The first few years of my professional art career I fondly think of as my ‘University Study’ phase, lasting around 3 -4 years (2012 – 2016). Having to literally learn how to paint properly whilst simultaneously attempting to sell work has left my past littered with framed embarrassments, still to be found lurking in the dark corners of the web. On the upside I had tremendous fun splashing paint about and dramatically destroying canvases which were too hideous, even for a fledgling artist.
My first attempts at abstract art were clearly inspired by action and colour field painters, De Kooning, Frankenthaler and Pollock with their bold, expressive brushstrokes/dribbles/fields of colour. But I hadn’t really thought out a coherent plan of what my abstract art was about, what I was trying to achieve and where it all might lead.
At the time I was reading articles about quantum theory (for the layman) and used abstract art as a vehicle to explore the movements of particles, energy, light and so on. While the results were quite colourful and sold well, I began to feel uncomfortable. A sense of existential ennui. What is it, ‘to be an artist’? Is it expressing one’s thoughts and ideas, improving technically, making a statement or questioning the status quo? Or is it another way to make money, for an already saturated art market that at the very top hardly gives painting a mention? Where does the artist and their career fit into all this?
I think it takes years to develop as an artist. This includes study, hard work, exposure to culture and a knowledge of the history of art which casts a long, prodigious shadow behind us. I decided to play the long game. Slow art. So towards the back end of 2016, I began to do what I call ‘Deliberate Study’, where I identified what I wanted to achieve as an artist and what I needed to do to get there. At this point, I knew what my next goals were:
- Attaining a high level of craftsmanship in traditional painting techniques for figurative painting. Starting with landscapes.
- Formulating a coherent theory underpinning my abstract art. I wanted a modern, minimalist aesthetic, whilst recognising that at the same time humans are not ‘tabula rasa’ (the ‘blank slate’ idea of Plato that underpinned modernism) but have an innate appreciation of beauty, harmony and proportion.
This is where the ‘theory of forms’ comes in, posited by Plato. We’ll ignore his blank slate theory for now and move swiftly on to the realm of perfect forms.
Which I’ll talk about next week, in my next blog entry…