Most of us take it for granted that Nature is the artist’s best teacher. We expect that pictures should look ‘natural’ & distrust them if they don’t. This is the main reason I feel, why many people do not like modern art;when we see a painting that shows things different from ‘the way they really are’ we are apt to accuse the artist of either incompetence (“If he can’t do better than that he might as well give up!”) or lack of sincerity (“I bet he’s pulling my leg!”)
Such feelings are understandable . We all like to be able to check up on an artist’s work by measuring it against our own experience. If a painting is so strange to us that we cannot fit it in anywhere,we feel uncomfortable because we don’t know what to think of it,or how to judge it. On the other hand, all of us know the way things look in the everyday world, whether or not we happen to know anything about art,so we try to find these reassuring,familiar things in the pictures we meet. Hence, we like to think it as a ‘objective’ test of the painter’s performance which we can apply without the expert’s help. No wonder then that for most people, ‘realism’ remains the chief standard of artistic value.
Still in actual practice we don’t always insist on ‘natural’-looking’ pictures. Just think of the cartoons & comic strips in your daily paper: most of them are done in a style you could hardly call realistic. Everything that is not absolutely essential to the story has been left out, while the important features are exaggerated for emphasis. And yet nobody is troubled by this peculiar kind of artistic ‘shorthand’; it is only when we see paintings on the wall of a home or museum or gallery that we expect every detail to be ‘true to nature’.
The artist expresses an inner reality more enduring than the shifting impressions of everyday life & thus re-affirms the purpose of all great art: to enrich our perception of our own nature!
- Vinayak Pasricha.