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.
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.
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