When I finish a new piece I like to put it out there without any interpretation, so people can have their own response to it. Tomorrow I’ll show some details, earlier versions, and write about what it’s about. Today I just want to share some ideas about what it is, as in what kind of art it is, and why it is valid. I suppose I’ll just mention that it’s from my imagination, and probably a bit of a relief from my last piece.
This piece is not just about a kid looking at a big, ugly fish, it’s also about being an image. I’ve recently honed my artistic objective down to one simple sentence: “to make new and interesting images for the collective imagination”. For what it’s worth, a Google search doesn’t turn up anyone else encapsulating their artistic goal with those words. It’s a very direct and central artistic objective. The idea is that you’d see this image (or any of my better ones), it would resonate with you, and you would remember it. Anyone who follows my blog knows I like to think about shit, analyze it, come back to it, go deeper, reevaluate, reject, refine, and so on… Lately I’ve found some clearer and more succinct ways to express ideas I’ve been chipping away at for years. I thought I’d talk about them while discussing this peace.
My guess would be that a lot of people will like this image, and a lot will dismiss it out of hand because of what it is. Recently I was discussing conceptual art with another art blogger, and he’s less forgiving of conceptual art than I am because he feels the underlying philosophy of it is wrong and hostile to his own philosophy. I don’t really agree, but don’t want to get too into it with him or I might come off as argumentative. But I do see what he means in that I know that this image embodies everything that I’m not supposed to be doing as an artist in 2015. It works within the officially abandoned and disregarded tradition of attempting to make original imagery with visual language; it uses skill; and it tries to be original. It was even created by a white male, which is another artistic taboo. One of my teachers when I was in grad school said, “We’ve heard from you for 2,000 years and nobody cares what you have to say anymore”. But I know a simple way of explaining where the Postmodernists and conceptual artists are wrong about all of this.
There’s nothing to be gained by killing painting. To do so is about as appealing as outlawing songs, novels, or pizza. Visual imagery honed in visual language is one of our human ways of interpreting and communicating reality and our place within it. If we succeeded in eliminating it, we’d be lopping off one of our mental senses.
And then there’s the notion that it is an inferior or conservative mode of art-making. Not at all. That’s like saying that a musician who experiments with found noises is more liberal than Bob Dylan, because he sings, plays a guitar and a harmonica. More importantly, you don’t surpass visual art by doing something else: the challenge is to make something worthwhile within the parameters of visual art. In the same way that you aren’t better than Dylan, and more radical, just because you make music from discarded electronics, or whatever, you aren’t a better artist or more radical because you make an installation. You are just making another kind of art altogether (I’ve done conceptual art, and my graduate thesis was an installation).
The challenge still remains out there to make worthwhile imagery. And some people dismiss anything I do using the computer as not real art. Recently, I got a couple new programs that I’m using in addition to Photoshop. At this point it is EASIER and more comfortable for me to make traditional art using the computer than it was when I used physical mediums. This is because the programs have really improved in recent years. It would also be hard to beat this image as a painting, using oils or acrylics. The only thing you could hope to do better against a print, is texture. However, the illusionist texture is so convincing that I don’t feel any awkwardness in calling this digital creation a painting. I actually have more control and flexibility, including mixing colors on the fly, than I ever had with traditional mediums.
Come back in a couple days if you’d like to see more.