The WIP Project: What Is Painting? We thought it would be interesting to ask painters this simple yet complex question. This query comes with no ground rules—it’s up to each individual artist to find their own approach and direction.
This project will be an ongoing exploration … let’s see where it takes us.
What Is Painting?
by Bartosz Beda
I paint everyday, however, it is definitely to early for me to answer that question with the precision that I would like too. To define ‘what is painting’, I cannot forget the art history, the social changes and the role of the painting as a medium. Mark Rothko was asked once how long it takes him to paint one painting and in reply he said ‘whole life’. It sounds like a joke or cocky reply, but when we begin to think about it more, his answer was very careful and thoughtful. In order to understand what painting is, we need much more than a definition from an art history book.
I searched in Google the meaning of ‘painting’ and I got so much information, definitions and essays about the subject that I got the feeling that everything was already told and I don’t need to add anything else. Then, what is so magic about painting? Maybe the fact that painting comes through a social and cultural metamorphosis resulting in a new and fresh perspective? Painting has never stopped being important and surprising for painters.
As still young artist and painter, I do not know if I have a right to speak about this medium, as the answer is as complex as the question itself. I would like to find a new perspective in painting and change again the understanding of what it is.
Painting is an experience. If I want to experience a painting, then I am interacting with the surface face to face. That close interaction establishes a relationship and expresses my madness and mimesis. This allows me to focus on the here and now, which means that I am trying to understand what I can do with the process of painting and painting itself. It could happen through a simple act like refreshing my view on the painting by viewing other artworks by other artists. This allows me to be in the right time and space, and it helps me to create my own definition of a painting.
Today, more then before, painting is classified into definite categories. There are many categories of paintings. I would like to focus and distinguish only three, which so far, have resulted from my experience in the studio. The first I will call undisguised painting, that shows the images, which are excluded from painting and constitute a trace of history or defined image of photography. From my own experience the use of photographs as a starting point is nothing new and the fact that in most cases they do not represent anything particular is also common. They are pure images, which turn into something new in a painting and that brings importance to the experience with the painting.
The next category I shall call superficial painting. This kind of painting shares something that is insignificant and irrelevant, but still contains the essence of a subject. These kinds of artworks are easy to digest, without special meaning but often times well painted. They intrigue a viewer and circulate in the society, but they do not change the history of painting.
The third category I shall call meditational painting. This is a kind of painting is the kind I want to spend hours viewing. It is a perfection of the act of creation, with which even a god would be amazed.
I am learning everyday what painting is. I know how to do it. It is like a making my best coffee. You know a recipe, but no one can tell you how to make it the best, because it all depends on many elements. This is the constant factor in my day-to-day studio practice. I improve with every next painting, even if I consider the painted piece as not successful. I do not paint realistic paintings, but rather deformations of objects or people. This is the opposite of hyper-realistic or abstract paintings where the nature of described things is similar to what a viewer can understand. I define more clearly and expressively emerging hues and shapes on the painting’s surface, this is what I believe makes painting more “painterly”. I would compare this to the Socratic theory on the soul of an individual as a spiritual insight of philosophical knowledge. So, the soul is defined as a moral and intellectual awareness to what we know and what we try to understand. This can be achieved through self-evaluation. Applying this to my paintings, I would explain images as an evaluation of myself as a painter and they are used to create a specific communication in relation to others. The whole concept of making a painting is based on my reflections of a particular moment and how it influences the viewer and me. This would be like looking inside a soul by investigating a painting.
I am interested in reactions that viewers will have from paintings, and I expect viewers to be surprised by how much images control and cause anxiety. There is not one recipe for understanding painting, but there are many I can use to make it my passion.
Bartosz Beda, One Side Other Side III, 77 x 77cm, 2014