Thanks to another reader who recently commented on my current question, how an artist in this day and age can achieve excellence, looking at Durer and Michelangelo as examples. He has added these words to the discussion: ‘inspiration’, ‘determination’, ‘dedication’ and ‘passion’. I like those words. They’re serious and uncompromising. I’m getting the message that there’s a lot of hard work ahead!
So I’ve decided to take a closer look at the work of Sean Scully. He is an abstract artist that has very lofty views of what abstract painting is all about:
“I am interested in art that addresses itself to our highest aspirations. That’s why I can’t do figurative paintings – I think figurative painting is ultimately trivial now.” (‘The Turner Prize’ – Virginia Button, 2007, Tate Publishing)
At the risk of offending all my artist friends who concentrate on figurative work, I ought to say that I agree with Scully. But that might have more to do with the character of the thinking that goes on behind the painting, rather than a criticism of the portrayal of the visible. I mean, the kind of philosophical area that I would want to explore may well be totally different to that which my figurative colleague may wish to explore, and we have chosen our respective genres because this is what we believe lends itself best to the expression of such things. I respect what my fellow artists make, but it would not suit my aims and purposes. I’m convinced that the use of abstraction allows so much more the weighing up of questions, the provoking of thought, and the examination of boundaries. It also allows for what figurative art can rarely do, the opportunity to find visual form for that which has no visual form. It’s invention. It’s exploration. This is why I find the whole idea of abstraction so exciting. It makes me want to make art.
Sean Scully – ‘Figure in Orange’, 2004
I wonder if having lofty views also helps to inspire the artist to reach for excellence. They act as guiding principles, as indicators of the target aimed at, and therefore help to focus attention on the right overall direction. I shall carry on considering Scully’s thoughts in my next post.