The Crucifiction of Charlemagne Peralte
Oil on masonite
No matter what one wants to make out of it, artists will always be the product of their cultural background and their time. They may be behind, on the same level with, or in advance of their time, but they remain a product of it just the same. The very fact that paintings are created to be seen, what the viewers or buyers want will always influence artists, unless they are mavericks or trail blazers who are ahead of the game and succeed in imposing their views. By the same token, one critic suggests that “Artists are either innovators or followers.” In the case that such a statement is true, it does not exclude the fact that the imitators can still be original in their own way, since, even while they are following an already established path, they do not systematically or slavishly copy someone else’s style. Besides, there is nothing wrong with being a follower since not everyone is called to be a leader, a theoretician, or revolutionary. The only problem is that, especially in art, one can lag so far behind that the resulting works are deprived of impetus and significance. This reminds me of some contemporary artists who call themselves cubists, impressionists, or surrealists so that they can operate under a certain umbrella without realizing what such labels imply and what are they actually mean in terms of artistic output and characteristics of a particular artistic movement or school. Most of the time it is a gimmick fabricated in order to boost sales or because it is fashionable to claim a style or because it just sounds cute, gives a certain cachet, or because someone else, an art critic or art dealer, had assigned such a label to the artist.
Unfortunately, a great majority of the people who are concerned with art, the public at large, and even the so called artists, do not oftentimes know anything about art. They may have no ideas of how to look at a work of art, what to look for, or how to evaluate it. They are usually so involved into the content, into the subject matter, that they pay little attention or no attention at all to the artist’s style, therefore missing the form and the artist’s feelings and emotions all together. They are conditioned most of the time by the prevailing trend favoring some painters. Therefore, they reason, if a painting is signed by so and so, it must be a masterpiece; it is something to acquire and to swoon over. No wonder that so many clichés are used when most individuals are referring to art.
|Francisco Goya - The Shooting of May 3 1808 - 268 × 347 cm|
The Haitian art critics, like art critics from anywhere, on the other hand, also need to criticize properly by broadening their scope, keeping their minds open, and objectively analyzing works of art by stressing the artist’s strengths, shortcomings and weaknesses. It is also incumbent upon them to dissect the work involved, indicating the artists’ personality, upbringing, education, artistic background, and major influences. Further efforts must be made to explain the painters’ style and creativity. This way the non- initiated individual looking at an artwork can start to have a global understanding of art, comprehend what is going on, and know what to look for. Such a person would ultimately be able to discern between garbage and an actual work of art, between impostors and genuine artists.
It is also important that artists be well prepared, master their craft, and exhibit strong confidence for their talents. It is important, however, to explain that one does not have to draw perfectly in order to be a successful painter, even though it can never be stressed enough the importance of good draftsmanship, especially in figurative paintings, which allows the painter to exactly express the vision involved or to render reality. We also know of naive and primitive painters who are famous even though their drawing skills or their mastering of perspective is limited. But those artists are the exceptions rather than the rule. The danger involved is that those artists are limited in their artistic flexibility and sometimes fall into the pitfall of routine by repeating a conventional idiom or mannerism to the point of seeing one of their pictures is tantamount to seeing all of them.
|Pablo Picasso - Guernica 1937 - Oil on canvas - 349.3 X 776.6 cm|
“eyes” to realities and inspire them to take actions. The way things are going right now with Haiti, no one, whether s/he is a pastor, a radio announcer, a teacher, a musician, a singer, or a painter, can claim that politics is not his/her business, can say that his/her job is uniquely to talk about God, to teach math, to sing songs, to play music, to build houses, to draw, or to paint. Everyone needs to give his/her contributions one way or the other and painters, particularly, since art is a universal language that everyone who has eyes to see can see, since art can also denounce social injustice and brutality and show their ugliness, no matter how uncomfortable, how uneasy they can make people feel. Art history is replete with painters who have done just that. As illustration we can list artists like Giotto, Gericault (The Raft of Medusa), Goya (The shooting of May 3, 1808), Picasso (Guernica and Massacre in Korea), Millet (The Gleaners), Diego Rivera ( Murals), Sisquieros, Philome Obin ( Charlemagne Peralt’s Assasination), and many others.
|Fred Thomas - On Their Way to Miami|
Mixed media on canvas - 36" X 60"
Turbulence en Haiti - Part 1 - 78" X 51"
By Fred Thomas 01/2006
Link to some of Fred's creations: http://www.martellyartgallery.com/artists/fredthomas.htm