present."
Mary Ann Caws recounts the story of how she fulfilled her dream of owning a Vuillard, having to part with another cherished painting, Robert Vonnoh, to do so.
The Vuillard painting that caught her eye "was of a woman, turned slightly away — leaning over a table? A piano? (Was it Misia?) And toward the right, as if the entire painting were suggesting more than it could ever say, as if she were leaning toward something else not in view. Suggest, not spell it out, Mallarmé always said: 'Peindre non la chose, mais l’effet qu’elle produit.' Just so, I felt that lean, not knowing toward what or whom it might have been directed. I felt myself leaning toward that lean…Of course, I completely share Julius Meier-Graffe’s view about the mysteriousness of Vuillard: 'there is always something in the background with [Vuillard]. It is possible to have one of his interiors in the house for a month, and one fine day to discover a figure in the corner, and not only a figure, but a whole story.' I had not the entire story, of course, and only a half of the figuration, as I was subsequently to learn, but that half spoke to me far more than the whole would have."
Finding that "painting has now essentially marked off its overall set of boundaries and is engaged in the task of elaboration and infilling," Richard Kalina offers four possible categories to begin the critical dialogue anew.
"The point," he writes, "is to recognize the situation on the ground, to see things for what they are, and importantly not to put a hierarchical order or any kind of historical inevitability on these different approaches, although one must acknowledge the historical arc of which painting is a part. To do so allows for a more clear-eyed vision of the state of the art: focus is maintained on what a painting looks like and what it does."
Frank Hobbs blogs about Karl Knaths' concept of "lyrical expression."
Hobbs writes: "Among his papers Knaths left behind this curious little diagram which is now in the Archives of American Art. In a few lines he encapsulates the artistic process, or what he called “lyrical expression.” Perceptions of nature (outer sight) are worked over by the mind (inner vision), informed by both the optical image and by mental conceptions. The “heart,” or emotions, and the mind become linked in a kind of figure-eight flow prompting the hand to act. Most compelling is the parallel that Knaths draws between the mouth and the hand in the act of “lyrical expression” in which he seems to be telling us that art is a language, not just a set of techniques."
Deborah Barlow blogs a selection of passages from Gerhard Richter's Writings 1961 – 2007. Visiting the Outer Banks, Barlow finds the power of nature - the action of wind and waves - to be an apt metaphor for the process of painting as described in Richter's book.
Richter: "Any thoughts on my part about the ‘construction’ of a picture are false, and if the execution works, this is only because I partly destroy it, or because it works in spite of everything—by not detracting and by not looking the way I planned. I often find this intolerable and even impossible to accept, because, as a thinking, planning human being, it humiliates me to find out that I am so powerless. It casts doubt on my competence and constructive ability. My only consolation is to tell myself that I did actually make the pictures - even though they are a law unto themselves, even though they treat me any way they lie and somehow just take shape."
http://themaximilian.com/#Shadowy Things and the Pulpit of Modernism
Considering works by Van Gogh, Kandinsky, and Frank Stella, Mark Stone muses on the ongoing tension between figuration and pure abstraction in abstract painting.
Stone wrties: "What our abstract painting lacks is a more comprehensive way of seeing and producing imagery that accomodates both our lens-based dematerialised culture and the physical life we live. Our painting should define a different kind of visual engagement and understanding, one that moves us beyond the detrimental influence of our mannered Modernism. At this point in Post-modern cultural history we painters must begin to resolve the problem of illusionistic thickness defined in Stella’s early Black Paintings and the legacy of that shadow cast by van Gogh’s table. Yet, we choose to remain forever elsewhere, floating in Kandinsky’s nebulous universe."
An argument for painting's ongoing potential as a medium for social commentary.
"There is no reason for today’s painting - even in the age of multi-media, performance or interdisciplinary artists - to step down and limit its activity to what is believed to be its unaltered or eternal essence. The fixed image, may it be produced in drawing, painting or in print, can do much more than be 'content with a material-based practice.' All of the [works mentioned in the post] of traditional art share the following: they mastered their medium and they were socially relevant if not transformative. Why should not the same be true for painting and painters today?"
Ann Knickerbocker writes about painting that borrows from the traditions of observation and abstraction. She looks at the work of two painters, Keith Wilson, whose work is on view at Oliver Sears Gallery, Dublin (through October 25) and Donald Teskey whose exhibition Nature Reserve was recently on view at Town Hall Gallery, Macroom, Co., Cork.
Knickerbocker notes "that representative painters form reference points that outline recognizable things, but these realists can not produce the things themselves; instead, they have perfected linear description. Abstract artists produce something that, in itself, stops our usual referring back to an 'other' object or state of feeling. Abstraction is meant to arrest our attention in the moment, as our attention would be held as we fall into extreme joy or sorrow. Painting at this moment in our history often seems confused, torn between the two approaches, neither of which is wholly adequate. It may be that the best of current art must bridge these two methods of perceiving and creating: the outline of the familiar combined with a more abstract grasp of feeling."
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.