Amsterdam and The Van Gogh Museum.
As I write this, I have recently returned from Amsterdam. And it was truly a fantastic place to visit. Wonderful museums, great architecture, really good people, very chilled and laid back atmosphere. Well except maybe the roads, which were a bit of a maelstrom to be honest, and took some getting used too! But the primary reason for going was to visit The Van Gogh Museum. Which is a place I have wanted to visit for so long. And, thanks to my brother and his wife, and a very kind birthday present, I was able to visit this incredible place!
Its an incredible museum, with so many of Vincent’s iconic and much loved paintings hanging on the walls. “The Potato Eaters” “Bedroom in Arles” (I believe the one hanging here was the first of the three versions he painted) as well as one of his Sunflower paintings to name a few.And as well as the numerous paintings, where letters to his brother Theo, as well as sketches and drawings.It was obviously crowded, very crowded! But even so, the experience was quite amazing. A really powerful, and emotional one.
What I loved about it though, was trying to imagine in my head, what Vincent would think on seeing the crowds and crowds of people looking in wonder at his paintings. The man who was so shunned by the artworld and most of society whilst he was alive. A man that was way ahead of his time with the art he created. I think personally, despite the great injustice he endured in his life, he would of been so pleased that so many people were enjoying his paintings. And seeing them in the flesh, they emit a real power, a really tangible feeling. He was a singular genius, and I wish I could of met him. And it got me thinking, as I was contacted shortly after my visit by someone through social media, who is also an artist, and who asked me, in my opinion, why work like Vincent’s is so popular. And also why “less life like” painting seemed to be more revered than more realist work? Know whether this is true, is of course a matter of opinion, as is everything in the artworld. But it’s still an interesting thing to think about. And surely we have all heard it said at so many galleries, the old phrase “a child could do that!”
Now I must point out that a child could certainly not paint like Vincent Van Gogh, only Vincent Van Gogh can paint like Vincent Van Gogh! So I will leave Vincent out of this conversation for know. But it kind of annoys me when I hear people say this, and don’t get me wrong, i’m certainly not a fan of every artist that has ever lived. But as I get older, I at least try and appreciate every new artist I encounter, both living and dead. I try and look into what it is that makes/made them create what they do/did. And a little bit of knowledge goes a long way. We need to remember that fashions change, people’s houses change, time doesn’t stand still, and what people were painting 300-400 hundred years ago doesn’t always work with what we want on our walls today. But sometimes the idea or inspiration behind a particular painting can stand the test of time.
I guess it’s just a case of really opening the mind, not just our eyes at a gallery, and the next time you are at the Tate or wherever, and you see a painting that makes no sense to you, don’t dismiss it straight away, take a good look at it, take a good look at the name of the artist, and date it was created, and do some research on them. It’s amazing how it can suddenly unlock a piece of art.
In my own work, I have over the last five or so years, been simplifying my paintings. If i were to go through the work I was doing ten years back, it would appear radically different when compared to the work I do today. I was painting more like a realist,and predominantly landscapes. But over time, like so many painters, you start to move forward and you start to pin down and prioritize the most important element in the work you are creating. And for me, I find know that simple, naive, primitive work, has so much more of an effect on me then more realistic or “life like” paintings. I admire the technique and skills of anyone painting in a realist or hyper realist way. But, for me, it doesn’t stir the soul like say Alfred Wallis or Van Gogh (of course Van Gogh was not a primitive or naive artist). But I find there is something about the feeling you get, it’s deeper than a pure visual satisfaction, it’s something more primal…
And weird although it may sound, I find it more of a challenge to create this type of art. It’s not simply a case of throwing anything down and saying it’s a naive artwork. Just like proper abstraction isn’t a case of throwing whatever onto canvas and giving it a long winded title. There are rules to follow, rules of composition, colour and tonality etc. It still got to “work” as a picture. And although my paintings start of messy and rather spontaneous, they still have to have an element of control and planning. Otherwise you just end up painting complete chaos.
Hopefully next time I write something on here, I will be based at a new, larger studio! So exciting things to happen soon!
Thanks for reading, and do please feel free to share your comments below.