We live in an age in which we are saturated with images. They stare at us from billboards and the pages of magazines, they flit across our television and computer screens, they adorn our groceries, our clothes and accessories. Whilst many of these images are purely commercial, the ubiquitous image has not left the art world untouched. Andy Warhol declared the death of art and stood for the democratization of painting – advertisements can be high art, art can be advertisement. The widespread nature of images has only increased the demand for art in peoples’ homes. Cheap full color reproductions and posters of paintings can be found from student dorm rooms to hotel restrooms.
In the decades after the explosion of mass-produced images, many artists moved away from traditional formats and embraced a broader and more all-inclusive package of subjects and mediums. Art lovers followed suit, buying ever more extravagant pieces that moved further from the traditions of yesteryear, constantly searching for the newest sensation. Where then does this leave painting?
Contrary to the popular view of contemporary art, many of the newest and brightest young artists on the scene have fully embraced painting, reviving it and transforming their canvases into extraordinary works of skill and talent. This renaissance of painting can be seen in galleries worldwide. However, when one can buy a very pleasing color print for five dollars, why should one buy a piece of original art?
A painting is unique – you are the owner of a work, the only one of its kind. So much more substantial than a print, you have a piece of heritage. When buying paintings, you must only choose that which you truly love and can imagine yourself living with. Paintings come at a price, but a high price is no guarantee that your painting is a good investment. As with all things, fashions and tastes change. Paintings that were once immensely popular can fall out of favour rapidly, whereas unknown artists can shoot into the spotlight overnight. A painting you love can be treasured by you and your family for generations to come, irrespective of monetary value.
The qualities that an original painting possesses cannot be replicated even by the most advanced print technique. Talking to owners of original paintings, they often say that the real painting is so much more vivid, more alive than any reproductions they have seen, but often they cannot put their finger on why exactly this should be. Perhaps the ephemeral superiority lies in the details that come together to make the whole: The look of the paint – a soft translucent sheen or the crystallized pigments that change subtly as you move through the room; brushstrokes, the textures of the paint, the surface created by movements of brush, palette knife and sponge; The three-dimensional quality of a painting on canvas or board, which gives it a tremendous sense of presence. When displayed, an original painting will transform a room, altering the space around it. A painting is so much more than just an image. It is the unique mark of an artist, a document of their creativity and energy.
In a world full of reproductions, watered-down visions and genuine fakes, an original painting stands as a capsule of authenticity – a direct link to humanity and the spark of creativity of another human being. Paintings are personal in an impersonal world, a token of love and passion that reconnects us to ourselves.
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This article was written for ARTmine by Tilla Crowne.