Painting Unplugged by Pamela Beck

I’m starting to think about paintings differently these days. And even the plain old paint itself seems different too.

by Pamela Beck

I’m starting to think about paintings differently these days. And even the plain old paint itself seems different too. I’m talking about the messy, drippy, oil on a canvas deal; the rich squeeze out of the tube that ruins the painter’s clothing in a good kind of way; the choice of several paint colors that have to be mixed or not, thinned or thickened, and spread on some kind of palette to be retrieved by a paintbrush being held in the hand of an artist who, by choice, is focused only on the painting and not incorporating some kind of dance/digital/music performance around it. I’m talking about painting unplugged.

Because it’s becoming more common to have artistic collaborations, and often ones that employ some kind of technology, it almost feels charming that the only things that might accompany a painting are some drawings or sketches. Nowadays, with the hint of multidisciplinary art lingering in the air, when I look at a single painting hanging simply by itself, what often comes to mind is an image of the painter working alone in a studio. In other words, an awareness of the very absence of collaborators has become part of my experience in viewing a painting.

Robert Motherwell
Elegy to the Spanish Republic, 70, 1961
Robert Motherwell (American, 1915–1991)
Oil on canvas
69 x 114 in. (175.3 x 289.6 cm)
Anonymous Gift, 1965 (65.247)
© Dedalus Foundation, Inc./Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

It’s not that I’m not a fan of performance art, digital art, film/video art, installations, collage, drawing, photography, printmaking, sculpture, mixed media, land art and more; because I am- and a big fan at that, of all the above, individually and together. It’s just that suddenly people who primarily like to paint are beginning to seem like an endangered species to me.

In comparison to the deluge of multisensory art experiences I’ve been a part of recently, looking at paintings has taken on more of a contemplative, slow-down-and-notice-me quality than before. A painter’s choice to work mainly with paint on canvas now seems more deliberate given all the options at the ready. As a result, a painting that is done just like it’s been done for years, suddenly stands out for having remained the same.

From this perspective, paintings have begun to feel like a go-to refuge from the plugged in, ever-changing art world. Standing before them, it’s only you and that luscious paint, just like it’s always been. But unexpectedly, old school is starting to feel very new.


For more information on Pamela, visit http://srxq.blogspot.com

7 thoughts on “Painting Unplugged by Pamela Beck”

  1. There seems to have always been this romantic ideal of an artist working alone in the studio. Regardless, many of history’s most reknown artworks – especially in the European renaissance and enlightement – were created by teams with managers and interns.

    All power to traditional painters who uphold the art. It is admirable in a digital landscape like a displaced person who practices the traditions of their heritage with great effort.

    However, the digital world and the results of multi-media collaborative teams confront us with danger and excitement of creating something new that the world has never seen before. Believe it or not – the organic ways of nature can be seen even in computer algorithms.

    + 2 cents

  2. I HAVE FELT THE SAME FOR SOME TIME NOW. BUT BECAUSE I AM AN ARTIST “JUST DOING PAINTINGS” I HAVE HELD BACK MAKING COMMENTS. ART MAGAZINES THAT HAVE IN THE PAST CHAMPIONED “PAINT ON CANVAS” HAVE MOVED TO ”ANYTHING BUT”. Art in America, Art News AND OTHERS HAVE TILTED TOWARD Art Forum IN THE ”ANY THING OTHER” CATEGORY. NICE TO HAVE SOMEONE WHO HAS THE BACKGROUND MAKE SUCH COMMENTS.
    THANKS!

    woody

  3. The problem with New Genres is that is Old Hat.
    Those that see painting as a quaint anachronism know little about the medium and less about its possibilities.

    Jake

  4. Painting pleasures… stroking on really thick globs of paint over thin transparent passages… palette knifing a calligraphic thick/thin line in one swoop, and then scrapping off part of it…adding dried up paint swatches over freshly painted surfaces… the texture of it all… the unexpected results of giving yourself permission to fool around and layering the “what if possibilities” into something cohesive through the final editing marks.

    This solo performance is done without an audience…
    but hopefully felt when viewed.

  5. I can almost smell the paint……..The author gives me pause to view my thoughts about art from a slightly different perspective. Thanks, Pamela, for the insight!

  6. Agreed in addition to the comments above. Having made a livelyhood in the dot com world and ever increasing imersion there is nothing like the refuge of experiencing the world unplugged. The article above captures an appreciation for that and that all else is transitory. These are the works that will be viewed hundreds of years from now and not some electronic media which will become outmoded once a new and upgraded gadget replaces the older model. Does anyone have a VCR anymore to play all the VCR’s we still have with us:)!

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