A slice from the process of painting.
A few words on some aspects of one vertical slice of the process of creating a work of visual art, more specifically by painting.
These words are only concerned with one minute aspect of this multi-dimensional, many-levelled and complex activity and there are,
obviously, many other dimensions, levels and aspects involved, for example the history of aesthetic (artistic and painterly) ideas,
techniques employed in painting, formal structures (such as forms, colours, composition, textures, etc), the art business (such
as the art market, commercial galleries, collectors, etc), critque and review of art, art/artists and the media, different kinds
of expectations , influences and assumptions various groups (informed viewers, the general public, other professional and
serious artists, Sunday or hobby’painters’, academic artists, academics and teaching staff, educational institutions, etc)
connected to art have of and on visual art, etc.
It is clear from this that the process of painting is merely one grain of sand on a vast beach in the universe of socio-cultural
practices and more specifically the discourse of visual arts and the genre of painting, and the Western tradition of this genre.
In general serious artists critically engage with their external and internal worlds, frames of reference and mind sets employed
for interacting with, relating to, perceiving, interpreting, understanding, dealing with, reacting and responding to and existing
in and as part of their (and othes’) life worlds.
This existence and the critical, questioning, explorative manner of doing this or ‘being’ this existence consist of a diversity of
cultural, social, psychological, physical, etc processes. The execution of the process of painting involves aspects from many of
these and other factors and depends on and employs them both intentionally and explicitly as well unintentionally and implicitly.
The artists may or may not be aware of these processes and factors, but, in spite of the fact that these things are explicit or
implicit, there are certain things that inevitably will be involved in the process of painting.
Some of these things are pre-conceptual and for not yet conceptual, while others are more conceptual and some are already
conceptualized. Other things that form part of the pre-conceptual (and/or not yet conceptualized) aspects of the painting process
are, sub-conscious and pre-rational and/or not yet, fully, rational. The serious, creative artist employs (or ‘is’ or function as)
a certain type of ‘consciousness’, awareness and intelligence. This creative intelligence can be compared to the intelligence of
an excellent or genius footballer (rugby player, swimmer and other types of sportsmen). Although there are obviously many things
that are different in the case of other types of socio-cultural practices creative people execute, employ and ‘are’ (for example
composers, musicians, dancers, actors, creative thinking scientists, mathematicians, architects, designers, etc), there are many
similarities as well.
The norms of these, and other discourses in terms of which these creative individuals work determine things such as the available
and in/appropriate skills, long term goals, immediate aims, purposes, material, ideas, questions, ways of questioning , dealing
with ideas and dissolving problems (or problematization). The creative artist deals with many of these things in a pre-conceptual
and sub-conscious (and even ‘rational’) manner and with others in a more conscious and conceptual (and rational) manner.
One aspect of the latter consists of a second-order, meta or reflective activity on the process of painting. Certain artists, for
example Paul Klee, found it necessary and even essential to reflect on and dealing critically with the and their own process of
painting, while others may found it less important and some might find this ‘philosophical’ activity irrelevant and not at all
important. The points I wish to make in this article is to show out that the, seemingly very concrete and practical, process of
painting 1) have both i) a concrete, practical aspect (with its host of related skills, activities, etc) as well as ii) a ‘mental’
side (consisting of other, although related, skills, activities, know-how, information, understanding, grasp, intelligence, etc).
2) And, that accompanied by, no underlying and consisting of, both the ‘more’ practical (and visible?) or concrete and the ‘more’
mental (invisible?) ‘stages’ or (intertwined) ‘aspects’ of the process of painting involve ‘activities, processes and structures’
that are situated on a continuum that has as a) one pole things that are, as yet, completely sub-conscious, not conceptualized
(but that could be made or become conscious and conceptualized) and b) as the other pole, things that are totally conscious and
So-called ‘contemporary’ painting (say, for example from the 1950’s onwards), increasingly, is concerned with
(to the point of making it its subject-matter and contents, as well as its main purpose, aim and objective) –
the identification of, dealing with, exploration, analysis and depiction of both the sub-consciousness and
conscious aspects of the process of creating and more specifically the creating process of painting (although
this is also true, or rather, meaningful, in the case of other arts, such as dance, film, video, composing of
classical music, playing of classical instruments, writing, humanities and the sciences).