Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Expressionism versus impressionism

I'm always fascinated by these two terms and the use of it and it seems I always get it wrong even though I can give their definitions.

I have done a few paintings on which many people give many different opinions and the scale weighs in equally at expressionism andt impressionism. I think there is a grey area today, boundaries overlap with marriages between all the different styles of painting. Is it a good thing or a bad thing, or nothing at all? Does it perhaps make it bad art? Or doesn't bad art exist? Is all art good? Is good painting all about a solid knowledge of technique, or can a strong ambiance and emotion save a poorly executed painting? Loire scintillante...
oil on canvas, 22x33cm

For quick explanation I used wikipedia to define:

Expressionism "...It sought to express the meaning of "being alive"[2] and emotional experience rather than physical reality.[2][3] It is the tendency of an artist to distort reality for an emotional effect; it is a subjective art form.......generally the term refers to art that expresses intense emotion. It is arguable that all artists are expressive but there is a long line of art production in which heavy emphasis is placed on communication through emotion...."

Impressionism "....Characteristics of Impressionist paintings include visible brush strokes, open composition, emphasis on light in its changing qualities (often accentuating the effects of the passage of time), ordinary subject matter, the inclusion of movement as a crucial element of human perception and experience, and unusual visual angles...... Painting realistic scenes of modern life, they emphasized vivid overall effects rather than details. They used short, "broken" brush strokes of pure and unmixed colour, not smoothly blended, as was customary, in order to achieve the effect of intense colour vibration...."

Looking on different art sites, there are categories of styles: expressionism, abstract, impressionis,, contemporary, modern.... does it give more worth to a painting if it can clearly be classified as Impressionism, or Modern contemporary, or Classical... I have also been asked before..: what style of painting do you do?" to which I start blabbering, because I have no clue. I sometimes paint something SO distorted that it can be nothing else BUT maybe surrealism and other times I'm thinking Impressionism when in fact it is plain and simple realism. It sounds confusing just writing it all down here, reading it must be even worse and as all artists will know, doing it, is the challenge.

Not that it bothers me in any way not to have a particular style. I don't search for a certain style. I dont think anyone can, really. You are what you are. And your art reflects who you are. but I certainly feel flattered when a style is recognized in my work!
I recently saw paintings from someone who attended a Charles Reid workshop and his paintings speak of CR influence. This artist's paintings project his effort and hard work at trying to incorporate this free style of CR. I somewhat feel uncomfortable looking at this work. It makes me feel fatigued, as if he had worked very hard at getting this effortless look. I feel as if there is a wordless desire behind his work, asking for the real him to be released and I wish this artist would give in to that desire. I would love to see the work of the real him.

Any opinions?


Katherine Tyrrell said...

What I like about this blog is the freedom it seems to give us to talk about ideas more.

Thanks for the discussion of painting styles and for the definitions. I've looked at the Impressionism one before and always felt it didn't quite 'get it' right but difficult to say how it is wrong!

Charlene Brown said...

What a thought-provoking post! I know exactly what you mean about being pleased if someone identifies a specific style in my work -- and also tend to babble off in all directions if asked about my style. For the record, when I first saw la Loire scintillante, I thought 'impressionist, for sure' but decided it was expressionist after I got into your discussion.

Jeanette said...

All aspects of art are so open to interpretation, it becomes difficult to have anything cut and dried, even if in definition form.

As for style, you do have a style, whether you realize it or not. I can tell through familiarity with individuals work here who has posted simply by seeing the little thumbnail on my site.

We are all influenced by any number of people and styles of work throughout our lives. As for artists expressing emotion through work - well I have a problem with that concept in that it rarely rings true. Yes, emotion may affect the outcome of a piece, but I don't believe it is the driving force. Most artists simply draw or paint something because it is something that pleases them or that they want to draw or paint. The critics are the ones who like to put emotion into art where there is none.

vivien said...

You have a very distinct style of your own which is good :>) - not a conscious put-on style, but a natural one that comes through however you work.

This one is again, really lovely.

I agree it's sad when people try to work In The Style Of, instead of developing their own personality. It's always a little laboured and feels a bit 'off' as they are putting on someone elses personality, it never has the depth of the original.

I agree with Jeanette that we all have our influences but they should be varied - my influences are as diverse as Schiele (LOVE his incisive but fluid line), Toulouse Lautrec, KJ, Monet, Pissaro, Expressionism, Rembrandt, Sargeant, Turner, Whistler, Degas and a whole host of others.

I agree with K that I really enjoy these discussions :>)

I just say contemporary about my work - which has elements of both impressionism and expressionism I think?

Sometimes I am after a mood in a piece (rather than an emotion) - wildness and movement or serenity and peacefulness for instance

Lindsay said...

I think it's really interesting how these names for painting styles usually don't come about until a "movement" is well under way.

For me, the most important issues is does the painting ring true? Weather it's realism, impressionism, expresionism etc.... Does the artist have a deep feeling or a deep attachment to the subject.

Your work always has this feel to me. Plus you really know your way around the color wheel.
What blue are you using here? I'm working on trying out various color triads.

Anonymous said...

Lindsay, my blues are cobalt blue, fench ultramarine, and prussion blue as well as cerulean blue, which I mix and match with ochres and siennas and umbers and alizarin crimson, depending on what tint or shade I need. I love working with Sennelier, whose opigments are strong and most of them are really lightfast.

Cathy Gatland said...

One of the things I've enjoyed about Watermarks is getting to recognise which artist has done which work before looking at their name tags - style comes through in spite of different mediums and experimentation with subject matter. I think most of the 'isms' in art were created after the stage was over - many didn't know what style they were at the time - why we all babble when asked!

muddy red shoes said...

I dont care much for isims, and I dont thing any title can disguise a poorly executed painting. Whatever area other people put ones work into it must have the bones of good solid understanding of shape form and line, colour too if it is a painting. I dont think that those things have a definate formula tho, it is possible to break rules and make your own but you can allways see if there is underlying weakness...well I think so anyway.

vivien said...

well put Sarah :>)

I don't like tick boxes, pigeonholing or labels either - and sadly education now has a lot of it :>(