A Place For Painting

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I sometimes feel painting has a harder time of things in the art world than other forms of art. Maybe it’s just painter’s paranoia at play. There’s undoubtedly plenty of appreciation out there for great painting as there is for great conceptual work, but there’s still sometimes a little niggling voice demanding evidence for what painting can offer that other artforms can’t.

The place of painting has been challenged since the dawn of photography, of course, and each technological leap forward raises new issues. My obsession with digital
painting app technology over the last two years is a reflection of just how seductive current “painting” software is. Artrage, for example, creates extraordinary virtual textural effects with no mess and no cost. Except in essential sensual and human terms.

Because no matter how good the effect, it’s just not quite the same as fighting with the real-life material. My temporary renunciation of digital work since January is because I felt uneasy and dissatisfied with the easy results.

And when I revisit great painting in real-life, I’m reminded all too forcefully about how much real, physical painting has to offer the human soul.

The current Lucien Freud exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery is a case in point. My contemporaneous notes capture the immediate excitement of my response.

Freud is a master of texture and surface. I love the way he juxtaposes quiet planes with vibrant brush marks. He has no fear of making marks then leaving them well alone. Some paintings show more sign of struggle than others. I like this. Art is struggle.

More than anything, I like the way these paintings exemplify human touch, human experience, human endeavour. I like the way the paintings cannot be satisfactorily reproduced and have to be seen, visited, examined close up and afar but in the same room in order to be fully experienced.

There remains a place for painting. Nothing could be more obvious when you visit this exhibition.

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