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Imitation and Imagination 2, TRAC2018. News.

 

Imitation and Imagination 2, TRAC2018

Dürer, how to imitate complex figures

Dürer, A Draftsman Making a Perspective Drawing of a Woman.jpg

In May 2018 I gave a lecture, Imitation and Imagination, at TRAC2018 (The Representational Art Conference) in The Netherlands, together with Ernst van de Wetering, the world’s foremost authority on Rembrandt. His contribution was about Rembrandt and assessing quality. He compared works of Rembrandt with works of his pupils. His lecture  was  based  on:

A  CORPUS  OF  REMBRANDT  PAINTINGS  Volume  V  Chapter  IV  with  the  title:  On  quality:  Comparative  remarks  on  the  function  of  Rembrandt’s  pictorial  mind  (pp.  283  –  310).  Freely  accessible  in  The  Rembrandt  Database:

http://rembrandtdatabase.org/literature/corpus?tmpl=pdf&pdf=/images/corpus/CorpusRembrandt_5.pdf

Rembrandt, Abraham's sacrifice and Unknown, Abraham's sacrifice

Rembrandt, Abraham’s sacrifice and
Unknown, Abraham’s sacrifice

My lecture was on naturalistic realism, the area of tension between imitation and imagination in the classical art, including the contemporary variant.
Naturalism is one of many expressions of representational art, one with a very high degree of imitation.
See for example a comment with regard to a pretty realistic painting, on facebook (28-10-2014):

Huysman. Street in Utrecht i

Gerard Huysman. Utrecht, street in backlight, oil on panel, 2013

“I can’t understand why an artist would work so hard to make a painting like this that is so much like a photo. That’s what cameras are for. I can see the artist’s skill, but not the soul.”

 

This prejudice is often heard. Because really: isn’t imitation getting in the way of imagination? Exactly! No soul, no artistic creativity. And that’s what this discussion is all about.
I will contest the opinion that naturalism lacks imagination.

Part 1 of the lecture is in my earlier blog (see archive, august 2017).
Part 2 of Imitation and Imagination is following now.

However, the criticism does fit in with my doubts about my own work. For years I was haunted by questions:
● Is naturalistic realism actually the same as copying?
● Is it a lower form of art? Boring?
● A lot of people enjoy this kind of work, but that doesn’t mean it is relevant art.
● Does it add something? After all, reality, the real world, is already there. You should do something to it, with it.
● Shouldn’t you put your personal feelings into your art?

drawing I don't know any more

I don’t know any more, pencil-eraser-paper

Good art, who judges?

Contemporary realism in the Netherlands has been flourishing for about thirty years now. This is exceptional in Europe. Nevertheless the official art institutions and the media mostly neglect its existence. After thirty years this is strange. The wider public is deprived of a cultural treasure.
Recently a journalist wrote in a prestigious Dutch newspaper that realism can be dangerous, in the context of great skill. Yes, virtuosity is a must, she writes, but the comment ‘It looks like a photo’ is not a compliment. ‘It looks like the real thing’ even less. The artist has to expose himself, otherwise his painting will be only an illustration, not more than a picture. She mentions Henk Helmantel, who said not to be in search for expressing his personal feelings.1 In her interpretation he is doomed to produce mere illustrations, far from high art.

Henk Helmantel. Stillife with Cheese and Eggs

Henk Helmantel. Stillife with Cheese and Eggs, oil on panel, 1987, Collection Museum MORE. Photo Art Revisited.

Nothing against personal feelings in art. It is a romantic concept and we have seen great romantic art. But there seems to be a consensus that the personality, the feelings of the artist are primordial, while other approaches are excluded or rejected.
Although it’s not quite the same, this reminds me of Giorgio Vasari who pointed out that besides imitation and invention, good art should possess style and maniera, a personal artistic elegant style.2 True, a style of one’s own will add something to the art.

Well, you could say that my development until now just seems to have taken the wrong direction. Some twenty years ago I made The painter and her model, see the picture on the left. On the right a recent work: Daphne. It went from a loose touch, free colors and free imagination to naturalism.
And naturalism is less focussed on style and handwriting.

Van de Riet, Drawing Model and Daphne

Gezien van de Riet. Left: Drawing her model, acryl/oil on linnen, 1996, and right: Daphne, oil on canvas, 2016

Yes, in my beginner’s years I experimented a lot and I often had a personal spontaneous handwriting. The works of that period will never be dubbed copies or photos. Why on earth did I choose a more naturalistic way of painting? It only complicated things!
The crazy thing was: I couldn’t help myself. More and more I wanted to celebrate the beauty I had seen, to make it my own.

Ancient Greeks

Could it be that the history of art had witnessed earlier discussions about this question? I started on a search.
The Ancient Greeks had a great appreciation of the naturalistic detail. Birds should see painted grapes as real and try to pick them. An anecdote about Apelles clearly illustrates their admiration for imitation. The horse he painted was so life-like, that it is said that the horse of Alexander the Great started whinnying spontaneously on seeing it.

The Greeks had clear views on imagination. The artist should have in mind the Platonic Idea, the perfect form, the supernatural beauty of the object he wanted to portray. This did not come about automatically, because models were only ordinary mortals. Even the most beautiful human body could have fat ankles. Well, in that case you would take somebody else’s ankles!
Idealizing thus, the artist would transcend pure imitation.
So there we have it: Imitation and Imagination…

Aphrodite and Alexander as Hunter.jpg

After Praxiteles. Aphrodite, and After Lysippus. Alexander as hunter, both 4th century BC

But suddenly I jumped up. I read about the sculptor Lysippus, who worked at Alexander’s court. He wanted to convey what he saw in a naturalistic manner! Not following the current rules for perfect beauty, developed by the old masters, but his own observation.
We don’t know much for sure about Lysippus. But the sculpture attributed to him, Alexander the hunter, clearly shows a naturalistic realism. Whoever made it, this artist was capable of far-reaching imitation.
I was happy about this Lysippus.

1) Roodnat, Joyce. “Met drift geschilderde ‘kleine onderwerpen’ “. NRC, 2018-02-28.
2) Vasari, Giorgio. Lives of the Artists. Volume 1. Introduction by George Bull. London, 1987. p. 19-20.
Imitation and Imagination will continue in the coming blogs.

Galería Artelibre ’20 years, in 20×20’

Galería Artelibre

Galería Artelibre

Galería Artelibre invited me to participate in its virtual gallery, in the category of Grandes Autores. This Spanish gallery has artists on its site like Anders Zorn, Natalie Holland, David Kassan.

Galería Artelibre Artistas del mes

Galería Artelibre Artistas del mes

It is promoting realism internationally, already for twenty years, and that is heart-warming, I think! A special exhibition will celebrate their twenty years anniversary, “20 years, in 20×20” (all works will be 20x20cm). It will travel through Spain, and also visit MEAM, Museo Europeo de Arte Moderno, in Barcelona. My work will be part of it!

Link: http://artelibre.net/autor/27050

Calendar, diary, cards

Art editor Bekking&Blitz has published art diaries and calendars for 2019. A work of mine figures between artists like Sorolla, Sargent, Kenne Grégoire.

Kunst weekalender en aganda's Bekking&Blitz

Kunst weekalender en aganda’s Bekking&Blitz

In Brugues I saw an art card of my work in the Groeningemuseum, but it was forbidden to take a photo of it. I explained that it was a work of mine, but no way. Still, I disobeyed and the officer kindly pretended not to see it.

Groeninge en Drents Museum cards and book Gezien van de Riet

Groeninge en Drents Museum cards and book

In the Drents Museum of Assen there was another art card, and my book. Stimulating! This helps the brand awareness. It’s the small things that count!

Translation NL-ES: Jeroen Strengers

Art history: A new chapter

By Gezien van de Riet
With a contribution by Joke Frima about the Da Vinci Initiative

FACE-TRAC 2017
FACE: Figurative Art Convention and Expo, together with
TRAC: The Representational Art Conference,
Miami, November, 8-11, 2017

FACE TRAC MIAMI

FACE TRAC 2017 opening

Continuum, my dream
A movement! Classical tradition cast in a modern mould, high notes for craftmanship, thinking about what you make –content and form– about your contribution to culture. Becoming stronger together. Moored in official art history. That was my dream, ever since the early 80’s, when I seriously started out drawing and painting.
The classical tradition has known many currents, ever since the Greek Antiquity. Now, a contemporary one is being added to it. Daniel Graves, founder of the Florence Academy of Art, also speaks of a continuum, in stead of a tradition. What all these currents have in common is the representation of the visual reality. That requires a great deal of craftmanship; only think of painting the sky or space: paint is something else… bronze is not the same as flesh…
Beauty, including that of the awe-inspiring or dramatic sort, is also part of that continuum. Not just technique, not just content, but a mutual influencing of both was and is the goal. Art with a capital A, why not?

Max Ginsburg

Max Ginsburg: Bus stop

TRAC2014 in California
In 2014 I first glimpsed that that dream could become reality. I saw a message on Facebook about TRAC2014 in California, The Representational Art Conference, aimed at laying a theoretical foundation for the contemporary classical tradition. I had to go there! Words like ‘Renaissance’ and ‘movement’ floated thru an enchanted conference room with more than 300 enthusiasts. Some-one next to me burst into tears spontaneously. Finally out of the isolation that so many had experienced, finally a broad appreciation for the figurative, for realism! Internationally. At the time it was already called ‘the most important movement in today’s art world’. Would it last?
Back in Holland I passed on the message to as many interested people as possible. Read more in my earlier blog ‘TRAC2014. Movement!’ I longed for a TRAC in the Netherlands, in Europe.

Steven Assael

Steven Assael

TRAC2015 in California
The message resounded among several colleagues. But tickets and hotel didn’t come cheap. It was great that Tom Hageman, Director of the Classical Academy in Groningen, and artist Joke Frima could attend TRAC in 2015. I was supposed to give a lecture on true to nature realism, but unfortunately I fell ill.
It was a pity that in 2016 TRAC couldn’t continue in the same way. A critical moment.

FACE-TRAC-2017 in Miami
But now there’s FACE, the world’s first Figurative Art Convention & Expo! The dream of a movement has come true, the founders say. FACE aims at the corner stones of representational (or figurative, or realist) art. During the event you could participate in model drawing and painting, under the guidance of internationally famed artists, like Max Ginsburg, Steven Assael or Daniel Gerhartz, who also gave demonstrations. And there were lectures.
I had a strange feeling sometimes. On the one hand the focus was on endeavor for quality and vision in connexion with the past, the grand masters of the classical tradition – a strengthening of your own endeavor. On the other hand there was a view at the future: how to connect to a younger generation with a completely different cultural luggage; what does it mean for art that the future human being will be much more artificial, that the latest reproduction techniques make ‘slow art’ obsolete.

Max Ginsburg and Juliette Aristides

Demo painting portrait Max Ginsburg and drawing model Juliette Aristides

Daniel Gerhartz

Demo painting portrait Daniel Gerhartz

What was interesting: FACE invites TRAC to be part of this event. TRAC can continue to build at the theoretical foundation of representational art.
Again there were more than 300 participants, among those Joke Frima and myself from Holland, who now may carry the honorary title of ‘Founding Members’.
It is not just painters and sculptors who participate in the movement. Especially in the U.S. there are all kinds of initiatives of art lovers and art historians, aimed at spreading and deepening the classical tradition, basing it in society and institutions, spreading consciousness to a broader audience, because –let’s face it– artists themselves just don’t have the time for all that!
FACE will be a yearly event now.

Founding fathers: Eric Rhoads, Peter Trippi and Michael Pearce

Eric Rhoads, Peter Trippi, Michael Pearce

Eric Rhoads, Peter Trippi, Michael Pearce

Eric Rhoads with me and my book

Eric Rhoads with me and my book

Eric Rhoads, founder of FACE, CEO of art magazines like Fine Art Connoisseur, Plein Air magazines, yearly Plein Air Conventions & Expos, and more. FACE selects the best artists who also have the gift to encourage and inspire others thru their demonstrations and lessons. See also Fine Art Connoisseur of December 2017.

Peter Trippi, co-founder of FACE, editor-in-chief of Fine Art Connoisseur and co-curator of the Alma Tadema exhibition earlier this year in the Fries Museum in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands, and later in London and Vienna; curator of ‘The American Dream’ in the Drents Museum in Assen, the Netherlands, and more.

They started the magazine Fine Art Connoisseur in 2005. In 2011 they took the initiative for a movement. Some twenty-odd influential artist of world renown were invited to a secret meeting. Sadly enough it could not exceed the level of individual interests. Disappointed, Eric and Peter concluded that the time was not yet ripe.
Nonetheless, the idea trickled thru to:

Michael Pearce, painter and professor at the art faculty of the California Lutheran University. In 2012 he started TRAC, together with Michael Lynn Adams, who quit after 2015.
Pearce described the reason for producing the conference: “Until we did TRAC, there were literally no conferences at all about representational art – which is a strange absence, because there was then and is now a huge amount of representational art, and a very large community of people who are interested in representational art. It seemed like a big gap that needed filling.”

Themes at TRAC
Of the many themes touched upon by TRAC, I mention here: post-modernism and the contemporary classical tradition; the importance of beauty; neuro-esthetics; connexion to the younger generation; ethno-centrism in art critic; art education at school.

#FACE17

Our team had a fantastic time at the Figurative Art Convention & Expo and we can't wait until next year! Thank you to all of the faculty and attendees for making this possible. It was a memorable experience. 🙂 #FACE17

Geplaatst door Fine Art Connoisseur Magazine op Dinsdag 14 november 2017

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The Da Vinci Initiative: Changing the Culture of Art Education
A report of the lecture by Amanda Theis, TRAC2017

Joke Frima

Amanda Theis tells us passionately about her work at the Da Vinci Initiative (DVI), that aims at skill-based education. DVI makes up educuation programmes and the idea is to share and use these in secondary schools. It is aimed at the U.S. school system.

Da Vinci Initiative

Da Vinci Initiative

DVI has a YouTube channel with 30 movies of 5 minutes.
Free to watch at: http://www.davinciinitiative.org/

egg cup 1

egg cup 1

egg cup 2

egg cup 2

A Bargue drawing

A Bargue drawing

In Amanda’s experience, most art and manual skills teachers believe that drawing, if it has to do with art, cannot be taught. She gathered this wide-spread idea during weekend refreshment courses and summer schools (compulsory for U.S. teachers).
The most important criticism on DVI’s view is that skill-based education kills creativity. But Amanda points out that skills are just tools at the servicie of creativity.
She believes it’s prudent not to talk about modernism during work shops and courses. After being exposed to skill-based education, people are able to draw their own conclusions. Many people actually are visually illiterate, and skill-based eduction opens a new dimension for them.

Drawing perspective from life (self made robots)

Drawing perspective from life (self made robots)

Self-portrait by Ray Wanda Totanes, 15 year old

Self-portrait by Ray Wanda Totanes, 15 year old

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To parents of children who want to study this kind of art, and who may be concerned that there is no future in it, she says: “Skill-based education will not give you a degree, but it wil give you jobs.” Amanda herself has undergone training by Juliette Aristides in Seattle. These kind of ateliers don’t provide a teaching license in America. That can only be obtained at university. The problem is, that art faculties in universities don’t provide for skill-based education. Amanda would like to hear from the participants where she can refer children and young people to for a good atelier training.

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TRAC2018 in Leeuwarden

TRAC2018 in Leeuwarden

TRAC2018

TRAC2018 in the Netherlands, first country in Europe!
May 1-4, 2018, in Leeuwarden.
Website: www.trac2018.com
Follow also on internet and my blog.

 

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Next blog will continue with ‘Imitatio et Inventio’.

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Translation NL-EN by Jeroen Strengers