Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Appreciating artistic influences

The art of improvisation 
Last weekend I went along to a jazz concert. I am always amazed at the skill of the musicians, obviously the results of lots of practice and a passion for playing. I am particularly impressed when the musicians improvise.

One of the musicians, an expert in the history of jazz, talked us through the evolution of jazz, during which he both explained and played. I can't remember the exact details of his presentation but the evolution of modern jazz begun with the Spanish taking their music to South America where it became under the influence of the rhythms of African slaves.  The music arrived in the Southern States of American after an input of music from Cuba.  Once established jazz developed into various styles, still evolving,  and infused into modern music. Fascinating.

Imagine the shock of Derain
I was thinking during this piece of Jazz education that there-are ongoing influences in all areas of life - none the least  in the art world.  I am well aware of the various influences that make up my educational and political beliefs but, due to my blog, I have been thinking about my artistic influences

In the art world over the last century we have been challenged by the impressionists, the 'fauves' with their expressionists colours,  the cubists,  and all the varieties of modern or abstract art  -   pop art,  photo realism and post modern varieties. As a result today the influential choices are almost infinite.

Artists are influenced by the styles of others but if they are lucky, or skilled enough,  they develop a personal style of their own. I am not sure if we are always aware of such influences.
Don Binney

Thinking about the artists that have influenced me a number of artists come to mind.  I have previously mentioned Henry Moore who I became aware of in the 60s. Other artists I relate to from my early days have been Don Binney, Michael Smithers  and the Colin McCahon's landscapes.  And of course Picasso, Matisse and Cezanne - all hard to ignore

The painting ( obviously a print) I looked at the most during my Sunday School days was , what I identified years later, by the Pre - Raphaelite painter Holman Hunt. I was able to see the original in the UK. Really impressive in real life. In our street, in an old grand villa, there were two very large oil paintings of NZ mountains, bush and lakes. I really loved looking at them but, at the same time, I was busy copying cartoons1

In recent years my influences are more diverse. I like the varied styles of Australian  Ken Done  and the landscapes of Dick Frizzell. When it comes
Dick Frizzell
to figurative work I turn to Pat Hanly and de Kooning ( his earlier work).. Recently I have come to appreciate the later work of David Hockney, Richard Diekenkorn ( both landscapes and figurative) and Alex Katz.

To be honest there are lots of artists ( some I can't name) that I admire and  of  course there are artists I like but don't relate to my own development. I love the work of Don Driver for example. Art is about diversity and creativity.

In all of this I hope to work through such influences and develop an approach more or less of my own. This of course will take time.

In a small book, 'Steal Like an Artist' ,  the author Austin Keen gives  advice that resonates with me.

 He writes,, 'nothing is original, so embrace influences through the work of others, remix and re-imagine to discover your own path' and quotes David Bowie 'The only art I'll ever study is the stuff I can steal from'.

 Kern continuous, 'What a good artist knows is that nothing comes from nowhere ....and once we're free from the burden of trying to be completely original...we can embrace influence instead of running away from it. ... The great thing about dead or remote masters is that they can't refuse you as an apprentice.You can learn whatever you want from them... No one is born with a voice...we learn by copying. The secret is to develop your own voice from the mix. If you copy from one it is plagiarism - if you copy from many it is research. Look for what it is that makes you different'.

Keen's small book is worth a read.

Picasso was believed to have said, 'Good artists copy. Great artists steal'. He should know!

All in all it seems I have a lot of influences to work through to discover my 'voice'.. This will obviously, as mentioned, take time,

1 comment:

  1. Love the quote from Kern. Steve Jobs of Apple fame quoted a similar Picasso statement "Picasso had a saying -- 'good artists copy; great artists steal' -- and we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas."