What is Painting?

[how to emerge … from the cultural weight of painting]

I want to respond to David Trigg’s call for less categorization in the arts. Starting with the idea that a Jerwood Painting Fellowship could become a more contemporary and inclusive: ‘Jerwood Artist Fellowship.’

I couldn’t agree more; why do we feel the need to continue to label the various art forms? Control? Tradition? Exclusivity? Money? That’s a big question.

However, occasionally, the emphasis on one type of art form can be useful. The last decade has done wonders for drawing, in terms of raising its status, and causing it to be considered independently from painting. Drawing has always been appreciated by artists as something special, that old ‘window into the artists mind/soul’ etc. Rather a clichéd, sentimental approach. Equally, it has often been sidelined or dismissed as an appendage to painting, the sketch for the real thing etc. However, thanks to enlightened educators, once you could do an MA or BA [Wimbledon/Camberwell] in Drawing or enter a competition like The Jerwood Drawing Prize, gallerists and the public begun to take it seriously as the profound and flexible medium it is. This has been extremely important for not just reinterpreting the history of drawing but also, it’s future status.

Today, I am happy to say, drawing just is.

However, art schools, due to financial constraints, are turning back to less specialised courses, often simply entitled: Fine Art. Yet, this might not be a bad thing. Allowing different mediums to integrate, reassert themselves and lessen the obsession we have with painting, and the secretly-held-belief that ‘real’ artists only paint [and maybe sculpt!].

Ten years ago, people were asking: What is drawing? Recently, I suspect the question has become: What is painting? Especially in the wake of this first year of Jerwood Painting Fellowships and its thought-provoking legacy in the work of Mitten, Nahaul & Till. Work that shouts loudly for David Trigg’s idea of a clear and simple: ‘Jerwood Artist Fellowship’

And, can we have more of them, please … three is not enough.

See: When is Painting Not a Painting? By David Trigg on The JVA Blog