Tuesday, September 13, 2005

For many artists and critics, Andrew Wyeth is as much of a punchline as Robert Bateman. Their very success is an affront to the struggle of the artist. They are famous, wealthy, and their art is rooted in idealized images of nature and the past. At least, to some minds.

I'm not so sure.

Are these artists truly trying to hang on in desperation to fantasy landscapes of an unchanging, mundane history, rejecting modernism and progress? Are they hopelessly prosaic and out of touch with the incessant beat of the cultural zeitgeist?


But I still like their work.

I am completely unembarrassed by this. In fact, I don't just like the work of Bateman and Wyeth, I absolutely love it.

I see yearnings for the preservation of something sacred and special : quietude.

What I mean is, they seem to be communicating the simple dignity of nature. The beauty of small lives and big dreams and more importantly, that will o' the wisp that we lose in the noise and confusion of contemporary life. I'm talking about Mystery.

Darkness. Silence broken only by the sound of wind through grass or tree. A distant hoot of an owl, or the screech of an eagle, fierce with the hunt. Dank, rotting smells, hidden under fallen trunks of once mighty trees, and the deepening shadows of an overcast sky.

But lo, there is light. An effusion of light, an orchestra of glinting pearls of sunshine caught in dew drops, or reflected off of whitewashed walls. The smell of the ocean, and dust.

The compostions have more in common with Mondrian and Warhol than with Turner or Constable. They are bold, sharp, unexpected. Complexity hidden in simplicity.

There are those who disagree, and I say...do so! But for myself, I'll not rob my eyes and my heart of such delicate insights and outstanding work.


Patty said...

hi - just saw you from blogs illustrated. lovely work here, deep words ... but i learn something new everyday...
i had never heard/read/known that there were people who didn't like Wyeth or Bateman...

probably rooted in jealousy

Aaron Paquette said...

I think it may have to do with the idea that art is considered a medium of exploration and artists like Wyeth and Bateman aren't seen as pushing the medium. Of course, this is a relatively new concept in our history.

I am of the opinion that art is intended for people, and when you take the language of art and purposely skew it so far that only those who have and eductaion in it can possibly understand your intent, then you have become irrelevant. Not that there is not a time and place for it. I love Mondrian and Miro, etc.

But just because some people are trying to say things that they can't articulate to the common man, doesn't mean their art is any more valid than those who take the job of talking to regular folks.

You might even say inscrutable art is, on a human scale, largely ineffectual. But still completely valid, and with a beauty all its own.

For example, there is a fellow named Graham Peacock who teaches art as a professor at the University of Alberta here. His is an art that explores the physical extent he can take acrylic medium. In this case, it is nothing but concept and ideas that follow more closely the workings of the subconscious than anything else. I dig it. I really enjoy looking at his stuff. But most people really will just say..."huh." and move on.

Many of the artistic elite would dismiss those who don't get it as philistines, but in my opinion, there is no room for that in art or in life.

And so I proudly embrace Wyeth and Bateman.

And...I really like your work, Patty!