Saturday, December 26, 2009

Art: Skill versus Art

Developing skills in drawing the figure and learning all the bones and muscles of the human body; representing volume with the relationships of light, shade and shadow, using perspective as a tool for representing realistic spacial arrangements, understanding color theory, and mastering various art media and much more, filled four years of my undergraduate studio art study. I've recently been viewing artist documentaries through my NetFlix. Two of the documented artists: One still living and in her late 90's is Louise Bourgeous (Update:  sadly Louise Bourgeous passed away in May 2010); and one deceased---Paul Klee. Both artists have been prolific. Paul Klee produced more than 9000 works during his life. Both artists were trained in the academic tradition, similar to what I describe in my own studies above. However, the forms that their work produces and the art for which they are known, is most often not representational nor realistic. What makes art different from skilled use of materials and the representation of reality? I see beautifully executed works by people who are obviously skilled in their craft, however, when looking at them, I don't often see the art. In the case of Bourgeous, emotion and ideas are her driving forces. In Klee's work, he sets up problems for himself using simple shapes and/or relationships of color with the placement of each subsequent mark or color playing off the one put down before. From each film, I note the two artists' own words on creating what is their art:

Louise Bourgeous (Pictured above for her retrospective exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2008)

Louise Bourgeous from The Spider the Mistress and the Tangerine:

"It has nothing to do with the craft. It has nothing to do with the skill. It has nothing to do with the how-to-manage materials. Materials are only materials, nothing more. The materials are not the subject of the artist. The subject of the artist is emotions...and ideas, both."

Paul Klee (Pictured above in his studio)

Paul Klee, from the film The Silence of the Angel:

"To succeed in what you undertake it is essential never to work with a preconceived final image in mind. On the contrary, one must devote oneself entirely to the task in hand. Will and discipline are everything."

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