stuckismwales

Composition







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I believe that a major element missing from Conceptual art is the process by which the real artist takes his/her original ideas,which are of course non- material, through preliminary sketchings or drafts, on to the early stages of objectification and then finally on to the mature realisation of the finished art work. If this process of composition is missing, or badly done, then there can only be no art or bad art. How do I justify this statement?
The process of composition is the progression from the initial idea to the fully finished work of art. It is very important to understand that this is not a linear process comprising a fixed number of stages which, if implemented, will deliver a fully finished art work. On the contrary, I believe that the process of composition is a spiral process which progresses, in a non- linear way, from the non-material idea through to the finished work.
The spiral may be analysed like this:

1 Ideas and feelings in the mind of the artist

2 Artist applies paint to canvas

3 Artist views canvas

4 Development of ideas and feelings in the mind of the artist

5 Artist applies more paint to canvas

6 Artist views progress of canvas again

7 Further development of ideas and feelings in the mind of the artist

and so on............. until the artist is satisfied with the result.


First, it should be noted that this spiral may be repeated many, many times. For example, Balthus is known to have spent years on a single canvas. Indeed, I also understand that Balthus had a battered armchair in his studio and would sit for hours in it, staring at the unfinished painting on the easel. This is the spiral process of composition at work.

A second vital point about a spiral is that although it is comprised of a repeating circular shape, similar to a circle, it also moves forward so that, unlike a circle, the same track is not covered twice. In artistic terms this means that the artist's ideas and feelings are developing and progressing, as the work is painted.

A third important point is that it is through this spiral process of composition that the artist transforms the raw materials of painting, the pigments and oils etc., into something which is no longer wholly physical. In other words, the repeated cycle of developing ideas and feelings through applying the paint to canvas leads in turn to a further progression of the ideas and feelings and on to the further application of paint.

It may be fairly objected that I am not an artist and therefore what can I possibly know about the process of composition? This is a good question which I would answer first, by noting that my thoughts on every aspect of art, including this crucial section on composition , have evolved in discussions with an artist, John Bourne, who does know about the process of composition. Secondly, I would call upon Paul Klee who wrote in his "Creative Credo" of 1920:
" The work of art, too, is above all a process of creation, it is never experienced as a mere product.
A certain fire, an impulse to create, is kindled, is transmitted through the hand, leaps to the canvas, and in the form of a spark leaps back to it's starting place, completing the circle - back to the eye and further (back to the source of the movement, the will, the idea)."
Paul Klee had a remarkably similar view of the process of composition to the one I am propounding. His words clearly identify that a process is involved and clearly also confirm the validity of steps 1, 2 and 3 above.However, Paul Klee notes that the process is circular which at first sight would appear to contradict the spiral theory. But not at all - for Paul Klee also says in the "Creative Credo":
Does a pictorial work come into being at one stroke? No, it is constructed bit by bit, just like a house.
And the beholder, is he through with the work at one glance? (Unfortunately he often is) Does not Feuerbach say somewhere that in order to understand a picture one must have a chair? Why the chair? So that your tired legs won't distract your mind. Legs tire after long standing. Hence, time is needed."
So Paul Klee envisages many cycles of his circular process in order to paint a picture and because each cycle of the process takes the progress of the picture further, we have splendid corroboration for the idea of the spiral process of composition.

How do the the Conceptualists measure up? They say that their "art" is intended to convey an idea or a concept to the perceiver and does not have to be embodied in a physical form, although documentary propositions, photographs etc. may sometimes be produced. In the event, embodiment of their concept into an associated "object" is almost invariably in the form of Ready Made objects.As we have already noted, the only input made to these is that of mere arrangement.

The spiral process may well be involved in the arranging of readymades, but in that case, the process is very much easier and the final result correspondingly less effective.

In other words, the Conceptual artist has essentially deserted his subject (and his audience) at the moment of intellectual conception. He has deserted the process of actualisation and execution, other than in a perfunctory way, and therefore deprived himself/herself of the possibilities of that creative spiral process of composition. Conceptual art is less than art because the Conceptual artist does not undertake that spiral process of composing his ideas into a finished work of art.

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