Saturday, November 26, 2016

Surely 11 million means painting is not dead!

     No, this is not the 11 million dollar painting - but one I recently "fixed". I was one of my dream cities series - cities you imagine visiting - until you get there and it is too hot, too cold, too crowded, too polluted - or your feet hurt! I imagined Angkor Wat as a place of serenity but, as the original painting stood, it didn't quite come off .  Some others in the series had that magical feeling but I was going to just paint over this until after a lecture on colour and simultaneous contrast  I went over the painting with glazes to recreate some of the mood I had been striving for. This is part of the struggle of painting- getting the mood right . All of us in our group are serious in our struggles. Not that we don't have fun- but it is serious work.
     But uplifting news was found in the fact that Lawren Harris' "Mountain Forms" painting sold for 11 million at a recent auction and set a record for a new high for Canadian painting. This is good news as it shows Canadian art can hold its own on the world art scene and that paintings are still highly valued.
     However, our local public gallery has decided , without any public input, that they are a "contemporary" art gallery with an "educational" outlook.  Paintings, apparently, are things that can be shown in a commercial gallery but not within their walls. I would think that about 75% of the local population would like to see paintings - at least some of the time. Most people do not have the space or set-up to allow for installations and video presentations but would be happy to have a painting they enjoy on a wall. Contemporary architecture and interior designs show paintings used to complete the setting. Ignoring painting seems a bit elitist to me. It also ignores centuries of art history.  I would bet that 300 years from now, people will still travel to Paris to see Monet's waterlilies and Amsterdam to see the "Night Watch" but I doubt they will go to London because of Tracy Eminem's unmade bed. In fact that bed may well have been thrown out by then. I must admit that I laughed when I read about an installation that got swept up as debris by new cleaning staff!  Many of the "stars" of today's art world - even Lawren Harris, the Group of Seven, and Emily Carr - got much of their early recognition from  open shows in public galleries. Local public galleries need to support local artists by at least occasionally giving exhibition opportunities. A few years ago, before the change in "mandate", I had the opportunity to show "Local Landscapes" and it was well-received. I think that part of an educational program should include showing what is produced in painting today- of all genres and mediums, not just what is deemed "contemporary". Contemporary should mean current and not indicate a particular style.

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