July 7th 2019 – I went to see the great works of Monet at the Musee l’Orangerie. The building was first built in the 1850s to protect orange trees (thus the name) in the orchard of a local palace near the Lourve. Serious decadents to build something this big an lush as a greenhouse. It was modified to hold Monet’s painting in the 1920s following his very specific instructions that they should be displayed in natural light.
The size of Monet’s paintings bring up some ideological issues for me. I admit they are beautiful in the classical sense that they give you a feeling of safety and comfort, maybe peace. They are the opposite of what Picasso seemed to be aiming for.
However, their size means they could never be owned by ordinary people. In fact, I don’t think they could be owned by the super-rich today. They were created by an artist who knew he wanted them in their own government-operated museum or gallery. As they are. Of course, this doesn’t mean I don’t have a ton to learn from him, as a maestro of the techniques and how to communicate feeling through art.
When I questioned other artists about this matter of size, they bring up the artist should not consider such things and go with the inspiration. But to me our beliefs, our desire for status, our politics and values are all part of how inspiration works.
The limitations, whatever they might be, are also important. These artists I’ve brought this up with are quite happy to limit their medium, their palette of colours for a project, take commissions for a specific location, and place various other boundaries on the work. But to consider your audience and their taste, their experience of your art is somehow capitalist or compromising or something.
To me, art is always a negotiation. I have to negotiate between my vision, my skill and my bodily coordination and the medium I’ve chosen. It doesn’t seem to be a great imposition to me to acknowledge the next level negotiation that goes on when I consider the reality of who my audience is and then between my taste and the taste of those who may buy or even just look at my art.
There is, it seems to me
While I was in Vienna I attended an exhibition at the Mumok (Museum of Modern Art) focused on a group that was around in the 70s called ‘Pattern and Decoration’. They pointed out there struggles with the minimalists of the 60s and 70s who used decoration as an insult. These people wanted to go back to figurative work and to take inspiration from the decorative arts of different cultures around the world.
A long and well-exercised tradition which these snobs seemed to have forgotten.
After all, Picasso and his peers took inspiration from African masks and decoration. Some Impressionists, especially Van Gogh, were inspired by Japanese decoration. In all my travels around Europe showed me that the vast majority of ‘Art’ through history was decorative particularly murals. And most of these had political themes that sucked up to the powers that be. Donald Trump and Obama would both love an artist to surround them with angels, the Apostles, prophets and spiritual light to bless his presidencies.
It seems to me that doing art in a size and medium that can be afforded by people with an average or even median income is somehow below artists. It is proven by the way artists and others in Australia react to Ken Done’s success by turning his art into t-shirts, coasters, postcards and other useful bits and pieces. He doesn’t even rates as a designer, on Google (though he did come up as an artist there). Interestingly Mambo’s politics, cynicism and humour seem to protect them from the same attitude from many artists.
I’m not sure what this will mean if anything to my art over the next few years as I decide what to do to earn a living.
I did two painting of my own to learn from the masters.
Here’s slide show of the pictures I took in the museum, including pics of the originals of the above.