The Thinking Behind Doug Lowe's Fine Art
What I was trying to do, without actually drawing the subject which was usually a person or animal or mood was to represent the essence of the subject in colour whilst using form to enhance the effect of the colour. It was a betrayal of my principles to wander into the domain of realism. The challenge was to communicate that essential mood or character without a photographic representation.
When I look back on the short total span of my work, counting only the years when I actually painted they number 7 in Manchester, one and a half in London and a year and a bit in Johannesburg, I have come quite a long way.
Unlike most artists, who in taking a conventional artistic education, start by learning to draw and only later venture into colour, I chose to learn art through colour and in the end was dragged into learning to paint figuratively only because I found I could not express myself fully and eloquently without the use of figuratuve forms.
Critics have said that I have no direction because my art is so varied. The explanation is simple.
For my artistic inspiration, I have the whole world of life to draw upon ranging from that of an amoeba which would be very simply portrayed in virtually flat monotone (a blank canvas with a few flashes of light in it) to something with hard edges and colours like an Oldsmobile car and finally to the complexity of the infinite variety of colours and shapes of human from babies to geriatrics. I have the universe of life to explore and I explore it.
Why restrict yourself to painting the characters of insects or amoeba when you have a universe of characters to call upon. That is the road to boredom and instant recognition. Art critics (Emperors without clothes faction) only feel secure when you say the same thing over and over again so they think you really believe in what you are doing, So it must be good even if it only expresses the character of an amoeba a 1000 different ways. Yuk!
One of the problems facing the serious fine artist as commentator is that the photographer has hijacked the artistic high ground. It is he(she) who through clever technique fully expresses the beautiful curves and subtleties of the human body. It is he who captures better than the brush the exquisite detail in the feathers of a tropical bird. It is he who captures the moment of horror and anguish in the face of the dying soldier or the exploding car on the racing circuit and the terror of the spectators or the footballer in his moment of triumph on scoring a goal. It is he who sees the tiny claws for grasping the web on the feet of the spider and brings them to us. How can we compete? Well we can.
For one thing, photographs are "soft" copy. O.K. they can be replicated. Paintings are "hard" copy. They perform a somewhat different purpose, particularly one of durability. Also, paintings have the added dimension of texture and sometimes relief and therefore can be more desirable as wall hangings
It is in the face of this power to express so perfectly, so super realistically that the artist might be forgiven for saying: "What is left for me to say?" How can I say it better or differently. He is at a loss for words so he paints blank canvasses with blank paint and says blank nothing. Or he might resort to sensationalism to say just so much more of nothing of enduring value like swathing the Kremlin in cloth. What is the merit of that? What does it mean? This art is by its very nature transitory and by its very nature meaningless and furthermore pointless. These artists are telling us that everything is meaningless. Of course we know that, so what is the point of rubbing it in and repeating it. We are not stupid. They are both patronising and stupid. They are conning those willing to be conned including themselves.
It is the very meaningless of everything that compels man to create meaning and order out of it all. It is our job as artists to inspire, to provoke compassion, wonder, awe. It is our job to exalt in the beauties about us, to marvel at nature's creations; to dig out meaning and beauty from the chaos and emptiness surrounding us. The artistic genius is he who sees beyond the now, the superficial, who delves deep and who extracts wonderment from the viewer. That is enduring art. That is what survives down the ages. That is what survives the test of time. Kremlin swathes and animal picklers are their own judges and jury and they bury themselves quickly, a just judgement..
It is our job first and fundamentally and our duty to record for posterity our life and times. For if we do not we will be castigated by our heirs. We can and must do it through our art. We cannot leave it to the "what you see is what you get" world of the photographer.
Photographers have never questioned the artistic principles commented on above. They have never suffered from self analysis or questioned their medium. They simply got on with the job of looking, commenting and preserving. They have done the work of the painters this century while the painters have been indulging in the luxury of introspection, self analysis and experimentation quite possibly precipitated by the threat and conquest of the camera.
I am not saying this is wrong. We would have been much the poorer had this experimentation not taken place, but now young artists are going over the same ground over and over again. It has all been done from the blank canvasses to the chaos of Jackson Pollock a thousand times over. Of course the first artists who explored the extremes of blankness, chaos and abstraction must be recognised. But the rest who churn out the same are no more than followers in a rut now worn deep.
Now we must go back to our roots, the roots of the Masters. They knew what they were about. They were commentators. They were communicators of their life and times. This includes the impressionists.
We should not abandon what we have learnt about abstract form, but we should use it to express more fully what is happening now in our world. We should use the dimension of colour as a fourth dimension, not merely to express shape, shadow and form as Picasso did. It is a means of injecting deeper meaning into works. It is a means of becoming more explicit. That is how it should be used and I will show you in my works what I mean when I describe my pictures to you.
I want to comment on a few approaches to art. This is because I am frequently asked why I paint such big paintings and secondly why they aren't more user friendly, i.e. don't look nice in the living room even if they were small enough.
As to the first, big paintings require big people to buy them. People who can afford big pictures are likely to have big rooms. I paint a picture a particular size because my subject demands it. Sometimes there is so much detail to express, even in a big picture I go down to the smallest 00000 brush.
As to the second, I paint subjects which provoke me to paint them not what will look nice. I don't paint to please in the decorative sense. I paint to communicate, to preserve for posterity. I hope in this way to please and to inspire someone somewhere. I would like my pictures to be bought and hung otherwise why am I painting them?
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