Authenticity

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Dear Artist,

In a public gallery the other day I came upon a tailored young woman and her equally tailored mother. They were admiring a painting by an artist I happen to know. As I lingered to see what they were seeing, the daughter turned to me and said, “It’s the only good one in here.” While I was mulling her dangerous pronouncement, the word “authentic,” slipped from her lip gloss. She invited my agreement with her considerable eyes, and I gave back.

Low Tide 1/94: Hesquiat Bay -- acrylic painting on canvas, 1994 56 x 120 inches by Takao Tanabe

“Low Tide 1/94: Hesquiat Bay” 1994
acrylic on canvas 56 x 120 inches
by Takao Tanabe

She had been struck with that indescribable something that says “quality.” Beyond quality — more like “presence.” The real goods as opposed to the ersatz. It happens. Suddenly you see and you trust. If you have an open mind, any type of art can do the trick — realistic, abstract, a lofty installation or a practical craft. And as creative people, wherever we’re coming from, we intuitively know authenticity is something worth having.

I’ve always thought that authenticity wasn’t an add-on, but the best effort of an authentic person. This person may have powers of observation or an eye beyond the ordinary. You can sometimes tell the authentic by seeing something else nearby that isn’t. In a way it’s sad that people will actually pay for this vacuum. Intuitively or unconsciously, finer eyes see virtue beside subject and rendering. As I said, it’s indescribable. “Casual, confident, understated, refined,” may be words the finer eyes use. Some simply feel an underlying ego force or the power of intended design.

Folks with finer eyes are not always authorities or critics. They may be quiet ones who think and feel for themselves. Neither schooled nor influenced, they may have deep pockets or shallow. Maybe they’re just adept at spotting phonies, or have a distaste for the artificial. What’s left is what we sometimes call “taste.”

A good looking fellow came by — blue suit, striped shirt, shiny green tie. Perhaps the boyfriend — he brought the ladies’ coats. After some encouragement, he too looked long and hard at the painting — up close, like a lawyer examining evidence. “There’s less to this than meets the eye,” he said. Perhaps unknowingly, he was quoting Tallulah Bankhead.

“I get it,” I said to myself as I left the gallery, “No matter what anyone thinks or says, ‘authentic’ is still a matter of opinion.”

Dawn: Malacca Strait -- intaglio on paper by Takao Tanabe

“Dawn: Malacca Strait”
intaglio on paper by Takao Tanabe

Best regards,

Robert

PS: “He is only an eye, but my God what an eye.” (Paul Cezanne was speaking about Claude Monet)

Esoterica: Think of what authenticity isn’t: Poor conception, faulty rendition, bluff technique, crudity, lack of feeling, failure of understanding, overworking, grandiosity. Yep, one small passage may have more authenticity than one great thundering opus. Furthermore, what about the joy of just doing it? Writers to the twice-weekly letter often tell us how important it is to simply enjoy the work. But what about that good looking guy in the blue suit, or the canny Tallulahs of this world? Does authenticity exist?

 

Cheesy authenticity
by Laurel Weathersbee, Las Cruces, NM, USA

 

Some years ago I worked for a time in a large co-op gallery in a large city. The gallery was managed by two MFA’s. Their own work was not in evidence, but they liked to remind anyone who would listen of their lofty art degrees (I was a lowly B.A. in art) One day, working on a big project, we had ordered in pizza. The pizza delivery boy walked around the gallery, giving his opinion about many of the works hanging there. The MFA’s were incensed: what did he know? He had no art education! His opinions were “wrong!” I felt he was entitled to his opinions, even though they may have smelled of Parmesan cheese. So much for authenticity.

 

One hundred and ten percent
by Mary DuVal, TX, USA

 

First Puppy Love oil on canvas 12 x 16 inches by Mary DuVal

First Puppy Love
oil on canvas 12 x 16 inches
by Mary DuVal

Growing up, many were the times I heard William Shakespeare’s, “To thine ownself be true,” from my Mother. In my twenties and working in the advertising world, my emotions would swing wildly depending on whether people liked or disliked my ad layouts. Eventually, I was able to not take the criticisms so personally provided with one caveat which I told myself I would have to consider: “Did I do my best work?” If the answer was affirmative, I determined to not let the criticism bother me (yes, easier said than done!) This still applies for my artwork. As long as I can walk away from a painting knowing I gave it my best, I’m okay with whatever criticisms may come. I may not be a Monet or a Cassatt or any other truly great painter, but I can strive for that authenticity that shows I’m trying to be the best Mary I can be.

 

Authentic movement
by Ariane Goodwin, Millers Falls , MA, USA

 

Shape Shifting original photograph by Ariane Goodwin

Shape Shifting
original photograph by Ariane Goodwin

In Authentic Movement, which I’ve practiced for 27 years, we allow our  bodies to move with eyes closed (reduced external stimulation), no music, and no direction (other than relaxing mind chatter, so the body has a chance to do what it chooses — either stillness or movement). Authenticity was the response of a body freed of mind duties (open the car door, put the spoon in your mouth, get out of bed, etc.). The freedom to respond authentically to an impulse or moment, from a whole body experience, fueled creative sparks that blew out of one studio and into another. Artists, especially, found the practice enlivening, engaging their creative receptors with fresh juice. So it is with great sadness that I’ve watched “authenticity” slide into the slush pile of popularity. Like other words of great worth – empowered, reality, cutting edge, etc. – authenticity is the current language hula hoop. Overuse, miss-use, unintended use, stupid use. Sad, because authenticity implies that which is true to its essence, and what could be more beautiful than that?

 

Monetary valuation of authenticity
by Mark D. Gottsegen, Greensboro, NC, USA

 

There is much more to “authenticity,” which includes the assignment of “value” to the work of art. How, exactly, is a work of art assigned a monetary value? I know you are speaking philosophically here, but the market reality is about the money. In my opinion, the work of art is assigned a value based on an assessment of what the market for that kind of art will bear. I was recently in New York City and went to a pre-auction exhibition of Contemporary and Modern Art at Christie’s. There, I saw a tourist-type photograph of a “Western Cowboy” scene by a well-known photographer that had a pre-auction estimate of $400,000 — $700,000USD, and a painting by a well-known early American painter with a pre-auction estimate of $23,000,000 — $30,000,000USD. Does this valuation bear any relationship to “authenticity” or even “reality”? No.

 

Better not to know the subject
by Rick Rotante, Tujunga, CA, USA

 

111607_rick-rotante-artwork

Fortune
original artwork by Rick Rotante

When I finish a painting I look for this authenticity. It’s a very hard thing to define for me. If your style and technique come into play does authenticity go out the window? Must you be completely true to the subject to acquire authenticity? This quality doesn’t come from an “authentic person” so to speak. If you study a subject for years you gain knowledge and insight about it but don’t automatically gain this authentic quality in your work. Yet on the other hand complete ignorance of a subject can lead to an authentic look. The painter John Singer Sargent felt it best not to know his subject (from what I’ve read) and still create an interesting (authentic?) painting. For him it seemed to work.

 

 

No cheating for authenticity
by Tony Reynolds

 

Toto... Toto thrown and altered, oxide patinas, cone 6, electric kiln/wood base 16 x 8 x 16 inches by Tony Reynolds

“Toto… Toto”
thrown and altered, oxide patinas, cone 6, electric kiln/wood base 16 x 8 x 16 inches
by Tony Reynolds

Your “authenticity” letter reminded me of something Jerry Seinfeld said recently when asked why, after doing a very successful TV show, he decided to go back to doing standup comedy. It is obvious he doesn’t need the money or the adulation. Why apply his craft in the toughest venue? “You can’t cheat,” he responded. “You have to be on top of your performance 100% of the time.” That resonated with me as an artist. And if Art is really a verb (the act is the art, not the residual product) then the artist should not cheat him/herself.

 

 

 

 

 

When all is well
by Adan Lerma, New York, NY, USA

 

Off Hwy 71 oil on canvas 18 x 24 inches by Adan Lerma

Off Hwy 71
oil on canvas 18 x 24 inches
by Adan Lerma

From what I understand as a layman, Einstein’s theory of relativity is grounded in a constant non-relative speed of light. All is relative to the speed of the fastest all encompassing medium we can’t see without the aid of form. Light reveals form, but form equally reveals the light. Where does this leave us regarding authenticity in visual art? I’ve tried to describe it, during the painting process, as when I touch a deep core soft spot that tells me the work and my deepest inner self are communicating. In one of my writings, which I’ve updated a few times on my website, I describe the outer visual effect as that sudden involuntary taking in of breath, much as a child or infant does when it is with its mother, and knows all is well.

 

Rolling with the punches
by Elsha Leventis, Toronto, ON, Canada

 

Black Eye I 39 x 52 inches by Elsha Leventis

Black Eye I
original painting 39 x 52 inches
by Elsha Leventis

Sitting a show can wrench the gut or lift the heart, and everywhere in between. I’ve sat several group and solo shows, and visitors range from those who wander in and right back out while muttering disdainfully but quite audibly, “I could do that,” to those who dash exuberantly from painting to painting, wanting exquisite details of every “amazing” work. Artists can be authentic, but that doesn’t mean every work is equally good or appeals to everyone. Martha Graham suggested that it wasn’t up to us to judge whether our work is good or bad, but that we need to put unique voices out there because if we don’t, the world would never know and would be a poorer place. What I know for sure is that I’ve learned to take all comments in stride, most of the time.

 

Apprentice with many masters
by Janet Vanderhoof, Morgan Hill, CA, USA

 

Branding Time original artwork by Janet Vanderhoof

Branding Time
original artwork by Janet Vanderhoof

My first response to seeing “Authenticity” is it is very Zen. It is about space and the human race. The other day I decided to go through my art magazines and tear out pictures of paintings that I responded to. Every time I pulled one out it strictly was based on my gut feeling. Sometimes, I could not verbalize why I loved the work of these artists in particular. Later, I went through them again to understand my subjective preference: Artist Micelle Torrez, full of vibrant color, wonderful strokes with such power, each painting looked as if the wind was blowing, Ming Jing Wang, his figures so sublime and full of soul, Betty Anglin Smith a plethora of vibrating color, Lesley Rich, spontaneous bold strokes, composition, design and negative space, Zygmund Jankowski, again wonderful space, composition, simplicity and color, Danny McCaw, great neutrals and a sense of mystery, Lynda Christensen , understated, texture, powerful, expressive, dramatic, Mark Nelson, exquisite use of value tone and space, Randall Sexton, wonderful color, stroke, edges are profound. I realized these artists are my sensibilities. They speak my language. They are master painters. I want to have their consciousness and ability.

 

Authenticity of a Rembrandt
by Sandy Davison, Lansing, Michigan, USA

 

Spirit and Intimacy in Nature III original plein air painting by Sandy Davison

Spirit and Intimacy in Nature III
original plein air painting by Sandy Davison

This letter is especially interesting because I’ve just begun reading Rembrandt’s Enterprise — The studio and the market by Svetlana Alpers. In it the discussions begin with all the issues of “authentic” surrounding work attributed to Rembrandt. The pronouncement that one of his works has scientifically, aesthetically, technically, or otherwise, been determined to have come from another’s hand raises immediate and global cries. Some cries are about pride of ownership, greed, and all manner of “not true.” So authentic, here, means, a known produce brand in many cases, especially since Rembrandt was used as a model aesthetically and psychologically for the artists themselves. The painting Man in a Golden Helmet was “deauthenticated,” “disattributed.”

Man in a Golden Helme oil on canvas<br>by Rembrandt

Man in a Golden Helmet
oil on canvas by Rembrandt

It remains an extraordinary and amazing piece of execution in paint, mood, mystery. I wonder if it would have remained authentic if we culturally were not so wrapped up in one-up, one-down markets that borrow and dismiss, elevate and smash to form hierarchies of meaning and value. If Man with a Golden Helmet still carries all the conversations of quality including meaning, why does it slip so down from position of reverence? Why call in the insurance appraisers and reallocate the financial instruments? Methinks, authentic remains firmly embedded in the current culture’s beliefs more than most would desire. If it remains an extraordinary work but only when lineage, paternity and possession are known and acknowledged, it puts all the admirers into a spin when we are on our own to determine its merit, value and expense. I’m happy to master skills, present impact and ride on the shoulders of all the giants preceding me. Mastering whatever qualities held out for high attention and honor. It’s bound to make me a better painter too.

 

Beat the block to see the soul
by Carole Ann Borges, Knoxville, TN, USA

 

I think what you’re talking about is what musicians call “soul.” As you said, it has little to do with technique. That’s because it is not a quality of technique, but rather some kind of ineffable resource developed by the artist–an openness of expression, a willingness, as my friend the poet Mark Doty says, “to see and be seen.” There is always “the thing” and “the essence of the thing.” Paintings are made of paint. Pots are made of clay. Poems are composed of words, and music requires notes. But none of these things by themselves has the ability to become alive, to become vital art, without the soul of the artist orchestrating a million choices. Technique can be learned, but soul must be earned. If an artist paints a “soul full” painting, something travels from the spirit of the artist directly into the spirit of the person viewing it. The problem is some people are not very good receivers. They can’t see beyond the splash of color, the curve of a handle, the type of subject chosen. I think this is why two people viewing a painting can have totally different impressions. If this is true, then one should approach a work of art with openness, not looking for the textbook affirmations of “good or bad,” but with the hope of receiving a message, some kind of unspoken communion with the artist, a feeling of closeness and understanding of the artist’s deepest desires and needs rather than a thought. This transference is probably the only thing that really matters — one soul reaching out to touch another. It seems so simple, but isn’t that what all art is about?

 

The world of digital painting
by Gabe Shaughnessy

 

original digital artwork ;by Andrew Jones

original digital artwork by Andrew Jones

I’m a pretty young painter, and I was fortunate enough to be raised by an artist. At an early age, she introduced me to Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator and I began using the computer about the same time I began holding a brush. In recent years, I’ve been taking my painting a lot more seriously, including doing performance, or ‘live’ paintings at concerts and events. While I’ve pushed my craft and really gotten the hang of working with acrylics on wood, the digital world has steadily knocked at the door, reminding me to keep in touch with technology. Now I find myself amazed, having tried a wacom tablet with Photoshop for the first time just last week. Already I can see countless doors opening: The digital painting programs allow me to apply logical rules to my brush strokes, manipulating the four principle variables of my movements on the wacom pad (direction, speed, pressure and tilt) and transforming them into digital representations that effect hue, saturation, size, spread, transparency and orientation, among countless other properties. There is no limit to the number of paintings I can work on at once, as studio space is only limited by hard drive space. There are no mistakes and no worries about preciousness because I can always undo my work. Working in layers allows me to add paint ‘beneath’ my later strokes. The Wacom and my laptop are extremely light and portable, allowing me to travel and sketch with the full flexibility of an art studio. This is a huge switch for me. The last three years of my life I’ve spent traveling, making hand-made books, and filling them with pen-and ink illustrations. I’m a little nervous about the power of this new technology, not for what it can do, but for what it can’t. I’m leery that I may just quit doing the things that the digital doesn’t allow, like painting on found objects, or drawing quietly and unnoticed in the corner of a coffee shop (the wacom and laptop are pretty conspicuous), or whipping out the sketchbook in the five minutes while I wait for the bus. On the other hand, I’d be crazy not to try it. The laptop and wacom tablet, when hooked up to a projector, can take the place of the canvas, easel, brushes, paints, drop-cloth and lights that I currently set up for performance paintings. Instead of committing to a six hour ordeal involving transporting heavy and large materials (I go everywhere by bicycle and when I do ‘live’ paintings, I work large), now all I have to do is show up and plug in. I was inspired by the artist Andrew Jones to try the wacom tablet.

 

 

World of Art Featured artist Ned Mueller, Renton, WA, USA

'Spring in Montana by Ned Mueller, Renton, WA, USA

Spring in Montana
 
oil on board by artist
Ned Mueller, Renton, WA, USA

 

You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.

That includes Helena Tiainen of Berkeley, CA, USA who wrote, “Authenticity, just like beauty, is in the eye and mind of the beholder.”

And also Karen Edelmann of Tarrytown, NY, USA who wrote, “I am wondering what the tailoring, lip gloss, suit, tie etc. has to do with the opinions expressed? If they were dressed like artists, would the comments have been interpreted differently?”

And also Jennifer Weber of Courtenay, BC, Canada who wrote, “I struggle with this concept of authenticity… some moments thinking I’m a ‘phony without credentials’ while other moments reminding myself of the following quote: ‘Good art is not what it looks like, but what it does to us.’ (Roy Azdak) By reminding myself of this quote I remind myself of why I am doing art.”

And also Henry Bateman of Makati, Philippines who wrote, “When the elements of line, colour and form come together harmoniously, then a work of art is born. Be it representational or not, it is the abstract arrangement of these elements that gives a work its authenticity, its presence.”

And also Anne Hightower-Patterson of Charleston, SC, USA who wrote, “As a member of Lowcountry Artists Gallery in Charleston, SC, I along with my fellow artist/owners, decided to leave the ‘dogs’ at home. Perhaps that really has meant to leave the pieces that lack authenticity outside the gallery.”

And also Stephanie Quinn who wrote, “I am currently taking Anthropology as part of getting my degree in art. I am an older student and have been doing art for a very long time. In the field of Anthropology there is a school of thought that art is just seen as a luxury and for personal enjoyment. This is evident whenever budgets are cut for school funding. The arts are first to go.”

And also Jamie McGill of Canada who wrote, “Ian Roberts has walked this ground before us. His wonderful book Creative Authenticity should be a must-read for all kindred spirits in pursuit of beauty.”

And also Susan Burns of Douglasville, GA, USA who wrote, “Our ego is what makes us think we are separate, and our hearts keep struggling to keep connected through an authentic life. It’s a great feeling to experience the authentic. Reality is authentic.”

And also Pepper Hume of Spring, TX, USA who wrote, “Authenticity is the perfect word in this context. It contains, but is not limited to, honesty, skill, talent, message, and all good things in a work of art. In our endless quest for the definition of art, I believe authenticity is the one constant… and every bit as indefinable as art itself! But ain’t it fun to talk about it?!”

And also Gwen Purdy of Seattle, WA, USA who wrote, “Takao Tanabe’s painting left me cold and uninterested. Okay, so it looks like a photo of the place, but I’d rather have an artistic photo of the place. I’m still in the dark by what is meant when an artist says, ‘I am trying to get authenticity into my art.’ Even a close artist friend in Mexico hasn’t been able to define what she means when she uses this phrase.”

And also Lynne Elkins of Cape Coral, FL, USA who wrote, “My feeling about the Tanabe painting is ‘no feeling.’ There is no life in it.”

And also Sally Pearson of Port St. Lucie, FL, USA who wrote, “I think Low Tide by Takao Tanabe is a beautiful, calm and inspiring painting. It makes me want to take my shoes off and leave footprints.”

And also Danny Byrne of the UK who wrote, “Painting is easy, getting it right is the hard bit.”

 

 

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Authenticity

 

From: Alan Soffer — Nov 12, 2007

For me this is right on! It feels authentic, in that the artist didn’t apply candy-color to dress it up, but kept it real. The foreground is rich enough to stimulate my juices, and the background is peaceful enough to make me want to visit this place. In fact, I feel like I’ve experienced the pleasure of the land.

From: Mary Ann in Manitoba — Nov 13, 2007

Yes…I agree…it is authentic! I can feel and smell the air. I want to pick up a stone and skip it over the water. I’m waiting for a heron to land. My soul feels peace. Very few paintings move me like this.

From: Charles Peck — Nov 13, 2007

Quite an elegant composition. Essentially an X with the foregound rising hunk of land going from lower left to 2/3 of the way to the right and the M shaped rock formation being the point or focus of interest and the implied crossing of the arm that starts with elongated pool of tidal water pointing to the break in the horizon land line with the left hunk of horizon land right at the 2/3 distance from the right … perfect golden means layout. One could see it as a Z that implies receding distance as the right to left arm of the X is only suggested. One can take any rectangle and strike a diagonal from corner to opposing corner and bisect the other angle such that the bisecting line meets the diagonal at a right angle (90′) or perpendicular and where these 2 lines meet drop a vertical line representing the “golden mean” or slightly fat 1/3 mark. This rendering of low tide at Hesquiat bay achieves that on both sides with the rock pile and the length of horizon land on the left and the horizon line itself cutting the painting into 2/3 – 1/3 sections. Those early Greeks knew what they were doing when designing their buildings and thus were able to achieve a quiet power with their structures and this artist, whether intentional or not (it is happening so well I feel certain it is) has achieved a quite similar sense of authentic presence or quiet power. By staying low key in the color choices the artist assists the structure assuming dominance. I particularly enjoyed your descriptions of authenticity as they suggest for me a lovely posture for appreciating art free from polemics. Keep it coming Robert, you are one of the bright spots on the art horizon. Sincerely Charles ___ charlespeck.com

From: Low Tide 1/94 — Nov 13, 2007

Excellent design is #1 and the horizontal view that we actually see when looking at a landscape. The color is dependent on value, hence the good design.

From: Karl Eric Leitzel — Nov 13, 2007

I think both of the viewers you observed made valid points. Yes, the piece is “authentic”, well conceived and well executed. It’s power, though is largely in it’s simplicity of design and bountiful use of negative space. Thus, the man’s comment that “there’s less to this than meets the eye” is also true. While it may not have been meant as a complement, it is actually an acknowledgment that this is a case where less is more.

From: Peter Lloyd — Nov 13, 2007

It’s not the sort of painting I like – it’s too cool, it doesn’t grab me emotionally, which is what I like a painting to do. But, yes, I can stand back from my own prejudices enough to see that it’s certainly authentic and I envy the artist’s skill and technique.

From: Jack Dickerson — Nov 13, 2007

As you said it is a matter of opinion… or rather point of view… or rather what strikes each person. Each person is going to have a different take on a painting. Those with more of an eye will be attracted, perhaps, to works with better balance, contrasts and depth. Those novices will take time to learn about these “qualities” as you rightly say. Neither are off base. Both are valid. Many artists cannot accept this. I think the more mature are more accepting of this discrepancy, or rather difference. Personally I like the painting, as a matter of fact quite a bit. Regardless of all the analytical numbers mentioned by Peck (a kind of picky math analysis), the work has balance… but what I like most is that it is peaceful, calm, and I can walk well into the work and spend time in it. These are not qualities everyone likes. So… it is a very personal thing–whether or not it strikes one. Thanks.

From: Robert G. Breur — Nov 13, 2007

Amazing! I went to look at the painting and nearly passed over it with my mouse but noticed the depth of quality even in the instant that it flew past my screen. I’m not even a painter; I’m a sculptor but the “authenticity” as you called it captured me immediately. As I attend opening show after show I devour the comments made by visiting customers for their reactions as well. SOmetimes it is even more informing to listen to those from people who don’t yet know that I am hearing their comments about my sculptures as they speak with their companions or other artists. They need not be trained and practiced sculptors to recognize what THEY like just as I appretiated the painting Low Tide 1/94. I simply have strived for years to advance my art skill and it has anabled me to discern the strong from the weak in other art works. The sucessful in any field are likely to be able to recognize success in other fields of work.

From: The sound of quality — Nov 13, 2007

Once when I was a callow arrogant youth at school a poet came to visit. He read us some of his poems and invited questions. He was called Norman Nicholson. I suggested to him that poetry involved power and social conscience and fury. To which he replied that Yes, it can but what mattered was Authenticity. He went on to say that Ted Hughes was a poet with a loud strident voice – He shouted – whereas he was a quieter voice, murmuring to his readers. He said they were both nature lovers, both authentic and both had valid styles to make their voices heard. This painting murmurs and it is beautiful. I have never forgot these hushed words of wisdom.

From: Liron Sissman — Nov 13, 2007

To quote Da Vinci: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. However, I cannot respond emotionally to an image of a painting like I can and often do when standing in front of the real thing. I appreciate seeing images as they convey far more than words can but they don’t reproduce the experience of seeing the original nor do they necessarily suggest what that experience may be like. Liron www.liron.com

From: Toni Stevenson — Nov 13, 2007

Looking in the dictionary for the definition of the word ‘authenticity’, I found it meant “the genuineness or truth of something”. This painting expresses to me the experience of standing on the shore of a sea at the glorious moment of sunrise or sunset.

From: C. Keith Jones — Nov 13, 2007

After reading some of the comments on Authenticity a question came to mind. Are we confusing authenticity with quality, realism, or just what strikes our fancy? I’ve had people comment so differently while looking at the same painting, I have to agree that it comes down to a matter of opinion. Authenticity belongs to our Creator, we are all just imitators and dreamers and try to express ourselves through art hoping others will catch our vision.

From: Elizabeth Garat — Nov 13, 2007

I would really like to see this painting in person. So quiet, no flash – a very strong composition born of mastery. And the scale is large. I can imagine the painting must be quite powerful in a subtle way. The other day a friend and I were examining works of one artist at an art opening here in Memphis, TN. My friend who is a dancer was admiring the early works of the artist whose work was on display. These early works were quite tight and controlled. I was surprised my friend liked them so much as I know her to be a believer in free gesture and I shared my surprise. “But,” she explained “it is this rock solid foundation in drawing and composition this artist has that made the freedom and gestural quality of the later works possible.” And she was right. Mastery of the elements is what I see in this painting.

From: Ann Byrd — Nov 13, 2007

Authententic vs realistic abstraction: The work of art is well concieved and rendered using a beautifully restrained pallette. I was at once caught up in the instinctual beauty of earth’s light minglinging upon morning upper latitudes, having visited those states all too briefly, and living more daily with neap tidal lights and darks. Authentic? Why THIS painting among others viewed at the museum, is my question. I do fall beneath the musings of the painting, for sure. It is wonderful. How is it that THIS painting stands out so directly compared with all other paintings hung for viewing? I am taken in by its beauty and abstractions, I identify with the scene I once saw and took into myself on a trip, and I am still confounded how THIS picture is something more than others. Was there not one or two more “authentic” beauties in that museum? Ann

From: Diana Childs — Nov 13, 2007

I have been fortunate to have seen Takao Tanabe’s exhibit in the Vancouver Art Gallery; and I find that he is not only “authentic”, but genuinely beautiful in his heart and soul. He paints what I love–the incredible West Coast of B.C. I am proud to live on Vancouver Island, not far from him.

From: Russell Mang — Nov 13, 2007

I like Toni Stevenson’s contribution of the dictionary definition of authenticity… Takeo Tanabe’s works often seem like they are focused on something just past the edge of the visible horizon. The U of Regina has one of his early prairie landscape pieces which was displayed at the end of a long hallway in the campus residence. Back when I was an art student at the U of R, I tried the exercise of staring at the painting from the far end of the hallway, a couple of hundred feet at least, and maintained that view as I slowly walked to the painting until I was practically nose to canvas… it was a profound experience. This occurred almost 30 years ago, yet remains burned into my memory. I think that anyone who genuinely strives for the ‘truth of something’ will succeed in producing something memorable in their work.

From: Bev Johnson — Nov 13, 2007

I feel this painting evokes mystery. What lies beyond that blank space in the background? I also love the little bit of sun in the foreground.

From: June Raabe — Nov 13, 2007

Takao Tanabe’s painting is “perfect” in the sense that your eye follows an interesting path around it. It is well executed, the technique appears to be perfect. It has a quiet perhaps soothing presence because of the muted colours. However, if it was in the same exhibition as one of yours, Robert, I would choose yours! Why? Because I like excitement, colour, movement in a painting. To each his own!

From: Liz — Nov 13, 2007

I would like to respond to the comment “there’s less here than meets the eye”. I think this “criticism” inadvertantly defines what (for me) makes good art: when an artwork is somehow MORE than the sum of its parts. When a simple juxtaposition of formal relationships “meets the eye” as a deeply felt, nuanced composition of surprising complexity.

From: Sharon Blythe — Nov 13, 2007

Having taken several Oriental Painting workshops over the years, all of the elements of this kind of painting, such as simple design, fall naturally into this painting. I also see quite a lot of a Canadian artist that I admire, Tony Onley, in this peice.

From: Barbara Walling — Nov 13, 2007

I love this painting. To me it is very Zen. I would like to see more of this artist’s work.

From: Ann Galloway — Nov 13, 2007

It’s beautiful. It’s serene. I want to stay in the place it depicts. It is magic right here in our midst. We’ve all been to this place and maybe not appreciated it.

From: Frank Armistead — Nov 13, 2007

A recent exhibit at the MacKenzie Gallery in Regina made a point that in “European” landscape there are no people while in Innu landscape there is no land. For some, authenticity has to do with the inter-relationship between humans and their physical, mental, social, spiritual and psychological environment. For us, a dehumanized landscape has no authenticity at all.

From: Penelope Persons — Nov 14, 2007

I once followed a tour group around a Japanese art exhibit at the ROM in Toronto. Their leader told them that, in Japanese painting, what is left out is at least as important as what is there – if not more so. I don’t know if Mr. Tanabe is Japanese, but his painting proves the point – at least to me. Another way of putting it might be to say that he knew when to stop. I would kill to be able to hang this painting in my own little hovel and gaze at it day after day for years to come! Being a Type A+, I need the serenity of paintings like this.

From: Rick Rotante — Nov 14, 2007

Seeing Mr. Tanabe’s work and the following comments brings to mind a statement often said to me. “A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS”. There was a time when I would have nodded my head in agreement believing how true this statement seems based on what I’ve experienced. But now, with all the media, the flood of images available on the Internet and information overload we receive from so many sources, I was wondering if this is still the case. At one time, when I had limited information and my brain wasn’t stuffed with experiences, pictures, photos, sites and information, I looked at a picture and immediately thought I got the message. It seemed clear to me what the image was trying to say. But is that really the case? Was I actually getting it or was I, as we all do, seeing what we wanted to see? I’ve since learned that if twenty people look at a picture, it’s quite probable to get twenty different opinions of what is being looked at. Also, how certain are we that we are getting what was intended by the image maker? I’ve sold many paintings and I can’t tell you the amount of times and the multitude of responses I received from viewers. Some tell me I capture the mood, or the expression was right on the mark. Sadness, moodyness, love, happiness, quiet comtemplation, or whatever. I didn’t paint the image with those moods in mind. I was probably just painting an interesting face with some terrific light source. Or I was in my stoic phase. Or she was the woman who showed up for session that day. Maybe the “words in my picture” were misleading, or gave a message that will differ with every viewer. A very different message is being perceived by every person. Maybe that’s the true purpose of art. Evoke a feeling no matter what is. I give much thought to naming my paintings appropriately, but I wonder in so doing am I not cutting off some contact with some people in the process. A connection to someone who will look at this piece and not respond due to the name I’ve given it. Maybe we should never give names to paintings. They could just be 1,2,3. I’ve given names to paintings only to find the client calls it something related personally to them. Something they see that I didn’t. My “girl in chair” of instance becomes “the pensive moment”. Or whatever they see in it. Mr. Tanabe’s painting is undoubtedly beautiful and well painted. One can say “authentic” (whatever that may mean to you) but the message will differ with every viewer and not necessarily be what Mr. Tanabe intended. In the end the message may not matter. The connection he makes with the viewer is what ultimately matters.

From: Sandy — Nov 15, 2007

” ‘There’s less to this than meets the eye,’ he said.” Yes!! And THAT is the hallmark of a truly accomplished artist. One who has the ability to give the impression of much more than is actually put down. One who has the confidence to let the viewer add the details. One I wish I could emulate a bit more often . . .

From: Charles Peck — Nov 15, 2007

Hi folks, yes it was a particulary picky, math kind of analysis and for that I ask for a pardon please. The picture of the painting is not the sort that normally gets to me but there did seem to be this quiteness that was alive so I thought about it some more and the abstract design just kinda jumped at me. Turns out all that mumbo jumbo about angles (though true) doesn’t work out on this picture when I decided to break out the straight edge and check it out. Just seemed that way when I looked and guessed. It may be odd but I almost always calculate the abstract patterns of any gestural and/ or realistic work I do (of course with abstract work by definition). Sort of sets the stage not unlike a writer using descriptive terms to flesh the argument and direct the readers response (lip gloss, striped shirt, carrying the overcoats, etc). I was going to work the idea of synergy (the whole being more than the sum of the parts) off the statement “there is less here than meets the eye” but the rock solid fundamental design just spoke louder to me and others picked up on it anyway. Even a natty dresser may be lucidly incisive, Degas, Wilde, Hugo, Baudelaire, and Tom Wolfe come to mind as examples. Even though I have no idea of the impact this work would have seen in person the photograph of it evoked a power for me that was most unusual for something so quiet, almost cold, essentially without the obvious emotion that is my usual playground.

From: Laurie — Nov 16, 2007

The reactions individuals get from viewing art are so subjective. What one person thinks is good art is not what another person values. I have relatives for instance that think a painting is good if it looks “just like it”…like a photograph. As for authenticity of a piece, I don’t come from formal training or years in the art world so it is more “art speak” to me. All I know is if I view a work and I have a reaction whether it is chills, tears, paralysis or astonishment at technique, then I have felt and viewed something authentic. The minute one tries to verbalize, describe, critique the piece, well then that moment is gone. Just as the feeling when seeing a glorious sunset. You try to describe it while viewing it and it loses it’s effect. Oh well, what do I know, I am just thrilled to have this forum to learn from so many artists, even if I have to reread and sort through the words Charles uses..hehe..Love your emails Charles.

From: G Mulnix — Nov 16, 2007

Authentic vs. Inauthentic? This work is believable. It makes me think about my own existence and place in this world. This work becomes an experience of the moment and place captured in the work itself. I feel grounded when viewing this painting. It makes a statement that is succinct and articulate. To me, that makes it Authentic.

From: Jan — Nov 16, 2007

People use words like status symbols. They let them slip through their mouths with less concern for the accuracy of the word, than the impression of what they want the word to say about them. I find that there is a pompous arrogance when people talk about art. After looking at the picture I decided that she meant ‘realistic’ rather than ‘authentic’. But ‘authentic’ is a weightier word.

From: Dave Wilson — Nov 16, 2007

If all of the above talk is about the image Hesquiat Bay, I have to wonder about all the talk. That painting honours the subject and accredits it with the fidelity of the artist’s observations and execution. The content of the subject is austere but the artist didn’t run away from its nuances. It seems to me to be an obvious case of the artist’s honesty-integrity-fidelity. That’s enough to make ANY subject an art work. Beyond this, I see no genius in this work.

From: Kenneth Huey — Nov 16, 2007

When I was a teenager, I read a profile of Led Zep that pointed out that their long, seemingly spontaneous jams were the products of endless hours of rehearsal. I’ll never forget my shock. Rehearsal?? How boring!! How… SQUARE. After thirty-some years of being a working artist, the concept of artistic authenticity seems bemusingly paradoxical to me. There’s nothing original in observing that all art is deception, illusion, a confidence trick. (Requiring a certain degree of technical accomplishment to pull it off.) Nor that art is “a lie that tells the truth”– at least, someone’s idea of the truth. But as Dylan has observed, “To live outside the law, you must be honest.” (Wasn’t he quoting Dillinger or somesuch?) Which means, fundamentally, being frank and candid with yourself first of all. Maybe that’s the basic distinction between good art and bad art, aside from mere technical or formal competence. Bad art reeks of dishonesty. Good art bespeaks a refusal to indulge in pretension, or BS about the important stuff. It’s very much like the difference between self-flattery and self-abnegation. Authenticity is the quality of an honest soul.

From: Angelika Ouellette — Nov 19, 2007

Authenticity to me means being the author or authority of what you present, be it yourself, an expression of art, or the dinner you cook. You create from the present moment what is before you and within, lovely challenge. The painting, to me, feels present, I recognize an aspect of self in relation to the artist’s view and feel “real” in the moment, authentic.

From: Anonymous — Nov 19, 2007

I was watching one of the art related tv channels last night and they featured an artist and his gallery display. His art consisted of framed white canvases. It showed him painting white paint on primed canvases. Then he fussed at the maintenance people to direct the light “just right” as to show the “paintings” in a “flattering manner”. Is it just me…or what is wrong with this world? Anyone can put white paint on a canvas, frame it, and (I guess) call it “ART”. I just don’t get it. Or….if people are paying through the nose to buy this “garbage” I have to ask “What is wrong with the buyer?” Has everybody lost their ability to see a scam?

From: Esther J. Williams — Nov 19, 2007

This may be a late comment, but I was moved to add my opinion. I have carefully read everything here. I just went to an art reception which one of my pieces was in. I was lucky it sold and received great comments. Coincidentally, the exhibition is called “Less Is More” in Laguna Beach, CA and we were to place images no larger than 12X16 inches framed. I am struck by the statements made here on authenticity. I heard that word as I was listening to the winners being called out in our group show and a reason they won. The judge who was on the board of directors at the Laguna Art Museum said it was the authenticity when he talked about his reasons for picking the best in show painting. He liked how the show’s winning little landscape seemed larger than life without overstating the details. He said many artists will cram too many details into such a small painting. It was then that I realized “Less Is More” had a double meaning, a small size painting which says a lot without overstating the application of strokes of paint. In Plein Air painting which I am doing right now, it is extremely important to record the scene in an arrangement of values, colors, shapes, strokes and lines very quickly and be done with it. I have a tendency to overdo the workmanship, I am guilty of that many times over. So, when an artist can get to a point that his paintings look effortless and spontaneous in production and manage to reproduce the landscape or whatever subject matter with an honest representation of the moment of light, he or she is considered a master of the art. I have had those moments once in awhile, not with every painting, I am working on it. Or should I say, I am trying not so hard to work on it and just let the painting paint itself? I think it’s very possible and that time will come when all of the elements of art become balanced within my state of mind, body and soul. I have heard that oil or acrylic painting is really a series of corrections until you get it right in the end. It is nice when the corrections are few, we all would love that. Here’s to succeeding in that goal for all of us in 2008 or sooner! To find my website, just Google visions2art.com

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