Digital images flood everywhere nowadays which make the primary property of image to human change a lot, “Image” is no longer slow nor observational, but has become temporal, extendable and impressive, which is quite opposite to the properties of painting (slow, day by day and struggle). And that’s why I think, in order to really paint directly and fluently, painters need to be more firm and persistent in painting to complement the gap between painting and image.
I used to believe painting mainly in traditional way, just by paint, solvent and mark-making tools, is a fidelity for painting, which is the tightest, the most stubborn, but the most actual way to build up sensitivity to painting and hence complement the gap, and is a necessary training for a painter. I thought breaking the border of painting by elements with concrete context (such as appropriation and performance), is a premature harvest, which could make the painting be more readable or impressive, but actually killing the heterologous width.
Perhaps, my attitude could be called as a mysophobia, being anxious that painting practice would be polluted by the “Contemporary Arts” that I don’t (can’t) believe. However, perhaps being influenced by the London art environment, or the MAFA course and studio environment is taking effect, my mind is changing recently.
I am now trying image edition and collage of martial images as starting point of a painting, which inspires me a lot. During editing the images, I found it’s so familiar to my daily experience, and ideas about color and composition come out again and again, and eye-catching images are made easily. How convenient it is! On the other hand, how inconvenient painting is! I realized that nowadays it’s already a sufficient fidelity if an artist chooses painting. And it could relax a bit more on the way of approaching painting.
I still don’t deny traditional painting, especially when the painter’s interest is very observational, then let’s enjoy the romantic depiction. But how observation luxurious is, when we live in a busy international city, liked London, or Hong Kong. And how luxurious it is, if we want to approach painting in traditional way but where and when we living is not traditional anymore!
Delacroix, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso, Pollock and De Kooning etc, those legends did not live in digital era; David Hockney, Peter Blake and even Peter Doig, those current great painters did not grow in digital era. Digital era has completely changed the existence of image and our way of seeing. However, painters growing in this era, haven’t grown to be master painters yet, that means, the aesthetic sensitivity bred by this new environment of image hasn’t been transferred into a “masterpiece” painting yet.
Honestly, most of the masterpieces in my mind are before 1990s, perhaps some great properties of seeing and imagination just belonged to those period. Anyway, when I longed for train up my sensitivity to make great painting, those silhouettes of great paintings just belong to the past, so called tradition, but don’t truly belong to us no matter how great they are.
We could learn spirituality of love from the romantic novels, but we will almost get trouble if we love others just in that distilled way. Digital era has marked a new border of “traditional”, everything before that is traditional, and every traditional thing is a romantic novel, such as way of painting. Perhaps, I need to admit that I am not romantic enough to approach the romance only by traditional way.
Wai Kit Chan (Hector)