Fresh back from his Salon success in Paris, Course Director Martin Kinnear, muses on the prose and cons of starting afresh each year.
Deciding to change one’s painting style is a big step, yet I’m always encouraged in my efforts to constantly re-evaluate my methods, re-interpret my ideas and re-invent my style by following the example of great artists. It’s very tempting to get one’s style and technique over the finish line of familiarity, approbation and competence and then sit on one’s laurels. Instead I want to encourage you to look at your work on Jan 1st, throw it all up in the air, and say to yourself, ‘today is a day for what if?’
Pre Christmas was big for me, and the School. My latest body of work Beyond Here, went down a storm at its preview in Yorkshire, and then went on to bring home a Medaille d’ Argent from the Paris Salon. That matters because my work is very much a reflection of what we teach at the School, and our Diploma students quite rightly expect that the methods we teach should lead to successful outcomes.
Time then to sit on my laurels? Well I might have if I hadn’t have spent a few days with Picasso in Paris. I took the opportunity to see two shows, the first Blue and Rose at the Musee D’ Orsay, on Picasso, the second, Cubism at the Pompidou, impossible without him.
Both were shows about Picasso of course, and all that implies – the familiarity of his great works, the fame, the invention, but more than that and most of all these were fundamentally shows about Picasso’s ability to look at himself and say ‘what if?’
I start all of our Diplomas with different students, different lesson plans but the same central theme; the constant theme of change. It’s also true of our short courses, the big idea is to take on board the big ideas, and that means to be a better artist one has to embrace personal change.
It’s hard to think of an artist of note who didn’t evolve, and difficult to imagine one who was more mercurial in is art than Picasso. Love him or hate him ( and I defy you to love or hate all of his various periods ), Picasso, remains current and divisive, so much so that even 45 years after his death most of my students think of him as a contemporary artist. He’s not of course, but only if you subscribe to the position that ideas go out of date. I don’t and just like the great man himself I’m convinced that the true history of art, is the record of how we visualise our ideas. As our hopes and dreams, our concerns, our beliefs and our passions change, then so should our art.
In this respect it matters not whether visual art was created on a cave wall by Neolithic hunters or on a canvas by Matisse, Mondrian or Chagall. visual impact, clarity of thought and direction of purpose, that’s the thing, and Picasso had it in spades.
My take out from Paris? Picasso was almost completely fearless in his art, almost because even the most accomplished and lauded painter must fear that the work they create will eventually loose something of its freshness, vitality and originality if it is not constantly questioned by its maker. Fear of sleepwalking into mediocrity drove his passion for learning.
2019 is a new year and as I move forward and look towards the year, its just not possible for me to paint – paint honestly – as I did in 2018, look back too much and we close the door to possibility.
My 2019 Course roster is really a series of workshops on helping students come to grips with possibilities. Yes you can paint but how could you use colour? Should you question how to use optics? Or values? Can digital devices help you make visual poetry out of the things you see?. These are valid questions about timeless concerns. To teach is to learn, and in delivering these courses you can be sure that whatever else I’m doing with you, I’ll be questioning and refining my own assumptions.
So over that last slack week between Christmas and the New Year I’ve been kicking my style around, and doing a lot of ‘what if?’ thinking and painting in my studio. I strongly encourage you to do the same, and if you find you need help with that, then you know where we are.