I consider myself to be fairly art literate, especially in the domains of Modernism, Australian art and contemporary art. This is an essential part of my job as an art teacher: I need to be able to pass on my knowledge of art movements, styles and particular artists to students. But why should it matter in my art practice? Why is it important to interrogate my guiding lights – my inspiration?
I believe this is important for a variety of reasons:
- Nothing is new in art*. This was drummed into us at art school (hey, I’m a product of post modernism!), and nowhere is this truer than in painting, especially as painting is meant to be DEAD (which I don’t believe for one second!). [*Which really means there is nothing new in terms of style and technique in the traditional art mediums of painting, drawing, collage, sculpture etc. Digital media draws on these traditions of course. The growth of new technologies will create new ways of working (technique and style) over the coming years I am certain.]
But why does this matter?
- As artists, we need to be able to articulate why we do what we do. Why we are interested in dogs and horses as subject matter, or why we completely eschew subject altogether in favour of completely non-objective painting or sculpture. Our use of art techniques, art elements and media is intimately linked to our values, our interests, our sense of the world, and our place in the world.
Essentially, it reflects who we are, and ultimately, and that is only what can really be said to be ‘NEW’ in art: the subjective, individual voice particular to the specific cultural framework it is located within. (Contemporary art, by definition is always ‘new’ for this very reason). A voice that hopefully, resonates with others, pointing to some kind of shared experience expressed through the visual.
- Plus, it is so much fun to delve into the massive, overflowing suitcase of influences we hold as artists, from the irreverent to the serious. In my case, it is a bag seriously overflowing with colour, play, joy and human pathos. I look forward to opening up this suitcase and dusting off its contents for you over the next few weeks. Stay tuned!