Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Even more than a pipe, a beard makes a fellow look wise.

This is one reason why I keep coming back to Tolstoy's ideas, like this (paraphrased) definition of art:

Art is the inspired exercise of a craft for the purpose of intentionally conveying to others, through external indications, sentiments which the artist has experienced.

Intrinsic to human communication, art transmits the feelings the artist has experienced to the rest of humanity across time, and in that sense it is as important as writing, which communicates intellectual ideas across time.

Whereas our contemporary art scene equates incoherence with sophistication, in Tolstoy's view, great art always communicates with simplicity and clarity. Today, the more confused and inaccessible and muddled the work the more intellectually sophisticated and "discursive" it is supposed to be.

Tolstoy loved the simplicity and honesty of Jean-Francois Millet's paintings.

Simplicty does not mean simplistic. This idea seems to have been lost on modernism's minimalist painters.

I love paintings in which simplicity of composition is married with complex execution. As in this painting below by Kate Lehman, clarity and complexity can happily co-exist.

Simple composition, complex execution.

"Blue", Oil on Linen, 24 x 24 inches, 2006, by Kate Lehman

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