In order to establish an informed understanding of how contemporary abstract painting is situated in the art world today, this dissertation will investigate how painting has been questioned by artists since the 1960s’. It will discuss how contemporary artists have been influenced by the expanse of the technological world and how they are influenced by or reflect upon this in their paintings. Another important area of discussion will be the work of contemporary artists whose abstract paintings don’t appear to have adapted to technological change and don’t seem to reflect transformations in contemporary culture.
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These are painters who are still continuing to create paintings about paint itself and are exploring what can be done with the material alone.
It is important for this dissertation to begin by defining the modernist art movement and the arrival of creative thinking that brought abstract painting into history. The theories thoughts and ideas of critic Clement Greenberg will be discussed in order to set into context the work of abstract painting. Greenberg was an influential art critique during the twentieth century, who introduced an abundance of ideas into discussion around painting from the 1930s. In particular this dissertation will address Greenberg’s statements about the importance of purity and flatness in modernist painting. The dissertation will then examine how the supposed end of painting provoked discussion in the1960s, addressing how the artist Ad Reinhardt explored painting’s definitions. It will also be important to assess how the advances in technology and the popularisation of image have affected painting. This will then lead into a discussion about the work of a selection of contemporary artists who have continued to make paintings after the medium was pushed aside by critics.
What has always developed the medium of painting is not only the artist’s individual passion and enthusiasm to explore the vast possibilities of using paint, but also the artist’s interest in displaying their conceptions, thoughts and feelings visually. Artists have repeatedly attempted to push their practice to new levels, break boundaries, and depict their philosophy through the use of paint. The communication between an artist engaging with a painting and the painting’s audience interpreting the artist’s intentions or making an interpretation of their own creates a unique language of painting. It is this language that poses questions about painting and its context within contemporary culture and history. These questions will be evaluated in this dissertation in order to establish if and how abstract painting has developed since modernism.
Gerhard Richter (b. 1932) is a significant artist of both the twentieth and twenty-first centauries whose artworks have questioned the role of painting through almost five decades. His personal writings and responses in interviews are a valuable resource and a record of his artistic intentions, subject methods and his overall questioning of the medium of painting.
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