22 september 2015

Kitsch and the dictatorship of abstraction.

Abstraction is about a hundred years old by now. It is not so modern anymore, as some tend to think. And figuration is not always kitsch... as some tend to think.

Piet Mondriaan 1917.

'Composition'. Oil painting by Piet Mondriaan, 1917. (Kröller-Müller, Otterlo, Netherlands)

(Source: 'Tijd en Kleur' Genootschap voor BoekenVrienden Hilversum, 
Catalogue no. 5861/U, in translation:

"Mondriaan: One of the most important innovators of modern art, has been given a place in art history. What he wanted, can best be expressed by the widely used and negative definition of abstract art: An art. neither in its purpose nor in its means picturing things from the outside world.

This painting of the Dutch painter is one of his early works. One can still observe some relationship to the Czech Kupka. Mondrian has not yet reached the Calvinist rigor of his later style. Yet this painting, as an early work and a milestone in the revolutionary year 1917, is remarkable. Here Mondrian uses broken colors, while for his later paintings he uses, besides white and black, only the three basic colors yellow, blue and red, in their purest form. Like in color tables."

Abstraction as an excuse for incompetence?

Abstraction was: "An art that wanted to break through the dusty oppression of figurative art." As in history, innovators stood up again and again to break through the dusty oppression ... of ... what ever was dusty and oppressive... to become dusty and oppressive themselves, later... to be overruled accordingly by something that wás dusty and oppressive, but now seems to be new... We tend to forget.

And now as everybody is making abstract paintings, like everybody makes them, I think a modern artist now, needs to break through the dusty oppression of abstraction... Now, after one hundred years... the force of what everybody does feels like a dictatorship, the dictatorship of what everybody does, the dictatorship of abstraction.

But now... can we still make a good figurative work? Can we bring a 'normal sketch to model', to a successful conclusion? Or has abstraction become a cover up for incompetence?

A friend told me once, with a big smile on his face: "You are not an artist. You can draw and paint." Phooo... what has become of us...

It is about time, that the big words that need to be spoken about a painting fall silent. The painting in itself should not need big words. With words you make a book, not a painting. Art that needs the excessive rhetoric, to impress, to animate and deceive, should alert the spectator, or at least make him laugh. But I cannot laugh anymore about the well spread opinion that figuration is kitsch by definition. This makes me angry. Dishonesty is kitsch. And that can be found in anything.

Is beauty kitsch?  

When I step out of my door in the morning and I see the sun try to brake trough the morning mist... and the shepherd is already out there with his sheep...  This image knocks me down every time I see it... in this beautiful country. This is the image I try to catch in paint... Is figuration kitsch? Is beauty kitsch? Only one little step further... and reality is kitsch.

Sheep in the morning mist (120 x 80 cm) Acrylic on canvas

Lees ook vooral: "De kunstwereld is een zeer machtige religieuze sekte", door Maarten van Rossum.



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