Paint Being Paint

Posted by on Jul 14, 2012 in Art | No Comments
Paint Being Paint

Years ago, a conceptual artist I rather like personally, and respect professionally, was giving a talk about 20th century art movements.

She talked about the Abstract Expressionists rejecting the “illusions of painting.”  Paint had been lying to us and pretending to be three dimensions.  Abstract Expressionism instead, was letting “paint be paint.” Paint could now be true to its nature, and be honest about it’s two-dimensionality.  Paint could throw off the yoke of illusionist, realist depiction and revel in the honest beauty of paint.

And many Abstract Expressionists DID find an honest beauty in paint.

But if anyone’s going to talk about the true nature of paint, they need to keep in mind that paint is not a natural phenomenon.  Paint is not a living being.  Paint is a human invention. Early man didn’t invent paint to make their cars bright red or their houses a homeowner’s-association-pleasing shade of beige.  They invented it to create depictions.  People, animals, scenes.  Life.

Look at the cave paintings of Chauvez-Pont-d’Arc, which Werner Herzog captured cinematically.  Or even older caves, now dated around 40,000 years old, so old they were probably painted by Neaderthals rather than Homo Sapiens   They’ve been preserved in the depths of the earth, but think of how they must have painted everywhere, in places time has wiped clean eons ago.

Mark-making, symbolic strokes, magical depictions, life-size buffalo for target practice.  Handprints.  All depictions of life.  Of thinking, living, interacting, striving, loving, hating, celebrating, mourning.

THAT’s the true nature of paint.  That is its honest beauty.

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