Dave’s rant on abstract painting…

But first…
Dulltown, Europe: Today’s architectural term is ‘Pseudo-peripteral’ – In classical architecture, a temple with porticos at either end and engaged columns or pilasters along the sides.
Some of my columns were engaged, but unfortunately they broke it off after arguments about the wedding date.

Hey, anyone want to hear my views about abstract painting?…
No?… Alright then… Click!…
But anyway, and bearing in mind that I really know next to nowt about art history and proper art theory (I’m definitely not an academic!) let me ramble on about painting and abstraction for a bit.
I think the gist of it is that abstract works are not supposed to ‘look like anything’; I’m pretty sure that’s the basic idea, and I think it’s a very good one. I suppose it was a hell of a big step to go from art that was a representation of something to art that wasn’t. When was that exactly? I don’t know, you’ll have to look it up.
I like abstract paintings, well some of them; I very much like the idea of them too, but I’m not very keen on the ones that fail in their task of ‘not looking like something’. Are you with me so far? Abstract painting has been around for ages, but people still have trouble with it; sometimes they are even ‘offended’ by it, possibly they think they are being deliberately ‘cheated’ in some way…
So, what do I mean when I say, ‘failing in their task of not looking like something’? I think I might have tied myself in a knot here; I think I mean that they do look like something – but let’s go on anyway… Let’s take Jackson Pollock. He’s definitely abstract is old Jackson; no vases of geraniums or interesting knickknacks on a shiny table top for him! His stuff looks like the floor of a place where things go on which involve a lot of coloured paint being unintentionally spilled and splashed around, such as the floor of a theatre set painting workshop, albeit that Jackson’s splashes are just a bit too evenly distributed, and are not as interesting as a real ‘randomly’ paint-splashed floor.
What about that Mark Rothko and his big blurry colour canvases? Well, for me his work looks like the areas on exterior walls, or on the sides of old vans, where unwanted lettering has been painted over with whatever colour the workman had to hand; you know, where the painter didn’t bother masking the area off, or bother making the edges of the area quite square…
‘No, no!… Just stop there Dave!…’ I hear you cry, ‘This is sacrilege!… These people have sweated aesthetic blood to produce these meaningful, and emotion drenched works!… How dare you?…’
Yes, Jackson and Mark are very popular aren’t they? I suppose at that time somebody needed to do that sort of thing, but I just wish it had been better. All, I’m saying is that their work is not really ‘abstract’ – it looks too much like the things I have described above, the painty floors and walls, these everyday things that we can see if we keep our eyes open as we walk about our urban environment. The thing is, ‘this is the thing’ as they say, that these painted surfaces in the real world, which are definitely not art, are for me, far more interesting than Jackson’s or Mark’s stuff. Mother Nature’s randomness does the job so much better, as she always did; her carefree splashes and drips of paint, and the rough unthinking painting of areas by non-artists in random colours for me just look more ‘interesting’ and ‘beautiful’ (dare I use that word these days?) and are superior to these ‘real’ art works.
How about this one?

DSCN3948I regularly walk past this on my way into town, I suppose an artist could have done this, but it looks too complex and far too subtle for a jumped-up young trendy artist to have done; the brick colour is so much a part of it, and what about those runny grey drips at the bottom, and the bright red patch on the wall at the left?
Or how about this one?

DSCN3679This is the side of a steel bridge over a railway line in the seaside resort of Bridlington Yorkshire – this really does look like an abstract painting that you might see in a gallery doesn’t it? But there is no feeling of it being ‘contrived’, it definitely looks ‘real’. Oh, just look at those subtle shades of red and orange!…
So what is this all about then?
I suppose I’m saying that if this is the kind of work that you want to do as an artist, I would say that you’ve got a difficult job on competing with stuff as interesting as this. You could of course carefully copy this one onto a large canvas, but what’s the point, when it already exists? You’d be back to the ‘representational’ painting of the past…
‘But Dave, what about abstract paintings that do succeed in their task of ‘not looking like something’?’ I hear you ask, ‘what do you think of those?’
Ah, here we are talking about people like Joan Miro and Wassily Kandinsky – I love ’em! Now, their stuff really doesn’t look like anything at all – their work shows us things that have never ever been seen on this planet, before or since. Oh yes, that’s what I call abstraction!… (Miro) (Kandinsky)


About Dave Whatt

Grumpy old surrealist artist, musician, postcard maker, bluesman, theatre set designer, and debonair man-about-town. My favourite tools are the plectrum and the pencil...
This entry was posted in architecture, art, brain, colours, cool, Dulltown, history, Hull.UK., humour, information, observations, painting, photography, seeing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Dave’s rant on abstract painting…

  1. The side of the steel bridge in Bridlington photo looks a lot like a Miro.

    • Dave Whatt says:

      I love Miro! I saw a big show of his sculpture at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park a while ago – it was wonderful. He was not scared of being humorous too! A good egg was Joan! Thanks Andy!

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