Another Word About Genre

A little while ago, I wrote about the importance of establishing genre when marketing your novels. A similar factor comes into play when peddling paintings. One of the first things an artist learns when creating a body of work  is that it needs to be consistent, i.e., the viewers/prospective purchasers need to know what to expect when they hear your name. That’s fine, except if you’ve ever been to a retrospective of the work of a well-known artist, you’ll notice that their work has gone through many stages both before and after emerging into the characteristic style for which they’re known. It almost goes without saying that an artist is, by the very nature of the craft, an experimenter. So how to reconcile the demands of the artist with the demands of the public?

I’ve always loved abstract design, so although most of my paintings are representational to some extent, they’re also colorful, whimsical, and sometimes purely abstract. There’s nothing more fun than grabbing a nice, fat brush and smearing paint on a canvas, watching the colors and patterns develop, until you have either a big mess or a delightful new piece of art. (Naturally, you never show anybody the big messes. You just paint over them, and the mess becomes part of the ‘history’ of the new painting.) But at other times, I enjoy carefully designing a composition and slowly making it come to life with deliberate, well-placed strokes. At this stage of my life, I’ve pretty much stopped worrying about whether or not a new piece ‘fits’ consistently in my body of work. I just go with whatever I want to try next.

My two most recent pieces couldn’t be more different. But I enjoyed both of them.  

   Dreaming, Acrylic, 24 x 20
A River Runs Through It, Acrylic, 20 x 24

Abstract or realism? Which is it?

Image

 

                   Breakfast, Oil, 16 x 20, $425

Abstract (adj.) – to draw from, separate [L. <ab(s)-, from + trahere, to draw]
(Wesbster’s New World Dictionary, 2nd College Edition, Prentice Hall Press, 1986)

Most of my recent paintings explore the notion of abstraction.  When does a representation go from being very realistic to being abstract?  I think it has to do with the artist removing the context of the objects being depicted.  In “Breakfast,” the viewer is required to focus just on the objects, without being able to tell where the breakfast is located or who might be starting to eat it. An abstract painting can certainly consist of shapes and colors, without relating at all to reality.  An abstract painting can also adhere to the literal meaning of the word “abstract,” by separating the subject from its surroundings.  In that sense, surrealism is also abstraction.