Archive for March, 2015

[Cont’d: from Introduction: as Provocateur]

We paint & write, tend to marriages & children, work at our labors & callings – with the same care we do our duties as citizens  as ardent Anti-PostModernists.

Better put: we paint & write – and all the rest – as Aristotelians, Thomists, as Hebraist, as Occidental & Orthodox, as Orientalists – that last is a teasing poke at Mr. E. Said’s, now, deconstructed ribs!and as Americans, as west of the Mississippi Westerners, and certainly as Californians.

We declare all that to provoke a correct look about us.

[Side Note: should have added “as San Franciscans!  It’s time – pictorially – to reclaim San Francisco: the once Western, Chinese & Jewish city. San Francisco, the theme of our Historic California Series, and an, almost, character in our novel, Forgiveness Sunday: a Marriage Redeemed in Sutter Creek.]

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THE POST-MODERNIST, OUR NEMESIS

The Post-Modernist – our artistic adversary – should appreciate the above declaration, in view of their own ardent (near religious) devotion to the dogma of Identity Politics.

They should – to be consistent with their prime, all-consuming ethic – extend dignity to our self-declared identity. That is – to use their own wording – our universal right that all and sundry acknowledge and accept our (self-constructed) confession of who we are!

Of course, we don’t quite see it that way! And they, our artistic nemesis, may never give a nod to our dignity!

In putting out a resounding “no” to Post-Modernism are we simply retreading the tired story of Traditionalist against Modernists? Not quite. Yet, our work (and mentoring) pulls into view the culture’s long subliminal doubt about the Modernist Project. This was best put, far back in the Eisenhower years, by the Thomist philosopher, Etienne Gilson [A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts, 1957]:

As consequence, modern painting finds itself in the well-known situation of the revolutionist who, after years of struggling for conquer his complete freedom from certain oppressions, finds himself suddenly confronted, by his very victory, with the much harder problem of knowing what to do with it. If there is a drama of contemporary painting, it is this.

The victory of abstractionism has been so complete that it now takes much more courage and independence for a painter to be more or less representational than to follow the crow of those who find it more profitable to exploit, as their own profit, the facilities of shapelessness. There is no denying the fact: painting is now free. There no longer remains any career to be made by fighting for its complete liberation.

(Painting and Reality, Etienne Gilson; New York, 1957, p.240)

In short, the Modern Project is exhausted. We, though, refuse to be. Our work we rebels against the tired and worn.

The Post-Modernists are ever in the throes of destructing & constructing, forever wary and fearful that what gets made will take root and, ever after, stabilize all their hard earned negations: after all the politicking over souls all their naming and renaming done for naught.

We, on the other hand, gladly work our labors to the bone according to what we received in hand. (We’re not ashamed of having painterly ancestors and forefathers.) We fear nothing but the common human temptation of short-circuiting the work that needs to done.

The tested nature of the craft can be trusted. Confident, we hound and disciple the wish to do well, letting it task our work to the utmost: a task guided by what’s been placed in our hands by all those ancestors and forefathers. We manhandle the craft and our want to do well; they manhandle us. Doing so, the world is better off for all our brushing out the truth: pushing the graphite pencil across the paper, piling up the oils on top of our Hog-Bristle Brush.

Truth eyeballed. That’s the point of what we do, and how we do it. For the sense & feel of it (and a bit of knowing what we’re up to) a perusal of the Series PAGES will do.

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[Cont’d: “On Painting the PROVOCATIVES”]

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Talking of “talk”, we’re speaking of talk that both sustains and expands the public’s attention of our work: the PROVOCATIVES, and all the rest.

Sustains, because the character of any work deepens, improves over time: deepens and improves the good about them.

Yes, the good!  For, like beauty, art, bound to its nature is moral; it makes a bid for righteousness – even when the art of it must detour through the ugly.

Expands, because each painting builds upon the others: even if, at first glance, they may seem unrelated by theme or subject.

In short, taking an Aristotelian clue and a Thomist hint, a good work of art both acts and is acted upon (a nod to James W. Schall).

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Exhibit the first PROVOCATIVES and the public perks up and talks.

Talk gets going, not only because what gets kicked-up and provoked is worth talking about (that’s obvious), but because of the look of it (the way it is pictorially put). In this our PROVOCATIVES will not disappoint.

Yet, provoking & dust-up kicking is not the primary meaning or duty of art. That is never, in itself, the point of it: Provocative Art for the sake of Provocative Art (like crucifixes in piss water).

Art provokes because it is worth the look, a looking-about which is earned by provoking something greater than itself. Truth . Even the ugly – low-down and evil as it is – is compelled to give a nod to it.

Our PROVOCATIVES sweet God we pray – paint-up the Truth.

Painterly purpose copulating with oils and canvas (flesh and vision): the very act of doing grasping God’s finger, the one used to stir up Eden’s dust into flesh.  It is this, the putting of Truth into flesh that gets “talk” going.

Like an image taking to oils on canvas, Truth concedes the need – the very necessity of essence – to be seen and touched. Even love sees the point, incarnating her universality into particular affections.

Truth, like love, yielding to physicality.

Here is the point of it, the purpose of picture-painting: fleshing-out the love for Truth, the Hog-Bristle Brush slap-dapping it onto the canvas.

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The PROVOCATIVES are not sent forth because time’s running out for the Artist, because the Artist, like St. Paul, has come of late!

There’s nothing to make up, no lost years to recoup, no need for panic. That would do the Body of Work no good.

One cannot paint upon a canvas of regret.  No good is had in sending forth works of desperation.  That only gets the truly ugly – this is, the untruth – talked about.

OK, maybe there’s no panic, no excessive grief over wasted time, but there is urgency, a hurrying up.  For we do confess, the PROVOCATIVESas all our works – are broad of shoulder, hairy-chested, and got the balls for the job at hand.

The PROVOCATIVES participate in the working out of our salvation.

Guilt’s not the prod here. We paint up the PROVOCATIVES because they will make good on redeeming misused time: the past saved for the future by the present standing up.

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With the good done – done by the PROVOCATIVES being goodly to look at – our Body of Work sustains a wide, long look-about, each one unloading a glancing grace upon the whole.

Send them forth!

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 © Stephen L. Golay