13 August 2019

Velázquez, and the souvenir of youth

I know it's not fashionable in this Contemporary world of Art to go on about feelings and such, but I do anyway, because I can.

Instead of looking at a painting, then feeling it, a Post-Modernist education has us locked into heady thought about its sociological and ethnographical meaning, one far removed from its aesthetic qualities. The context of a work has become more important than the picture itself. 

Art works have braved several thousand years of both the Church and the Academy, yet have remarkably survived these cultural restraints, but just barely. The hand of the artistic act, the original vision somehow survives despite everything.

At this moment in time we are at the mercy of a Post-Modernist educational system more powerful than that of the French Salon in the late 19th century. It teaches young minds to think instead of feel. And the result seems to be that students can analyse art but not conceive it anymore. Worse, conformity reigns as much today as it did in the 19th century. 

I am reminded of all this when I came across the portrait of a young girl by Velásquez. It is a magnificent picture, as alive today as it was when painted back in the 17th Century. Did she perhaps grow up? Maybe not, possibly she died in a riding accident, or maybe she was just married off to an older Marquis in the Spanish countryside somewhere. Perhaps she lived to the old age of 60? I am sure that Wikipedia could answer these questions. But the fact is, though long gone, her image is still here today reminding us that this moment here now, is all we have. Like all art, though not exciting, it is but a souvenir of a moment, but in this case at least, an extraordinary one of great beauty and feeling.

Because I am a painter, I think also of my own Evening Prayers as just souvenirs. Certainly not as extraordinary but full of feeling nonetheless because when they work, (which is not always) they too, become a reminder of the what the sea and sky looked like this night at dusk. 

And like the young girl, this evening has also come and gone, a mere memory, a blip of time. But like waves and young girls, these evenings will keep on coming no matter who is still left there to marvel at them.

Maybe, we have to hit a certain age to appreciate this fact. Maybe too, this is the reason why so many older people walk the beach at dusk.

Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 28 April, 2019, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm

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