Moscow Summer. Painting.

 

Dmitry Gutov

 

In Defense of Painting

 

Moscow Art Magazine, 2- 3, 2002, (43-44), p. 7

Moscow Art Magazine, Digest 1993-2005, p. 143

 

Today, there is nothing more pitiful, unnecessary, senseless and useless than painting. I mean painting in its classical sense.

There is yet another kind of activity, in which the artist pretends to be depicting something, although he is actually doing something completely different. Let us leave him be. He has already generated enough interest without our help, although much of this interest has come from the sphere of narrowly professionalized idiocy, but be that as it may.

It is desirable to intercede on behalf of the negligible, rejected by all. This is not easy. Serious conceptions will tell you that painting is precisely where it belongs. It has already depicted everything that might have been of any value. The unique relief of the face, the fog on the mountains, skin pulsing with blood, scenes of drunken feasts in the countryside, gazes veiled by grief. All of the discoveries, perfected by this method, are immense and will continue to draw wonder and amazement, but it is impossible to add anything of essence. The force and freshness of first blood cannot be repeated.

Moreover, one might add that today's world has become so trivial that any attempt at reflecting it in painting can only result in banality. Which object or theme could inspire a love that would not find any rest until it was put to canvas? Is there anything worthy of depiction among all of the things accessible to vision today? Can anything become the object of passion? Without emotion, the artist's brush-tracks will be devoid of any of the trembling that brings painting alive.[1] Life must have some plasticity, if plastic art is to exist at all.

It is impossible to argue with any of this, yet one ought not agree.

There is no law that forces us to conform to these circumstances, to act accordingly. Morever, if we think about it, there are serious reasons to pursue the occupation of painting.

You are afraid of dead tendiencies, but painting is the most forgotten tendency of all.

You are afraid of being anachronistic, but do you think that multimedia is really such a sign of the times?

You are afraid of being unoriginal; try working with video, and you will see what it means to be banal.

You are afraid of naivete; fortunately, everything appears as refinement nowadays.

You insist on folly; try thinking of something a little more abnormal.

Or are you afraid that they won't include you in the history of art? This fear is completely compensated by the fact that the history of art is not likely to take or include you anywhere.

The age of phobias has passed.

Nothing has any meaning whatsoever nowadays. This opens a certain space for creativity. Here, you might find a chance to experience painting's capacity for depiction as a gripping adventure.

 

Moscow, 2002

 

Translated by David Riff


 

[1] Translator's note: the Russian original plays on the word zhivopis' (lit. "live writing" or "live painting").