Rob Adams a Painter's Blog painter's progress

March 24, 2018

Art for the End of Times

Filed under: Art History,Dorset,Painting,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , — Rob Adams @ 11:11 am

The age of discovery is drawing to a close. The scientific theories are done with, there will never be another dramatic moment of displacement in a bathtub that prompts the cry of Eureka! No fresh and shiny E = mc 2‘s no more 2πr2′s hidden in the woodwork. We will never again discover the unexpected fact that blood circulates, or find out how nerves do their electrochemical tango. There will be no more elements that last longer than a pico second to extend the periodic table. No new languages, no new geometries, we have found it all, made it all. The world of knowledge is perhaps a little like a sphere and we have pretty much mapped out all the continents upon it.

So now we are in the age of refinement, dotting the i’s, looking after the p’s and q’s. We might voyage to new planets, but never be surprised that they were there in the first place. We are encyclopaedia collators, we are indexers, we arrange ducks in rows. We wistfully talk of escaping the box and finding some mythical bleeding edge, but really we are at the end of innovation and at the beginning of a long age of tinkering with infinitely recessive boundaries.

There will be no new art movements, no new impressionists, we have been abstract, surreal and can only repeat the old well trodden expressions, there will be no more new, just warmed over old. Who could have expected human understanding to have grown so fast? We have the jigsaw puzzle on the table and the box is nearly empty. There are only a couple of pieces of sky to go and a bit of sea lost under the sofa, but the picture on the whole is just about complete. We are just a little disappointed that it does not quite match the one with the jolly bearded chap in the clouds that we imagined might be printed on the box!

Should we retire? Is our job done, like Deep Thought in Hitchhikers Guide have we found our 42? Should we become whimsical and quirky, always looking for some brief glimmer of newness to punctuate the ennui? Return to big wigs and farthingales, go mad for Steampunk? Butterfly at being this of that for just a day or two before moving on to paint a prettier flower? The world has enough books, tunes, plays and paintings to amuse anyone for a century or more. It sometimes seems pointless to paint another when there are so many better ones already available.

There is that word, “available” we are drowning in available. If I want to look at Russian painting, clickety click on my key board, and hey presto there it is. Not only that but most of the images are better than the ones you would have got in that 60 quid book 20 years ago, certainly there are far more of them. Affluenza doesn’t just effect material things it effects culture too. In times past you had a music collection… serried ranks of cd’s and Lp’s proudly displayed. Now you can rent any tune for the price of an advertisement. We don’t need collections, I sold all my art books, I never looked at them, they just took up space.

So, I must ask, does it matter? Most of human lives throughout history have been lived without a hint of new. In Tudor times, before the revelatory rush had really got started, it was a compliment to tell an artist that what he had done was almost as good as what everyone had always done before. They had guilds to prevent any possibility of innovation or deviation from the approved way. So no, maybe it does not matter.

Still for an artist today the idea of originality and newness is made out to be of vital importance. How cruel fate can be! We are like explorers born just as the last of the “Terra Incognitas” are filled in and the final “Here be Dragons” neatly erased. We have explored right round the world and met ourselves coming back in the other direction. Fortunately for us the world of ideas is fractal as a fern. We have broadly mapped out the major fronds, but each frond is made of smaller fronds and they too of smaller yet. So perhaps our world is unconfined, I can paint landscapes that make just a section of a part of the serrated edge of our landscape frond a tiny bit frillier.

For what is vaguely known as contemporary art this is a slight problem. Its avowed mission is to find new fronds, to go as Star Trek tells you, “Where no man has been before.” To this end they rush about making submarines out of tyres, piling up things to make other things, incongruity is king. All to no avail though, as, like our explorers who spot a hopeful new shore, upon landing they find footprints of men who were there before them in the sand, already softened by the tide. They have all the time only been filling in a few small wriggles in a coastline already mapped.

What has brought all this on you might wonder? Well the fear of Venice is beginning to set in. The most painted place ever. The most mapped in paint, its every mood, however transient, daubed by someone. There is a veritable Everest of paintings, an unstoppable grinding glacier of topographical art heading my way! All sorts of silly ideas pop up in my head, ignore the famous scenes, just paint dead ends and wheelie bins. Get behind the hollow tourist facade and tell it how it really is. I know of course that reality is not Venice’s strong suit, it is the oldest and most successful Disneyland on the planet.

In the event of course I will go and paint and draw stuff that looks pretty much like what everyone else has painted. I will then put them in my attic as Venice paintings don’t sell in Dorset. They will make a dandy blog post and garner a few ego boosting “likes” on Facebook and I will move on. The real gain will be inside my head. I will have been and looked. I will have observed tricks of the light, embellishments of stone, reflections in water. I will have been immersed in the place and be made a little bit different inside. An extra, hopefully elegant, wrinkle will be defined on my own personal frond. Like painting a portrait, they are much the same, we have been painting faces and bodies for thousands of years, but this will be through my eyes which will be, in the smallest humblest way, a first. Then I will paint Blandford with a little bit of Venice sitting behind my eyes.

Fontmel Down, Dorset, Plein air, oil painting

A bright and breezy morning up on Fontmel Down, I’m not quite done with it yet and might have to return for another bash. I am showing it here with the bottom cropped, but I might reverse that and crop the top instead. It is one of those that has a decent picture in there somewhere, I just have to muck about with it until it gels. 16in by 10in Oils.

Fontmel Magna, oil painting, Dorset, plein air

Here is Fontmel Magna later the same day once the rain had set in. Quite pleased with this one as it is great subject and I managed to get a feeling of the day down. I need to try it again in different lights and a slightly more refined composition. I love painting in the rain, everything is transformed, if only the practicalities of holding the umbrella and such were easier. Though the painting stayed mostly dry, the rain ran down my neck and made my boxers soggy! 14in by 10in Oils.

Gold Hill, Shaftesbury, Dorset, oil painting

A studio painting of the famous Gold Hill in Shaftesbury from the first bout of snow. By the time I arrived here I was too cold to paint any more so just took snaps. Great fun to paint, I mixed up all my tones first as without sun the contrasts were very subtle. With snow scenes it is very tempting to take every area to white which ends up looking crude. 16in by 10in Oils.

Portland, Dorset, plein air, oil painting

Here we are on the Isle of Portland, the snow is gone and the sun is out. This is a great spot on the West side of the island I had not been to before. This was only one of the possible paintings to be done on this spot. The morning was quite misty with the last of the sea fret being dissolved by the sun. The tone of the distance was very hard to nail down. Too light and there was not enough contrast with the sea and sky, to dark and the feel of the atmosphere between you and the cliffs is lost. 10in by 12in Oils.

Portland Bill, Dorset, sea, plein air, oil painting

Are we in Corfu? Is this the Adriatic? No this is the same day looking South from Portland Bill! There was a great vantage point for the waves coming in so I decided a sea study was the thing to do. When people paint sea they often struggle with the fact that it is always the same but always different too. The result is that they impose their imagination upon it and it becomes rather static. My tactic is to get the tones and colours of the whole scattered about but not really resolved. Then I observe each smaller area and do a snap shot study of what is going on. Once done I just watched for a bit before putting a few features that tied the whole together. So the main wave was the very last thing to go in. 10in by 12in Oils.

Hambledon Hill, snow, Dorset, plein air, oil painting

The Mediterranean is gone and the Arctic swiftly returns! Our second batch of snow was bonus and I was determined to paint it. I waited and waited for the light to move from grey to sun before going up Hambledon Hill. When I got there I found the wind and sun had removed the snow from raised areas revealing the scars in the ground left by the walkers ascending to the earthworks that crown the hill. I got completely lost in painting this it had such fascinating contrasts. The snow came in handy too as I could build a level platform to paint from by kicking it in a heap and stamping it flat! Once again I took a deep breath before starting and mixed the key tones before doing anything else. 10in by 10in Oils.

Child Okeford, Church, snow, oil painting

The last of the snow. On my way back the light on the church and reflecting on the remains of the snow look pearlescent and very beautiful. However I was pretty cold and had a very wet bum from sliding down Hambledon Hill so I just blocked the bare bones of the focal point of the view and took a few photos. Thank heaven I did even that small amount as when I looked at my snaps they were just grey with none of the colours I remember seeing! So I had to work mostly from imagination colour wise and there is none of the original lay in left. In the last stages I put the photos away and allowed myself to play. 14in b y 10in Oils.

Next Post will suppose be Venice… wish me luck!

8 Comments »

  1. Good luck! I look forward to seeing what you make of Venice.

    Comment by Pat — March 24, 2018 @ 12:28 pm

  2. Nothing new to discover, huh. In the last day or so I hear of a new method of encoding data using DNA code. The result, apparently, is that the entire internet could be stored in a space the size of an SUV.

    I recall reading of Victorians making similar statements one hundred and fifty years ago. Everything had already been invented or discovered. These new-fangled automobiles will never catch on. There is simply not enough chauffeurs. And as for that electricity stuff Farday is playing with, what is the point, nothing actually useful there.

    Contrary to you assertion I suspect there is lots still to be discovered or invented.

    I have been reading your blog for a couple of years, I agree with, or at least understand, many of the things you write about and I love your painting.

    Enjoy Venice, I have been a couple of times and it is jaw dropinly beautiful.
    Regards,
    Paul.

    Comment by Paul Darlington — March 24, 2018 @ 3:06 pm

  3. Hi Paul, thanks, There are new things to discover of course and as with the DNA and CRISPR cas9 a better understandings of things we already understand in part. This just tinkering at the edges though. Maybe with dark matter some new continent of knowledge will open up or perhaps the arrival of so called machine intelligence will shine a light on the unknowns of consciousness. Knowledge does have boundaries though, only time will tell if the upward curve of knowledge is exponential or if it will flatten. I suspect the latter it seems more likely to me. One of the Cern scientists said he was hoping they would not find the Higgs bosun as that would open up more possibilities and avenues. Best Rob

    Comment by Rob Adams — March 24, 2018 @ 3:53 pm

  4. Genius.I’m sure you’ll be revealing something new in Venice!

    Comment by Robbie Murdoch — March 24, 2018 @ 6:27 pm

  5. Great post at usual. I agree that tinkering is most of what’s left and that the sheer availability of images of all kinds, it just in art, has laid bare the pretense of novelty or ‘importance’ of art. What’s left is tinkering but also may be a more encompassing and enlightened use of what we have. I doubt we will stop using science for nefarious projects or skewing it’s findings to suit our greed and incompetence. I doubt we’ll stop valuing art only if Kanye West says it’s artistic because he wears it in his Murakami designed sneakers. My mission if I choose to have one is to keep looking for what makes living worthwhile, be it art or fighting cancer (for those able to do the research) . So Venice revisited sounds wonderful. May be time to browse Ruskins five books on its stones.

    Comment by Jose l de Juan — March 24, 2018 @ 10:40 pm

  6. Hayden said ‘ old men should be explorers’

    Eliot said that the end of all our exploring will be to arrive at the place we started from, and to know it for the first time.

    I say just go ! Leave all your preconceptions and your self imposed expectations of analysis and reaction and performance behind at check in.

    Nothing, not the best pictures by the best artists , the travelogues, the many and vast tomes of history , can prepare you for your first hour in Venice, perhaps the most extraordinary and certainly unique place in the world.

    By the way, if you can, go and look at the Corte Milion, where Marco Polo lived ( the name is supposed to be a sneer at his endless boasting and reminiscences). I’d like to see what you make of it!
    Bon voyage
    Xx

    Comment by Niobe — March 25, 2018 @ 9:58 am

  7. I enjoyed the snow paintings, as someone who never sees snow (only once, but melting at the end of it’s season), how amazing to see the land transformed and then go through all it’s stages. The reflected light in the last image was magic, and I enjoyed the shadows in the second last image. You’ve built up Venice to be a challenge, I’m intrigued to see what comes of it.

    Comment by Desmond Waterman — March 25, 2018 @ 1:40 pm

  8. Thanks – beautiful art.

    Br Michael
    https://artbylonfeldt.dk

    Comment by Michael — April 18, 2018 @ 2:52 pm

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