• Is mini painting art?

    In what sense can we say that mini painting is Art?                Is mini painting art? Are well-painted minis pieces of art? Are mini painters artists? Here are a few questions often seen of Forums on the subject of mini painting and art. It is of course impossible to answer these questions with one absolute, universally true, answer (here’s something that will warm Rev’s heart). Yet we each end up with our own opinion and answer to the question. Considering this, my aim in writing this article is not to convert people to my point of view, but to offer new angles on a question that is often discussed in redundant terms and train of thoughts. And since the most likely outcome of this is people not agreeing on one or several point, this article will hopefully lead to some interesting discussions that steer a bit away from the questions that might have been addressed d in previous discussions. This article also has a second aim, and that is to get people interested in the philosophy of arts, and art history in general. Since I believe that mini painting is art, I think that a lot can be learned from the great artists out there, by taking a look at the different movements in art history and the philosophical meaning of art.     I am by no mean an expert on the subject; in fact I am just a simple student whose interest in art was stirred up by a teacher who knows how to communicate his passion for art.  And over time this interest got mixed up with my favorite hobby to lead up to some of the thoughts that I’m about to share with you. In consequence I will ask you not to judge me too harshly if some arguments seem weak.     Most of the answers that I bring to the question are derived from various philosophy classes or art books, meaning that I will usually start out my reflection in a general term, considering arts as a whole, to then move on to see how it can be applied to mini painting. I/How can we define art?    The most essential part to answering our questions is getting a clear a definition of what exactly we are talking about. No problem for mini painting, we all know what that is. But defining art is something entirely more difficult. In fact we probably all have a very different definition of it. Of course we most probably all agree on the fact that the Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is art, or that a sculpture by Rodin is Art, but every time we step out of this mutual agreement zone, we’ll find that we are either unable to give a clear definition of art, or unable to agree on its definition. For example do you consider Klein’s monochromes to be art? Do you consider manzzoni’s Mierda de Artista to be art? To the first question some of you probably answered no, and to the second I am quit ready to bet that the vast majority of you answered no. So lets address this difficulty head on, how do you define what is art and what isn’t? Art ?? 1) Arts seeks beauty    When confronted with the question: “What is Art”, most people’s answers will make a reference to beauty. Art is what seeks to create beauty. And will this might at first seem like a good way to define art, it very quickly shows its limitations. Without going into specifics concerning the definition of beauty (don’t want to spend the whole night reading do you: P) we can all agree on the fact that beauty is something subjective. So where’s the problem? Art is also subjective after all: I don’t like most of Dali’s painting yet some people do. But can we really give a definition, an immutable way to say if something is art, solely based on our opinion? The answer is of course no, a definition as to be the same for everyone, and obviously if it based on subjectivity it won’t be. Besides, it is easy to see that one person finding a painting ‘beautiful’ isn’t enough to qualify that painting as a piece of art. And increasing the number of people in admiration in front of said painting won’t change a thing. Even in the unlikely event that we could all agree on the beauty of one thing we would still be faced with several problems.     First of all, not all things beautiful are Art. For example lets say we all agree that my girlfriend is beautiful (or yours if you prefer ), would you agree to say that she is to be considered as art? Obviously not. Now I can ear some say, she’s not man made (well not directly anyway), so lets take another example. You just bought a house, naturally you find it beautiful, and after inviting all your friends over they feel the same way, are you going to say that your house is a piece of art? Still not, me thinks.     The second problem with beauty as a way to define art is that not all pieces of art are beautiful. For example lets take Mondrian, who is considered to be on of the fathers of impressionism. I seriously doubt that anyone can honestly say to find his paintings beautiful at first glance. Not that they don’t have certain qualities, but beauty is not amongst them. Yet, these painting are art, and widely recognized as such. Not exactly beautiful is it ?        And finally beauty is something conditioned by our social entourage and by our education. Levis Strauss explains this very well with the example of African masks he was known to collect. At the time, these mask weren’t considered to be art in Europe, as a matter of fact they were for most people not considered to be of any interest. Occidental culture didn’t have to cultural tool to understand the symbolic, and meaning of these mask. Still entirely absorbed in our vision of the human body inherited from the Greek, these masks were seen as only a grotesque attempt at reproducing the human face. With a nose completely squashed out on the face and a mouth that extended far too out by our standards. And yet, today these same masks are displayed in museum, and admired by many visitors who don’t hesitate to qualify them with adjective ‘beautiful’. That is because our understanding of the symbolic behind these masks as come a long way in 50 years. Now considering what we have just said, if we were to take beauty as criteria in the definition of art, we would find our self with a different definition in every culture and a definition that would change as time passed by. Which is contrary to the very notion of a definition.     So considering what we have just said, we are forced to one conclusion. Art can’t be defined by beauty. Which doesn’t mean that beauty doesn’t have anything to do with art. It would be stupid to deny that most great piece of arts are just that: beautiful. And if art isn’t defined by beauty, then we have to consider that beauty is a byproduct of the process of creation of art. Meaning that in the search of our definition of art, we got interested not in what made art, but in what resulted of art being created. So, let’s correct that and try and figure out, what makes art art. If we can’t define art by the final result, by what it creates, lets try to do it by taking a look at what gets us to that final result that we’ve come to call art. 2) The Meaning of Art.     First of all, let’s convince our self that there is indeed a reason behind the creation of art. Something that pushes human to create it and thus something that gives it a meaning, and in our case something that would allow us to formulate the idea of what art is, a sophisticated definition in a sort.     As far back as we can go in history, there has never been a single form of civilization without art in one form or another. ‘Primitive’ humans used to practice body art, through tattoos and piercing, art forms latter one appeared on walls and common objects, and it’s canvas kept diversifying up to today’s world where almost anything can be called upon to create a piece of art. In short, art was there when the human’s only preoccupation was to survive, it was there when we only focused on war, and it is still there today even though it goes against the logic of a capitalistic economy. When in the XXth century Levis Strauss discovered new civilization in the heart of south America, civilizations that had not been exposed to any other form of civilization outside the valley they had been living in for thousands of year, one of the first things he noticed was that these tribes where producing art. So it would seem safe to assume that the creation is a bit more then a passing fancy for us humans, it’s more then just a recreational activity. It is in fact one of the essential needs for humans to survive in this world. But why, or more precisely: how?      How does art work? Lets take one of Duchamp’s arrangements for example. He takes a urinal that used to have a utilitarian function in a bathroom and that he collected somewhere in a waste, an object with absolutely no esthetical value (unless you have weird tastes :P), and makes it into a piece of art. How? By placing it in such a way that we are forced to see, not a urinal, but a fountain (or anything ells you’d care to imagine). Simply by changing the presentation of the object he changes our whole perception of that object, he almost magically turns something that you are accustomed to seeing into something entirely different. By doing this Duchamp turns an every day object into a symbol. And it is there that the true genius of the artist is expressed. He managed to capture and render perfectly the way art works. Fountain was a symbol
    of ambiguity in very ambiguous times; it is whatever the viewer’s
    reaction makes it. That is the nature of found art.
    What do you see ?         Réné Huyghe explains this symbolic nature of art very well. Every art piece as a duality. It is always a representation of the world that surrounds us, but at the same time it also a representation of ‘us’. By using and representing our world through art we definitely tie art in with the world that surrounds us. But at the same time, it is not the world as it is that we represent, but merely the vision that we have of it, thus including our self in the art we create. And it is impossible for the artist to remove on of these two elements. Should he try and make a very realistic representation of nature as it presents itself to him, he’ll never be able to avoid doing so in a personal way (brush strokes, color choice, paint choice, which details should or should not be represented, ect…) and thus including parts of him in his art. On the contrary, if the artists tries to remove all that could tie the work of art to our world, he’ll always end up creating something by borrowing from that very world he is trying to avoid, starting with the very material he uses, but extending much further. This interpretation of art sheds a bit of light on the two main streams of art that can be observed in history: Classic and Baroque. Both of theme resulting from an attempt at removing one side of the delicate balance between representation of the world has we see it and representation of our self. In classic man is obsessed with the ability to rule over nature, obsession that shows quite clearly in English gardens for example (such as Versailles) where nothing is left to chance. And this obsession also drives him to represent nature as accurately as possible, leaving no room for subjectivity or ‘human’ elements. If man can control nature he should also be able to represent it, representation is thus seen as a way of affirming the power of man over nature. Baroque on the other hand, is born in a civilization where nature is all-powerful, and it is actually interesting to note that it comes from countries where nature plays a dominant role. In the representation of such an overpowering nature man can grasp all and lets his imagination run wild. Leaving little room for actual representation, which he can only begin to understand.     Thus art allows man to bring together the two infinite fields that define him. The world by which he is surrounded and which he does not understand, and the himself in the form of his psyche to which he sees no limit. Art alone is able to close the gap between those two worlds and assure us of the possibility of coexistence of the two. Art alone is able to do in a durable way what love only manages sporadically. Art is part of us emotionally and yet has visibly nothing to do with us. It symbolizes our representation of the world. That is why a child who takes a stick from the ground to play with and consider it as something ells then a stick is in a sense creating art. He his including part of himself in that stick, giving it a new interpretation, and making it a symbol of that child’s representation of the world (quite a provocative example I’ll admit  )     In short and to contract a bit what as just been said, we can give a quote from Klee, which is one of the fathers of abstraction with Kandinsky: “Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.”. Art allows a different interpretation of the world by reuniting the two infants that make us human.     It would seem that we have reached a definition of art that seems convincing. Or that at least explains well enough what makes art. But before we move on and apply this to mini, lets do one final preliminary study and take a look at how art is created. 3) Creating art    This is the final step, which can allow us to identify art. Objects are not only defined by what they are but also by how they get to be what they are. One simple example would be to ask yourself if you would be ready to consider a man made body (clone) to be human. Same goes for art, something that is not created as art, can’t be art.     There are basically three things that guide the process of creation of art. I will try to go other them (A bit more quickly than for the definition ). Most of this is inspired by a small text from Alain’s Propos. 1) Art is never imagined before it is created. No artist ever goes in to the process of creation knowing fully where he will end up. The piece of art is imagined has it is created. That is not to say that the artist doesn’t have a general idea of where he is going, or even a very precise idea. The David wasn’t created without extensive research work on the human anatomy before hand. But there are always undecided elements that go into the process of creation. The artist will adjust and make changes as he goes along, his sensitivity calling out to him. 2) A piece of art is never really finished. Not physically, but in the meaning that it is meant to have. As it is exposed to the public art will always keep ‘working’. Calling out for different interpretation, taking on different meanings. There will never be one definite meaning to that piece of art. No final meaning can ever be attained in art. That is why artist are very often not satisfied with what they have created. They get a sense of un-accomplishment. And yet if they where to go one that feeling would never go away. 3) No piece of art is ever perfect. It is another paradox of man that he his always striving for perfection and yet hates everything that embodies it, same goes for art. Because in the end, perfection would be nothing. The best love poem that was ever written is a blank sheet of paper. And by the very definition that a cathedral takes, the most magnificent of cathedral would have to be made of nothingness. Art can strive for perfection as in the monochromes of Klein, but it can never truly achieve it. And as a matter of fact it doesn’t have the desire to do so because it would remove all human element and thus the very meaning of art. II/ Is Mini Painting art? Well Now that we’ve finished our ‘small’ preparatory work, we can move on to the heart of the subject. This part I almost didn’t write, as it will mostly be me expressing my opinion on the matter. But I feel that after all, this being my article I am allowed to do so (6), and knowing the CMON community I’m pretty sure this is not going to become a dogma But, still I will keep it short to leave room for your interpretation of things. 1) Considering the definition?First of all, beauty being out of the way we can get ride of any argument that would go along the line of: “I find minis ugly so they’re not art”. Or the opposite as a matter of fact. Now considering what we have said minis should include two elements to be considered has art. First they should be linked to our world. I think that’s an obvious thing for all minis. No process of creation is ever free of the world that surrounds us, and even the most foreign of aliens borrows from our world in terms of representation. Second minis should hold part of us. Now that’s not obvious, and in fact is not the case for most minis. But let’s say I show you this mini:    Did you guess whom it was from? If you’re into minis, most probably, you can put a name on the artist without to much problem. How is that? Well in the mini world we call that having a distinctive style, many artists have it: Cyril, Allan, Ritual, EricJ to name a few. The fact that these artist have a distinctive style means that they poor part of themselves into these minis. Without any sign linking them to there mini you are still able to identify it as their work, and by doing so you give credit to the idea that they gave a very personal interpretation of the mini. of the world in which the mini is set…..our world. And actually I find it interesting to find in the style of some mini painters similarities with canvas painters. Whether it is work on accentuating contrasts, or trying to get a very pure result (almost monochrome for some mini painters), it can all be compared to the work of some of the great artists. So in the end, I do feel that according to the definition, mini can be considered as art. By showing us his mini, the mini painters is giving us a personal representation that he as of that mini. 2) Considering the Process of Creation?    1) I am not at a point where I can consider my self an artist (much like a lot of oil painters are not artist). But from discussions that I have with some mini painters I do consider to be artists, and by the article I have read, it is my guess that most painters do not have the final idea in mind when they start on their mini. In fact I dare any mini painter out there to write out how he his going to paint a mini before doing so, and of course to be satisfied with the result. Most artist change tones, had different hues and glazes as they work on their mini, based on what their sensibility tells them.        2) Well I have yet to see one mini on which everybody sees the same thing. Imagines the same story. And gets the same feeling. It would seem minis affect all of us differently, all of them drawing out different interpretations from each of us. And it is not uncommon for mini paints to feel a sense of un-achievement about their work.    3) Ever seen a perfect mini? And more to the point, would you think a technically perfect     mini (made by a computer for example) to be nice? I know I wouldn’t. So, it is my conclusion and personal opinion that mini is art. Feel free to disagree with me, that’s what reflection is all about. But I do hope that you found some thoughts in this article interesting and that it will lead to some renewal in that eternal debate of asking our self if mini is art.  And hopefully it will get some of the truly talented ones out there to take a deeper interest in classic arts to see how it can be used to bring some new ideas into our hobby. If there is a positive response to this article I will latter on include a second part that considers the question from a different angle. That of what makes an artist. But time being a rare commodity I’ll to stop there for the time beeing. Cheers. Frenchkid
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