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  • Joan Hughes

Gimmick or lasting quality?

Updated: Apr 6


The world of art is a big world. There are a lot of works to choose from. So, when we have the desire to add a piece of art - a painting, for example - into our lives, how can we decide which is the right way to go? I believe that there are perhaps two streams of art buyers: Collectors, and those who purchase art for the pleasure. they receive from it. Sometimes the two overlap. The first is pretty easy to figure out: How much am I willing and able to pay in order to acquire a painting that will prove to have been a good investment. Investment being the operative word, here. But what about those who just want a painting that they will love? There's more involved in this decision than one would expect. And this is where the expression lasting quality comes in. What is lasting quality?
Lasting quality pretty much is how it sounds: it refers to a painting that will last, a painting that you will never tire of. If the impact of a painting is based on a gimmick - "Wow! That's cool/funny/shocking, and so on," once you've experienced it, there's no reason to look back at it. That painting does not have "lasting quality". It may get a reaction out of guests in your home who see it, but if that's not enough for you, the pleasure you derive from that painting will not last beyond the first "Aha!" moment.

Depth of experience So, how do you know if a painting has lasting quality? How do you know that you won't tire of it after a few weeks or months? A relationship with a painting isn't too different from a relationship you have with a very dear friend that you deeply appreciate and admire. A friend like that has many layers, is likely a highly interesting person, keeps surprising you with new qualities you haven't noticed. In fact, a friend like that grows more and more on you over the years. It's the same with a good painting. Paintings are more than just colour slapped or poured on a canvas. There are a lot of ways a painting can develop, which involve many choices along the way - some conscious, others unconscious. It's the totality of all of those elements that make for a painting that will keep your interest. In fact, every time you look at it, you will likely see something you never noticed before. And each revisit will elate you and capture you. Elements that add lasting quality to a painting Even a painting of simple design can have many of the following elements that are used by the artist to create a painting:

Here are some examples:
Hues - variety of colours
Value - light to dark
Saturation - intense to neurtral
Quality - warm or cool Textures
Lines - curved, straight, smooth, irregular Marks Edges Shapes
Opaque to translucent
And then there are these things that add interest:

Mixed media Rhythms (sense of movement)

Transitions (relationship between colours)
Subject matter (can be concrete or the very play of colours, itself) Mood (playful, joyful, sad...)
Feeling of light (luminosity) Music (undefinable, but you can feel it and follow it with your eye) Poetry Magic

Next time you're standing in front of a painting that you really like, see if you can discern what is giving you pleasure in that painting. Is it the subject matter? Is it the mood that it invokes in you? It is playful? Is it energetic and expressive? Try asking yourself if it contains enough of interest for you - enough going on in the painting - so that every time you look at it, you will be able to find something new to enjoy. The magic element My husband and I went to see the Rembrandt exhibition in our city a while ago. I was never actually drawn to Rembrandt's work before that exhibition. What made the difference was seeing his work live. In the exhibition, many of his paintings were displayed beside the paintings of his contemporaries and his students. That's when I was captured, but by what? It was beyond his absolute mastery. There was an ingredient - at least one - that elevated his paintings to a level way above those of his contemporaries. His work possessed a depth that drew me into an almost infinite space that he was able to create. His colours and textures were exquisite. And, above all, his perfect eye as an artist, added to his profound humanity as a human being, allowed him to paint portraits that were much more than physical likenesses. They were emotional likenesses, which made them personal experiences for the viewer who realized that we were being given a chance to step into the lives of those he portrayed, and feel we were getting to know these people who, after all, were just images on a canvas. Another artist who, for me, has a magic element in his work is Chagall. If you ever you have an opportunity to visit the Chagall Museum in Nice, I hope you will go. His paintings induce the experience of transcendence. How does that happen? His colours, lyricism, poetry? It's really impossible to say, but it is certain that his work has that lasting quality that makes art such an important addition to our lives.

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