Art and the Truth – by Mike Roos
Many ask themselves: What is visual art? Around the end of the 19 th century the rules were simple and easily comprehensible. A painting or a sculpture was to be as realistic as possible to be viewed as a piece of art. Until the colour photography was invented painters and sculptors were partly historians – they depicted what today is history. Due to this we can see and be witness to acts of the past and see how it used to be. The artists of that time were the equivalent to today's photojournalists. Therefore the rules were that simple – a piece of art was to be as realistic as possible and everything that was not realistic was forbidden.
As I mentioned earlier this changed with the invention of photography. Now many artists became frustrated and they lost the motivation to paint realistically, even though there were many good painters, very talented artists – they could of course paint as accurately as a photograph. They felt it was a waste of time. As I mentioned the old artists were also historians, therefore their task was to paint as accurately as possible. This was a very enduring precision task that took a long time, but they were acquired to do it like that, to paint what they saw, even though it took a long time. Every leaf and every shadow on the leaf etc.. Painters today feel it is ridiculous to pursue this technique, especially when one has advanced cameras that can do in one click what used to be one year's work, to paint a landscape for instance. But still there are painters every here and there who paint realistically, in my opinion they paint more for their own ego, because why compete with a camera? There will always be classical painters, but for the other painters, the photography gave birth to a new era in the artist movement. Here a new style of painting was created, this brought about another renaissance, a new period of different approaches to painting. Now what was painted was not what was seen, but what was felt. This was different, now it was possible to tell stories, one could protest, one could make statements. Thus they could speak with their audience and tell stories like the authors do. They did it with colours, in this way they could see one thing and paint another – what they really saw in their own way of perceiving the subject. They could also enlarge whatever they painted; they could add details and tell us more. Painting turned into a language and it became necessary with intellectual knowledge to practice it. I am talking about the birth of the abstract painting. Now the paintings contained more wisdom and philosophy. In some cases the painters worked in a state of self hypnosis – very quickly and unconsciously. They also absorbed and copied art from Africa , India and other parts of the world, it was wild and primitive, but also beautiful, with religious and traditional motives.
Later came the surrealists, who paint in an over conscious manner, like when dreaming. They painted the unknown at the depths of our minds, like a clarified dream. One can say it is like something with no meaning, it does not have any sense, but still it is there. This period was very fruitful for it opened for more interesting ways of painting ideas.
This reminds me of music. Also in music there are many different styles as there is in painting. People are different and they will choose music that suits their mentality and their culture. In painting something similar is going on. With all the different styles there is something for everyone. But something is different between music and painting. When a singer is out of key everyone immediately notices and responds to it because it is annoying, in painting it is easier to fool the audience as the tastes here are more personal. To really understand abstract painting one must have some artistic education and a certain intellectual level. Thus as the abstract painting is more individual and more confusing it is easier to fool people with it. It is therefore up to the artist individually to paint honestly from the heart and to respect the artistic values, that or to live in an illusion and call oneself artist.
Based on what I have said the question still remains: What is really visual art and what is the truth? In my opinion the answer is very simple. I shall offer some examples: If we take for instance a heap of rusty metal boards that have been lying in someone's backyard, they are seen as a heap of rusty metal boards from someone's backyard, but if we take the same heap and expose it in a museum and give it an artists title, then we can call it a piece of art or even a masterpiece. What is the difference here? Let me explain: The difference is the motivation and the artist's perception. If we return to the backyard we find something that is caused by someone discarding old junk. It does not have any purpose and is there by hazard. On the other hand the heap in the museum has been brought intentionally there by the artist and it serves his vision, his expression. In other words: We now have something created by a motivation, by a need to express something, this is what makes it into art. The intention gives rebirth to the heap, with meaning and purpose. If the audience will appreciate it is another question. Some will probably like it, others will hate it. Still this does not change that it is a piece of art as long as it is done by an acknowledged artist who knows what he is doing.
Here we are at the difference between an artist of today and one from the past. The one from the past we can not know the intellectual capacity of. We know that they are excellent reproducers, they see something, and they copy it. This is all very good but it does not require any developed intelligence or intellect. They were naturally smart people who knew what they were doing, but today to make an abstract piece of art, you need common knowledge, artistic training and a keen intellect. Like with the metal boards anyone can apply the same principle as in the example I mentioned. Anything around us can be art, even a chopped down tree lying in a corner. I will explain the difference between a chopped down tree and one that is alive and left standing: Again in the same way as my previous explanation, but with a twist. The tree was chopped down because someone did not want it in his garden, but a living tree is something else, because a living tree is a piece of art in itself. It is a masterpiece from the creator. If you wish to call this God, that is fine, if you call it nature that is also fine, the fact remains that the tree is alive and standing. Let us return to the abandoned, chopped down tree – it is merely abandoned. But it can be brought back to life, for instance by an artist who turns it into a sculpture. Because it is in the hands of an artist the tree will now be considered a piece of art. The artist might even expose it exactly as he has found it lying on the ground and it will turn into something that is a piece of art – again because it is handled by a qualified artist, with claim to the title – because he has studied art. On the other hand another artist may not chose to use the tree as it is, but will carve it and turn it into a sculpture. Let us say that this artist spends a couple of months doing this – the question then is: How is one to determine the price of these two pieces of art? How does one consider art? I shall again go back to the past; it was easier then to judge an artist, as he was purely a realist. A good painter was one who painted exactly what he saw, the price he received was in relation to the time he spent, his reputation and the precision of his work. Nowadays a good artist must first of all possess three qualities: He must portray interesting subjects, the composition must be good and finally he must be able to apply his perspective. If these three are present and the artist has achieved reasonable fame, a good price can be set. But it becomes more and more complicated as time goes; one needs an ever higher level of knowledge and expertise. Therefore anyone coming out of an art school can go ahead and claim to be producing pieces of art. The question for everyone else is whether they want to buy art, and how to find out what to buy. There are various groups that influence the art market: art critics, art dealers and gallery owners. Ordinary people have to trust in these, they decide what is good and not, and what gets to be exposed and not. In my opinion this is very unfortunate – even tragic. The only thing that should not be questioned is the work of nature. Anyone who has studied art has the right to call his work art. This is fair and the artist has earned it by his sweat. But as I have alluded to, the world is uncertain, nothing is absolute. The only thing we can be sure of is that we will wind up six feet under. Accept that certain will hate a piece of work and others will love it, that is a fact of life, the question is whether it is art or not. If it is it deserves an opportunity to meet with an audience. This is like politics, there are always those with influence that control other, this can not be changed. To those who come to an exhibition to find art I can only say that what they will see is probably authentic art, otherwise it would probably not be on display. Before this was not at all a problem, what you saw was always what you got – pure realism. What we have today is the price of progress and modernism.
There are multiple styles of painting. In the beginning of the 19 th century Goya started painting what I call impressionism. Some say it was Eduard Monet, but I consider Goya the father of impressionism and he was the oldest in this group. If you look at his work carefully you can notice how he early broke the rules of pure realism. This style was beautiful – realism, but with a new technique. The way the colours were places makes one feel more energy, one can see things moving.
Surrealism is realism, but it is fantasy realism. There are no rules, one paints realistic subjects that has no meaning. One can for instance paint an apple without gravity – it can be floating in free air. What is the meaning of painting in this way? It has no specific meaning, but yet it has got some meaning that comes from the subconscious, even though the painter can not himself see what is driving him. This gives perhaps meaning to the subconscious.
Expressionism derives from the word expression – it is also something that is immediate, quick – this is what one sees in an expressionistic painting. One gets the impression that the artist was in a hurry when he did the painting, but this is not the case, to paint expressionism one must be a highly qualified realistic painter. Precise lines are abandoned to promote the subject and the composition, therefore one can absorb very powerful colours in an expressionistic painting. Edvard Munch and his contemporaries in the beginning of the 20 th century started off expressionism. Especially after he moved to Germany and he got to observe the work of painters like Kandinsky, Koushnieren and others. Munch tried to combine the styles that he loved – impressionism and expressionism. His favourite painter was Toulouse Lautrec. In my opinion Munch was amongst the best of the expressionists at the end of his career.
In abstract painting one has the liberty to express oneself in an abstract way. An abstract object does not at all have to resemble its subject, it can be made to look like whatever one likes. The most important is the story one wants to tell on the canvas. This is done with lines and colours. One can paint one's feelings or the mood one is in, one can paint joy or sorrow. It is like abstract music, like jazz. You can tell a story that might only be understood by yourself, that's OK, it's your painting, it's individual, but you also share it with others. Let us return to the camera, with abstract painting one is as far removed from the camera as possible. In this way one can do something the camera never will be able to. It requires intelligence and intellect on top of one's personal talent.
The 20 th century gave birth to new styles of painting, but they were really nothing new – they were mixtures of realism, surrealism and the abstract. they have been seen before in other versions. In the fifties in Paris a style of art that was a form of collage was formed. They took elements from magazines and papers and glued them together and mixed with paint. This was good and interesting, new to the period. As we can see it was a century that was fruitful and brought about many advanced new things, it gave many new artists the possibility to come forth with new ideas.
Myself I was fortunate to come up with my own style. I call it nuevorealismo. It is realism, but in a unique way. My realism in my realistic world is not one with black or white people, but people with new skin colours. I make something like an imitation of marble and apply it as skin. To make it even more unique to the person I chose tones of different colours and put them on different parts of the bodies. They become individuals and part of a collective at the same time. They become living, individual marble. This is what is unique with this style. I was very lucky to find this way of painting. I know that many painters around the world would like to do something that is new and unique, but this is not easy, today we experience a mixture of all possible ways of expressing oneself. I am glad and fortunate to have found my style that I shall pursue for the rest of my life.
At the same time as a citizen that is concerned about the global future I will probably continue to paint and use subjects that will help me promote the welfare of the planet. For this purpose I will use any kind of style that will suit the chosen subject. I would like to end this article by wishing the world population that they could absorb the beauty of nature and use it as a catalyst and as a motivation for a long and healthy life.