on painting and new media

Posted by Miklos Legrady | Sat Jun 9th 2007 1:06 a.m.

copy of a letter about painting as contemporary media
sent to the Canada Council

A conversation this afternoon with painter Rae Johnson brought up an
issue which I wanted to pass on. Discussing painting she repeated
something she regularly tells her students at O.C.A.D, that it's a
brutal and exhausting process.

I was wondering if painting will now or in the future need some kind
of special cultural protection or encouragement in Canadian art. I
work with new media and photography as well as painting, and I know
how easy and pleasant these are to use compared to painting, in which
one faces the creative process without any technical intermediary.

Renee Baert, in 1987 wrote;

"Video is a medium in search of its own authority. ...

And, after more than a decade of history,

its virtual exclusion from established venues of presentation

requires the constant cultivation of a context in which it can exist."

"Video in Canada: In Search of Authority."

[from the catalogue FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA:

Artist-initiated activity in Canada, 1939-1987]

http://www.ccca.ca/c/writing/b/baert/baert001t.html

The situation has perhaps reversed itself in the last 29 years. From
personal experience I know I can produce two or three original
photographic series in a year, of 20-40 images, from which work is
exhibited and sold within that year, whereas it can take from 2-5
years to produce a single (equally well researched and executed) body
of work in painting, for which I often don't find a venue. You see
how the painting medium is disadvantaged here as a career vehicle.
Rae Johnson's comment above suggests other painters face similar issues.

Also worth reviewing the number of calls for painting submissions
compared to new media, photography, installation, etc. Of course one
questions how much should one should let cultural forces operate
unimpeded and where to step in, but it seems painters now have unseen
and unacknowledged handicaps compared to other media, that this is
worth keeping under observation. Is painting in exclusion from
established venues of presentation and does it require the constant
cultivation of a context in which it can exist?

Sincerely,

Miklos Legrady
310 Bathurst st.
Toronto ON
M5T 2S3
416-203-1846 - home
647-292-1846 - cell
http://www.mikidot.com
miklos@sympatico.ca
  • Eric Dymond | Sat Jun 9th 2007 2:12 a.m.
    well, it's odd to hear that painters are having problems considering the fact that the most recent auctions at Hefel and Sotheby's brought record prices to works by the Painters 11, and painters from the Isaacs stable of the 60's and other lesser knowns who practiced painting well into the 90's and are currently active. You can check the online auction prices realized by the auctions, the results are really surprising.
    Is painting a commercial venture then? Being outside the mainstream Canada Council isn't such a bad thing.
    John Brown's last show did pretty well if I remember. Maybe they just aren't buying yours and Rae's paintings.
    Eric
  • Pall Thayer | Mon Jun 11th 2007 12:35 p.m.
    I understand where you're coming from but I don't agree with some of
    the wording of your letter and I somehow doubt that it's going to get
    a lot of attention or serious consideration due to the wording. As
    with a number of my posts, this was written pretty quickly and may
    contain errors and contradictions. I'll deal with them as they arise.

    First of all, saying that new media is "easy and pleasant" in
    comparison to painting sounds awful. If painting is what you're into
    and you've been doing it for a number of years, it's just as "easy
    and pleasant" as any other medium will be to someone who knows it
    well. Computer-based arts tend to be a bit cleaner, require less
    space and are somewhat less physical but that doesn't make painting
    less easy or pleasant. I painted for years before turning completely
    to computer-based art and there were several things about painting
    that I found much easier. One would be the DIFFERENCE in the
    technical mediation between me and a painting. Today, if I want to
    change something, I have to edit code, recompile and then run the
    work to see the effect. Sometimes I have to allow the work to run for
    30 to 60 minutes before I can see the effects of the change.
    Sometimes I'll make some changes and the work doesn't run at all in
    which case I could spend anywhere from 2 minutes to 2 days (or
    longer) diagnosing and researching the problem. On average, I would
    say that each finished piece is the culmination of about 1.5 years of
    work. When it's time to exhibit the piece, a whole new set of
    potential problems arise. Will the piece run properly on the
    gallery's hardware? Will it work with their network configuration? Is
    their Internet connection reliable enough? etc.

    To say that painting involves a "creative process without any
    technical intermediary" is just plain wrong. Examples of technical
    intermediaries in painting are brush, canvas, paint, etc. There is a
    difference in the technical mediation in painting and new media, but
    when you begin to really think about it, the difference is not as big
    as one might at first assume. Obviously, applying some paint to a
    canvas with a brush is going to produce immediate results. But the
    overall effect of those results may take a while to emerge and make
    themselves apparent and when they do, you may have to due a lot of
    "debugging" to fix it.

    The wording, in the opening to your letter, seems to suggest that
    painting is "more art" than new media, i.e. new media is "easy and
    pleasant" (no pain, no gain) and painting is a "creative process
    without any technical intermediary". A more direct and uninhibited
    creative process. Is new media then veiled behind a mask of technical
    mediation? Flashy yet empty? Should we perhaps view it as something
    fake, masquerading as truly creative art? I'm sure that this not at
    all what you mean, but due to the wording of your letter, it could be
    assumed.

    Pall

    On 9-Jun-07, at 12:06 AM, Legrady Miklos wrote:

    > copy of a letter about painting as contemporary media
    > sent to the Canada Council
    >
    >
    > A conversation this afternoon with painter Rae Johnson brought up
    > an issue which I wanted to pass on. Discussing painting she
    > repeated something she regularly tells her students at O.C.A.D,
    > that it's a brutal and exhausting process.
    >
    > I was wondering if painting will now or in the future need some
    > kind of special cultural protection or encouragement in Canadian
    > art. I work with new media and photography as well as painting,
    > and I know how easy and pleasant these are to use compared to
    > painting, in which one faces the creative process without any
    > technical intermediary.
    >
    > Renee Baert, in 1987 wrote;
    >
    > "Video is a medium in search of its own authority. ...
    >
    > And, after more than a decade of history,
    >
    > its virtual exclusion from established venues of presentation
    >
    > requires the constant cultivation of a context in which it can exist."
    >
    >
    >
    > "Video in Canada: In Search of Authority."
    >
    > [from the catalogue FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA:
    >
    > Artist-initiated activity in Canada, 1939-1987]
    >
    > http://www.ccca.ca/c/writing/b/baert/baert001t.html
    >
    >
    >
    > The situation has perhaps reversed itself in the last 29 years.
    > From personal experience I know I can produce two or three original
    > photographic series in a year, of 20-40 images, from which work is
    > exhibited and sold within that year, whereas it can take from 2-5
    > years to produce a single (equally well researched and executed)
    > body of work in painting, for which I often don't find a venue. You
    > see how the painting medium is disadvantaged here as a career
    > vehicle. Rae Johnson's comment above suggests other painters face
    > similar issues.
    >
    > Also worth reviewing the number of calls for painting submissions
    > compared to new media, photography, installation, etc. Of course
    > one questions how much should one should let cultural forces
    > operate unimpeded and where to step in, but it seems painters now
    > have unseen and unacknowledged handicaps compared to other media,
    > that this is worth keeping under observation. Is painting in
    > exclusion from established venues of presentation and does it
    > require the constant cultivation of a context in which it can exist?
    >
    > Sincerely,
    >
    >
    >
    > Miklos Legrady
    > 310 Bathurst st.
    > Toronto ON
    > M5T 2S3
    > 416-203-1846 - home
    > 647-292-1846 - cell
    > http://www.mikidot.com
    > miklos@sympatico.ca
    >
    >
    >
    >

    --
    Pall Thayer
    p_thay@alcor.concordia.ca

    http://www.this.is/pallit
  • jacky Sawatzky | Mon Jun 11th 2007 1:40 p.m.
    hi,

    A short reply.
    I have just started developing the code for a project, and my brain is
    hurting. it's not because I can't do it because I have to find a
    translation from what I want into code. Now, I am not a professional
    programmer but I do have enough skills to execute the project. The
    creative intuitive, and physical part for me is located in this
    translation from my idea in to object orientated programming language,
    and how I translate this, my mistakes, round about ways, preference for
    a certain logical thought this will show through in the final piece.
    My brian is working my body moves trying to grasp the stream of the
    data; it's as physical as my performances and drawings.

    jacky

    http://www.jackysawatzky.net

    On 11-Jun-07, at 8:35 AM, Pall Thayer wrote:

    > I understand where you're coming from but I don't agree with some of
    > the wording of your letter and I somehow doubt that it's going to get
    > a lot of attention or serious consideration due to the wording. As
    > with a number of my posts, this was written pretty quickly and may
    > contain errors and contradictions. I'll deal with them as they arise.
    >
    > First of all, saying that new media is "easy and pleasant" in
    > comparison to painting sounds awful. If painting is what you're into
    > and you've been doing it for a number of years, it's just as "easy and
    > pleasant" as any other medium will be to someone who knows it well.
    > Computer-based arts tend to be a bit cleaner, require less space and
    > are somewhat less physical but that doesn't make painting less easy or
    > pleasant. I painted for years before turning completely to
    > computer-based art and there were several things about painting that I
    > found much easier. One would be the DIFFERENCE in the technical
    > mediation between me and a painting. Today, if I want to change
    > something, I have to edit code, recompile and then run the work to see
    > the effect. Sometimes I have to allow the work to run for 30 to 60
    > minutes before I can see the effects of the change. Sometimes I'll
    > make some changes and the work doesn't run at all in which case I
    > could spend anywhere from 2 minutes to 2 days (or longer) diagnosing
    > and researching the problem. On average, I would say that each
    > finished piece is the culmination of about 1.5 years of work.
  • Miklos Legrady | Mon Jun 11th 2007 3:02 p.m.
    Hi Paul,

    As with your own letter, mine was also written rather quickly
    following that conversation with Rae about painting, and as you point
    out there are problems with my wording, partly because I'm tackling
    two complex issues in one short note, the first being the artist's
    personal experience and the other of the social position of painting
    today.

    Concerning your final comments, I remember back in the 1960's when
    black and white photography was seen as an art form and color
    photography wasn't (I'm generalising again when considering shifting
    opinions of decades up to that time and later). I think we can put
    the "is it more art" question to rest when looking at "art" as the
    concerned intellectual and aesthetic effort to communicate with
    objects, sound, movement, etc.

    "I somehow doubt that it's going to get a lot of attention or serious
    consideration due to the wording". If there is a real problem, bad
    grammar or lack of clarity shouldn't be the criterion to judge the
    issue. Of course I should have said "less" technical intermediary,
    in the sense that new media technology aids, defines and channels
    production while painting does much less along those lines (notice my
    "safe" wording here - which is still open to rebutal...). That's not
    an issue of comparative quality as art. Your letter does raise an
    interesting question along the lines of "the more you have, the more
    you spend"; the more technology assists us, the higher the bar raised
    as to what's expected.

    So let me reword my notes; "considering the technical differences in
    media, and the exhibition venues currently available, is the painting
    medium deprecated/discouraged as an art form, and is this a good or
    bad thing?

    Miklos Legrady

    On Jun 11, 2007, at 11:35 AM, Pall Thayer wrote:

    > I understand where you're coming from but I don't agree with some
    > of the wording of your letter and I somehow doubt that it's going
    > to get a lot of attention or serious consideration due to the
    > wording. As with a number of my posts, this was written pretty
    > quickly and may contain errors and contradictions. I'll deal with
    > them as they arise.
    >
    > First of all, saying that new media is "easy and pleasant" in
    > comparison to painting sounds awful. If painting is what you're
    > into and you've been doing it for a number of years, it's just as
    > "easy and pleasant" as any other medium will be to someone who
    > knows it well. Computer-based arts tend to be a bit cleaner,
    > require less space and are somewhat less physical but that doesn't
    > make painting less easy or pleasant. I painted for years before
    > turning completely to computer-based art and there were several
    > things about painting that I found much easier. One would be the
    > DIFFERENCE in the technical mediation between me and a painting.
    > Today, if I want to change something, I have to edit code,
    > recompile and then run the work to see the effect. Sometimes I have
    > to allow the work to run for 30 to 60 minutes before I can see the
    > effects of the change. Sometimes I'll make some changes and the
    > work doesn't run at all in which case I could spend anywhere from 2
    > minutes to 2 days (or longer) diagnosing and researching the
    > problem. On average, I would say that each finished piece is the
    > culmination of about 1.5 years of work. When it's time to exhibit
    > the piece, a whole new set of potential problems arise. Will the
    > piece run properly on the gallery's hardware? Will it work with
    > their network configuration? Is their Internet connection reliable
    > enough? etc.
    >
    > To say that painting involves a "creative process without any
    > technical intermediary" is just plain wrong. Examples of technical
    > intermediaries in painting are brush, canvas, paint, etc. There is
    > a difference in the technical mediation in painting and new media,
    > but when you begin to really think about it, the difference is not
    > as big as one might at first assume. Obviously, applying some paint
    > to a canvas with a brush is going to produce immediate results. But
    > the overall effect of those results may take a while to emerge and
    > make themselves apparent and when they do, you may have to due a
    > lot of "debugging" to fix it.
    >
    > The wording, in the opening to your letter, seems to suggest that
    > painting is "more art" than new media, i.e. new media is "easy and
    > pleasant" (no pain, no gain) and painting is a "creative process
    > without any technical intermediary". A more direct and uninhibited
    > creative process. Is new media then veiled behind a mask of
    > technical mediation? Flashy yet empty? Should we perhaps view it as
    > something fake, masquerading as truly creative art? I'm sure that
    > this not at all what you mean, but due to the wording of your
    > letter, it could be assumed.
    >
    > Pall
    >
    >
    >
    > On 9-Jun-07, at 12:06 AM, Legrady Miklos wrote:
    >
    >> copy of a letter about painting as contemporary media
    >> sent to the Canada Council
    >>
    >>
    >> A conversation this afternoon with painter Rae Johnson brought up
    >> an issue which I wanted to pass on. Discussing painting she
    >> repeated something she regularly tells her students at O.C.A.D,
    >> that it's a brutal and exhausting process.
    >>
    >> I was wondering if painting will now or in the future need some
    >> kind of special cultural protection or encouragement in Canadian
    >> art. I work with new media and photography as well as painting,
    >> and I know how easy and pleasant these are to use compared to
    >> painting, in which one faces the creative process without any
    >> technical intermediary.
    >>
    >> Renee Baert, in 1987 wrote;
    >>
    >> "Video is a medium in search of its own authority. ...
    >>
    >> And, after more than a decade of history,
    >>
    >> its virtual exclusion from established venues of presentation
    >>
    >> requires the constant cultivation of a context in which it can
    >> exist."
    >>
    >>
    >>
    >> "Video in Canada: In Search of Authority."
    >>
    >> [from the catalogue FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA:
    >>
    >> Artist-initiated activity in Canada, 1939-1987]
    >>
    >> http://www.ccca.ca/c/writing/b/baert/baert001t.html
    >>
    >>
    >>
    >> The situation has perhaps reversed itself in the last 29 years.
    >> From personal experience I know I can produce two or three
    >> original photographic series in a year, of 20-40 images, from
    >> which work is exhibited and sold within that year, whereas it can
    >> take from 2-5 years to produce a single (equally well researched
    >> and executed) body of work in painting, for which I often don't
    >> find a venue. You see how the painting medium is disadvantaged
    >> here as a career vehicle. Rae Johnson's comment above suggests
    >> other painters face similar issues.
    >>
    >> Also worth reviewing the number of calls for painting submissions
    >> compared to new media, photography, installation, etc. Of course
    >> one questions how much should one should let cultural forces
    >> operate unimpeded and where to step in, but it seems painters now
    >> have unseen and unacknowledged handicaps compared to other media,
    >> that this is worth keeping under observation. Is painting in
    >> exclusion from established venues of presentation and does it
    >> require the constant cultivation of a context in which it can exist?
    >>
    >> Sincerely,
    >>
    >>
    >>
    >> Miklos Legrady
    >> 310 Bathurst st.
    >> Toronto ON
    >> M5T 2S3
    >> 416-203-1846 - home
    >> 647-292-1846 - cell
    >> http://www.mikidot.com
    >> miklos@sympatico.ca
    >>
    >>
    >>
    >>
    >
    >
    >
    >
    > --
    > Pall Thayer
    > p_thay@alcor.concordia.ca
    >
    > http://www.this.is/pallit
    >
    >
    >
    >

    Miklos Legrady
    310 Bathurst st.
    Toronto ON
    M5T 2S3
    416-203-1846 - home
    647-292-1846 - cell
    http://www.mikidot.com
    miklos@sympatico.ca
  • Rob Myers | Mon Jun 11th 2007 4:39 p.m.
    Legrady Miklos wrote:

    > So let me reword my notes; "considering the technical differences in
    > media, and the exhibition venues currently available, is the painting
    > medium deprecated/discouraged as an art form,

    In the state funded sector it is.

    In the market sector it isn't.

    Since art is a mixed economy it would be interesting to look at the
    lines of tension that this causes, if any.

    > and is this a good or bad
    > thing?

    It depends on the painting. There are some very good painters on this
    list, and there are some very good hackers on this list. Both arts are
    skill based, and so a bit too old fashioned for the outsourcing and
    crowdsourcing managerialism-that-protests-too-much of relational aesthetics.

    - Rob.
  • Eric Dymond | Mon Jun 11th 2007 11:37 p.m.
    here's some interesting stats re. traditional media (painting I assume falls under the Visual Arts category) vs. new media support for the Canada Council.
  • Eric Dymond | Mon Jun 11th 2007 11:38 p.m.
    here's some interesting stats re. traditional media (painting I assume falls under the Visual Arts category) vs. new media support for the Canada Council.

    http://www.canadacouncil.ca/NR/rdonlyres/551FEA2D-1576-4A40-8425-FCBE3FA98715/0/grt0405_e.pdf
  • Steve OR Steven Read | Tue Jun 12th 2007 5:15 p.m.
    Interesting stuff. Perhaps the differences that I have been seeing depend only upon whom is consuming the different materials. People who want to have art for their home, tend to value painting. People who want only to see (not necessarily shop for) new art forms tend to value technology art. This may be a gross oversimplification, but so be it.

    I myself do both, in a back and forth manner. I have no problem selling the paintings to collectors. But the art establishment (curators, critics) keeps telling me how my painting "just isn't there yet". I love that statement. They mostly ignore it. These same critical folks rave about my technology work and give me decent press. But I can't sell a piece of technology art to save my life. Very confusing, but I stopped caring a while ago and just continue to do both.

    This may not be relevant to your conversation, but maybe it is. Also, these experiences only relate to a local level (my city and state).

    Steven Read
    http://www.stevenread.com
  • Eric Dymond | Tue Jun 12th 2007 11:34 p.m.
    We could make it even simpler.
    Painting is seen as private art, and attracts private funding, whereas New Media is seen as public art, and deserves public funding. I can't buy into the idea that painting is more labour intensive, or more demanding however.
    Eric
    (as a complete aside, Steve, where are the pix of the Himalayan Mystery you promised?)
  • Steve OR Steven Read | Thu Jun 14th 2007 1:25 p.m.
    I too don't get off on the marxian bullshit RE: labor/value in art (painting or otherwise). Let components help do the work! Hmmm, I think painters are so lazy these days because they use store-bought brushes and tube paints. A real painter makes his own brush, gesso, and paint from scratch. The impressionists started this whole quick lazy approach and now these dreaded new-media artists dare to use computers which do all the work. A real new-media artist uses only gears, cams, and shafts made of wood or bone. I myself program only in zeros and ones scratched into the dirt which makes my art much better.

    I forgot, asap will publish the yeti skull I stumbled upon in himalaya!

    -Stephen
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