Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Time for reading. Burne Hogarth speaks (part2)

The special word art is a sacred temple, a mysterious inner sanctum of artistic pursuit, where magical intellectual powers interact with primordial outpourings of the irrational subconscious. Paraphrasing Thucydides, who has put it abruptly: When common, everyday words lose their definitions and meanings, there is a general crisis in a given field.
To go further, when art terminology has lost its power to convey sense, idea, or meaning of art expression, then the artist, the art field, the whole cultural endeavor, is conflicted, confused, and disordered; it becomes a chaotic wasteland, a lost continent of the culture.
The net result has been to let loose a carnival of art dilettantism and chi-chi art sophistication concealed behind an imposing front of synthetic rhetoric, aesthetic lyricism, and emotional bathos. The state of art today is such that it can now be performed by tyros and amateurs with virtually no study, preparation, or training. In galleries and exhibitions, the amateur aesthete can now compete on equal terms with the seasoned, knowledgeable master with such facility that hardly anyone, frequently not even art connoisseurs and critics, can tell good art from bad art, amateur art from professional art. When the quest for brevity and simplicity has been reduced to infantile primitivism, we have lost the validity of concepts; when the creative urge to reveal life has been distorted into a wayward surge of undirected energy, we have lost control of direction and experimentation; when the search for clarity and order has been diverted to piecing out a meaningless jargon of amateur misbehaviour, we have lost our artistic heritage; when the need for definitions, standards, and criteria has been seduced by vacuous emotional mumblings, we have seen the perversion of the philosophy of art and aesthetics. When the artist has surrendered his status, his authority, his principles, his professionalism, then the amateur has taken over, and the jungle is upon us.

The problem of the amateur in art is really the problem of the artist in society.
To say that the amateur has invaded the arts, and that the fine arts are becoming an amateur art, is to say that the artist has defaulted in his obligation to the social environment.
But this view alone does not face the issue squarely, for it would force the conclusion that the artist alone is responsible for the neglect and deterioration of art. To say that the artist has rejected the norms of living, has removed himself from society, has turned away from reality to promote his inner personal image of life and art-for-art's-sake isolationism, is to say the exile prefers the desert, the suicide enjoys cutting his veins, the tortured man relishes his anguished cries for help. In truth, these are but the pathetic attempts of the withered, truncated man to become a whole man. The issue at hand is really a dual problem; it is not only the artist's inbreeding and involution-it is also society's forced estrangement and neglect of the artist. If there is a crisis in art, a disintegration of its moral fiber, a decay of its historical precepts and philosophical virtues, it is because society first has disavowed and disabled it as an intellectual resource, a cultural necessity, a social and educative force. It has refused its permission to be integrated with the technological, scientific advances in our time, except as a utilitarian, commercial, ancillary art. To engage a solution on this basis needs a moral reawakening of society and a conceptual reworking of art.

The reestablishment of self-control in the artist and social respect for art devolves on creating again a new dualism of art and science in the twentieth century. The obscure terminology must be clarified and attached to commonly shared associations; personal values must be defined according to generalized experience; the personal subjective purpose must be widened to embrace the broader social goal. The immediate and urgent necessity, the first order of the day, is to redefine the old word art. The clichés, the nonsense, must be stripped off. Art must have a new interpretation, infused with new meanings and values, in order to find its equal place with other positive cultural pursuits in our time. It must mean as much to the population as medicine, surgery, bacteriology or physics, engineering, architecture-or steak, mashed potatoes, apple pie. It must be executed so ably and understood so well that it will stand strong and firm as a skyscraper
does when it is done well-or it will collapse in ruins when it is not. Art must be refined into a critical intellectual tool to meet these challenges. New cutting edges must be given to the old "saw," fine-honed and sharp, diamond-hard and tough , to stand up under the friction and abrasion of life. To be "art," it should be made responsible for communication of its ideas and concepts; it should reflect the life and times of the artist, his integrity, his ethics, his democratic ideals in the progress of man; it should show his developed skill and judgment in projecting significant, expressive form; it should reveal invention and originality in transmitting the aesthetic experience; and, above all , it should arise out of the environment, the social-human-scientific culture base as the controlling factor in its creation.

This does not mean that strictures or rigid conventions must be placed on the artist; nor does it say that experimentation or freedom in personal expression should be curtailed or abrogated; nor does it propose that there is only one way of seeing the world around us, one outlook, one style or method of approach. It does not ask the artist to obey or be subservient to any fixed rule, regulation, dogma, or tradition. It does not set up absolutes of authority, or impose conditioned reflexes of conformism. However, it does ask the artist to respect and rely on the positive norms, values, and traditions that still operate and still function in the study and preparation of the artist, that still apply in the cultural background of modern art creation. These should be seen as the educative resource, the imperative precondition for the survival and growth of art.
Socrates, we are told, attempting to probe into the nature of law, speaks of the laws of men as a response to the social pressures that arise out of human conditions in the natural environment. And therefore, he argues with penetrating insight, to understand the nature of law we must first understand the law of nature. The liberating principle of art lies precisely here, in the Socratic approach to the conjoined relationship of two mutually attracted, interacting forces-man and nature, nature and man. This synergistic principle, if we can refer to it as such, argues for a relationship of ideas, in Toynbee's words, in a context of challenge and response, response and challenge. It seizes upon diverse attitudes of thought, probing for intrinsic attributes of contraction and expansion, refinement and extension; it enlarges the field of intellectual vision, and refines the area of critical judgment; it tends to limit subjective bias and mental myopia.

If we apply the principle to one of the central problems of art, the presence of the amateur in the fine arts, we might uncover these provocative correlations: To understand the amateur of art, we must first understand the art of the amateur; to recognize the professional of art, we must recognize the art of the professional; to explain the presence of the amateur in professional art, we must explain the presence of the professional in amateur art. Suddenly, the critical questions rise to the surface: In how many ways is professional art an amateur art? Can professional art be easily imitated by the amateur?
The way is open for other challenging assertions. For instance, that much-abused old habit, skill: To discover the skill in art, let us first discover the art in skill. Or: To ask where the old traditions are in modern art, we must first ask where the modern is in the old art. This is not a mere game of idea inversions or word juggling. If it were, the new statement of ideas in reverse would not be so sticky with uneasy, astringent meanings that quickly leap to mind. Nor is this a conclusive demonstration posed as an answer to the problems of art. It is an exercise of reason, an analytical approach in the examination of hitherto unassailable notions. It might be seen as the first incision in cliché and slogan surgery to arrest the deterioration in art.

A new dualism of art and science, if we can agree on the premise as indispensable to art today (as it was in the Renaissance), must again seek to introduce commonly understood criteria and standards. We must re-establish certain major links with the past as historical background, consistent with art progress today. We must incorporate the old traditions that are still viable, still alive today. But which are the living traditions and how can we be sure? Let us apply the synergistic principle and make an incision.
Our civilization is predominantly an advanced technical age of science. It developed its abundant greatness from earlier civilizations and beginnings. Now, a question: Where do the earlier civilizations appear in the modern age of science? We must first ask, where does the modern age of science appear in earlier civilizations? The answer seems clear: in those civilizations that have made scientific contributions. The reason we search out the older civilizations, and attach their findings to ours, is a scientific reason. This is true historically for our humanist-democratic institutions as well.
Therefore, the answer to the older traditions in modern art lies in the context of the larger framework; those old art traditions that tend to live on have survived for a humanist-democratic scientific reason.
Where modern art has precisely been interested in the art of the world's cultures, across the seas and in the past, is the human reason, the scientific reason. But it has done this willy-nilly, capriciously, driven by impulse rather than direction. It has chosen, through uncritical acceptance of the nineteenth-century artists' hostility and rage against the anti-libertarian French Academy, to continue the disparagement of the scientific, human anatomical figure as a sterile, mechanical, academic regression in art. It pronounces anatomical man dead in art. Anatomy as a rigor, a discipline in the refinement and skill of art, is debased in practice, study, and education. The word anatomical is today a term of contempt, and is made synonymous with "academic" in art circles. The rejection of the anatomical figure as a control has weakened the supportive structure of art, and one after another, scientific criteria are torn loose and discarded. The attempts to attach "new science" in art are essentially peripheral, tangential, quasi-scientific, makeshift concoctions; partially realized, fragmentary developments. Art, by these new values, has become the undisciplined arena of the romantic delinquent and the playboy amateur, while the hard-working professional fights for his life. And, sadly, the term modern in art is the target now of the unconcealed contempt and scorn of the population.

Because this polemic underscores the need to return to rational definitions of the entire nomenclature of art and the reworking of substantive new standards, the return of the human anatomical figure to the lexicon of art is a major condition toward the establishment of a new dualism of art and science. The premise of the human figure does not propose a restatement of medical anatomy. To rediscover Vesalius is no twentieth-century triumph; Vesalian anatomy must be given back to Vesalius. An advance in anatomy for art must be made in artistic anatomy. Muscle and bone structure must be left off where they inhibit or destroy understanding of surface form, artistic and expressive form. The anatomical figure of art must make a contribution to the dynamics of the living figure, of interrelationship of masses in motion, of insights into the figure to be used by artists and students of art, not medical students and surgeons. Because life today is so complex and varied, multiplying its dimensions with every passing day, the sincere, creative artist must be quick to react with keen insight and increased awareness to the changing profile of contemporary life. Because he must show versatility, flexibility, and diversification in experimental behavior, he must base himself securely on the human root, the warm kinship of his scientific brother, the consanguine association with the larger social environment.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Leonardo's drapery studies

Someone was telling me:
"Creative ability is not something we are born with, the desire to create is. The desire to create is nourishment for talent."
It sounds and it feels so true. The road towards our artistic goals (can't find a better word for the fire that burns inside the artist) requires a lot of work. And it all starts as "low" as drawing flies and hands and feet, again, and again, and again. Until something clicks inside, until the hand blends into and becomes the hand of observation, control, passion, all in one, all at once.
Here's an example of Il Maestro's "doodles". I sincerely believe that many artists today could paint and draw like Leonardo Da Vinci but for that, one needs to go through him and then, ahead. If you know what I mean.

Leonardo Da Vinci drapery study 
Leonardo Da Vinci drapery study 

Leonardo Da Vinci drapery study   
Leonardo Da Vinci drapery study   
Leonardo Da Vinci drapery study 

Leonardo Da Vinci drapery study   
Leonardo Da Vinci drapery study 

Leonardo Da Vinci drapery study 

Leonardo Da Vinci drapery study 

Leonardo Da Vinci drapery study 

Time for some reading. Burne Hogarth speaks


 (part1 of 2)

At 10 o’clock on any day of the week except legal holidays, the typical art museum anywhere in the country is open for visitors. The entrance hall usually leads the average aficionado of art through a series of galleries in orderly progression from one imposing collection to another, presenting the visual history of civilization, the drama of the human mind. As far back as man could reason, his works are there: evidence of the Neolithic, the dawn of civilizations, the antique remains of dynastic power, the classical traditions, the intervening lines of humanist development, the Renaissance and Baroque flowering, to the most recent acquisitions of modern and contemporary art; they are all there, more or less, in periodic array.
As he progresses leisurely through the halls, the visitor is led through a process of transitions in the ages of man. He is hardly aware of the changes, yet their impact, gradual and moving, is not lost on him. He correlates the concrete visions of the past into a stirring processional of events.

As he reaches the modern age, his eye is delighted with the radiance, the luminosity and joy of impressionism. Yet he is vaguely disturbed by its unmannerly sketchy appearance, its random spontaneity, its lack of finish, its seeming amateurishness.
Then, as he crosses the threshold to the new art, to postimpressionism and beyond, deep into cubism, expressionism, abstraction, and surrealism-their derivations and deviations the alarm bells begin to ring in his head, the sirens and the fireworks go off, and our aficionado of art-who is not a snob, by the way- is left in a morass of helpless confusion and dismay. The even tenor of his mood is disrupted in the colorific visual violence, the aesthetic assault from the walls. The simple progression is gone; the contact with life is demolished in a pyrotechnic profusion of unrecognizable fulminations.

In the art of the past, there seemed to be no line of visual expression our visitor to the museum could not follow. No matter how far back, even to Palaeolithic cave art, he could trace the thread, the primitive urge, the historic need, the humankind. At times, the line stretched thin and tenuous; at others, strong and firm. But always it was there for him to see, a long unbroken line of human succession, linking a vast reach of time, twenty thousand years of change. Now in his own time, in the day when the visitor and modern man have arrived at a new age of invention and discovery, recognizing the demand of every human need and the promised fulfilment of every human dream, the historic line of art communication in human understanding, imperative now more than ever before, has broken down. The new art that thundered down at our receptive visitor to the museum is filled with an eclectic diversity of forms-biomorphic, kinemorphic, psychomorphic, mechanomorphic-all of them intensely personal, subjective expressions of inner states of being. The figure in art, the highest expression of man's visual creative powers, the subject of twenty thousand years of painstaking search, has been reduced to a number, a cipher, an esoteric symbol, a kinesthetic impulse driven by a primitive-emotional urge. Today, the anatomical man, for all artistic purposes, is dead.

Art, in the mid-twentieth century, is in a period of critical transition. We are seeing today an extraordinary concentration of effort and energy in the visual arts never before experienced at any time in history. Never has there been so widespread an interest, never have so many individuals participated actively in its creation. Never have we had so much contact with art of all kinds-art from the dim reaches of time, art from across the oceans, art of primitive peoples; art from the past great eras to the modern era; fine art, commercial art, industrial art, technical art, experimental art, psychological art, leisure art, amateur art. It would appear we are seeing a great new Renaissance in visual art, for in the volume of art creation we are witnessing a cultural phenomenon of the first magnitude.

In the frontiers of knowledge and culture, art may be said to be in its heyday of exploration. The exploratory fervour of the sixteenth century, using new logic, new mathematics, new science, opened the unknown areas of the world to commerce and physical contact of peoples and brought out a treasure of artworks to the Western world, which only now, in the twentieth century, is being experienced by artists in our time. Like the riches of the East in an earlier day, this influx of art is beginning to be seen, felt, and assimilated. The day of global exploration is accomplished. Now has begun the day of cultural exploration, some five hundred years later. Yet never has there been so much confusion in the arts as there is today.

The twentieth-century artist appears to be in a state of conflict and disorder. He has a world of art to explore, yet he shows no purpose, no goals. He seems to have lost his sense of direction as he ranges across the uncharted art frontiers. He has rejected the compass; he has thrust aside standards, criteria, definitions; he has renounced science as a tool in the discovery and development of art. He has rejected the human need to relate, to communicate the results of discovery.
If we recognize it is the mission of science to define with clarity and precision the workings of the universe, to relate with order and harmony the new concepts of time, space, and energy into new and better ways of life, we reach the conclusion that science is the most powerful instrumentality in the progress of man. To the artist, however, science is considered an invasion, a hindrance, a stricture upon his free and personal interpretation of the world. He sees the scientist as an intellectual instrument-precise, logical, mathematical, mechanical. He sees himself as a sensitive organ of feeling, emotion, inspiration, and intuition. As a result, the artist rejects science and scientific thinking in the projection of art. Art to be pure, he reasons, must be devoid of science; feeling is not precise; emotion is not mechanical; inspiration is not logical; intuition is not measurable-the artist is no scientist. Attempting to distinguish the work of art from other works of life as a refinement of cultural endeavour, distinct and separate from the ordinary and commonplace necessities, the artist has in effect said that science prods and pushes with the workaday things to build a better mousetrap, while he, the emotionally endowed aesthete, represents the inspiration at work, the filtered aesthetic reflex of society, the fine arts. It is a neat trick of turning the tables; the bohemian wastrel and garret outcast, through intellectual legerdemain and bootstrap levitation, has become an individual of a pure kind. In this state, he raises above plebeian strivings to a position of sophisticated recognition and social grandeur, and from this remote pinnacle surveys the marketplace mediocrity below.

How devastating and destructive a view this is can be gauged by the fact that in every other area of modern life, in every field of endeavour, science merges easily, compatibly, productively-except in the visual arts. Only here is the view held- by artists of all idioms, indeed, the whole of contemporary society-that science and art do not mix, that they are mutually contradictious, irreconcilable. Yet this is a distortion of the truth, a delusion, a self-imposed deception, a retreat from life.

The dislocation of art and science has never been so apparent as it is today, almost a hundred years from the time it first revealed a disturbance in the continuity of art communication. The impressionist rebellion, the last flower of the humanist spirit of the Renaissance, still exhibiting its attachment to scientific precepts in its spectral light and its recorded observations of the momentary life of the people, their work, recreation, and leisure, was too weak a movement to triumph over the entrenched authority of the regressive French Academy. When it withered and died after twenty years of frustration and social exile, the deep space of the picture plane became a barren shell; the landscape closed down into a two-dimensional decorative pattern of shapes; the vibrant pulsating figure, the human analogue, shrank and hardened in to an artefact, a constructed intellectual object; the artist's emotional power and insight in human affairs subsided into symbolic outcroppings of tenuous moments of excitation, apprehension, or despair.

In their seizure upon the "immediate" and the "personal," the followers after the impressionists disengaged themselves from every known principle of spatial structure and design. They withdrew from earlier concepts of form, value, color, and image. They worked toward the total rejection of the Academy. In their hatred of the "academic," they extirpated the scientific legacy of art, carefully nurtured and marshalled over fifty centuries of historic development, and erased it in a short span of fifty years. In their need to rebel against the "academic", they rebelled against science. They proclaimed the distinction of the "fine arts" and gave it to society as a new description, uniquely different from academic art or the utilitarian commercial art. They presented to the entire contemporary generation of society and the artists who followed the doctrine that "art" was above scientific discipline, above definitions and criteria. The need to communicate in art, to be responsible for the exchange of art experience in to human experience, was considered to be an anachronistic demand of aggressive academic vulgarity, and was held beneath contempt.
The rebellion against the "sterile", the "mechanical," the "academic"-truly a human cry of anguish- had become a distortion and a delusion. The fine artist had turned his back on reality. He became an incoherent high priest of good taste, an absolute arbiter of egocentric mirror-image art, a melancholy, involuted microcosm turned in upon itself to an inevitable dead end.

Yet the impulse to art is unquestionably the impulse to life. The art process and the life process are an indissoluble entity. The components of one are the components of the other. They may be uneven, but never alien; they may be out of joint, but never out of union.
The need to create, to synthesize experience, is a primal force in art. Because it is the distilled essence of perception and experience, art needs its adherence to life. But the work of art of today needs, more than ever before, the energizing transfusion of commonly shared experiences. It needs a conscious agreement with the cross-fertilizing, wider empirical objective.

Artists of today stand at the crossroads of immense opportunities and possibilities.
What they have discarded earlier in the scientific discipline of art as academic, inhibitory, and repressive of free expression they now substitute, strangely, with new science! In their search for a new basis of art without restraints, they lay hold on the world's storehouse of art, which they now have a t their command. They feel the impact of new scientific fields and attempt to resolve these in visual terms. Virtually the entire gamut of human and social discovery, scientific and technical advances have found their place in the free interplay of the design structure. Never in the entire history of art have so many variations of art expression occurred in a single given era. The range of concepts and movements is truly enormous; even as this is being written, new ones are being born. The listing of a few at random is to indicate the multiplicity of reactions to the technical-scientific-analytical age.
Thus, starling with impressionism, we have: pointillism, neoimpressionism, postimpressionism, fauvism, cubism (analytical and synthetic), expressionism (three schools, perhaps more), Orphism, surrealism, abstraction, Dadaism, futurism, nonobjectivism, neoplasticism, constructivism , purism, Bauhaus, primitivism, social realism,
dynamism, abstract expressionism, abstract surrealism, mobiles, stabiles- and on and
on, et cetera.
The list seems endless. In these definitions can be seen some of the descriptive leads to the larger environment of the age, where the art form has attempted to embrace psychology and psychoanalysis, natural history, biology, chemistry, physics, kinetics, mechanics, engineering, archaeology, anthropology, microscopy, telescopy, etc. In the fission and fusion of two-dimensional space, the artist uses science pragmatically, experientially, without whole concepts. Nevertheless, it forms the basis of his art. But it is not a complete art. For, in the practice of it, the artist simultaneously rejects the existence and influence of any scientific rigor, control, criterion, or standard. His art, perforce, without objective direction, releases a welter of exquisitely personal, eclectic minutiae.

If we quickly scan the art horizon and examine the amazing output of art today, we find endless experiments in textures; inconclusive shapes, masses, forms; positive and negative space; tensions of line and mass; contrasts in color; line variations; eclectic working together of art old and new; cell structure; automatic writing-endless, precious, purist variations, powerless to come to grips with itself, to proclaim any direction or value judgement for others. The figure in art-always the touchstone of the art of any era-has become the visual admission of the artist's failure to cope with the ethical-moral, social-human needs of our time. It is a symbol of dislocation and depersonalization; the ideograph of the alienated man, insecure, lonely, without fiber; the portrait of the artist, the autograph of the author.
Probably the most disturbing phenomenon in the art of the current century, a result of the dislocation in the dualism of art and science, is the profoundly pervasive indifference of the whole contemporary generation of artists to formulate a clear-cut definition of art itself. The obscurantism, the evasive arguments and denials, the lack of any direct, forthright statement, is evidence of a deep-going crisis in art. With the exception of a few scholars, nowhere in the field of art has there appeared a challenging assertion to say what art is in our time.

In the social arena of modern living, the most engaging diversion is the extensive practice of generalized and personal analysis. Because we live in a technical scientific-analytical age of calculating machines and statistical truths, we respond to the powerful pressures of analytical behaviour-to define, to clarify, to identify. It is a great game of analysis; dissection and decortication of the underlying mechanisms in every segment of the social structure, from psychoanalys is to social surgery. We practice the analytical game everywhere except in the fine arts. Here, in the arts, the emotional fog rolls in , intellectual inertia overtakes us, and the cultural swamp remains undefined, unexplored.
Words like style and taste have no clear meaning except, perhaps, in commercial usage. And the special caste terminology- feeling, intuition, inspiration, perception, creativity--are ritualistic ceremonial expressions of artists, undefiled by simple definitions except in the laboratories of clinical psychologists.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Pietro Benvenuti

I have recently "discovered" this painter in Rome, he is a friend's great-grandfather.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I don't want to be challenged

I was planning to write more on the blog than I have done till now.
I’ m not sure people read blogs, though I see they enjoy images. Nothing wrong about that, I myself am image-reverberating quite a lot. No surprise I’ve been in the position of producing images of some sort most of my professional life. (just turned 50 some days ago!)

However, writing helps me order ideas, put them in a new perspective, and reading brings me in someone else’s head, which is great!

This blog is meant to showcase my work, my artistic affiliations and to promote the idea that drawing a man (by a male artist) can reflect not only on the artist himself but on the times he lives in. These days men should be able to pull their pants down and be proud of their body, regain the virile symbol of the erection and not be afraid of looking at another man’s nude because they might be labeled as perverse.

I am at the beginning of my drawing and painting career but I hope my drawings will be, apart from beautiful and joy giving, a conversation a man can have with himself.
Women often complained that men depict them in art from a male point of view. Duh! Not far from the truth is my belief that a male artist who avoids staring another guy in the cock will represent a man in a biased way. The result will tell more about the artist than about the subject.

Farnese Gallery in Rome

Anibale Carracci did this