This is NOT an academic, highly intellectual post on what makes an artwork GREAT or not.
It’s a post inspired by my musings over this question as a fairly uneducated therefore nonacademic artist.
This question is, I believe, on par with “What is life all about?” and one that begs answering especially if you are a professional artist.
Here’s how the musing goes:
Is it possible to be a highly adept, skilled artist and yet not express GREATNESS in your work? I’m standing on a pavement looking through the window front of an art gallery. There are some stunningly beautiful paintings of landscapes, seascapes and the ubiquitous koi fish in a pond. I’m impressed in a detached, unmoved way.
An example of a ubiquitous koi fish painting – one I quite like actually.
Flash back to an article recently read about Arthur Pinajian. The first time my eyes took in a small, badly taken photo of one of his paintings, I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. Blissful breathlessness.
There was no priming here – no brainwashing by the media. I don’t even like abstract art!! Just a deep down, in the bones type of feeling that this artwork captures the ineffable, bringing something heavenly to earth.
Apparently a lot of people experienced the same feeling as he is now hailed by our big, faceless informer, the media, as being on par with if not greater than Picasso!
Is that maybe why GREAT ART is so hard to define?? This greatness is beyond the thinking mind where most of us feel like strangers, but where mad people and most likely GREAT artists feel at home – posting off an artwork from this hallowed space now and then to keep the world in touch with the unutterable?
First it must catch my eye. Then it must tug at my vision so I feel slightly disoriented and with that a loss of breath or at least a pause, a sense of excitement. If for quite a while afterwards I feel altered, as if haunted by the image in my mind of the artwork I’ve looked at, then the artist was successful.
Also – there must be enough space in the artwork for me to fill in and lose myself in. Not everything should be described – that can be overpowering and grow tiring very quickly.
UPDATE: 16 December 2021
I now understand that it’s not about “capturing the ineffable” it’s about stepping aside and “allowing the ineffable” to paint. The experience is akin to a painting painting itself.