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right under the sun wrap-up

Post #636 • September 30, 2005, 11:16 AM • 99 Comments

All images courtesy the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, from the exhibition "Right Under the Sun: Landscape Painting in Provence, from Clacissism to Mondernism (1750 - 1920)".

François-Marius Granet
View of Mont Sainte-Victoire from a Farmyard in Malvalat, undated
oil on canvas, with graphite sketch
32.5 x 41 cm

I had never heard of Granet. The son of a master mason, a soldier who took part in the 1793 siege of Toulon, he went through David's studio (although he had to drop out because he couldn't afford tuition), worked in Rome, and received the Croix h'onneur from Louis XVIII before settling in Malvalat. There's a Musée Granet in Aix-en-Provence.

The image looks unfocused but in fact was rendered with a oily medium that gives it a look like monoprint or porcelain painting. The medium is so transparent that you can see the pencil sketch below it in places. They had several drawings and a wall full of watercolors by Granet, which frankly I prefer (and the transluscency of the piece above leads me to believe that he might have prefered them too). Unfortunately, I spent too much of the morning trying to get a decent shot of images out of the catalogue and have given up. At any rate, it's interesting to see Cézanne's beloved mountain painted in a wholly un-Cézannian manner.

Let's get the big guys out of the way:

Paul Cézanne
L'Estaque, about 1878-1879
oil on canvas
59.5 x 73 cm

Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Rocky Crags at l'Estaque, 1882
oil on canvas
66.4 x 81 cm

You can't beat 'em with a stick. Renoir is looking unusually robust here.

Joseph Vernet
The Port of Antibes, Provence, Seen from Inland, 1756
oil on canvas
166 x 263 cm

I have to confess that 18th Century painting doesn't do too much for me. But after viewing this show, I started to see it less as goofy and stiff, and more as thematic. Just like you can enjoy the 1-3-5 structure of blues, you can get into the fact that Neoclassical landscapes always have that tree on the left. Why not?

Raoul Dufy
Martigues, about 1903
oil on canvas
44 x 61 cm

Coming out of Van Gogh and into Fauvism.

Not pictured but much admired:

Adolphe Monticelli. I was vaguely aware of Monticelli. I did not know that Van Gogh had sought him out at Arles (the older painter had died already, unfortunately) and that he had compared him to Delacroix. You could make a case for it: brazen paint handling, intense contrasts, the tar-and-gravel surface you might associate with Albert Pinkham Ryder but without the occultish gloom. He looks like he's directly prefiguring Frank Auerbach. Amazing.

René Seyssaud. Another new find. No Matisse, but a hopped-up colorist and another brave handler of paint.

Prosper Marilhat. He could hit Corot-like simplicity on a good day.

The show runs through January 8. I miss it already.

Oh - on the weekend they were serving wine and food samples from Provence in the lobby outside the exhibit hall. Creme brulee with lavender washed down with some delightful white wine - now that's what I call an art exhibition.

Comment

1.

oldpro

September 30, 2005, 11:51 AM

This is torture, Fanklin. Creme broulee? Too much.

Get a load of this Monticelli, just crawling with crusty paint:

http://sunsite.icm.edu.pl/cjackson/m/p-monticelli1.htm

2.

ahab

October 1, 2005, 12:10 AM

Although Cezanne is my man (m'man Cezanne) Renoir beats him out in this L'Estaque shootout, in my opinion.

Like the right hand side of the Dufy, hate the left. Dislike the Vernet altogether.

And I keep coming back to the Granet. Mont St. Victoire looks a little like Mt. Baker in Washington from my grandparents dining room window across the border in Abbotsford, near Vancouver, BC.

The Monticelli is crazy. Crazy gobs of paint rendering frivolous tablecloth that melts into basic still life all lit from within by a sun-cum-apple set against inky backdrop mediated by assymetrical chocolate goblet . A kind of celestial map of the heavens where the planets have not only aligned but even clustered intimately. "Cluster of destructions" fits perfectly here. Thanks oldpro. I'll be coming back to this one for a while.

3.

oldpro

October 1, 2005, 9:59 AM

I have never cared for that Cezanne much, Ahab, so the Renoir was more interesting and refreshing to me, though I am not sure if is it is better, as such. When I have a selection of good art to look at I fall into the "buffet table" mode, where I just indisciminately taste rather than evaluate. But maybe that is evaluating at its purest. Who knows.

Yes, Monticelli is a strange artist. I get the feeling no one knows what to make of him.

4.

George

October 1, 2005, 11:15 AM

re #3 "I get the feeling no one knows what to make of him." You mean, in general or just here? If you mean here, then Franklin should steal that jpeg and post it into the blog.

5.

Jack

October 1, 2005, 2:43 PM

Cezanne and Renoir are, well, Cezanne and Renoir. The Vernet is something like "Claude goes tropical," which is interesting but not quite right, like opera singers doing pop tunes. Vernet is also more about pretty effects than Claude, more superficial and decorative.

Granet (1775-1849) is now obscure, but I think he had something, a gift for evoking atmosphere, particularly of a contemplative sort. His piece here, simple as it is, seems less generic and more personal and poetic than the Manguin Franklin posted. It's not so much about visual impact as about mood (whereas the wonderful Monticelli is all about visual impact and much more sensual, even tactile).

Granet's best known work, apparently, was the Interior of the Choir of the Capuchin Church in the Piazza Barberini, Rome, of which he painted around 15 versions because lots of VIPs, like Napoleon's sister and the King of Spain, wanted one. I believe the original (they're not all identical) is at the Met:

www.metmuseum.org/Works_of_Art/images/ep/images/ep80.5.2.L.jpg

Again, mood and atmosphere predominate.

I like the Dufy, and regret he later went much more slick and facile, even though he was always charming in a light, elegant way.

6.

oldpro

October 1, 2005, 4:18 PM

George, my comment about Monticelli was made in general, of course. I could not say that about those on the blog because no one had commented on him.

I don't know what to make of him either. I find the pictures fascinating in a freaky sort of way but I don't get any kind of esthetic take and that's frustrating. Ahab & Jack seem to have had pretty strong reactions.

The Vernet picture is typical of a type of genre of the time and you find The American Landscapes painters doing similar things in the 19th C: great big pictures of exotic places with distant horizons, the illusion of depth and bigness and awe augmented by strongly marked marginal foregrounds with little figures. Ain't nature grand.

The Fauve period is remarkable because because it appears that one genius (Matisse) and a couple of his friends somehow came up with a method which allowed quite a few painters who would paint mediocre pictures for the rest of their lives to suddenly paint very, very good pictures. Then it all just fizzled, like a Roman candle. Cubism, a very different method which followed shortly on the heels of Fauvism, had 2 geniuses in the middle (Braque the spark and Picasso the drive) and influenced huge numbers of artists all over the world but very few of them were much good.

These are case studies of the relationship between talent and circumstances but I don't think any writer has really done anything much about it.

7.

Gravity

October 1, 2005, 4:33 PM

Fair enough with the hit and run comments. i usually try and explain why I like or dislike something, as i did with Barge's pictures. Manguien is a pretty good painter and I'd sure like to hang the harbor scene in my living room but he's not first rate a la Matisse and those fauvist Braque pictures you mentioned,but how many are, right? The verticle window frame over composes it in some way, for me and I'd like to punch up the color quite a bit. The forground and background are delicate and quite beautiful viewed seperately.

8.

Jack

October 1, 2005, 4:55 PM

From the net:

Monticelli (1824-86) painted hundreds of pictures with heavily textured, richly colored surfaces, but his still lifes were most admired. Cézanne was fascinated by his work, as was Van Gogh, who wrote to his brother that "Monticelli sometimes made a bunch of flowers as an excuse for gathering together in a single panel the whole range of his richest and most perfectly balanced tones...you must go straight to Delacroix to find anything equal to his orchestration of tones."

Check out this Monticelli:

www.vangoghmuseum.nl/images/collection/largepaintings/S251V_lrg.jpg

It's from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Theo van Gogh bought it in 1886. Vincent waxed lyrical about the piece, which he found extremely inspiring. Friends provided him with fresh flowers, and he painted many flower still lifes during his time in Paris. These feature a similar composition and the same use of thick brushstrokes as the Monticelli work.

9.

Jack

October 1, 2005, 5:13 PM

Oldpro (#6), I think the skin of the pear and the hanging part of the tablecloth are especially fine. I can easily see Van Gogh going for this sort of work, possibly, in part, because it is a bit freakish.

10.

Franklin

October 1, 2005, 6:36 PM

Gravity, I'll tell you something - when I first got into painting, age 20, I liked Rembrandt and Caravaggio. Period. Since then, slowly, I've recognized quality in more and more. Now, I'm seeing it in these admittedly second-rate guys. Enjoying somebody like Manguin sort of requires that you don't think about Matisse, but for me, enjoying Matisse requires that I don't think about Rembrandt.

11.

George

October 1, 2005, 7:01 PM

I'll have to go along with gravity on this one, I don't care for the Manguin at all.

12.

oldpro

October 1, 2005, 7:44 PM

Here's a Monticelli for you, Franklin.

Those oriental fabrics on the tables remind me of some early Matisse and the some of the still lifes look like Cezanne put in the microwave to melt. I see an influence of Chardin, too.

I don' t think Gravity said straight out that he didn't like the Manguin, George, just that he thought it wasn't good enough.

13.

oldpro

October 1, 2005, 7:45 PM

Sorry, here's the link:

http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/cgi-bin/WebObjects.dll/CollectionPublisher.woa/wa/largeImage?workNumber=NG5010&collectionPublisherSection=work

14.

Franklin

October 1, 2005, 7:56 PM

Here's the hyperlink.

15.

George

October 1, 2005, 8:07 PM

oh, ok I think it's a boring painting.

16.

Jack

October 1, 2005, 8:07 PM

The Manguin is a perfectly nice piece but it feels like a trickle-down or watered down version of other people; maybe a hand-me-down is what I'm trying to say. There's still more art in it than in a "new and different" work that offers nothing but novelty or shock value without significant artistic merit (new or second-hand). I'm certainly more impressed by Monticelli, who was evidently ahead of his time. I expect Olitski would like his work also, come to think of it.

Monticelli's work is yet another example, as if any more were needed, that subject matter or content is not the primary issue in terms of a work's success as art. The primary issue is how the subject or content, whatever it may be, is handled or dealt with by the artist.

17.

Jack

October 1, 2005, 8:13 PM

Two more Monticellis:

http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/WebMedia/Images/50/NG5013/eNG5013.jpg

http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/WebMedia/Images/50/NG5015/eNG5015.jpg

18.

oldpro

October 1, 2005, 8:18 PM

Yes, I can see a similarity to Olitski. I will have to ask ihim about it. But he mainly likes to get his kicks from Rubens and such like.

19.

Jack

October 1, 2005, 8:29 PM

Rubens was a great favorite of Cezanne.

20.

Gravity

October 1, 2005, 8:39 PM

i didn't say that i didn't like manguien, just not as much as matisse and others. great art hangs on regardless of style, velasuez , goya,monet, olitski, matisse, etc.. I'd love to see a room full of their best, I could tell you which I prefer but I doubt if one would be blown off the wall or seem out of place. manguien doesn't fit with this group, but like I said earlier, not many do.

21.

George

October 1, 2005, 9:10 PM

#16 subject matter or content is not the primary issue in terms of a work's success as art.

I think it can be a two way street but if you are making a painting, it has to work at the painting level first. While I might let the subject matter drive the work, I focus on the painting because that's what it is. There was nothing in Manguin's work which held my interest other than as a passing glance. That isn't an aesthetic judgement, more just indifference.

I agree that Monticelli is more interesting, now I'll have to go look and pay attention to the real thing. With gnarly paint, you gotta be there. Surface is captivating but not always successful. My trip to the Jewish Museum last week was to see the Joan Snyder retrospective. Good thing I went on the free night. Gnarly paint, started off with an interesting spin on the brushmark but went downhill from there. Fat surface and all couldn't save the work. I suspect the surfaces of Monticelli are what resonated with Van Gogh who took it to the next level.

22.

George

October 1, 2005, 9:16 PM

Gravity, yeh i got corrected on that already. I would bet that in 50 years no one will even thinK of putting Olitski into that group you gave, Velasquez , Goya, Monet, Matisse, he's not even close to being in the same league.

23.

oldpro

October 1, 2005, 10:00 PM

George I wish you would stop talking about "content" until you can say what it is.

You say "There was nothing in Manguin's work which held my interest other than as a passing glance. That isn't an aesthetic judgement, more just indifference."

Of course it is an esthetic judgfement.

24.

George

October 1, 2005, 10:57 PM

Op, re #23. Content is subject matter. It's what I pay attention to in order to make a picture. The picture is a painting, I make that as good as I can. What's the problem?

No, indifference is a decision to suspend criticism without bias.

25.

George

October 2, 2005, 12:12 AM

Cézanne vs. Renoir

Cézanne is crisper conceptually

26.

oldpro

October 2, 2005, 12:13 AM

If you looked at it and responded with indifference that is an esthetic decision.

If content is subject matter, does an abstract painting have no subject matter?

27.

oldpro

October 2, 2005, 12:15 AM

"Conceptual crispness" George? Really!

28.

George

October 2, 2005, 12:18 AM

If content is subject matter, does an abstract painting have no subject matter?

Does an abstract painting have no subject?

29.

oldpro

October 2, 2005, 12:21 AM

It has no subject matter, unless you would like to redefine that phrase also.

30.

George

October 2, 2005, 12:25 AM

"Conceptual crispness"

If you consider the visual decisions which lead to a painting, Cezanne is crisper than Renoir. Crsiper, means that the visual boundary is cleaner, more demarcated, indicating an awarness of the characteristics of the boundary.

31.

oldpro

October 2, 2005, 12:29 AM

Sure, George. The is clearly true. That is physical crispness.

But what is "conceptual crispness"?

And please tell me if abstract painting has "subject matter" or not.

You said "content is subject matter". If Abstract painting has no "subject matter" then it cannot have any "content". Right?

32.

jordan

October 2, 2005, 8:11 AM

Morning all...
- some time ago, I read a one page synapsis for an introductory abstract painting class (while busting into a student working enviroment) involving a professors statement about beginning an abstract painting with a figurative or pictorial notion in mind. He/She had written that the big 'X' is to be avoided and asserted or proclaimed that one should begin with something tangible in mind and then work from there, while not adhering to the initial provolking mental image. Subject matter was therefore only the catalyst and not the resulting product. Is this how abstraction and subject matter comingle?

33.

Franklin

October 2, 2005, 8:28 AM

Content is what something contains. Everything contains something, even molecules. The content of an abstract painting is paint, and probably some shapes.

The subject of a painting traditionally refers to what the painting depicts. Speaking traditionally, an abstract painting has no subject. You could say that the subject is abstraction, or that the subject is paint and some shapes. That abuses the original idea of a subject though.

Starting an abstract painting with a subject in mind, as per Jordan's allusion, doesn't give the painting a subject in the same way that writing an essay about cheese gives the essay the subject of cheese. The thing kept in mind at the start is in there somewhere, but as a reference, a jumping-off point, an inspiration.

I say that abstract paintings have content but no subject.

34.

George

October 2, 2005, 9:50 AM

Content: n
1: everything that is included in a collection; "he emptied the contents of his pockets";

2: what a communication that is about something is about [syn: message, subject matter, substance]

5: the sum or range of what has been perceived, discovered, or learned [syn: cognitive content, mental object]

7: something (a person or object or scene) selected by an artist or photographer for graphic representation; "a moving picture of a train is more dramatic than a still picture of the same subject" [syn: subject, depicted object]

I use the term "subject matter" to indicate the willful inclusion of a subject or object reference in the painting. I view "subject matter" as a subset of content, included in (the content) but not the sole source of the content itself.

If I make a "non-objective" or abstract painting (I am) it has no subject-object other than the arrangement of its paint. This is not to say it has no content other than its paint. Further it is possible that a non-objective painting might have a hidden subject, a subject held in the mind of the artist, like "landscape" or "weather". This hidden subject is not depicted representationally but exist primarily to structure the process.

Franklin suggests The content of an abstract painting is paint, and probably some shapes.

I would go much farther here and not limit the content to just the paint. While this may be the case with some abstract paintings it will not be the case for all abstract paintings. Regardless of what the artist may say his intention is regarding content, I would suggest that this aspect of an artwork in not entirely in the artists control and that "content" is accrued from the cultural audience.

It is a complex issue

35.

oldpro

October 2, 2005, 9:56 AM

"Content is what something contains". Yes, that's pretty much it.

We have had painting without depiction of things for upwards of 100 years and we should have settled on basic descriptive terms by now. "Content" is best used to denote what's there. "Subject matter" is the common term for whatever can be recongnized as depiction of things and it is adequate enough. I see no reason to insist on exotic meanings for these terms. It just gets in the way of cursing at the dog.

36.

George

October 2, 2005, 10:02 AM

#35 Simplistic and inprecise.

"Content" is best used to denote what's there.

So what is there?

37.

oldpro

October 2, 2005, 10:07 AM

George, it is not a "complex issue" until we make it one. Furthermore you are treating "content", unconsciously, I think, as if it is a value term. It isn't.

And then, finally, you end up saying what we are saying, or just about, only in 20 times as many words.

"Content" is what is there. If you perceive something exotic, hidden or subtle then, for you at least, that is content. If I don't see it then for me it is not content because for me it isn't there. it is not a matter of what "content means, it is a matter of what we decide is content in a particular case.

We use terms all the time without having clear meaning for them. This is one of the reasons why art wriitng is such a mess.

38.

oldpro

October 2, 2005, 10:11 AM

George, for crying out loud, the term as I have defined, as a term of usage, is very precise.

That does not mean that the determination of content case by case must be precise.

Can't you see the difference?

39.

George

October 2, 2005, 10:19 AM

(op) "Content" is what is there.

Content A: = If you perceive something exotic, hidden or subtle then, for you at least, that is content.

Content B:= If I don't see it then for me it is not content because for me it isn't there.

(op) it is not a matter of what "content means,

(op) it is a matter of what we decide is content in a particular case.

So like A and B above, content is different for everybody? Or, do we need to come to some agreement? Who decides this? The artist? the viewer?

40.

oldpro

October 2, 2005, 10:31 AM

OK George, I will spell it out again.

"Content" is what is there. As Franklin said, "content" is what comething "contains". This is the most direct use of the term and there is no reason why it should not apply to art as well.

Using the term this way does not mean we always instantly precisely agree on WHAT is there.

FIRST- We agree on what the term means
SECOND - we discuss what is content in a particular case, we discuss what is there. We agree or disagree, just like we do all the time.

There is no point in making the DEFINITION of the term exotic, complex, obscure. The DEFINITION should be clear and simple. the APPLICATION of the definition can be as complex and disputative as we wish to make it.

OK?

41.

George

October 2, 2005, 10:39 AM

re#40. No, not ok. Color me stupid and explain "Content" is what is there.

42.

oldpro

October 2, 2005, 10:54 AM

Wow. Let me get out my crayons.

How does one go about explaining something so elementary? Are you just putting me on?

You and I look at a painting. We agree that the painting is an physical entity with materials, dimensions, etc. We agree that we are interested in the painted part of this physical entity. We have no problem with these things.

With me so far?

We agree that "content" means whatever is there in and on that painting, that surface. There may be red paint.. There may be subject matter. We agree that these obvious things are part of the content of the painting.

We talk about this painting further. We start to have differences of opinion about the content. You say one thing and I say another. We disagree.

We have not disagreed about what "content" means. We have not disagreed about 95% of the content. We have disagreed on what constitutes a small part of the content of that painting.

This is basically what happens with art a millions times every day. I am arguing ONLY for a clear, simple definitiion of the word "content" as it applies to art, nothing else.

I don't think I can do better than this, nor do I want to try.

43.

George

October 2, 2005, 11:11 AM

Hmm, I think I get it now.

All of the literal stuff that makes up the painting is part of the content. Took awhile but Matty beat this into my brain.

Then there are other things we can talk about that are also part of the content and these things are exclusive from the literal stuff described above?

So one might say there is descriptive content, the literal fact of the painting and its physical description, which two people should be able to agree on without difficulty?

Then we might say there is an interpretative content because two people might see these aspects differently from one another?

The 7% solution?

We have not disagreed about what "content" means. We have not disagreed about 95% of the content. We have disagreed on what constitutes a small part of the content of that painting.


Yes, what I would characterize as the important part.

44.

oldpro

October 2, 2005, 11:18 AM

Content is everything that is there, by definition.

You can divide it up any way you want to.

45.

that guy

October 2, 2005, 11:55 AM

Enjoying these Monticellis very much. He reminds me of Antonie Watteau with a chip on his shoulder.

46.

alesh

October 2, 2005, 1:10 PM

Um . . . just jumping in late here.

If "'Content' is what is there," then could someone enlighten me as to what the difference is between a PAINTING and the "CONTENT" OF THAT PAINTING.

It sounds like you're defining 'content' so broadly that the distinction is meaningless, in which case you have defined the word 'content' right out of usefulness.

47.

George

October 2, 2005, 1:19 PM

#46 alesh

Ah ha, bingo the fat lady sings

48.

oldpro

October 2, 2005, 2:15 PM

No, the fat lady is still backstage, George.

The painting and the content of the painting are the same, especially of you exclude the stretchers and tacks and canvas and such like, which makes sense, of course.

You are more or less right, Alesh. Defining content this way (which as I hope I have demonstrated is the only reasonable way to definte it) reduces the usefulness of the word in the sense that makes it somewhat more difficult to introduce all sorts of mysterious, fanciful and ill-defined characteristics. It also neutralizes the word so that it does not become a value term.

It becomes useful when you ask the question 'what is the content of this painting" so that a discussion can ensue. "Content" is a way to introduce particularizing what is there, perhaps This is vastly to be preferred to "what is this painting all about" and other ways of beating around the bush and opening things up to vague, hopeful generalities.

But so what? It is just a word. I am not married to it. I never use it or even think about it unless I have something very specific to say that requiers the term.

49.

George

October 2, 2005, 3:08 PM

nah, alesh is right it reduces the term down to the meaninless.
Another way of dodging having to talk about ones paintings

50.

Franklin

October 2, 2005, 3:13 PM

could someone enlighten me as to what the difference is between a PAINTING and the "CONTENT" OF THAT PAINTING.

I just ate a sandwich. The sandwich contained baba ganouj, tomato, and arugula, mustard. It included bread, so we can say that bread was content as well. Does the sandwich exist apart from its components? No. But we can still talk about my sandwich and what was in it. It was a good sandwich, by the way.

Thich Nhat Hanh would say that my sandwich contained sunlight. Why? Because the tomatoes needed sunlight to grow. Following that line of thought, my sandwich contains the entire universe because an infinite array of causes brought it into existence. (Even though my sandwich contained the entire universe, I still had room for dessert.)

The expansive definition of content renders it meaningless, not the specific one. What George is calling "interpretative content" I would simply call interpretation. What the artist had in his mind, influencing him, is like sunlight on the tomatoes; I would call it a "factor," not a part of the content. You could bring up some gray-area cases, but they wouldn't disprove the main ones.

Joseph Joubert: "Words, like eyeglasses, blur everything they do not make clear."

51.

oldpro

October 2, 2005, 3:58 PM

George, I give up. It's hopeless.

52.

Matty

October 2, 2005, 4:52 PM

I'm just happy to get credit for beating something into George's brain.

53.

George

October 2, 2005, 4:54 PM

#51 Well, if you talk about your paintings with people, what do you say. Do you try to give the viewer a point of access?

54.

Kathleen

October 2, 2005, 8:23 PM

I have to say that the problem with excluding sunlight from the content of the good sandwich means that the sandwich can only ever be its most basic ingredients and that the only judgement one can make about the import of the sandwich is that it was good.

I think that if the content of the painting comprises only paint, its marks, texture and color, then the only things that can be said about the painting is that it is pretty or not pretty, good or not good. The painting cannot have any other import.

Any other statement in that case can only be associated with interpretation. This would mean that I, and many other people, are far more interested in the interpretation of a painting than the painting itself. In fact, I'm not sure that the painting even needs to exist in such a situation, because unlike a sandwich, I have no need to actually ingest the painting; I can imagine a good painting as well as I can imagine a good sandwich.

Additionally, while I prefer a good sandwich to a bad one, my preference for a good painting instead of a bad one is really a wash if what is interesting about painting is all in the interpretation.

I'm going to do a bunch of work now, so don't get irritated when I don't respond to critiques of what I wrote above. I'll be back tomorrow, or later tonight if I'm lucky.

55.

Franklin

October 2, 2005, 9:13 PM

This would mean that I, and many other people, are far more interested in the interpretation of a painting than the painting itself.

I would respond that you and those other people are having an interpretive response, not a sensory one. And you're right, if you think that

[your] preference for a good painting instead of a bad one is really a wash if what is interesting about painting is all in the interpretation

because good and bad live in the sensory world, as you tacitly mention in your first paragraph. Things with a lot of sensory value are good. Things with a lot of interpretive value are interesting.

Right now I have Miles Davis's Sketches of Spain on. I don't listen to it much, because although it's interesting in the way it riffs on flamenco structures, it gets on my nerves. His Kind of Blue has nothing to interpret as far as I can tell, but I can listen to it repeatedly. (Whew - I just took it off. I never make it past track #5.)

Visual art is the only artistic endeavor in which people can have an interpretive response, fail to have a visceral one, and still get taken seriously as a aficionado. It's a pandemic aberration of taste that ensures the survival and propogation of bad art.

56.

that guy

October 2, 2005, 9:21 PM

Good Kathleen, this site is frequented by people who happen to be able to tell the difference between good and bad paintings. Sounds like you have no interest in doing so. And you are free to interpret yourself into oblivion. Visual art might not be your thing.

you said: "Any other statement in that case can only be associated with interpretation. This would mean that I, and many other people, are far more interested in the interpretation of a painting than the painting itself. In fact, I'm not sure that the painting even needs to exist in such a situation, because unlike a sandwich, I have no need to actually ingest the painting; I can imagine a good painting as well as I can imagine a good sandwich."

Your interpretation can be done without the painting. Enjoying the painting requires seeing the painting. I think you are learning. You can imagine a good sandwich, but you can't survive long without food. I gain something by looking at art, but nothing by talking about it. Your writing is a bit contorted. Please specify what "such a situation" refers to, and when a painting does't need to exist? Are we on the same page, or are you arguing that good paintings don't need to exist for you to interpret them? Please clarify.

Franklin's: "Visual art is the only artistic endeavor in which people can have an interpretive response, fail to have a visceral one, and still get taken seriously as a aficionado." hits that pure note of truth once again.

57.

alesh

October 2, 2005, 10:47 PM

Well, in web design, the content of a web page sure is something different from the page - it is destinguished from the style (in fact, the style is in a separate file):

content + style = the thing

i can see how painters might bristle at this, but (hello??) trust me that in the real world this is a distinction which is useful to people in talking about paintings.

a chuckle: guy telling Kathleen "visual art might not be your thing."

Visual art is the only artistic endeavor in which people can have an interpretive response, fail to have a visceral one, and still get taken seriously as a aficionado.

Um, what about literature?

58.

Franklin

October 2, 2005, 11:04 PM

Well, in web design...

That's web design, in which content and style can be split, utterly and logically. This is not true of other kinds of design, with the possible exception of print. Even then you'd have to talk me into it.

Um, what about literature?

Even literature. Literature is not purely an intellectual exercise. Even Borges appeals to the senses. Robert Pinsky described poetry as the most intimate of media, because the medium is the reader's breath.

59.

that guy

October 2, 2005, 11:17 PM

alesh, emphasis would be on visual. she said herself she would rather interpret than look. That has little to do with art, but she is free do it, like I said. interpretation can only really happen after the art has been ingested to use her phrase. She wants to skip the good stuff and go right for that dull dry overrated world of interpretation. If one lacks the faculty to differentiate the good stuff from the bad, she might spend her time doing something she is capable of. I'm sure she could if she didn't try so hard.

60.

alesh

October 2, 2005, 11:21 PM

Ok Fraklin... let's look at the Vernet you've got in your post. as a non-painter, i would say it's done in a realistic style. there are endless degrees and types of "realistic," so i imagine that could lead to a healthy conversation, all about "style."

on the other hand, i could talk about the lake in the background, the sky (what hour of day, blah blah), the tree on the left (by the way, what is "the 1-3-5 structure of blues"?), and all that. Boom: content.

now tell me what breaks if i take that distinctionout of a painting-naive context and put it into a painting-aware context?

and by the way, i would agree that 'style' and 'content' are pretty crude terms, and that there will be (varying degrees of) overlap.

61.

Franklin

October 2, 2005, 11:33 PM

I don't know what you mean by those contexts, so let's go back to my sandwich. I might serve it to you with chevre, dill, and onion confit, and you might think, "Ah! French style." Or might serve it to you with cayenne, cumin, and salsa fresca, and you might think, "Mexican style." Part of that is your sensory experience of the sandwich, and part of that is interpretive, fitting it into a larger schema of cuisine. So it depends on what part we're talking about. There are observable things about style in art, and we use that sensory input to form interpretations about what we're looking at. So, yes, the terms are coarse. I'm putting style in with content in the same way that I'm putting bread under content in the sandwich example. That still works - you can distinguish style from subject, for instance, or subject from value range, and so on.

62.

that guy

October 2, 2005, 11:43 PM

Yeah lets get back to that sandwich, I'm hungry.

63.

alesh

October 2, 2005, 11:49 PM

I don't know what you mean by those contexts, so let's go back to my sandwich.

um, no thanks. I admire the poetry of the art/food metaphor, but metaphors are helpful in talking/understanding things, except when they're not. In the case of art/food, I've always found the analogy more confusing then enlightening. So instead let me try to clarify "those contexts." how about

painting-naive context = a conversation between non-painters

painting-aware context = a conversation betwen painters

But really, what I was trying to do (in #60) was to show how you could quite usefully make a distinction between "style" and "content" in the context of one particular painting. Anything to say about that?

64.

ahab

October 2, 2005, 11:54 PM

I realize I'm a little out of turn here, as the thread has moved along during the last 60 or so posts, but I'll throw in my late comment anyhow.

When I was writing about the crusty Monticelli in #2 I was thinking about the relation to Olitski (especially those works we recently gabbed about here with the painted-on borders), considered mentioning it, then with some self-doubt decided not to. Jack and oldpro, you've restored my confidence by your affirmation of these unsaid thoughts. As well, I can appreciate the link between Olitski and Rubens.

65.

ahab

October 3, 2005, 12:03 AM

In Kathleen's, alesh's and George's comments I'm reading something like: 'content' is a catch-all term that allows for more interesting insertions of subject matter; hence, it is more valuable; ergo, most worthy of discussion; thus, it should rightly replace the common name 'painting'.

Like thatguy, acceptance of this sort of rhetoric makes me wonder if those who subscribe to it are somehow missing out on that visceral and unpredictably awesome haptic response that often happens when before an amazing work of visual art. I presume them all to be feeling thinking human beings, of course; must it be that they are naturally blind, or have blinders conditioned into position, or that they are distracted from the sort of seeing I experience by other more imminent threats - threats that are perceived with some other sense, such as a sense of propriety; or a sense of responsibility to the public; or some other sense of suitability dictated by a need to conform or inform? Does the smell of a story override the stunning blow dealt by a great work of art?

I know that every work of art has content. It may or may not have subject matter, depending on who you ask. It may also have meaning to a more or less knowable degree. But when visual problems are handled and resolved convincingly it is (can be) like when Moses or Mohammed met God, in the midst of which subject matter, content and meaning, though undoubtedly present become irrelevant, boring, and aimless. Strong terms, overstated for sure, but why look for less than that?

66.

that guy

October 3, 2005, 12:55 AM

Well said Ahab, why ask for anything else when you know how good it can be. I'm not sure they have blinders on. George, at least, from his stories, seems to have honestly tried. I think a lot of people have simply given up looking for themselves, in favor of the easier "tow the party line" attitude. Then again, I wonder if some really can't tell the difference, the content shield might help make them feel like they aren't missing anything. But in their sheepishness they miss the potentially quasi religious experience that you alluded to. Its sad really, when you extrapolate across the percentage of higher ups in the gallery/collector/museum/curatorial/critical world who apparently hold this attitude, because it points out what a rare voice artblog represents.

67.

George

October 3, 2005, 1:38 AM

#65 ahab
it (content) should rightly replace the common name 'painting'.
Where did you get this idea? Painting, like wine is the vehicle.

You could say that anything you could describe or communicate is the "content" This is the catch-all description which includes everything including points of disagreement. This is fine as far as it goes but as a term it acts only as a label and affords no further information. For this, we need to break down the "content" into discussible points of interest. Ahab mentions the "awesome haptic response", this I would say is a point for discussion. For example, how is it that I felt Olitski's paintings were butt-ugly and oldpro loves them? Would we be we discussing taste?

If we venture into the realm of taste, then we are discussing the point of view of the audience. The consideration of a work of art from the point of view of the viewer, the audience or culture is valid and this approach accompanies, formalist criticism which delves into the mechanics of the aesthetic and psychological criticism which looks at the motivations of the artist for understanding. For those of you who don't understand Kathleens arguments I would characterize her position more in line with critical analysis from the point of view of the culture.

Ahab says, But when visual problems are handled and resolved convincingly… in the midst of which subject matter, content and meaning, though undoubtedly present become irrelevant, boring, and aimless.

That is a untenable position, when there is "subject matter, content and meaning" coupled with formal resolution the work is greater for it. The idea that we denigrate "subject matter, content and meaning" to a second class quality is absurd

I don't have a problem with those who choose to make painting based solely on visual titillation but I don't think it is the only answer. I don't feel that the practitioners of this point of view are currently in touch with the culture, the zeitgeist.

68.

Kathleen

October 3, 2005, 1:54 AM

Though I'm a bit groggy now, boys, I'll try and clarify.

I prefer a good sandwich/painting to a bad, and I can tell the difference. I can also interpret a bad painting as well as I can interpret a good one. So maybe painting has advantages over sandwiches that go beyond physical nourishment.

In terms of taste, I prefer chevre with onion confit and dill on whole grain bread to Olitski any day, and I think that under the basic content (vs interpretive) analysis of painting you'd be hard pressed to give me a convincing reason why either Olitski or that abominable Monticelli (I'm not sure about him, Franklin) is better than the chevre sandwich.

Such a situation, that guy, refers to Franklin's definition/example, where interpretaion and content are distinct. Additionally, you could be right; it is possible that visual art is not my thing, that my thing is performative art or verbal art or sound art, but I wouldn't bet on it if I were you. You also make some wrong assumptions about my enjoyment of painting. A lot of what I enjoy about painting comes from the interpretive side of looking and thinking.

Perhaps enduring enjoyment is a better way to describe it; I experience a much more fleeting and transitory pleasure from the materials alone, separate from interpretation. Upon a moment's reflection, I realize that I respond exceptionally strongly to materials/basic content as an art-maker, and less so as an art-viewer.

Using Franklin's terms, I certainly don't need a painting to be a physical object in order to interpret it. Similarly, I can use a black and white reproduction in an old text to interpret a painting. Or a jpeg. We use any number of non-object representations of paintings to interpret them and their basic content (sandwich usage) all the time. Is this a devaluation of painting? Or the party-line? Or the act of someone who cannot tell the difference between good and bad art?

I've had potent emotional and visceral responses to visual art, but those experiences have never occurred without some degree of interpretation. So, to me, interpretation is much more than merely added interest, it gives meaning, and meaning leads to the quasi-religious experience ahab and TG were talking about. This is why I prefer an interpretive response.

Going back to the sandwich analogy, what does a hummus/feta/olive sandwich mean?

And as for literature, how well does a novel function if you separate technique from narrative?

Concrete poetry is about the only poetry which offers only sandwich-level content. All other poetry, (the poet's breath type) cannot be separated from interpretation in any way that is not artificial.

69.

Kathleen

October 3, 2005, 1:57 AM

Oh, hey, I didn't see George's comment there . . . . anyway, á demain.

70.

George

October 3, 2005, 2:00 AM

#66 thatguy.
I once used the phrase "moved me to tears" to describe that special experience one has with a great work of art. What is interesting is that this reaction is not built into the work in a way which elicits the response every time. So I can only conclude that, as the viewer, I bring something to the mix but once is enough to make the point. It is not an experience I have frequently. When anyone goes out look at art, they are subject to numerous distractions or time constraints, and their viewing suffers. This is a fact of life and we make do the best we can.

I do not believe that a lot of people have simply given up looking for themselves as you suggest. There are a few factors I would evoke here. In my opinion the viewing audience uninformed visually, they do not have a clue how to look at a painting. This problem is exacerbated by those who suggest you "just look" without helping the viewer to appreciate what there is to look at. The second factor is that the viewing audience is naturally interested in what is fashionable, either to love it or hate it. A third factor deals with money and power, which become attached to artworks for reasons of commerce and not necessarily aesthetics but it makes people curious anyway. Contrary to the attempts to simplify all of this, it can't happen, life is too complex.

71.

George

October 3, 2005, 2:16 AM

#69 Kathleen says...
… I certainly don't need a painting to be a physical object in order to interpret it. Similarly, I can use a black and white reproduction in an old text to interpret a painting. Or a jpeg. We use any number of non-object representations of paintings to interpret them and their basic content … all the time. Is this a devaluation of painting? …

Yes, if that's all you do. I can see how people make a certain type of analysis from reproductions, the result is a conceptual not visual appreciation. My two nieces were in NYC for fashion week, one has a degree in Art History from UC Berkeley. She went to the met and was bowled over (full blown haptic response, call the medics another tourist faints in the Met) by the Jackson Pollock. She said to me, "I had seen the painting several times in "slides" or reproduction but I was not prepared for how I felt when I actually saw it. Pretty good. (www.rodarte.net ...plug:-)

72.

that guy

October 3, 2005, 8:24 AM

"it is possible that visual art is not my thing, that my thing is performative art or verbal art or sound art, but I wouldn't bet on it if I were you." I'm contacting my bookie now.

73.

oldpro

October 3, 2005, 9:12 AM

My computer was down most of yesterday and I was unable to join this interesting discussion.

You are all getting too complicated. Content is just a word. It means what is there. Painting (art) is something you look at to have a certain kind of experience. We value the experience very highly, so we talk about it a lot. But content is not the experience. Content is what is there, or, in particular instances, what we can agree is there. Wht we make of it is something esle.

Kathleen, you wrote the following:
"I've had potent emotional and visceral responses to visual art, but those experiences have never occurred without some degree of interpretation. So, to me, interpretation is much more than merely added interest, it gives meaning, and meaning leads to the quasi-religious experience ahab and TG were talking about. This is why I prefer an interpretive response."

George took exception to that, above. He seems to be more inclined to something that "moves me to tears", as he says. Something direct, like what happened to his niece at the Met.

This, or something like it, could be a separate post by Franklin. It is a nutshell expression of two diamateriaclly opposed ways to use art. George has said his piece, but I am sure Ahab and That Guy (and Franklin and Matty and Jack and? - if they so choose) will be quick to point out to Kathleen that what she is describing is in no way how they look at art. However, it is up to them to do this, not me.

74.

oldpro

October 3, 2005, 9:41 AM

Speaking of suggestions for a Franklin post, did anyone see how the Herald used a front-of-section, full-page-inside, two-color-reproduction "art" review on Sunday? The one on Corpse Art In Tampa?

I know it is not "cool" to get offended, and I know all the weirdness freaks will utter just that word as they desperately supress the urge to vomit , but this is more than a new low for the Herald arts coverage. This is just plain BAD, and I don't mean cutesy-pie "bad" bad. And then to call it an "art" review!

Something has to be done about this. The Herald is our daily newspaper of record, for God's sake!

75.

Kathleen

October 3, 2005, 10:02 AM

I'm assuming that when George is saying "if that's not all you do", that the you is more of a vous than a tu.

That guy, most people who make longshot bets end up being losers.

I didn't write last night that I actually don't feel that the sandwich analogy is a good one; I was working with it more to show that it doesn't work too well.

Also, as I crawled into bed, I thought, if any one of those guys had mentioned Yves Klien, I don't know that I could support my statement that I've never had a visceral response without an interpretive one. But then again. I knew a lot about Yves Klein before I saw the work in person. Not unlike George's neice. After you've seen a work many times in reproductoin it may be that one is particularly set up for a visceral response. The test would be if the same happened in front of an unknown work by an unknown artist. I suspect you guys would say that there's not enough good art being made to fit the parameters of that test, but perhaps the iterpretive context of a work's reputation and history aid the visceral response. If so, then interpretation based on b/w reproductions or jpegs furthers a potent response in front of the actual work.

Further, I think that a museum environment helps to build a potent response through envrionmental cues. So the test to see whether or not this can happen without any interpretive content would be if it happened in front of an unknown work by an unknown artist outside of a museum.

76.

Kathleen

October 3, 2005, 10:05 AM

OP, I think that body art show is nasty, and I'm not surprised that it got a lot of herald coverage. Our society is morbidly scatalogical, and that show is too much like CSI x "Fine Art" for the pressly masses to resist.

77.

George

October 3, 2005, 10:09 AM

Here's a link to the Herald article onplasticised dead bodies in cool poses

Is it science or art?

Where's the content?

78.

that guy

October 3, 2005, 10:27 AM

When I think of "envrionmental cues" I think of a sterile disney version of nature. Museums do this to make the art more visible by lighting, spacing and giving each piece it's due. I'd love to see some unknown artist provide some visceral art regardless of location. Again, for the record, I'm not convinced the museums in Miami care enough for their members or public to introduce good young artists to them. This has been my experience with south Florida art museums, and as op mentioned, the press.

79.

Franklin

October 3, 2005, 10:31 AM

All other poetry, (the poet's breath type) cannot be separated from interpretation in any way that is not artificial.

Words mean things, so you have to interpret poetry from the get-go. But if analyzing a rhyme scheme is artificial, then so is interpretation.

I'm not arguing against interpretation. It is often necessary, useful, and fun. It coaxes meaning out of an image. It can deepen or spice up a sensory response. But we should not confuse interpretation with sensing. The former is an ancillary activity of the latter.

Detecting visual quality requires seeing. Evaluating a wine requires tasting. Evaluating a song requires listening. Visual success lives in the sensory world. To do an end run around the sensory world, into the world of interpretation, is at best putting the cart before the horse, and at worst missing the point of art.

Whole genres of contemporary art depend on interpretation and don't function visually, because, as Kathleen notes, many people think interpretation is more important than content. That doesn't fly with me. Bad art is bad visually. Interpreting interesting meanings from bad art is like putting a cocktail dress on a corpse.

Regarding the Monticellis, never in all my years on the Internet have I seen jpegs do so little justice to an artist's ouevre.

I brought up the sandwich to talk about aggregates for Alesh, and brought it back to talk about style as distinct from content. It did the job. Alesh, I think it would be more clear to say that you can separate style from subject. Since style correlates to observable traits about the object, it becomes part of the content, although as I said earlier, you could use the word in an interpretive manner as well.

80.

alesh

October 3, 2005, 10:49 AM

Interpertation . . . can deepen or spice up a sensory response.

I agree, although I think it goes at least a little further then that. I would add that what y'all are caling "sensory experience" is informed by a lifetime of looking AND interpertation AND thinking in ways that are far from obvious. In other words, "looking" and "interperting" are intertwined to a large degree.

Having said that, I do not agree with Kathleen that the interperted response is more powerful then the sensory (she lets up on the point in #75 anyhow). It simply depends on the particular piece.

Where I think oldpro, guy, and Franklin go astray is in believing that their "sensory response" is free from "interpertation." Sorry dudes - you can't see withouth using your brain, and human beings are notoriously bad about introspecting about what their brain is doing. If you know a lot about painting, it is impossible to turn off that knowledge when looking at a piece - that knowledge is informing your sensory experience, and THAT is interpertation.

81.

oldpro

October 3, 2005, 10:57 AM

Katheen, how odd to say that responding to an an unknown work by an unknown artist outside of a museum is some kind of "test".

"Test for what? Whether you are going finally decide to "like" the work? Don't you trust your own eye and instincts? You sound as if you evaluate work by consensus.

Every work of art - Rembrandts, Picassos, whatever - should be looked at as if they are "unknown artists outside of a museum", and looked at every time the same way. Otherwise you are completely missing what art has for you.

82.

Franklin

October 3, 2005, 11:05 AM

Alesh, you're right - there is overlap. There are also distinct areas. You don't interpret the color green - you see it. You don't see the implications in a work of art - you interpret them.

What you describe is a seasoned eye. Knowledge assists the process of seeing (more on that in the next post). Some of that knowledge comes from interpretation. But without knowledge, seeing still occurs, while without seeing, the knowledge has nothing to correlate to. Seeing is primary. Whatever knowledge hangs on it is gravy.

83.

oldpro

October 3, 2005, 11:07 AM

"Putting a cocktail dress on a corpse". Yes, Indeed.

Alesh, I spend a lot of time here telling people that I did not say what they say I said.

I never said, nor do I "believe", as you put it, that "sensory response" is free from "interpertation", although strictly speaking I would have to say that the "interpretation" or learning, acclimatizing, internalizing, or whatever, takes place before the actual encounter with the art, so I would not phrase it that way.

The actual experience comes across directly and quickly, without the intervention of a rational process. Like a response to a joke, the response to a painting is based on a certtain amount of accutluration. obviously. All I am saying is that this process is not taking place in the instant that you experience the painting.

84.

George

October 3, 2005, 12:10 PM

#79 Franklin Regarding the Monticellis, never in all my years on the Internet have I seen jpegs do so little justice to an artist's ouevre.

I would agree that paintings which rely on the surface so strongly will suffer in reproduction, jpeg or otherwise. I can see why Van Gogh thought they were interesting but what he did with this knowledge puts Monticellis in the back room.

85.

Franklin

October 3, 2005, 12:26 PM

Not only are they textured, they're shiny. I think to get the glare off a lot of people have tried to pull the high level down in the photo, which flattens the hell out of his work.

86.

George

October 3, 2005, 12:34 PM

#85, Still, I find them somewhat muddled.
Van Gogh took the surface to a new high point of organization and clairity.

87.

Kathleen

October 3, 2005, 12:51 PM

OP, you are mistaking my meaning.

The test I am talking about is that of whether or not a visceral, near-religious experience on the part of the viewer in response to a work (which I suspect most of us would conclude is somewhat rare) is possible in an absence of interpretive awareness of the work.

The works which typically produce such a potent visceral response tend to be works about which we already have some awareness or greater interpretive understanding. Hence the unknown artist, unknown work, non-museum test.

I certainly do not evaluate work by consensus. If I did, I would like Olitski, wouldn't I?

Alesh and others have also misinterpreted this statement I made:

"Any other statement in that case can only be associated with interpretation. This would mean that I, and many other people, are far more interested in the interpretation of a painting than the painting itself".

When I wrote "in that case" I was referring to the case of the sandwich, in which content and interpretation are separate. I personally have not argued for the separation of the two; I was using Franklin's analogy to test is efficacy.

Though I have written that I prefer an interpretive response, I did not claim it to be superior to sandwich-level content. For me, it tends to add meaning, but for me I do consider the role of sunlight as part of the content of my sandwiches, so the preference only exists as long as content and interpretation are separate.

88.

George

October 3, 2005, 1:44 PM

Re #87 The works which typically produce such a potent visceral response tend to be works about which we already have some awareness or greater interpretive understanding. While not absolutely true, it is a good observation on the general case. I would also agree that the "potent visceral response" (my "brings me to tears") is quite rare.

As simple minded as it is, I'll go along with the idea that "content is everything that's there" definition. I will add that in spite of the artists original intentions, "what's there" may become attached to the work by the viewer, audience or culture. This is just a fact of life, the stuff which creates cultural icons. To ignore all the interpretative aspects of an artwork is silly and simplistic. Why would one want to limit ones experience?

89.

oldpro

October 3, 2005, 4:32 PM

Kathleen:

Let's leave the "near religious" and "potent" aside, and stick to just plain "visceral" or direct, unfiltered, unreasoned, immediate, or whatever you want to call it. That is, just going up to a work and getting what it has visually, right there and then. Not thinking. Not "interpreting". No earphones and gallery tapes. No explanatory labels

As an instructor of painting, I do this all day long. As an art lover I long to look at art, familiar or not, just to get the experience. i hunger for it. It makes no difference whether I know the picture or not. it makes no difference if i have seen it in reproduction. Everytime I look at any picture it is new. And sometimes my new reaction will be different from my old reaction.

You assumption what the paintings "we" (please leave me out of it) have a strong reaction to are those we have seen or have been accepted or "interpreted" (good grief!) just means, I assume, that you are so accustomed to talking yourself in or out of paintings without the direct refreshment of direct experience that you actually think that's the way it is and should be. it isn't, not for anyone who really loves art for what it can give us, anyway.

As for Olitski, he is the most underappreciated major artist of our time. That is hardly a "consensus". I would be very surpirised if you did like his work. it probably has yet to be properly "interpreted" to you. ShalI send you some articles so you can make up your mind?

90.

Franklin

October 3, 2005, 4:41 PM

To ignore all the interpretative aspects of an artwork is silly and simplistic. Why would one want to limit ones experience?

You ought not ignore anything. I'm just warning against conflating all experiences in front of art into "content."

91.

oldpro

October 3, 2005, 5:03 PM

No one is suggesting "limiting experience" George, least of all me. I would like to make it all experience.

I don't know what an "interpretive aspect of a work" might possibly be, but whatever it is, I don't think I want to limit that either. In fact, I really don't care what you do with a painting. Use it for a dartboard it you want to. Just don't expect me to say something is "content" if it is not clearly in the painting.

Much more could be added to this conversation if anyone could see our actual relationship with art clearly enough to start thinking about what really happens when a person stands in front of a work and gets a charge out of it, a charge of feeling. and uplifing sense of being in the presence of something exalted. I think an intelligent discussion of this phenomenon might even persuade me to alter my definition of "content." A little, anyway.

92.

AmielThais

October 4, 2005, 1:18 PM

I have always found the discussion about 'content / form / subject matter' to be an interesting one; Invariably, it seems, always, at some level, to get so twisted and convoluted. When I stand in front of a painting, I respond THROUGH my eyes to my gut, which manifests my response (wow!, yuk!),( which is first and foremost the only one response that counts for me). Then, this info goes to my head, where it generally gets worked over during the 'interpretation' process, where it is beaten like a dead horse and turned to mush. Of what little substance is left is mixed in with the artist's tragic life, a huge wall didactic explaining the meaning of all the colors in the picture. and, of course--the footnotes, cross-references and critic's rant on neo-marxist psychology and cave painting......

When I'm looking at a picture, the picture involves one of three things: an identifiable image(s), an image(s) taken from the identifiable (abstracted from), or image(s) NOT taken from the identifiable--or, the non-objective. Regardless of which of these three at which I'm looking IS the content of the picture. Since all three are built on our visual language, they are the function of form. Therefore, the pictre's content is its form, no matter which way you slice it--even if there is an identifiable image in the picture--it is made up of its form.

Tangential to this, is the issue of 'subject matter'. I am a painter, and someone inquires as to what my 'subject matter' is? To my way of thinking, WHATEVER I'm painting (pick one of the above three mentioned), THAT is the subject (matter) of my picture-making, whether the image(s) are identifiable or not. Given this line of thinking, content and subject matter are the same thing.

As OP has said countless times.....1. responding to art is immediate, no strings attached 2. content is simply what you are looking at.......

93.

oldpro

October 4, 2005, 3:02 PM

I like the way you worked over that poor parking meter, Amiel.

I think subject matter is a perfectly useful term to mean whatever we may recognize within the content that refers to recognizeable form, whether a face or a building, or something that vaguely looks like a face of a building, or maybe even a circle or a square. The term probably is not very useful unless it is something the artist is clearly using as such in the painting.

There will usually be no disagreement about, say, red being part of the content, (or you might say red paint), but there may be disagreement about what is recognizable enough to be subject matter, and there will always be someone who will say "My subject matter is the infinite cosmos and the meaning of life", so content will usually have more stability in any discussion than subject matter.

One of my stiudents in writing class this morning stated straight out that a painting she was writing abut was a pictrure of a horse, and we all hard to look at it pretty hard to see the horse. Whether this would be called "subject matter" would probabably demand further assignment or refinement of terms, or maybe just an argument, or whatever.

94.

AmielThais

October 4, 2005, 4:06 PM

OP--I'm not going to assume anything you might have implied in "working over that poor parking meter", except it brings a great image to mind.....possibly an appropriate metaphor.....but, before making the same mistake others have made, I'll simply ask what you meant.

Yes, I agree with your accessment regarding the semantic relationship between 'content' and 'subject matter'.....I personally do not use the later term because I work non-objectively.....if and when I AM asked as to my subject matter, I say that I don't deal with recognizable images, but experiment with the materiality of paint. Generally speaking, I think most artists use the term 'subject matter' as you suggest, but I think one's focus, or subject matter certainly could be 'red paint'......and, the 'content' of the picture.....but, I think you would agree that its certainly not something either of us would want to argue at great length about.....I do concede your observations.

95.

AmielThais

October 4, 2005, 4:09 PM

....the 'latter' term....sorry....

96.

oldpro

October 4, 2005, 4:21 PM

What I meant was... I made a stupid mistake. When i was responding to you I had someone here bitching about parking tickets (I'm right next to our parking lot) and was listening half to her and instead of writing "painting" I wrote "parking meter" and then sent it off without checking. Dumb.

Oh, well, if it brought a great image to mind, as you said it did, maybe there was something gained. I think I need a nap, or a beer or some relief.

I know, having to bring people up to date on what happened a hundred years ago is always a pain in the neck. But it can be worse. I have several times had people desperately finding things in my paintings, like the student who found the horse I mentioned above, when there is no evidence for any such thing, and I know they are just trying to say something positive when they either hate the paintings or don't get the whole idea. it is very uncomfortable.

97.

AmielThais

October 4, 2005, 6:35 PM

OP--'parking meter' certainly gives 'painting' an ironic slip of the tongue, or fingers--or psyche, albeit--apprpr'iate, given the fact that there's been alot of activity on and around the topic of 'form / content / subject matter'...... I thought you might be saying 'every other dog on the blog (sorry, its in me, too) has pissed on this one, you may have well come in and really soaked it, claimed some of the territory, too.......'

Have that brewsky.....

98.

oldpro

October 4, 2005, 6:50 PM

It certainly was a Freudian slip. What I had in mind was how you had described putting that painting through the wringer and I get parking tickets all the time and was just hearing about one so I probably turned the painting into a parking ticket into a parking meter, or perhaps it was something deeper and darker. Who knows.

99.

Matty

October 10, 2005, 1:29 PM

Painting or parking: If you want it to last, you've gotta keep plugging away.

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