Yes. Isn't that the most fabulous statement? One of my favorites.Originally posted by John Kennedy:
Like Turner his concept was "I did not paint it to be understood, but I wish to show what such a scene was like". Now, that is straight and forward from the minds eye if I ever heard anything.
Philip Guston said "I don't want my work to be liked. I want it to be understood."
I think these two statements are synonymous although they don't appear so at first.
The artist must be completely inside his own vision if he is to say something original. He can allow himself no concern whatsoever for what a viewer will see. To the extent he alters his vision to suit some perceived common taste he damages his own vision.
On top of that tastes change. And then where is the artist? Looking outmoded and finished. The public betrayed him, which it will invariably do. They want the next fashion. Painters obliging their fickle nature ruin themselves. And many do so before they even get out of the box. They copy the master. The master is flattered. He flatters the disciple.
The artist inside dies. He can't speak. He can't reveal himself.
It's his vision, his passions, his obsessions. If he isn't painting those things, then his own voice shrivels. He's repeating what someone else has already said, flattering the tastes of his audience. His audience has already told him what they want him to say. Those are the paintings they've bought and celebrate.
To go in a direction away from the common taste is the hardest thing to do. But it's vital and necessary if one is to be able to locate their own voice.
Why are the artists we celebrate so great? All of Rembrandt's pupils had similar technical ability. Rembrandt taught it to them. Do we remember a single one? Does the name Govaert Flinck ring a bell?
Rembrandt stopped copying his masters, Lastman and the other guy.... what was his name? You see what I mean?
We see Tiepolo whole. Nobody else looks like Tiepolo. Nobody else looks like Turner. Not even remotely. Unless they're artists copying them.
If we see a perfectly painted illusionistic apple, what are we seeing? We're not seeing an artist. There's nothing being conveyed whatsoever other than empty technique.
If everyone were painting accurately, as a camera would take the picture, then all paintings would look exactly alike.
Turner doesn't care if he's pleasing anyone's taste. He's completely inside his own vision. He doesn't have any theories or ideological concerns he's trying to illustrate. He's not trying to convince anyone of anything. He's seeing something as real to him, rather more real to him, than the apple on the table he's going to eat when he takes a break, if he takes a break.
Turner is painting something real, "painting what it is like"! If people don't understand it, there's not much he can do about it. Either they enter into his visionary state or they don't. Most people don't. They want to be familiar with it. Turner's later work was continually derided by critics. They couldn't see anything. A contemporary critic called his landscapes "a picture of nothing and very alike." Small wonder that he would retreat into silence and obscurity.