Let me show you my best painting secret!
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Eden Rose by Jeremy Lipking
What is it about the art that you admire, covet and ultimately love? Is it the colour? The energy of a painting's design? Very likely it is something more than the sum of its parts. That is the mark of a good painting. But is it relevant?
Representational art has been plagued by this question for too long. Aided and abetted by art academics who have developed an entire lexicon of learning and lore about modern and post-modern art. The result has been the shunning of representational art - at least at the upper levels of the art market. Gifted artists turned their back on the art they loved to produce something that the market demanded. The influence of critics and high end galleries has been significant in this process. Not to mention the spotlight falling on a few celebrity (notorious) artists.
What is representational art? Art in whatever medium that creates work recognisable from life whether of people, places or things. This leaves a wide scope for expression and skill. So too does post-modern work, but perhaps the latter has escaped sharp analysis because it has been more difficult to interpret. Determining real merit has been an issue in this century. Fortunately art lovers are making up their own minds these days.
It is easy to understand why representational art took such a beating from the 1950's. The world was a mess socially and politically together with the threat of nuclear war. There was a lot of angst and for good reason. Has anything changed?
My take on this is that there has been a massive change with the internet leading the way. The sharing of ideas and empowerment of the traditionally marginalised has given the younger generations a greater sense of control over their own destiny. No more corporate ladders and old gatekeepers. Politicians kowtow to social media. Anarchy is just so 70's.
Add to this the rise of the green movement to mainstream culture. Appreciation for nature and beauty is part of this mindset. Health and all things natural lends itself to looking at our real world with new eyes. If you love nature then you will appreciate the nuances of skillful art depicting these subjects. Perhaps a dose of nostalgia adds to the appeal. The appeal of ugly has had to give way to seeking the light. Not to say that beauty means sweet and sugar. Beautiful art can depict subjects of all types.
The rise of representational artists producing sublime work especially among younger artists has added credibility to the genre too. Artists like Jeremy Lipking, Peter Van Dyck and Ben Fenske for example have brought new energy to the art world.
Recently there was a significant convention in the US , The Representational Art Conference held in California to debate this very topic. What does the future hold? Who knows, but one thing seems certain - representational art is back and collectors across the spectrum are looking for beauty once again. That is a good for all of us.