Why Now? And What Makes This 'Art' Today Different?


Stephen Hornsby-Smith
Stephen Hornsby-Smith

Painting has recovered its prescience by an evolution of a staggered, ecclectic and often a leading paradox of its day, for a number of reasons of which I'll allude to some of the more 'eye-catching' examples today. Firstly, we're going to have to front-up about the issue of 'form'. Hitherto the medium of painting seems obsessed about physical 'dimension limitation'. Exhausting any 'formal' potential misses the point! Self-expression is meant to be crampt to accelerate transformation both deploying cabin fever putting oneself on the spot 'catharsis' and by a very British mass plurality of scale by a quantum leap of individual participation practitioner free and unlimited application of the painting medium in contrast to the technological digital turnover. Slavery to fear of obsolescence is a permanent medium killer reality! Constant technological consumption isn't a problem or issue for paint and the canvas that are cheap for all budgets and not prone to price fluctuation and readily available to all. Even if tech can be cheap too all it is is too sensitive to yesterday's news and the art race escalation. If not then you're at the mercy of ready-made wharholian idolitary of the everyday becoming 'exclusive' only for the warholian herd-nerds to re-launder derivation. Poor old Marcel Duschamps becoming a 'past historical figure' contrasted with constant literal and metaphorical landscapes of 'paint' in a multigenerational, multi-setting with or without plein aire, bedroom or studio free of expectation or presumption.


Consumption has been replaced by initiation of self-expression both evolving and mutating an unlimited entry-point by new and inexperienced joy of paint! This inauspicious beginning of a national British medium for the 21st century is without over-centralization and esoteric control! Of course the idiosyncrasies of paint and variables and variations of individual development can't be inhibited by central 'quality control' and it never should but it always has – so this is an original development per se too! Collective mass activism is beyond the bullish macho stampede of tired, cynical professional art historians putting false barriers in progresses path!


Self-definition is especially relevant to a post-imperial, post cold war and ex-post modernist Britain today! We're a nation of self-definition by exiting the tramlines of dependency and determinism! We represent an era of re-set and self-set leading Europe by our paradoxical migration of paint without having to watch 'paint-dry' in waiting for the art juggernaut to catch up or dictate! The common-denominator of British art-re-orientation doesn't have to stand by for conceptual 'young British artists' to get too wealthy and spoilt but can filter and join our non-deference to un-compromising creativity! Our narrative of interior and exterior life by 'finger-print' addresses an undersubscribed freedom, but it isn't just art change per se. Indeed, we offer replacing political collectivity that was strangled by the mass exodus of political power from industry as well as over dependency on collective commercial business (largely hidden from a more overt larger profile) with a mass non-ideological movement of the future and in defiance of Covid-19 lockdown! If Brexit can reverse urban northern votes of traditionally Labour heartland to vote for “Boris the Brexit Tory”, surely we too can reject outmoded conventions for a new painting artistic landscape without having hang-ups about misplaced loyalties? Perhaps the North is our guiding star of original paint iconoclasm too? By painting at home at the 'home of art for all' we're an emerging contributor with or without the attributes of social production of our art expansion! Signing-up is by your 'signature' on paint art.


Paint is no servant or master with our own gallery space by rudimentaries of up-loading to communicate to one another. Painters aren't anti-tech but open tech. Painting and canvas will outstrip over-crowded 'location museums' and will self-designate and re-locate where our role models don't need to be flash or heroic but fuelled by medium aspiration not individual corruption or self-opinionation. Here's a simple mantra: what are you doing to contribute to Britain's culture? Only by joined-up mutual 'self-transcendence' and not as arrogant as the epi-centre of a 'self-centred universe', but as a joie de vivre understander and sympathetic supporter , reconciling 'mortal coils' and not dependant on its deceiving spoils, can we all contribute. We are all representation without taxation!


Its identity is naturally amenable to the solitude or the isolation required in today's life enforced by the binary of economy-driven personification of exclusion/inclusion. Indeed identity is paint unplagiarized that lends itself to the self-image challenge, an upgrade from the phone selfies and the flux of 'spamlife longevity'. Paint discovers how we all individually face some level of economic, socio-political carnage by crisis that is an inevitable visualization to describe going off the grid by avoidance or relishing confrontation entitlement. Primarily we need to visualize any of our truths beyond a trendy post-truth society and reject addiction to social media and anti-social phone devices etc. not just by revival or reversal but by re-set. This isn't an outbreak of painting but a breakthrough by painting. Given local art paint 'accents' idiosyncrasy by the way we differ in paint why are we all stereotyped as if we're 'still born mimetics'? Are not we the 'same equal but different' diversity?


Not withstanding paint and canvas mass UK popularity and potentially multifarious levels of participation via the brush, paint is undeniably primal and not containable. It's not permissive but subject to British proliferation that is contagious but without threat. Indeed it is a self-policing escape from the cultural corporate art's hegemonic lobby; this is liberation by the art originality of de-regulation, and arts of collective sharing without any structures of egalitarian tradition. Perhaps the space outside painting is without oxygen but life inside moves forward with all the 'plein aire' we need to take in the universe on our own trajectory?


This very democratizing quality impacts by this small carbon footprint of paint and canvas by the individual 'explorer' that relates and energizes one sort of influence with or without any other , beyond the compulsory art academia or state imposition. This is both a vindication of eschewing both default ideological positions of the cold war superpowers and a repudiation of 'youth vulture' predictable bland-band punk, drunk, grump bland rebellion where art blends out on both metaphorically 'criminalizing' progressive non-violent protest by paint and progress and image diversity. Surely we have to brush the cobwebs away from the immediate art degeneration and art 'affliction-monopoly' of idea (conceptual) art that is so prevalent as to be almost creepy!?


It was 'cabin fever' that duly re-designed abstract expressionism after 1945 in New York, but it was its anti-figurative nature that swallowed whole the esoteric self-opinionizing hierarchy that re-invented and recycled European snobbery that Madison Avenue advertised and made popular and Wall Street sold that led to the American dreamers' 'consumer led establishment'. This so reinvented our post-war painting Britain whilst it also offers us a blue-print for any post-colonial post-war unwrapping of imposed trappings of old school European social class war for any generation!. But true break up, break with and break-out wasn't completed but initiated by art abstract expressionism but it paved the way for its American successors; but what a germination and route map for it!? The consumer-led establishment indulged 'shock-contempt-hate-mockery-irony' that wasn't just exclusively anti-European (which isn't always counter productive) but it was indulgence without risk of becoming too domestically self-critical. In fact U.S. 'us' art was supported and sponsored by the home-team of the CIA (CIA money often subsidized American post-war art exhibitions), which did not allow for European painters to share its oeuvre on an equal footing in New York and the west coast. Perhaps painters weren't inspired by America, unlike the homegrown talent whose art by the American post-war positivistic nationalism and self-consumption was often ambivalent about it, but knew very little else but severing ties with 'the old Europe of pain, hardship, prejudice and physical dereliction which was understandable as the world was crying-out to move on. Post-war rebuild, rehab Europe needed American tax payers' money, but did it need its culture of consumerism that succeeded abstract expressionist painting?


But as William Blake may well have argued that you only know what's enough when you have had too much has had little effect on the Brit pop artist Peter Blake who bought-into the 'consumer boomer art' wannabee-carnaby, canabee art of the 1960s. Perhaps difficult art by paint was just too painful or too difficult? Or perhaps Soviet low-brow paint of socialist realism with its anti-Western European ideological short-hand had infected paint generally?. Significantly the United Kingdom has left the European Union just when the nascent re-emergence of the painting practitioner is a British European pioneering invention to export as a break out and breaking away from institutions and conventional practices!? Indeed today's paint rehabilitation from literal and metaphorical shackles is like our Berlin wall falling, replacing it with self-ownership and self-identity diversified; the last brick in the wall that haunts us has finally been removed. But I suspect that has European political ramifications most relished by political 'angry people'!


Angry people are often motivating by 'easy conversion' and non-competitive or anti-competitive values that don't resist art (r)age and macho 'big-stage-art-cultural-gallows'. Conspiracy of the ideological theatre beckons self-importance and lingers with privileged activist desperados. But their folly is another man's counter-conspiracy or backlash! Rebel 'fed-ucation' doesn't have to be right or wrong but powerful, but is time sensitive where a time-out by paint de-escalation and its diversity takes the sting out of the status of modernizing mass art. Collectivity by communities of all painters by our 'velvet modernism' transforms a fear of the subversive by an embracing of the assembly of all painters. But a painter's life isn't a romantic one but its hardships abandon financial tranquillizers or wealthy sedative art by unlimited expanse to explore by image choice by self-expression and all the adrenalin of creativity by turning stress into progressive freedom. We can either firstly charge the lines or secondly, appreciate reflective art to evaluate at a distance by paint self-expression of any interior or exterior “non-clanscape” that is the true self-portrait of a paint that has no need to hunt down or drip-feed rivals. 'Never before have so many painter practitioners been so excluded by so few art-insiders', was yesterday's news! Painters seize the day, don't leave the fray with or without paint on your hands!