PAINTINGS OR PICTURES?

Review of recent exhibition of some nature painting with Eilean Eland’s sculpture with some thoughts on the differences between paintings and ‘pictures’.

       

  Eland Blue woman               Meyer Sweetpeas in a blue jug

Having just taken down my exhibition with ceramicist Eilean Eland at RHS Rosemoor, I fell to reflecting on its success (or lack of it) and the responses of some sturdy folk who visited having braved the often pretty awful weather, and have once again come to the conclusion that most people look at pictures, not at paintings.  Let me explain, and I’m not speaking here of watercolours, they are a quite different kettle of fish!

In galleries, paintings are usually scanned cursorily, and not examined or studied.  But let’s distinguish between pictures and paintings: a picture is always a picture, but often not a painting. In other words, the ‘artist’ is primarily concerned with a pictorial effect: something perhaps intended to please the casual eye, or maybe summon up a memory or some other pleasant feeling.

‘Real’ painters may be concerned with this too but something much deeper is going on.  Those who enjoy real painting (verb) and real paintings (noun) will peer deeply into its heart to see the construction, the harmonies, the composition and the sheer physicality of the actual paint itself (the texture and ‘brushwork’.  Herein, I submit, lies real joy and satisfaction.

I stood beside people and showed them the way the work was created: some see it immediately, some get it, many do not or they are simply not interested.  Their interest starts and ends with pictures – the superficial surface effect – there is nothing wrong with this even though I regret it, if only because it means my paintings do not sell very well!

You might be drawn to a picture by its superficial character, a bit like one might find a pop song catchy at first even if it soon becomes irritating.  An awful lot of pictures are like that: you stop seeing them – they become wallpaper.  That won’t happen with a real painting because its depths are infinite and each viewer brings to it their own unique perspective.

In the arts, let’s briefly compare painting, which has prehistoric origins, with more modern media.  To read a book requires investment of time, as does listening to a piece of music, so why is a painting just glanced at?  It  always strikes me as odd because a painting, unlike the other two examples, is independent of time – you can stand mesmerised by it for ages, no pressure.  So why is it that most visitors look at a painting for about 5 seconds?  One study showed that in major galleries, viewers glance at a painting for less than two seconds, read wall text for 10 seconds, glance back at the painting to verify something, then move on to the next.

I’ll leave you with a couple of examples from paintings at Rosemoor to show the detail and texture which cursory viewing misses and leave you decide your own response. Thanks so much for reading this.


Detail of ‘Daffodils in a blue glass’, Oil on cardboard 76 x 53.5cm

Detail of  ‘Barn in a landscape with dancing figures’, Oil on board 35.5 x 49.5 cm

RHS Exhibition and Christmas Greetings

Just a chance to wish everyone a happy time this Christmas season.

Apologies if you’ve already seen this but it’s been such a difficult year, what with losing £15,000 to a building company than went bust after agreeing to convert my studio into a small dwelling and build a new one, I’m not too sure what I have done and haven’t! But we carry on: little money but lots of rain and mud, and good spirits (most of the time).

Thankfully there is always Art and Poetry.

EXHIBITIONx2 RHS Rosemoor.jpg

Please contact me direct for more information and/or visit my website https://richardmeyer.co.uk/index.php/news.

New RHS Exhibition

Barn in a landscape with dancing figures, Oil on board 35.5 x 49.5 cm (1)Barn in a landscape with dancing figures, Oil on board 35.5 x 49.5 cm

Hallo,
Just to let you know that Eilean Eland and myself have an exhibition at RHS Rosemoor in the Exhibition Room opening this weekend, running through till January.

As you can see from the picture at the top, they are not all flower pieces this time, so if you are in or near North Devon please do come along. It would be great to see you, I’ll be there off and on, and if you’d like to meet up send me a note and I’ll make sure I’m there.

Additionally, the Winter Sculpture exhibition is also on and in the evenings there is the beautiful Glow event (see https://www.rhs.org.uk/gardens/rosemoor/whats-on/rosemoor-glow for more details).

Hope you can make it
All good wishes for the Christmas season.

Richard

Long awaited painting

Sunflowers in a glass vase (lr)

Sunflowers in a glass vase, Oil on board

My resistance finally broke down and I tackled a study done after a break of 18 months. This the second attempt; it’s rough round the edges and it’s been a struggle feeling a way back into managing thick paint.

The actual sunflowers had long since expired, so I needed recourse to memory, pre-knowledge and imagination. This is a detail of the painting.

Sunflowers in a glass vase (det2)The only other oil painting done in that year and a half was this commission for a friend.

Rosh on a couch A3 size 2 (2)

Reflections on a Lost Exhibition

Reflections on a Lost Exhibition

I’ve always believed – when younger, without really understanding why – that paintings breathe. Sculpture too. They are the only art forms where there is a tangible link between maker and beholder. Believe me, paintings talk to you! There is nothing in between: no translator, no intermediary, no signer, in short, no interpreter.

bottles-and-brushes-oil-on-plywood-49-x-73-5cm-2

Bottles and brushes, Oil on plywood 49 x 73.5cm

You confront a real painting (I don’t mean on-line reproductions, postcards or even high quality book illustrations) pretty much exactly as the artist did – at the same distance – as he or she did at the moment when (s)he contemplated the finished work and felt content with it. The visual experience is the same: you breathe on it in the same way and it responds. This is demonstrably not the case with music, film or writing for any medium – all of which require an intermediary and very often several or even a team. You are only reading this because it’s been through several machines.

This is all fine but an exhibition of paintings is a two-way thing. A meaningless exercise if one half of the equation is missing. It is unbalanced, there is no conversation. Paintings without people, talk to themselves or merely stare bleakly at each other across the void.

img_0415-3A corner of the gallery

The painter provides the paintings, the gallery provides the space, and both parties promote it as best they can. That’s how it works; the only way it can work. If a painter spends years in oblivion wrestling work out of heart, soul and mind, he can legitimately feel disappointed if the gallery falls short.

This is the second year running I’ve been let down by a gallery. Not tuppeny-ha’penny galleries but pukka ones. The exhibition with ceramicist Eilean Eland suffered from poor gallery publicity before and during the event. As artists, we did all we could: half-page illustrated articles in quality regional and local journals but both galleries did very little. Why that should be must be the subject for another time.  Nevertheless, those visitors who did attend were enthusiastic; words like “stunning”, “vibrant” and “expressive” cropping up in the Visitors’ Book but during most of my attendances, the gallery was often empty. Stairs from the busy shop and café one floor down appeared to be an obstacle too far. To be fair, there was little incentive from the Arts Centre – not the box office, shop or counter – to encourage movement beyond the caffe lattes.

wedding-carnations-oil-on-mdf-46x61cmWedding carnations, Oil on MDF 46x61cm

This was particularly depressing because we were in an Arts Centre and not a café. I felt sorry for my paintings and for Eilean’s terrific sculptures in having little or no human company. They felt neglected. Most artists need interaction with their audience. Imagine live theatre or an orchestra playing to an empty auditorium, or an important football game before no spectators. You cannot expect anyone to be at their best.  In a previous life, I’ve been a cinema projectionist several times, and occasionally had to show films – usually in matinees – to literally one or two aged people. Even though technically it made no difference to putting on a good ‘performance’, it always felt a tad futile.

Sweetpeas in a blue jug, Oil on canvas 35.5 x 46 cms.jpgSweetpeas in a blue jug, Oil on canvas 35.5 x 46 cms

At its most elemental level, art – painting and sculpture – is as much a part of show-business as anything else. People look at paintings to be uplifted, thrilled, enthralled, perplexed, surprised or, if they are of a more educated mind, perhaps technically intrigued. [I will not use the word ‘challenged’ in this context.]

Above are two versions of a Study of anemones after Vassyl Khmeluk. I fell in love with the original of this painting from a tiny reproduction in a newspaper. Khmeluk (1903-86) was a Russian painter who has for me become a favourite (see previous post That loving feeling.  Copying this got me back into painting after my Blighty Girls experience last year (see previous post My dear blighty girls). The anemones remain favourite paintings despite or perhaps because of that difficult time. It was, technically, an intriguing exercise which I hoped might rub off on visitors. Two people did indeed tell me (unsolicited) that they were their favourite paintings but otherwise I noticed little engagement with the more ‘challenging’ paintings throughout September at The Plough Arts Centre in North Devon.

Daffodils in blue glass - horizontal, Oil on cardboard 55 x 76.5cm.JPGDaffodils in blue glass – horizontal, Oil on cardboard 55 x 76.5cm

Since very few people reading this will have got to the show, I’ll include some photos to give an idea of the venue and exhibition. It was an opportunity for me to show some of my ‘still-life’ studies. In my naivety I thought it the most ‘commercial’ of the three exhibitions I’ve had at The Plough Arts Centre, but it’s difficult to sell if no-one much comes.

img_0417The Daffodil corner of the gallery

Are we down-hearted?  Yes, I suppose we are a bit, but no doubt something will happen to buck up the spirits: Carry on regardless (now that’s a film I probably showed once!). Actually, something has come along because I’ve just sold my third painting in 12 months to America without any opportunity of them being breathed upon by any of the buyers. Why Americans seem to like my paintings more than the British is a mystery to me.  A gallery owner in Cornwall last  week said that perhaps it was because they felt French (or was it because of my beret?). I love France inordinately but think I have only two paintings there, and I always feel they are more German than French, but maybe not the still-lifes. Any comments?

Apple triptych, Oil on panel 16.5 x 30 cm.jpgApple triptych, Oil on cherry wood panel 16.5 x 30 cm

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