Unreal Nature

February 28, 2014

The Dazzlement of Skill

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:49 am

…  Being able to do something is never an adequate reason for doing it.

This is from Gerhard Richter: The Daily Practice of Painting; Writings 1962-1993 edited by Hans-Ulrich Obrist (1998). This first is from ‘Notes, 1962’:

… There is no excuse whatsoever for uncritically accepting what one takes over from others. For no thing is good or bad in itself, only as it relates to specific circumstances and to our own intentions. This fact means that there is nothing guaranteed or absolute about conventions; it gives us the daily responsibility of distinguishing good from bad.

Picturing things, taking a view, is what makes us human; art is making sense and giving shape to that sense. It is like the religious search for God. We are well aware that making sense and picturing are artificial, like illusion; but we can never give them up. For belief (thinking out and interpreting the present and the future) is our most important characteristic.

[ … ]

… Strange though this may sound, not knowing where one is going — being lost, being a loser — reveals the greatest possible faith and optimism, as against collective security and collective significance. To believe, one must have lost God; to paint, one must have lost art.

The next bits are from ‘Notes, 1964’:

… I collect photographs (nowadays, I also get a lot given to me) and I am always looking at them. Not ‘art’ photographs, but ones taken by lay people, or by ordinary newspaper photographers. The subtleties and tricks of the art photographers are easily seen through, and then they are boring.

Happenings, pictures, objects: the lay person has and makes all these in a way that puts every artist to shame. Have artists ever made objects remotely as large and as good as a lay person’s garden?

[ … ]

… I hate the dazzlement of skill: e.g. being able to draw something freehand from life, or — even worse — inventing or putting together something entirely original: a particular form, a particular composition or an eccentric colour scheme. It’s all too easy to get carried away by one’s own skill and forget about the picture itself. There are legions of painters who are just too talented to paint good pictures. Being able to do something is never an adequate reason for doing it. That is why I like the ‘non-composed’ photograph. It does not try to do anything but report on a fact.



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