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“The Bane”, 1931 oil on canvas by Bernard Fleetwood-Walker
During the 1930s Fleetwood-Walker painted a series of nudes in the classical tradition. Of these, Sea-Born Thetis, The Model’s Throneand this work all depict lone women and appear to allude to literary or archaic symbolism. The title, The Bane is associated with death, destruction or ruin, while the young woman holds a foxglove, itself a highly poisonous plant. In his exhibition catalogue, The Birmingham School, 1990, Stephen Wildman described the painting ‘…as typical of the sharp, well-balanced design in his oils of the 1930s…’.
Irrespective of any underlying meaning or message, these nudes were appreciated at the time for their sensuous beauty; for a while this painting was on loan to HMS Birmingham where it was displayed in the Officer’s mess and no doubt viewed as a welcome diversion.
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“Waiting to Cross”, 2011 oil on canvas by Joshua LaRock
Why is the naturalist style so compatible with beauty? Not only physical beauty but also the beauty of the moment. Naturalism is a direct descendant of Classicism…but instead of dealing with matters of historical importance, Naturalism is the style most suited to the “here and now”. Those moments in the day…so easily overlooked can be the most important moments in our lives.
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“Yellow”, 1945 oil on panel by Hans Hofmann
Now, can we like a piece just because we like it? Do we always have to have a deep connection or create our own meaning while trying to decipher the original intent of the artist? Maybe…or perhaps it just looks good over the sofa. But at some point aren’t we ever going to ask ourselves why we like or dislike something? Why are we really voting for this person or why do we want to live in a gated community…etc…etc.
No…art does not have to be intellectualized and neither do we. But if we are ever going to get a glimpse at enlightenment…to be able to see through the clouds of socialization and neurosis then at some time we will have to lift our heads above the “Tyranny of the Self”. There are many paths. The old masters tell us that the first step is to overcome desire…well that can be a fairly abstract goal.
But we are constantly surrounded by the works of humans…Art…and the works of God…Nature. These creations, through conscience effort, can be used as the tools of our enlightenment through objective appreciation or we can continue down the path of ignorant, automatic thinking and keep proclaiming “I know good art when I see it” without ever knowing why.
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“Italian Landscape”, 1983 acrylic polymer on gessoed board by Leonard Everett Fisher
When complex subjects are executed by simple means a certian elegance can protrude beyound the artist’s original intent. Design, color and texture combined with a certain abstraction can lure the viewer into a world of their own creation.
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“Ready to Go” oil on canvas by Ken Davies
All images can bring certain comfort to a viewer…a warm nostalgia floods over them with memories of places and things out of their past or desires for the present. For others the same image can bring up ghosts of their experiences filled with loss, sorrow and pain. Even the most simple of ideas contain complexities that the creator cannot hope to comprehend. All of these things may have nothing to do with the artist’s original intent but they are there…powerful and real.
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“Samson And Delilah”, 2008 oil on linen by Michael Aviano
To love and to be loved…the viewer brings to this image desires and wants of their own. But the artist’s original intent may be quite different…maybe bringing into the mix their own interpretations of intrigue and betrayal. Possibly every one’s perception of what is going on is correct and with each viewing a new piece emerges. Maybe the true avocation of any artistic endeavor is to never stop creating.
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“East River at 70th Street, NYC, 2009” acrylic on canvas mounted with Seikishu rice paper by Nina Macquire
Sometimes the artist works with ideas that are not exactly as the viewer will see them. These ideas, so important to the artist…through the medium, through interpretation, through the very minds and experiences of the viewers themselves…becomes muddled…the original idea becomes an impression to the viewer who then interprets the image with a world of experience and perception of their own. New ideas emerge…maybe completely different than those intended by the artist.
Is this new interpretation…wrong? Is the result a misinterpretation of the artist’s original intent or an exponential expansion? Or is the new vision of meaning a completely new work…originated by the artist but finished by the viewer…a completely new work infused with all the meaning and insight that only each individual can bring.
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“Lady Reading in an Interior” oil on canvas by Marguerite Gerard
Not only is art a reflection of the artist’s talent & intent it is also a record of human existence…time portals reflecting the living conditions, fashions, behavior, etc. of the various classes.
When art becomes just a record it takes on a different set of values which in turn influences the way it which it is judged. For example…any object from today’s activities, lets say a foam burger wrapper. Right now when we are done with it we trow it away…often without ever looking at it…and most often it is not worth looking at (in most opinions) and might even be considered as bad art if not art at all…But if this wrapper, for some reason, is preserved for 5,000 years it becomes a different type of object indeed. Full of information about it’s time and even considered as art classified in a system of design evolution of “wrappers” that has an aesthetic of its own.
A 5,000 year old Egyptian “urn” has beauty and a style the most likely was not even considered during it’s own time. Was it “bad” art? Does it’s contemporary value reflect its lasting value? Is any judgement about it have any type of justification when considered within the timeframe of human exisitence? Who knows and possibly cares…it is art and nothing more.
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