Monday Motivator: Realism is an Incautious Word

“Realism” is a blunt and incautious word, suggesting a spirit of documenting and depending on particulars, a literalistic subsurvience to the world of facts. I prefer generally to use the word “representation,” which is more neutral and denotes the interplay between motif and motive.

This re-presenting works itself out in the double dimension of space and color … Change the color, and the space reads differently; change the movement of the space and color has a different appearance and function.

Louis Finkelstein, “Wolf Kahn”, page 108

Motif = subject, theme, idea
Motive = reason for doing something


I enjoy exploring the point where there’s enough realism for a painting to read as a seascape, for example, without hesitation on the part of the viewer, which in turn then guides their interpretation of the sections painted more loosely.

When the in-house art critic and I were discussing the painting below, he said the composition was unusual in that it’s a third realistic sea but then two horizontal bands that aren’t. Is it a colourfield painting or representational? Does it all tie together without knowing the context, that is the yellow lichen covered seawall at CamusMor on Skye that I sat on so often? Does my having used the same colours across the painting connect them all? Does the composition create intrigue or block you out? When I look at it, I have the knowledge of all the other paintings that came before, the compositions that showed more context and the desire I have to explore more smaller parts of the landscapes and the patterns, colours .

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