Wednesday, 30 November 2011

UnMasterclass 47

In the excellent book, About Painting an interview between the painters Claire Undy and Alli Sharma raises some interesting points about how the contemporary painter should position themselves in relation to both painting and art as it has progressed over the last century or so. Asked about the pure approach to how she discusses her paintings Undy answers;
“There seems to be two ways you can approach painting today, which is either to ignore postmodernism and cynicism towards painting by going ahead and making geometric patterns, or gestural expressionist paintings or whatever, or you can be ironic, referencing the idea painting itself as an idealogy.” She goes on to say her position is somewhere between the two, saying that she has faith in painting, but is also realistic about what painting can be and do. She says that she is “more interested in discussing the ideas rather than believing that they are possible……Simply being an atheist does not mean that you can’t learn a great deal from religion.” Here Undy raises an interesting point, too often painting is dismissed as having nothing to say or that it is unable to discuss the times we now live in. Yet historically painting was the art-form that did reflect the times and historians use paintings as a valuable source to explain past times and conditions. So how can an artist that considers themselves a non-painter dismiss the lexicon of painting, is this the same as an atheist being les well grounded if they completely ignore religion? Intriguingly Undy’s answer to the next question (Are you keen on art history?) seems to counter her previous position. “It’s not something I’m particularly keen on. Making abstract work at collage means that you have to be aware of it because the criticism is that making purely abstract painting is a na├»ve thing to do and you either don’t care or you don’t understand it…..There have been over 60 years of history in this area I could spend a lifetime studying and I wouldn’t ever feel knowledgeable enough to make a genuine contribution to the discussion. But I do feel I have something that I want to add to the discussion of painting and I think it has to be possible to make abstract work today without having to answer every question of the last 60 years in every work.” Here Undy alternates in a position between having to be aware of the history of what you are in turn contributing to (in this case painting/abstract painting) and one of being aware of the restrictions of being too knowledgeable. If one was to fully know the subject and seek to make a consciously valuable contribution to the lineage of painting then one is doomed to failure, the pressure of having to answer every question of what painting is and can be within a work, would seek it to implode, be excessive, be shit or boring. Yet what a painter must not be most of all is ignorant, it is fine to not have to answer all the questions, or not to even know or consider some within the work and practice. But to wilfully carry on in a bubble is probably worse than trying and failing. The latest UnMasterclass is now live and viewable here

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