What will be the next challenge concerning the future of painting? What will be the next challenge concerning the future of painting? To understand this question, we need to comprehend the historical context and significance of the development of painting as an art, a technique, in the course of time. Canvas, as we know it, has a relatively recent past. It really made its appearance in the Late Middle Ages. Prior to this, artists painted on walls and, in a more distant past, they painted on rocks. With the arrival of the canvas, the subject depicted in the artwork and the techniques have consistently developed whereas previously, it seemed we had settled for simple forms and modest techniques. Where did this come from?
The reason for this is that up until the 15th century, humanity was not living the physical, visible reality as we do nowadays, in the 21th century. Representing the visible world in a drawing or a painting or even through roman mosaic did not have the same meaning for men in the past then for modern men. For a long time, throughout human history, exterior form was the reflection of another reality; invisible this time, and thus, much more important, this exterior form could remain simple, less elaborated. What men used to see in the past through drawing and painting was linked to a much bigger concept than the visible reflection he had before his eyes. For example, the image of a single man signified “men” or “humanity” and it was seen as a unit, whereas today, the thought is more individualized. In essence, the image carried a universal and collective higher sense.
After the first half of the 15th century, this way of thinking along with the state of consciousness evolved and thus, a broader range of personalized and detailed paintings emerged. The wall frescoes were gradually being replaced by paintings representing distinct images, more intricate, and the profane subjects were becoming as prominent as the religious subjects were. In this new, more distinct, precise, or say more elaborate and complex approach, the technique was also improving, and with it, the materials employed were perfected. Little by little, the goal one was aiming for was set at a very high degree of external perfection, in terms of form, whereas before, the idea had to be perceived through less elaborate forms. The idea was the result of the painter’s intention, the expression of his love through his work, and this is the feeling that was being conveyed to those who laid eyes on these images
Form refinement gave rise to the portrait, the still life, the scenes of the sea or the war, even the scientific, botanical or others, to the drawings depicting images drawn from the world of industry and all that affected the mechanical progress. Everything was becoming more and more precise, complex, down to the smallest details. In this world where external perfection was more and more enforced, other painters felt they had to take a path in an apparently opposed direction either to maintain contact with the direction that had been predominant before, or to reconnect with it.
This means that the presence of light was also trying to have a say through painters like Michelangelo, for example, or Rembrandt, or Turner. Each of them would turn his gaze, in his own way, beyond what was expressed on the canvas by way of a luminous presence. We could see perfection in the form interacting with sparkling, dazzling light, or at least be present just like two opposing poles that tried to maintain a balance. Despite this, the form had mainly kept the upper hand, for a long time, and then, finally surrendered its place during the 20th century to the originality, child of free expression. The Light, for its part, has been placed at the level of technique, almost as a sub-division of the field of form. It lies somewhere in the drawing composition and most of the time, it stops there. Nonetheless, is that all? Is it sufficient to give it a place, as one would do for the horizon, a window, or a central figure? Hence, is light a window, or otherwise, a central figure? Alternatively, does it have yet another role to play…its proper role?
Everything depends on what we mean by the word light: are we talking about the light of the day, a physical light so to speak, or do we want to talk about the concept of inner light? Currently, in the field of artistic painting, the term light represents, mostly a physical light, visible to the naked eye. On the other hand, the search of the painters, as we already mentioned, involved another form of light: an inner, spiritual light.
After attaining the greatest perfection in form, and after abandoning this same very high-degree form in favor of a free expression almost without limits, is it not time to continue the research in the field of the light where those who have preceded us have left it? How to carry this research if neither the external form nor the visible physical light are prepared to be the carriers of this impalpable reality? Perhaps the phenomenon of color will guide us towards the answer, and towards a new future for painting.
(To be continued)