What is art

Jean Fouquet: Virgin and Child (Melun diptych) 1450


Have been busy putting together yet another project. This one is a bigger deal for me than some of the others.

I have been producing visual art since childhood, but fairly intently for the last 30 years. I have finally put up and archive/ store for my work. The site includes a blog where I will rant eloquent about art under Modernity. I have dabbled in Modern art techniques and styles over the years, but with mixed feelings. My inclination has been toward moody representational work, and now that I feel I have finally seen through the narcissistic veil that justifies much of  Modern Art I am ready to work as I wish without the monkey of perpetual revolt and novelty on my back.

Would be nice to put a new school of art into the cultural landscape. An attending market would also be nice. Art is created by artists, justified by theorists, valued by dealers, and purchased by those who find it either beautiful or a good investment;usually both. Art for art’s sake is a childish conceit.

There are many art markets already.  But if you study in the universities, there is a primary one is justified by the Marxist theorists and Modern Art galleries. Yet every city has its own markets too. The irrepressible desire to collect things of beauty by people doubtful of the art establishment necessitate these local sub markets. So long as the galleries remain open and the work keeps being collected the value of the artwork increases. If it is an stable investment collectors will collect.

There are other art markets outside of the Academies. A friend of mine sells his work in the Western art market. There is a vital relationship between the artists the galleries and the collectors. The work is often romantic, and skilfully rendered, Though much of it would be considered naive by the sophistic standards of the art establishment. The market relationships are real and enduring over decades; painters and sculptors can actually make a living selling their work in this market. But this is not an authentic market for all.

It has been a weary road with no clear goal for most of my art career. I have worked hard at times, but without a market. Putting all this work together finally has inspired me to start fresh. I suppose by some standards there are ‘degenerate’ pieces included in my archive. But even these are outmoded in their degeneracy.

Though I didn’t take many art courses in university, I did attend evening drop-in life drawing classes. An instructor once told me my ability to draw would be a hindrance to my development as a contemporary artist. lol. I chose not to study art in my university because of this one absurd statement. While at school studying philosophy though I started experimenting with image creation.

The following paintings can be illustrative in our attempt to answer the heading question; what is art? I started in my 20’s producing work like this, I even sold a few for a couple hundred bucks:

Big Sur
Big Sur; watercolour on paper

The intent of the piece is pretty straight forward.  Paint a picture that looks like the photos I was using as a subject. It took me weeks, but I was inexperienced with watercolour so was very cautious with the value and hue depth of each wash. I especially took pleasure in giving the cluster of rocks to the left a sense of space.

But what is the point of such art? To the art establishment this piece is meaningless sentimentality. Yet of all the works that people see of mine, this is the only one that gets obvious admiration; simply because it looks real. The subject is not overly impressive (Shit Hawk on Log), but for all our cultural inundation with Modern art, most folks think an artist should produce something they can’t imagine doing themselves given enough free time or drugs.  The piece was very much in keeping with a local art market in British Columbia in the late 80s. Robert Bateman being the apex.

Well boredom or sophistry lead me to experiment. I was irritated by the seemingly stupid comment about drawing skill by my instructor, but also felt challenged to break down the wall that kept me from grasping the contemporary art world.

The Burning Bush is one of several woks I did which I called ‘surfaces’. One of the early, and enduring critiques of Modern Art theory was that the old painters were deceivers. The canvas was only two dimensional so the art should be flat. It is clear I misunderstood, for though this image is flat I was unable to resist depicting relief; it looks like plastic, or rope candy. (Maybe my instructor was right.)

Surface (Burning Bush)
The Burning Bush; pastel on paper

In the end I would categorize this as design work.  I enjoyed making it, and watching it come to be. I didn’t plan it out, just started drawing and there it was. In this way I suppose it is truly Modern; emotion and intuition. Though it is shaped by my visual memory. Stubbornly it retains subject, object, and fairly clear intent; even narrative and symbolic meaning. It is not a great work of art, but has some visual interest and can preoccupy a viewer for a spell. What more can an artist ask for.

Later I returned to landscape painting. I do like the work of the Group of Seven from Canada. Though they understood they were working in a Modern style. They were still surrendering to the objects of perception, generating what often amounted to Arts and Crafts style decorative work directly inspired by time spent working in nature. The effective founder of the school, Tom Thomson, was a naive artist with no formal training. His work was really a superlative kind of folk art. but he attracted trained artists to work along side him, or at least to have group exhibitions with him.

Big Sur.03
Big Sur; crayon on paper

One of the advantages to working like this is speed. I found myself in Big Sur again 13 years after I took the photo for the seagull above. In a few hours I had set the basic structure of this piece down. Like with all of this kind of landscape work I try to tell something true about the scene but through a perceptual filter leading to a coherent design. I like this piece. Enjoyed interacting with this beach in this way on a road trip. It does what art should do. It can make the viewer stop and consider the world. It is a document of an artist relationship with a fetching scene and his medium. In this case crayon on paper.

 But it is time to move forward. This is a challenging time to be an artist. To make it in the established schools you either have to be too naive to doubt their worth and veracity, or you have to actually believe all the sociopolitical twaddle of the contemporary schools. I do neither.

Well if we Reactionaries are visioning a new world, visual art must be a part of this. I will be doing my small part in theory and image production, but one man cannot create a market. I can participate in the formation of a school of art though. This is exactly how I hope to spend my creative energy. The Fouquet, Virgin and Child, is my muse into the future. I intend to achieve that level of transcendence, beauty, and craftsmanship. I have learned some useful things in my experiments, and in the end I am just a product of this damned age like we all are. But it’s time to try something old.


Jean FouquetVirgin and Child (Melun diptych) 1450


3 thoughts on “What is art

  1. My mother is/was a fantastic artist who specializes in pastels and oils, having been around art since childhood I can tell you have a real talent. I’ve been to so many art shows over the years and seeing so much rubbish it is easy to spot someone with skills and inspiration, your ‘Big Sur’ watercolor is especially nice. I am afraid to say that my own mother has slipped into a post modernist phase in her career, her work lately is shit and I have tried to warn her even sending the link to Roger Scruton’s BBC documentary as a hint, but to know avail. She is involved in a group that praises each other for work that looks like a 3 year old’s finger painting.

    Liked by 1 person

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