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Artists of the Future: Who Will Teach Crafstmanship to Them?

May 2, 2014

One time, a regular client - a self-made success in business - commissioned me to make a large painting. He added a most unusual condition.

The client held a strong conviction that I needed to fly to his home on a stud cattle station and see the room where the painting would hang. When I finally agreed, I found he was right to ask, because of the proportions of that room.

However, what impressed me far more was this man's philosophy about art and artisans.

  •     Inside the homestead he'd rescued and restored, every detail of furnishing tuned into the period of Colonial Western Queensland. His family and staff were at their ease with these precious pieces of furniture crafted from now-rare timbers, distinctive marble mantlepieces and fireplaces and fine decorative accents throughout the home.

Then came the surprise.

  •     All were made on commission by master craftsmen he sourced from around Australia. He told me that he'd never buy antiques because he preferred helping these crafts to stay viable, keeping the masters available to teach others.

Up until the last hundred years, artists used a naturalistic portrayal of the local landscape, with all its features of skies and rivers, mountains and lakes, pastures, forests and all the fish, birds and other animals living in them. This traditional style is now categorized as Realism.The dominant feature of all art was the human face and figure.

    Some artists might use an element of distortion to emphasize a particular emotion for the sake of drama, catching the viewer's attention but never sacrificing clarity of meaning. From such paintings, we can understand the mindset of people from times past and track the way our human societies developed, changing the course of world history.

Here's the thing: in order to convince the viewer, the style called 'Realism' requires a high degree of craftsmanship, because anybody knows what a hill, a house, a hound or a human really looks like. They don't know how to draw these things but they know when the artist makes a mistake.

  •     No matter how powerful the idea behind the image, errors in the crafting of an artwork will distract from its message and deflect the audience's attention. As people who can make artwork in the realistic style become thin on the ground, teachers of the craft also die off.

Nobody ever succeeded in writing a truly Abstract novel, much less a history of our world and its peoples. Only the Abstract-Figurative style - most famously practised by Picasso - illustrates forms recognizable to any viewer, without explanation by the artist or an expert in that field.

It seems the only chance for future generations to get inside the 21st century mind will be through records written in traditional style. Our popular Abstract paintings of today will speak to the future, as they do in the present, only about themselves, as artefacts made from chemical and or digital elements.

  •     For me, the better solution is to encourage and support artists working in both methods. When you think about it, Nature is in favour of dualism. Our scientists and engineers create innovations based on Nature, why not our artists?©Dorothy Gauvin

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