Page 15 - Studio International - November 1965
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                                 What is the subject matter of most works of art today?   elements in painting and sculpture means that the time
                                 A very pertinent question and one that is not so easy to   is not far distant when  objects will take  over from art.
                                 answer even if one tries to evade it by saying that si nee   And if objects take over. their manipulators will not be
                                 so much of modern art consists of abstraction there is   artists but machine-men whose attitudes will however
                                 really no subject matter as such.  It was said not so long   be no less humanistic than those that have been obvious
                                 ago  that  the  painting  became  its  own  subject  matter   in artists for some time now.
                                 since its organisation and execution was the choice of   When  critics  and writers on  art speculate vaguely on
                                 the artist.  But even this kind of subject was no subject   the driving force that has operated on twentieth century
                                 at all in as much as its evasion of suggesting a subject   artists they frequently refer to the discoveries of science
                                 was  part  of  the  escapism  that  has  affected  art  in   and space travel that.  they claim.  must have inevitable
                                 increasing  intensity.  Art-as-art  has  not  always  the   influence  on  the  visual  artists.  This.  of  course.  is  the
                                 intention of commenting on art as all figurative art must   most wishful thinking and also the most dangerous.  It
                                 do since the very act of representation immediately calls   means  in  effect that  the  two  cultures  so  dramatically
                                 into  being  the  system  of  comparisons  on  which  all   highlit by  Lord  Snow are in danger of coming one and
                                 civilised  vision  operates.  And  for  a  long  time  though   that the arts and the sciences are leading to a surrender
                                 action  painting or abstract expressionism offered  limit­  of one to the other.  with the arts in the position of the
                                 less possibilities for the artist to escape from reality by   most  vulnerable.  The  signs  are  that  this  is  already
                                 engaging himself in the physical act of putting paint on a   happening in the channelling of talents into the sciences
                                 canvas. this very act qualified for merit by the arbitrary   whereas  once  they  would  have  been  forced  into  the
                                 standards of physical fitness. intuitive rhythms of move­  cultivation of creative fields of the imagination that were
                                 ment. pre-selected chromatic arrangements by opening   concerned with human relationships.  Now the chances
                                 this or that can of paint.  Escapism again so far as the   are that. in pursuing the material exploration of physical
                                 end  product  was  to  a  great  extent  unforeseeable and   space. the investigation into the area  of consciousness
                                 dependent  on  circumstances  that  were  not  invariably   and emotional and mental conflict and harmony will be
                                 predictable.  The  surprises  the  public  or  the  dealer   neglected  and  left  to  the  primitive  and  intuitive  artist
                                 received when the work was offered for view were not   who  will  always,  thank  heaven.  survive  but  in  a  non­
                                 always greater than those sustained by the artist when   professional and vocational way.
                                 he  stood  back  from  his  canvas.                 Thus the question arrives:  are the spheres of painting
                                  Commitment  of  the  artist  to  non-commitment  was   and sculpture at an end for their employment in artistic
                                 reached by Ad  Reinhart with paintings that looked as if   purpose?  Have  they  been  superseded  or  replaced  by
                                 they  were  all  one  colour  in  one  tone  although  closer   other forms of  visual metaphor  such  as the cinema or
                                 scrutiny might reveal  that  this was not  quite  the  case   mechanically  driven apparatus invented for stimulating
                                 since  there  might  be  a  motive  painted  in  a  change  of   senses of form and colour? The answer is surnly  No.  It
                                 tone.  But this motive too played its part in non-commit­  might  be  as  well  to  declare  the  art  of  drama  dead
                                 ment since its role was concealment. not display. Robert   because of the aforesaid cinema or the  more insidious
                                 Irwin. another American isolationist. creates the ultimate   television screen.  Far from the art of the past rendering
                                 in painting; one canvas  can  be  one  colour.  All of this   that of the present still-born. it is ever more true that it is
                                 has the result of drawing attention to what is not done   the part of the past that sustains the present.  It is not a
                                 on the canvas.  So that the artist by non-activity brings   bad time  for  painting  because  of  Rembrandt.  it  is  not
                                 the whole situation of non-art into the aspect of art. This   now a bad time for sculpture because of Michelangelo.
                                 has its pointed and very relevant place. For. if non-art not   It is a bad time because of artists who are afraid. afraid
                                 only points up the failure of art. it draws attention to the   of  comparison  with  Rembrandt.  with  Michelangelo.
                                 lacuna in a way that is obvious in various factors.   with the cinema.  with the still photograph.  It is a bad
                                  First  is  the  factor  that  this  non-art  is  chosen  by  the   time because life in all its urban development. its com­
                                 sponsors of official art for exhibition in arenas of public   mercial sales methods. has driven the potential artist into
                                 confrontation  such  as a  Biennial at Venice.  an  occa­  seclusion or into non-functioning.  Only a few survive.
                                 sional ·survey· such as the  Gulbenkian  '54  :  64'  show   certain  (though  frequently  unsure)  of  their  destiny  to
                                 or the  Carnegie or the  Documenta.  Here the message   create in the medium of the masters the essence of life as
                                 tends  to  become  somewhat  lost.  as  it  may  almost  be   they  see  it.  Tennessee  Williams  once  described  the·
                                 accepted as a latter-day movement in art.  But if it is.  it   process.  though  he  meant.  of  course.  the  dramatic
                                 has renegued on its intention.  Even in works that do not   process in his own case. as follows: 'putting the blocks
                                 quite decide the ultimate rejection of  art as being  the   together in a different way·.  But arranging the blocks is
                                 mark of a creative spirit in a material substance. we are   not enough as an exercise of basic design-and this. it
                                 in  the  presence  of  a  withdrawal.  of  the  artist  leaving   must be said. is what appears in the overpraised work of
                                 most of his field barren as if to invite laymen humans to   young artists in  Britain.  The blocks must bear a pattern
                                 place against it their own marks.  Barnett  Newman at   that is a paraphrase or a poem with relation to life. real
                                 the Sao  Paulo  Bienal had this effect.            life not a life class. The artist will thus not merely be an
                                  For the artist the dangers are obvious.  If he abdicates   observer of life; he will be a part of it, an actor in it; in
                                 from the responsibility of placing his  autographic mark   other words. he will know more of life that he knows of
                                 on canvas. the way is open for automation.  The Golden   art.  His own  art will  be  the richer for  it.   ■
                                 Section  will  be  replaced  by  the  computer-calculated
                                 variations that can be played on a proportional analysis
                                 of any work of art in the world.  So within the bounds of
                                 human imagination is an optical rendering by dots of the
                                 same composition Leonardo used in the Mona Lisa with
                                 colours  to  personal  choice.  Impersonality  in  painting
         Studio International
         Volume CLXX No.  871    means that sooner or later mechanization will take over.
         November. 1965          And the growth in popularity of the optical and kinetic
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